397: Traca Savadogo—Rethinking Your Story: A Path To Transform Your Life And Find Joy

Hear how Traca Savadogo found a new path to transform her life.

Welcome to “On the Brink with Andi Simon,” the podcast where we delve into the transformative power of self-discovery and personal growth. I’m your host, Andi Simon, and today, I am thrilled to bring you an inspiring conversation with Traca Savadogo, a renowned relationship strategist who specializes in guiding individuals on their journey to find themselves. In this episode, we’ll explore Traca’s fascinating journey of self-discovery, a journey that has transformed her from a place of struggle to becoming a beacon of empowerment for contless others. Traca’s story is not just about overcoming obstacles; it’s about embracing the power within oneself to rewrite the narrative of one’s life, a power that can lead to profound transformation and joy.

Join us as we listen to Traca’s journey of self-discovery.

Traca’s path to becoming a sought-after relationship strategist was challenging. Like many of us, she experienced doubt, uncertainty, and despair. However, through these experiences, she uncovered a profound truth: the importance of reflecting on one’s own story to transform it into one where you are the hero, not the victim. One of the pivotal moments in Traca’s journey was her realization of the value of connecting with strangers. As a successful TEDx speaker, she shared her insights on “Why You Should Regularly Talk with Strangers,” a topic that resonated deeply with audiences around the world. Through her experiences of stepping outside her comfort zone and engaging with unfamiliar faces, Traca discovered a wealth of wisdom and perspective that enriched her life in ways she never imagined.

She had to embrace vulnerability. Should you?

During our conversation, Traca opens up about the profound impact of embracing vulnerability and authenticity in her own life. She shares how she embarked on a journey of rediscovering herself, shedding layers of self-doubt and fear to reveal the bold, brave, and ultimately happy woman others saw in her all along. Through her work as a relationship strategist, Traca empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of self-discovery with courage and resilience. She emphasizes the importance of cultivating a deep self-awareness and acceptance, recognizing that true transformation begins from within.

As we delve deeper into Traca’s story, we uncover invaluable insights and practical strategies for anyone seeking to embark on their journey of self-discovery. From overcoming limiting beliefs to embracing vulnerability and cultivating meaningful connections, Traca offers a wealth of wisdom that will inspire and empower listeners to embrace their journey of personal growth and transformation. Join us as we embark on a transformative journey with Traca Savadogo, exploring the power of self-discovery, resilience, and the profound impact of rewriting your story. This is “On the Brink with Andi Simon,” and I’m delighted to have you with us on this incredible journey of growth and possibility.

Watch and listen to our conversation here

How to connect with Traca:

You can find Traca on LinkedIn,  or email her at tsavadogo@gmail.com.

Listen to others who can help you become the best you can be:

395: Myrna Soto’s Journey to Success: Empowering Women

388: Srikumar Rao—Achieve Great Success While Remaining As Serene As A Zen Monk

394: Esther Aguilera: Finding Your Path as a Successful Woman

Additional resources for you

Read the transcript of our podcast here 

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink with Andi Simon. I’m Andi Simon. As you know, my job is to get you off the brink. Our job is to help you see, feel and think in new ways. Because I know that it’s very hard for you to change. What I love to do is something everyone hates to do, which is to help people see the world through a fresh lens and then change. If you don’t change your behavior, you can change your beliefs all you like, but it’s the behaviors that begin to get you someplace that you may not have even known you wanted to go to. But you know, it’s very interesting because as you listen to our podcast, you begin to hear people who have in fact had all kinds of interesting journeys, and they may have done something that you will find very fascinating. And by doing so, you’ll begin to think about your own story. Because what happens is when you hear someone else’s story, your own begins to change. And that’s the pleasure that I get out of helping you see, feel and think in new ways. So today I have with us a wonderful woman, Traca Savadogo, and she’s going to help us say her name correctly, is a marvelous woman. I’ve met through Peter Winick thought leadership group during the pandemic. Who knew? You know, Peter brought together a whole lot of folks, thought leaders in different fields, and we all spent time when we couldn’t do anything else learning about each other. But we’ve stayed in touch through a women’s leadership group that I think is just more fun than fun. Once a month, we gather, we don’t really know what we’re going to talk about. It’s the most informal gathering, but we have a great time. I want you to hear about Traca’s own experiences because it’s been transformative for her, and I think it has great relevance for you. Traca, thank you for being with me today.

