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Things Don't Have to Last Forever with President & COO of Athletic Greens, Kat Cole
Episode 3515th September 2022 • Emotionally Fit • Coa x Dr. Emily Anhalt
00:00:00 00:17:44

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Any relationship or experience that has taught us something about ourself is a relationship or experience that was worth having or doing. In this Emotional Push-Up, President and COO of Athletic Greens, Kat Cole, joins Dr. Emily to talk about the beauty in impermanence and how to make peace with things coming to an end.

Thank you for listening! Staying emotionally fit takes work and repetition. That's why the Emotionally Fit podcast with psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt delivers short, actionable Emotional Push-Ups every Tuesday and Thursday to help you build a better practice of mental health. Join us to kickstart your emotional fitness. Let's flex those feels and do some reps together!

Follow Dr. Emily on Twitter, and don’t forget to follow, rate, review and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts! #EmotionallyFit 

The Emotionally Fit podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health. Katie Sunku Wood is the show’s producer from StudioPod Media with additional editing and sound design by nodalab, and featuring music by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!

Transcripts

Dr. Emily (:

Ready to break an emotional sweat? Welcome to Emotionally Fit with me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. As a therapist, I know that staying mentally healthy takes work and repetition. That's why I'll share Emotional Push-ups, short actionable exercises to help you strengthen your mental fitness. From improving your friendships to managing stress, let's flex those feels and do some reps together.

Dr. Emily (:

Hey there, Fit fans. I am here today with the wonderful Kat Cole, president and COO at Athletic Greens. Kat, thank you so much for being with me today.

Kat (:

Yeah, it's my pleasure.

Dr. Emily (:

So, Kat, I was talking with a friend this week who is currently going through a complicated separation from a long-term partner. And she was telling me that there are these two parts of herself that she's been confronting. One part of her knows that she's making the right choice for herself and she's grateful for the love that this partner brought into her life. And then there's this other part of her that feels like she has failed, and that wonders if she and this partner should ever have been together at all because it's ending.

Dr. Emily (:

And it got me thinking about how often our culture pushes this idea that in our lives, a relationship, an experience, or really anything that's important to us has to last forever for it to be worth having or doing. I want to challenge this idea because nothing lasts forever, firstly. And I believe that any relationship or experience that has taught us something about ourself is a relationship or experience that was worth having or doing. I'm curious, what do you think about this idea?

Kat (:

I totally agree. It reminds me of not just learning this lesson in day-to-day life, but probably the most profound lesson I had at my first Burning Man, which is the idea of impermanence. So much love and artisanship goes into building these amazing works of art and sculptures, and then they are intentionally burned to the ground. And in fact, the Temple at the center of Burning Man, where people for a week spend their time grieving, praying, meditating, getting married, reflecting, it's this very sacred space. And around 50,000 of the 70,000 people who remain on Sunday stand around this Temple as it burns into ashes.

Kat (:

And it is the most beautiful, cathartic, stunning moment, where those same people the night before stood around a similar structure being burned and party and yell, and there's music. And then those same people ... imagine 50,000 standing around a wooden structure being burned. And it is silent. This idea of impermanence, intentional impermanence is really profound.

Dr. Emily (:

That's beautifully said. And as someone who has been to the Temple Burn, I can say it really is profound and beautiful and wonderful. So today's Push-up then is all about creating space to feel gratitude for our relationships and experiences that did not last forever. And to forgive ourselves for any feelings of fault or blame that we might have about that.

Dr. Emily (:

So step one of this Push-up is to think of one relationship in your life that did not last. This could be a romantic relationship, a friendship, a relationship with a family member or with a community. You might also think of a commitment or experience that didn't last forever. So a hobby that you dropped or a job you left, a house you moved out of. Whatever you can think of. For those listening in, feel free to press pause while you think of your example, or listen on to hear what Kat shares.

Dr. Emily (:

So Kat, what relationship or experience came to mind for you here?

Kat (:

I mean, so many. To pick one is actually very difficult. But one that I talk about often is actually the role of my father. So when I was nine years old, we left my dad. My mom ended up raising three girls on her own, and very quickly, we moved away from having this two-parent family and became fully a one-parent family, intentionally.

Kat (:

And then as time went on, my father got worse, not better. We were very separated from him as a family. Eventually, as I started making more money, I helped support him and sent him money for utilities and his home. And then he got even worse and ended up in jail and I ended up cutting him off. And that was incredibly difficult.

