The author I’m talking to today just inspires me on so many levels and this essentially starting a movement that frankly I think we need. She is Heidi Ganahl, author of SheFactor.
Society tells us, if you follow the plan, you can have everything. A terrific job, a great family, a perfect life, unfortunately, too many women feel trapped and unfulfilled when they find out that the plan is just an unattainable ideal. Heidi talks to us today about discovering who you are and what you really want and shares with us a bit on how her book directs us on how to do that.
Heidi Ganahl: Well, a couple of years ago, my oldest daughter graduated from University of Oregon and I got to know all of her friends pretty well out there, and the moms of the friends to go to mom’s weekend, and just visiting her and going to football games. Tori is super organized and always on the ball and always has a plan and when she was getting ready to graduate, she’s kind of like, okay, where do I want to live and what kind of company do I want to work for?
She did tons of informational interviews and couldn’t just nail it on what she wanted to do. She had a journalism degree. I started to use some of the tools that I used when I was building my young corporate team at Camp Bow Wow and some leadership tools, like an assessment to help her figure out how she rolls. Then we used gamification quite a bit, like setting goals and priorities and scoring yourself.
It worked out really well, and we had some great conversations about what would help her figure out what she should do, where she should live and what kind of company she should work for. That got me thinking. About the same time I was asked like if I could write a book, what kind of book would I write?
I didn’t want to write just a typical, hey, here’s the story of how I built Camp Bow Wow. I wanted to write it more form a perspective of how would I advise my 20-year-old self to do things differently or what advice would I give myself. That’s the angle I took with the book and then I kind of layered on the idea for the app with the assessment tool and the gamification and teaching you how to set goals and priorities in your life.
Then I added the chapter element so we’ll have live chapters so there’s an actual human kind of community element to it too. It all came together as a way to surround young women with lots of support and mentorship and ideas and tools and tactics and community to help them launch their lives.
Rae Williams: What kind of mindset is your reader in who needs this book and wants to access this information?
Heidi Ganahl: I would say this book is going to especially reach young women that are just graduating from college or that are just out in the workforce, maybe 21, 22, maybe up to 24 years old. I think that’s the sweet spot for this book. Probably 18 to 24.
They’re really trying to figure out what they want their life to look out, map it out a bit, and really navigate what the decisions they need to make are to make that happen.
That’s I think the sweet spot although I certainly think that women younger in high school and women older that are you know, have their feet wet and are a little bit more established can benefit from this too.
Rae Williams: Tell me a little bit about your story.
Heidi Ganahl: I had everything figured out and did exactly everything I was supposed to, I guess you could say. Worked my way through college, got a degree, moved out to California to be an advertising accounting executive, and it was great. I loved it, but I was just missing something.
I was also missing Colorado. I moved back and ended up in pharmaceutical sales and met my first husband and we just hit it off, had such a good time together.
He was very entrepreneurial also, but then I wasn’t really happy in pharmaceutical sales. I like to say it was the golden handcuffs. It was a great job. It looks good on paper, exactly what you should be doing early on in your career, but I just wasn’t really fulfilled or happy with the job.
I started thinking about other businesses that I could start and my first husband and I came up with the idea for a dog care business. One of the first doggy daycares in the United States opened up right next to my dad’s business.
We thought, this is the coolest thing ever, I want to hang out with dogs all day, and doggy daycare was just taking off at that point. We wrote the business plan, and shortly after that, my first husband died in a small plane crash. That changed my life dramatically at that point.
I really had to go back and figure out what I was passionate about, what was going to help me move past that terrible time and get me back into life. As I look back at how I dealt with all of that and then dealt with figuring out how to navigate afterwards, I was really hard on myself. I was not very forgiving, and I thought I had to have it all figured out and then I had to get right back on track and live life exactly the way I was prescribed to do it.
But what I found is when something that profound happens to you, it really shakes you to the core and it makes you reexamine why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you really care about and how you want to live your life. You realize how quickly it can go away.
Some of the lessons that are in this book come from that experience and that time in my life when everything I thought I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to live my life was really rocked to the core. Not reinvent myself but really figure out what it meant to live an authentic, joyful life, especially coming off of an experience like that.
Rae Williams: Did some of those experiences open up again as you were actually writing the book?