Traca Savadogo: Oh, Andi, I’m so excited. Thank you very much.

Andi Simon: Your turn. Tell the audience a little bit about who you are. I’ll come back to your bios and we’ll reinforce it. But I want you to talk about who you are a little bit, and then we’ll get into what I see here and some of the things that you’ve had on your journey. Who is Traca?

Traca Savadogo: Whew. That’s a big question, I think I am an American expat currently living in northern Baja, Mexico, and  I’m just a very curious person. I’m curious about the world. I’m curious about cultures. You and I unite on a curiosity about anthropology and how our culture works and how systems work. And curiosity is my guiding North Star.

Andi Simon:  Well, you know, I often read the bio in the middle of the podcast, but I’m going to read it right here. She’s a renowned relationship strategist, and I want you to hear the words carefully. She specializes in the transformation and culture that you’re living, but she’s really doing some great work to help you see, feel, and think in new ways. Her TEDx talk was transformational for her. It’s called Why You Should Rarely Talk with Strangers.

 Now think about that because we know that from the science of well-being, when you talk to strangers or anybody, friends, strangers, it doesn’t matter, your well-being rises. It’s such an interesting thing about people who need people. And when you talk to a stranger, there’s something that goes on that’s really amazing. It emphasizes the power of human connection. I couldn’t agree more. But as a transformative advocate, she takes a neuroscience based approach, which is why she and I have deep conversations about what we’re learning, about how we live the story in our mind and if we want to change. We have to change the story in that mind. And she challenges others to embrace change. And remember, people hate to change. Your mind hates it. They may even hate us as we’re talking about it. But when you listen, you’re going to think wow, that TEDx talk has been translated into 15 languages, and it focuses on how others learn from each other. Why are Ted talks so powerful? She’s the founder of Bold Ambition and sports mission driven companies and high achievers, and I think you’re going to enjoy just listening to her wander through her journey. So now we’re on this wonderful opportunity. You have told us many times how the TEDx talk came about, but how it was so transformative. I think the listener is curious like you are. Talk about it. What happened?

Traca Savadogo: Yeah. So I gave a speech and somebody in the audience was a coach for TEDx Seattle, and they were looking for booking the next round of speakers. They threw my hat in the ring unbeknownst to me and I suddenly got a call one day, two weeks after my mother died and said, hey we’re thinking about having you for TEDx Seattle and we need a speech. And at the time, I had no creative bone in my body. I was still grieving my mother and I said, no,

My friend said, are you sure? And I decided that it would be a deathbed regret if that opportunity never came around again, and that the event was six months from then and I’m going to feel totally different than I do today. So I wrote a speech, held my breath, hit send, and went to work. My speech went through the channels like I’m just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill. It just kind of kept getting approved and approved and approved. And finally they called me and said,you’ve been approved. Then I had this major shock about how I’m going to live up to that. And I immediately hired a coach and started seeing my therapist for three hours a week, trying to figure out, like, how to get comfortable being that visible.

Andi Simon: But when you did get on the stage, something amazing happened, didn’t it? It was the first time that…. And you can finish my sentence.