Dr. Emily (:

That's such a great example for us to work through for this Push-up today. Thank you for sharing that. And so with that, step two of this Push-up is to make a list of the reasons this relationship or experience was a positive force in your life when you had it. It might be that it brought you a lot of joy. It might be that it taught you important things about yourself. So listeners feel free to press pause and make that list.

Dr. Emily (:

Kat, can you share why this relationship with your dad was a positive force in your life when he was around?

Kat (:

Yes. So there were many ways in which the relationship with my dad, especially before we left when I was nine, was positive. One, he just was YOLO before it was YOLO, really. I mean, he used to have these sayings, especially around money or physical things. He'd say, you can't take it with you. When your time comes, can't take it with you. He'd say, ain't nothing to it, but to do it. Just a fun, live for the moment, very happy-go-lucky and lighthearted. Even when he drank, he was that way.

Kat (:

And so it was just truly his soul. And so that's one really great thing. I mean, certainly just having that perspective of, life is short, and his leaning into that to a fault was a challenge, but there is a light side to that coin. So that was a great example. Certainly I have pieces of that in my personality.

Dr. Emily (:

Yeah. I was wondering how has that been folded into you and how have you carried that with you?

Kat (:

When I look back at how I leaned into opportunities to travel, new experiences, really just taking the moment to live life, it showed up in what other people look at my career or my journey and say, wow, you're so comfortable with risk. And on one hand, it didn't seem very risky to me. The idea of not doing it felt risky. And so that's probably where it shows up the most in my life.

Dr. Emily (:

I love that.

Kat (:

I would say another thing that was really positive is he was the only person with an office job ... he was an executive. On either side of our family. Everyone else was on drugs, in jail, or good, honest blue collar work. And so the exposure to being an executive and being in the office. And eventually because of the challenges with him, I had some negative associations with that. I actually associated money with irresponsibility, because he had it and didn't make great choices. But when I look back, I can see that it was my only exposure to executive leadership, even knowing that it existed, the idea of a leader in a company, and it ended up being a track in my life.

Kat (:

So there was probably something to that because I had no ... my mom was what was called a secretary then. All my other aunts and uncles were junkers, truckers, they worked in factories. Some in service in the military. And so I didn't have whatever you would call a more seasoned professional leader anywhere in my family, except my dad. So that that was positive, that I had that proximity to that, even though I saw the dark side.

Dr. Emily (:

Yeah, I mean I think you're being modest too about how that might have affected you, and that you are now an executive extraordinaire. And it sounds like that seed was really planted with him. So thank you for sharing that. And step three then, for this Push-up, is to make a list of what this relationship or experience ending did for you. So maybe it created space to find a new partner, for those who are thinking of a romantic partner, who's a better fit. Or maybe it freed up time to follow a new passion, for those who are thinking of a hobby. Maybe leaving something or someone showed you how strong and empowered you are. So listeners, feel free to press pause and reflect on that.

Dr. Emily (:

Kat, for you, what did this relationship with your father ending do for you in your life?

Kat (:

So many things. The list is long. The first moment was literally when my mom made the courageous decision to leave our father. And I was nine, and my sisters were six and three. And so that moment of leaving, actually leaving the relationship and becoming a single-parent household, fully. Where my mom was working three jobs, fed us on a food budget of $10 a week. What that created was leadership responsibility for me, which certainly, again, became a life track. I have been responsible for other humans from a very young age. And it's very difficult to envision my career track and my life journey without those very early years of becoming a leader with responsibility.

Kat (:

And I just don't remember it ever sucking. It was like, okay, I got to take care of my sisters. My mom gave me a list and I got to do the list. But that early responsibility certainly fed my comfort with leading other people in junior high, in high school, on sports teams, in elected roles, then leadership roles of my peers once I became an employee. And then that led to running departments at a very young age. And it just really seems connected. And what a gift, because it is a great struggle for many.

Kat (:

The other gift was getting to witness the resourcefulness of my mom as an example. She's working three jobs and doing what she had to do to make a respectable living for us while she was on her own. And that became part of my expectation of what is possible of me, of women, of leaders. That you'll do what you have to do. Be fairly positive about it. Make the right prioritization decisions, be scrappy and resourceful. I mean, I just witnessed all that from a young age. It is imprinted in me of what leadership means, even in what parenting can mean. And so, what a gift. I don't know that I would've seen that in her had we remained in that situation.

Kat (:

The other gift is that because of that, I had to start working very early. But it felt so freeing and it felt cool to work, because work felt like liberty work felt like my way out. And of course, again, that early career, work experience led to a fascinating career. But then there was the second leaving, which was I had not been in touch with him. And then I got back in touch with him. And then I started supporting him because he needed financial support. And it was very apparent to me after a few years that he was not helping himself. I was helping him. He was not helping himself. The drinking, the drugs, the bad personal decisions, it just continued. And I just remember thinking, I cannot invest a dollar more in this if he will not help himself.