Heidi Ganahl: As I thought back about stories that would impact the certain sections in the book, no matter which part it was, I’d reflect back and say, “Why did I make that decision?” or “What influenced me to do something that I didn’t necessarily believe was the right thing for me to do?” and “How could I have done it differently?” or “What other influences could I have looked towards to make a different decision?”
That was a big part of writing this book, was, gosh, I wasted so much time trying to make other people happy and do things the way I thought I was supposed to do it.
If I had learned some of these lessons or tools or tactics early on, I think I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and really enjoyed life more and lived more foot loose and fancy free and having fun—not worrying so much about what people were thinking or what I should have been doing.
First Steps to the Life You Want
Rae Williams: What is something listeners can take action on immediately to get their lives changed or to break that mindset of I have to do this in my life?
Heidi Ganahl: I think one of the most important things they can do is give themselves permission to fail and give themselves permission to play. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
I mean, my goodness, I had a couple of other little businesses before I got Camp Bow Wow going. I had several other careers before I figured that out, and now I’m reinventing myself again with a different career, a different passion, and different things that are priorities for me.
I think if I had been more forgiving of myself and let myself try different things and test the waters with different careers, different jobs, different lifestyles, I think it would have been freeing and much more exciting and fun along the journey instead of more critical and more pressure and more harsh with myself.
Rae Williams: Where do you think some of this pressure is coming from for young women?
Heidi Ganahl: I think it comes from a few different places. Obviously our parents come from a place of love and support, but they come with preconceived notions about what they’d like our lives to be like. Whether it’s subconscious or conscious, they’re telling us that. The other thing is society. I mean, society has a very prescribed version, whether it’s through the movies we watch or the education system or through the people that surround us about what a “good life” looks like and what that means, what kind of path that is.
I think we are loosening that up a bit, but at the same time, the pressure to do everything and have everything, now that women today have a lot of choices. We are so blessed to live in a country that we can do pretty much anything we want to do. Of course, it’s not perfect but it’s pretty optimal. Sometimes freedom is paralyzing, so we’ve got to really just pay attention to our intuition and to what makes us feel good and feel happy and fill our souls and our hearts.
Push back a little bit on what everyone else thinks it should look like.
Whether that’s society, our parents, boyfriend, our teachers, the list goes on and on…the coaches, etc.
What Is SheFactor?
Rae Williams: Talk to me a little bit about the title of the book and what SheFactor means to you?
Heidi Ganahl: Yeah, it’s a little cryptic but it will make sense once they read the book. What happens is, in the book, in the app, we talk about nine different spheres of your life. Different areas that you can focus on. Those are things like finance or fashion or faith, future which is your job, or folks which is friends and family.
It has you look at those different parts and aspects of your life and figure out, well what’s my priority right now? What am I focusing on right now?
You can’t have it all. That’s a big theme in the book. You have to learn to prioritize in order to have work life balance.
You can’t be a wonderful CEO and a wonderful mom and a wonderful girlfriend…you could typically go overboard with trying to be great at everything. One of the lessons in the book is try to prioritize, try to set really clear expectations for yourself about what success looks like.
Whether it’s in a dating relationship or in a work relationship or with your faith, try and map that out a little bit.
And then, set the goals, write them down which you can do in the app or through the book and then score yourself every week using what we call a net promoter score.
It’s a scale of one to 10, and you basically say to yourself, you know, how did I do this week? I try to work out three times, I only worked out two, I’ll probably give myself a score of six or seven on a scale of one to 10. It teaches you to be really honest with yourself as well because no one else is scoring you, it’s just you.
If you don’t score yourself honestly, it’s not going to help you move forward and figure out how to navigate personal responsibility and accountability and meeting your goals ultimately. The app takes the scores of your top four priorities and averages them out based on your weighted priorities and that number that comes out is your SheFactor.
That number, the SheFactor is how you can have a common language with your mentors, with your peers, with your boss. If you say to your peers, my gosh, I’m having a rough week. My SheFactor’s a three or four. People are going to get what you’re saying if they’re in the SheFactor community. Whereas you know, if you typically say that to a friend and you just say, I’m having a bad week, well what does that mean?
How does that rank on a scale of one to 10?
I know that sounds a little data-driven, but it does give everyone a basis to work off of and teaches young women how to articulate where they are and where they’re going.
Rae Williams: What do you think is the accountability factor in just having that app, that was important for you to have out there?