Traca Savadogo: Yeah. So I realized that in that process of looking back. So getting ready to go on stage, I had never successfully given my talk from beginning to end before. I stepped on stage in front of 3000 people. And as the woman is introducing me, I put my hand on the velvet drape and I said, no matter what happens, I promise I won’t kill myself.  And my therapist wanted to be in the audience because it was a serious, mind thing to try and get out there and be visible in that way. I stepped on stage and suddenly it all kicked in and we had a great time and the talk went crazy. And so at the end of the day, what I realized, I was like, what happened to me? Like, I just don’t understand what happened. And as I started to peel it back, I got a new job and I experienced almost the same thing, like total collapse, brain fog. I couldn’t function and I actually wanted these opportunities, but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my head. I’m like, what is going on? And that set me down the path to learning about neuroscience and flight, fight, freeze and fortune and the mind body connection and how I was getting in my own way by not understanding my brain and my body better. I had spent so much time wanting to save the world, wanting to learn how to change organizations, change culture and I found out the biggest work I can do is understanding this. We never got a manual to learn how our brain works. And it’s just been utterly fascinating to go on that journey.

Andi Simon: I’m not going to let you stop there because that’s the opening for our listeners to wonder, what did she discover? What are we learning from neurosciences? What are we discovering? I’m a big fan of Marisa Peer and she has a great book called Tell Yourself a Better Lie: Use the Power of Rapid Transformational Therapy to Edit Your Story and Rewrite Your Life.

She is a world-renowned psychiatrist who helps people understand that your mind does exactly what it thinks you want it to do, and you live the story that’s in your mind. You live the story in your mind. It’s an illusion of reality and has nothing to do with reality. There is no reality. And so you now have a moment of excitement. Your brain goes, ooh, there’s something here I need to know more about. What have you learned?

Traca Savadogo: Well, I think there’s a way to go off of what you said about Marissa Pier. I think there’s a difference between the unconscious and conscious. And so unconsciously, my brain was trying to keep me safe and small, and I had never really owned my voice and my own thoughts on that level for the Ted experience. And so I fell into collapse. I just couldn’t function. It was trying to take me out of the game, and I was trying to get in the game and I truly, genuinely wanted it. And so it was like this force field that was stopping me from doing all the things that I wanted to do. And so what has happened is that I learned that in order to get out of my own way, one, I had to question what’s going on? And now I notice the signs of when it’s happening.

I started to learn how I was coping with that. I was sleeping a lot. I might have been drinking, overeating, and doing avoidance things. What am I afraid of? And what do I need to do to get past this? What is the thing that’s going to get me past this hurdle? Because, you know, there’s a lot of fear involved in that. And a lot of the fear is what’s trying to keep you safe.  And so it’s like, how do I control what I can control and how do I find my way to safety? And so that’s been another experience where I’m trying to figure out how do I create a sense of safety within myself? Nobody else can do that. Only I can do that. What are the things that keep me unsettled and ungrounded and actually coming from a weaker position? So if I’m not sleeping well, I’m not at my best.  If I’m not eating well, I’m not at my best. If I start drinking or consuming a lot of sugar, I’m not at my best. And so then it leaves me vulnerable to my own brain and my own stories. And so shifting that narrative and understanding how I am contributing to my own suffering has been a really big thing. And what I’ve come to say is that you can’t fix what you’re not willing to face. So they have a lot of mechanisms to keep a lot of that stuff pushed down underground. Don’t face it, don’t talk about it, don’t think about it. Blame somebody else. And I’m like, we need to do exactly the opposite. If you want a different experience. Exactly the opposite.

Andi Simon: You said something I want to repeat. You can’t fix what you won’t face.

Traca Savadogo:What you’re not willing to face.

Andi Simon: But we also know that we’re hurt animals. We’re mimics. And are you finding either a community of people or through counseling or therapy, a way to get a mirror back to you? Because the problem with the brain is if it doesn’t see it, it doesn’t know what it is.  And you’re trying to find out, how do I find healthy, happy models? You know, Marian Wright Edelman said, if they can’t see it, you can’t be it. And consequently, without a model of some kind, your brain is saying, what does she want me to do? How does not having sugar or alcohol and not having sleep? I mean, I can hear it, but I don’t know what it is and I can’t release it to come up with a different story because you are transforming your story. I can see it over time. There’s a new you coming to the end and so this is really exciting. Who and how is who. How do you get help? How do you see it?