Kat (:

And the hardest part of this moment, which became a beautiful muscle for me, was thinking about the worst that could happen if I cut him off. And I had to entertain that he could harm himself or worse, and could I live with that? Could I live with if he did something horrible as a result of not having the financial support or of his daughter removing her connection to him, could I live with that? And I had to literally envision the worst. And then realize if that occurs, that it is not my fault. And I cut him off. I sent him a note. I called him and said, I cannot continue to send money for bills, because you're continuing this behavior. And I love you and I'm sorry if it's painful, but that's it. And I probably am not going to reach out for a while because this has been really hard for me to watch.

Kat (:

And that was it. And he later ended up asking my younger sisters for money, who had even less financial resources than I did. But ultimately, he hit bottom. He stole from his parents ... his 80 year old parents. He ended up in jail. And that is what got him clean. And he's clean to this day. And from what I understand, hasn't had a drink. And made me proud of him to be on that journey, even very late in life. And now we have a relationship that is not a father-daughter, right? Not intimate, not close. There's a lot lost in there. But still loving from a distance. And so it was a very powerful ... when I look back, I didn't realize it then. But it was an incredibly powerful moment that I chose myself. And felt even more mature and independent after that decision.

Dr. Emily (:

Well, I think you've spoken in a really beautiful way to the final step of this Push-up, which is to take a moment to confront any feelings that we might have about this relationship or experience not lasting forever. And to forgive ourself if we can.

Dr. Emily (:

So Kat, after that first leaving or after the second, I'm curious if any of those feelings of shame or blame or guilt came up? And if so, how you either confronted them and let them go or how you might do so in this moment?

Kat (:

Yeah. As I mentioned, there were real feelings of guilt that I worked to navigate, actually prior to the decision. Because I just thought, am I going to literally be in my house sobbing saying, I wish I wouldn't have stopped paying those bills, if he does something to himself or others. And so I almost had to live through the guilt before it being there, in order to make the decision. And because this was a couple of leavings, I had grieved not having a dad long before we left. He was gone all the time, and we had drunk driving issues all the time. And he cheated on my mom all the time. And he was at pool halls. And those moments of embarrassment when my friends came around. Or just, even when no one was around, I was embarrassed when he was wasted and we were together as a family. And seeing my mom have to try to keep us away.

Kat (:

So it's interesting when you can recognize what's not serving you or the relationship in small ways. And again, in that situation, it wasn't me that had the courage to leave. I was nine years old. It was my mom. But it really affected me. And so the real leaving moment that was my decision was that lack of support, or removing my support from him. And I think the only thing, looking back is, to honor myself, it should have happened sooner. And then, would he have hit bottom sooner and then gotten better sooner? I mean, I won't regret or say would've, should've, could've. But when I reflect on it was the guilt or the fear of guilt that was holding me back from making that decision, that ultimately was in his favor.

Dr. Emily (:

We can't always make the healthy decision until we can. So I definitely understand. And I so appreciate you sharing this example with me. I'm curious, how did it feel to do this Push-up today?

Kat (:

I mean, so great. I believe one of the most powerful tools for each of us as individuals is perspective. And reflecting and appreciating the highs and lows of an experience. And again, what served you out of it is incredible perspective. And so I would just ... one, I loved it. So thank you. And would just encourage people to take the framework of this Push-up and apply it to many things in life.

Dr. Emily (:

Well, I really appreciate you flexing your feels, breaking an emotional sweat with me today. For those of you who want more of Kat, check out our Taboo Tuesday next week, where we'll be talking about loss and grief and reinvention. So thank you, Kat, so much for being here today.

Kat (:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dr. Emily (:

Thanks for listening to Emotionally Fit, hosted by me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. New Push-Ups drop every Tuesday and Thursday. Did you do today's Push-Up alongside me and my guest? Tweet your experience with the hashtag #EmotionallyFit, and follow me at @dremilyanhalt. Please rate, review, follow and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Dr. Emily (:

This podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health, where you can take live, therapist-led classes online. From group sessions to therapist matchmaking, Coa will help you build your emotional fitness routine. Head to joincoa.com, that's join C-O-A dot com, to learn more. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @joincoa.

Dr. Emily (:

From StudioPod Media in San Francisco, our producer is Katie Sunku Wood. Music is by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew.

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