Traca Savadogo: Well, you know, I have a great gift in that I’ve been interviewing and talking to strangers. It’s the basis of my Ted talk. An average of three people a day for decades. So I’m always fascinated by other people’s stories.  And now what? I’m now actually more purposeful about that story. I want to hear what their story is like, how like Andi, how you became so grounded and comfortable. And then I look at my own self and they’re like, what’s happening with Andi and what’s happening with me? And why are we having a very different experience?  And I have a really good friend of mine who, one of the things I talk about is taboo topics, and one of them is money. And I have this really good friend of mine that I asked her,  Molly, you look like you have a really great life, what kind of money are you making? And she told me, she said she makes about $1 million a year. And then she said to me, I’m not doing anything you can’t do. And it changed my life forever. And I was like, wait a minute. If that’s true, how can I be different? And you know the same thing is like I look at people who have healthy relationships. I got caught up in our culture and really like conflict. And I was like, wait, conflict is another one of those things that keeps you stimulated, keeps you off your game, keeps you away from doing the things that you actually want to do, and they suck you in. And so I was like, I need to find a new normal and be okay with healthy relationships. At one point, a healthy relationship seemed boring. I was like, wait a minute. I like healthy relationships. No, there’s no drama.

Traca Savadogo: Yeah, no problems with things. It was really interesting to get to start stress testing all of the beliefs that I had and realizing, wait, that’s not true. And I think that takes a lot of courage to say, okay, I want a different experience. And that different experience depends on what I’m exposed to. And so what am I feeding my brain? What am I looking at? What am I paying attention to? And so, I immerse myself in a new experience that I created for myself. Like what I listened to on the radio, podcast, books, conversations that I have. I have no tolerance for conversations that aren’t positive or at least constructive. So, we can get into healthy conflict. There’s healthy conflict. That’s fine, but the question is what are we actually doing? And how am I playing a role? One of the people that I really admire, he talks about how I am complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want. I’ve been sitting with that question for months, like, oh, I don’t like this. That’s interesting. What role am I playing in this? I keep showing up. I want a different experience. Well, great. Go find a different experience because everybody else seems okay with this experience. I kept trying to change the experience I was in instead of just leaving and going to find a new experience that I actually wanted. So, paying attention to those cues has been really a big deal for me.

Andi Simon: I apologize for interrupting you because you’re on to something very important. So, for our listeners or our viewers, think about Traca and the story she’s beginning to craft with us. You’re already beginning to hear a new story. If you were writing a book, I can almost make the chapters out about first the self-awareness and then the taking charge, and then beginning to find new people to relate to, and then beginning to find new opportunities to participate in. As for the book chapters, I often have people draw pictures. It’s not easy how they like the story to get to. Now, the one thing we’ve learned is that if you don’t see where you’re going, it’s very difficult to make the steps along the way to get there. Thank you, Oprah, you need small wins. And I’m laughing because as you’re talking, I could hear her saying you’re making the small wins. Each step is a movement. But do we have a destination yet? Not sure, but that’s okay. You seem to be quite fluid at the moment. I’m quite happy. I know I have to move from where I am to where I want to be, including to make $1 million a year. And if I had to build that picture, that might be on there, maybe not, but all of the way in which you want to relate to people would be there, and you’re almost writing the book to tell the story of your journey to get there. And I don’t want to be putting words in your mouth, but that sounds like it feels like what you’re looking for. Am I sort of correct, a little correct or completely not correct?

Traca Savadogo: Well, so anyway, what that brought up for me is I have a talk that I give at employee resource groups with corporations, and I talk about the movie of your life.

Andi Simon: Yes.

Traca Savadogo: And at the end of your life, you are going to get a playback reel. And the question is how good was your movie?

Andi Simon: Yes.

Traca Savadogo: I worked in end of life with an organization at one point. And you know a lot of people have regrets at the end of their life. And the question is like why you are the director of this movie. You are the writer, the casting, the scriptwriter, scripts. You are in charge of the movie.  And I think a lot of times people don’t think they’re in charge. And in fact, there were times in my life, shortly before we met, that I didn’t even know I was the leading lady in my movie.

Andi Simon: Oh, you’ve had a transformation of many levels, but this is a brilliant metaphor to use. Jackie Kennedy, you said, my only regret is I didn’t eat more ice cream, or I didn’t eat more dessert. I can’t tell which. It’s an interesting metaphor for how you build a life so that you don’t end up wondering about what I didn’t do.  I mean, that most important part of what you’re saying is, of course I can. It’s in my mind. Nobody’s telling me what to do here. I’m not being directed in any way. I don’t have handcuffs on so I can become who? And you already did. You started with the Ted talk, and now it’s sort of flowing into all the other beautiful things that are coming your way.

Traca Savadogo: Well, using the metaphor of the movie, one of the things that I realized is that I was spending a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror. I was blaming things that had happened, and I was like what am I going to create going forward?  I really like this idea of forward thinking, like, how can I create the best movie I possibly can? What would a great movie have? What would I like when I look at other people, what do they have? That sounds really amazing, and I want to add that in my movie, or I want to add something similar in my movie.

And that was a huge turning point for me, because then there was this other exercise that I did. I have a mastermind that I host, and we did this exercise about like, I didn’t like my bio at one point. I said, okay, well, wait a minute, what would a really great bio, what’s the bio that I would love to have? And how can I start making steps to fill in the gaps in that bio? So, as an example, Eduardo, our mutual friend, got included in his book, The Performance Paradox. And then in December, I got included in the Harvard Business Review. And I think that that’s also part of the bio that I wrote, the future bio that I wanted, and it didn’t happen the way I thought it would happen. I thought I’d have to write the article, and instead I got included in an article and I was like, well, that’s cool. And so like thinking about what is it that you’d like to create for the movie of your life, the bio that you want, and how can you start taking action towards that to make it a reality? That’s really what I love.

Andi Simon:  In part, though, whether it was the speech that led to someone inviting you to the TEDx talk, or being included in the article, or being included in the book, you are just showing up.  People say, well, how do you market yourself? I say, I just show up. You’re just showing up. And I want to emphasize that a little bit, because while Traca may have achieved these things, it wasn’t because she wrote the article or she wrote the book, it’s because others saw in her something worth sharing that was of great value. It was because of the way they saw it and how they communicated it and how they celebrated you. And that’s exciting because it’s okay because you’re just showing up. Your Tedx Talk was not exactly by design. It wasn’t by default. It was by serendipity or a pathway or you got lucky smart. It doesn’t matter what the reason was, but man, did you make that turn from lemons into lemonade and let it fly. And so you’re going to show up a lot.

Traca Savadogo: And I think that also for a long time, I did workshops on how to network better. And one of the things that I really like to do is add fuel to other people’s fire. And I just think that’s so fun. Sometimes just the act of doing something for them that would be really beneficial for them challenges me to become a better human being, to learn a better skill or something like that. So I expand my own capacity in order to give a gift of meaningful things for somebody else. And then it came back to me.  So as an example, I was working with TEDx Seattle, and I met a woman and she said, oh, you’re a great writer. Could you interview all of our TEDx speakers, and we’ll use what you learn as part of the marketing material. I’m sure that sounds like fun. I interviewed ten of the most important people in our city. Awesome. And, so I did that for two years, and I ended up getting a friend of mine as a speaker coach on the team, and then she’s the one who threw my hat in the ring. And, you know, there was a selection process, but I wouldn’t be in that if she hadn’t thrown my hat in the ring. So it was just like a win-win kind of all this awesomeness that just started from like, hey, how can I help? What can I do for you? Like, what’s amazing? You would be amazing at that. Let me make the connection, you know?

Andi Simon:  I think this is amazing because this started from nowhere and has turned into a wonderful time for us to get to know each other better. And, I think that the most interesting part of our ladies leadership is women’s leadership.  I don’t know what we call it because we don’t really know each other at all. We’ve never really met. And yet we diligently come and have an hour of joy, sort of just sharing and learning more. But I’ve enjoyed this. You’re offered to interview me. I’m going to take you up on it. And because I think that’s a very brilliant idea, and nobody’s ever offered it before. So, we’re going to flip this around for a podcast and you’ll be the interviewer and I can share, but not today. I do want to make sure that we wrap up with time for you to talk a little bit about, from the audience perspective, if they want to reach you. What kinds of things could you help them with? What kind of speaking opportunities, coaching opportunities, mastermind relationships, the kind of stuff that they might come to you and then how to reach you.

Traca Savadogo: Best place to reach me right now is LinkedIn. I’m currently working on my website. It’s not launched yet, but the best place to reach me is on LinkedIn and just tell them that you heard me on this podcast. And then I love speaking at corporations. I love helping people break down the walls that are getting them stuck and helping teams see the magic within what’s possible there and what might be being held back in that environment. I don’t currently have a mastermind that I’m slated for, but stay tuned. I’ll probably be making an announcement about that in another couple months. I’m excited.

Andi Simon:Thank you. Is there one or two things you want to leave the audience with so they don’t forget and they actually take some action on it?

Traca Savadogo: Yes. You cannot fix what you are not willing to face. I would love people to take a hard look at the things that they’re avoiding. And ask yourself how can I get this off my plate? How can I deal with this in some meaningful way and get very curious about how you are contributing to what the challenge is and the person that can fix that is you. You are in charge of the story that you’re telling. You’re in charge of the movie of your life. And imagine if we can face this thing like every hero’s journey. If we can face the hard thing, we can get on with the business of creating the awesome joyfulness that we want to bring into our lives.

Andi Simon: Now remember that you can be positive or negative, and I often tell people the science of well-being tells us gratitude, kindness, talking to people, strangers or otherwise pull your sense of well-being up and share it with others. Humans are really interesting critters. It’s not stuff, it’s just meeting. It’s just sharing. It’s saying thank you Traca, for sharing your story today, ending the day with some grateful little notes you send to people from being there. And next thing you know, you wake up the next morning and the day looks pretty cool, even when it’s pouring outside like it is here. So, I want to say thank you for joining me today and I’ll wrap us up.

It’s been a pleasure.

Traca Savadogo: Thank you so much.

Andi Simon:  Now for our listeners and our viewers. Thank you for coming. I want you to remember that we preach observation to innovation. Keep being curious. Think about today’s conversation. You cannot fix what you aren’t willing to face or some metaphor of that, but it is very interesting and important for you to begin to think through me. And who’s in charge? You know, in some of our podcasts, we’ve been hearing curiosity. It’s a time to be curious. We don’t know what we don’t know. And I love this idea of what’s your movie. When you go through life, you’re writing the script for it and you’re living it, and is it the one you want? And who’s in charge? Because nobody can change it but you. So these are pretty cool times. My books, by the way, have 102 women who have each given you five of their wisdoms. You’re going to see a lot of wisdom, like Traca, that you’re going to go, oh, I had one woman at a book launch that had completely yellow marked the book. I’ve been coaching her for a while, and she was excited about how she was going to change her leadership style based on the wisdom of other leaders in the book. And I went, oh, this is so exciting. The book has an energy and the forces in it. You can find it on Amazon or on my website, www.SimonAssociates.Net or www.WomenMeanBusiness book.com but look for it and you’ll have fun with it. It’ll help you. It’s been a pleasure. I’m going to say goodbye. Have a wonderful day.

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