Heidi Ganahl: I think it is really important that when we read about how to do things better in our lives or how to take a different approach that often that goes in one ear and out the other one. I mean life is so busy right now and there is not really a way to hold on tight to things that you read in a book that you think are great.
The thought here is if you read the book and then you download the app and you do the assessment and learn a little bit about yourself and how you roll and how others roll and how you interact with your friends and family and significant other.
Then you set priorities and you can hold yourself accountable for those, then you go to your SheFactor chapters whether it is a college chapter, a city chapter, or a corporate chapter and you actually have live people to integrate with and talk to in community and get mentored and have peer to peer support. I think it brings it all together.
It is just a continuum that helps see you through the journey or the platform so that you can actually see results, and that is ultimately what is super important. It is helping these young women create a life that they love, that’s authentic and brings them joy.
It’s easy to say that, but you’ve got to figure out what that practically and tactically means in your life, and that is what the journey is all about.
Changing Your Life with SheFactor
Rae Williams: Do you have an example of a success story or someone that’s employed some of these principles?
Heidi Ganahl: Yes, I think one of the most important things that comes out of using the assessment tool and what that does is it puts you into what we call a silhouette. So it is just, think about the difference between your friend that is an engineer and loves data and loves to watch the space shuttle launch versus your friend who is totally into fashion and very artsy and loves to create things or draw. They are different, but there are lots of things that bring them together or complement each other.
So the assessment gives you that tool in your tool chest to figure out how people roll, how you roll, what the differences are, and just acknowledging and giving yourself permission to be different and that you don’t have to fit into a certain box.
Then when you start setting your goals or holding yourself accountable for the SheFactor scores, it teaches you to prioritize and be disciplined about it.
So the young women that I have used this with so far find that it is surprising to them what they’re focusing on, like they didn’t realize that their faith was so important to them and that it needed to be a top priority and when they did make it a priority it felt really good and it brought them something like a gift that they didn’t realize they were missing. But they had to actually rank the nine categories and play the game to figure that out that that was what was missing right there.
I am thinking of a young woman really wanting to get involved politically and become an active engaged citizen, but you didn’t know what that meant or what that looked like. So she played the game and set some prioritize. One of the priorities was to start studying some different policy issues and figure out what really was interesting to her and she found that she was really interested in the foster care system.
And at the same time, she wanted a way to give back. So she combined the two areas of being politically active and helping pass legislation in Colorado but also starting a non-profit that provided support for foster families.
So it is something that she never would have thought about if you just go along your day to day life, but actually being intentional about it and looking at the different categories and figuring out how they overlay or how they could play together and what’s important in prioritizing those made a big difference and it’s helping many, many families around the state now.
Rae Williams: What happens when we are not prioritizing ourselves and our goals?
Heidi Ganahl: I think the biggest thing I see is overwhelm. I mean it gets overwhelming when you feel like you’re supposed to be doing things a certain way, living life a certain way, keeping people happy.
When you can break it into spheres as we call them or certain goals or just a few categories, and you can win in those categories by accomplishing your goals even the little ones just to get started, it gives you confidence, it gives you peace of mind.
It gives you the sense that you are in control of where you are going and what your destiny is and what your life wants to look like. It just gives you a clarity around it.
Rae Williams: What was your favorite chapter to write?
Heidi Ganahl: That is a good question. I think probably the folk chapter. The learning how to navigate friends and family, parents. How do you build a life that is authentic to you while trying to not keep all of those folks happy but not upset the apple cart and go to the point of, “I don’t agree with what you wanted for my life so I am going to create my own”?
How do you navigate that, because those are the people that are going to be most sensitive to any changes you make.
And anything you try or any chances you take, any risk you take. So figuring out how to navigate that, and oh my gosh do I have some incredible stories around that. So it worked out beautifully as I told the stories about having my family involved with building Camp Bow Wow and having my family and friends help me get through that journey of losing my first husband and now with SheFactor. I am pretty politically involved, like how does that play with my family and friends. So that was a really interesting chapter to write.
I respect what you say, but I am going to go in a different direction. Then you have people that tend to root against you like, “Well, then fine, it’s just not going to go very well.” You’ve got those dynamics. I think it is one of the most challenging things to do is to help young women disconnect from those expectations.
A Challenge from Heidi Ganahl
Rae Williams: So if you have to issue a challenge to your readers, our listeners, young women at large, what would that challenge be?
Heidi Ganahl: I would say the challenge is to follow the SheFactor process. Just give it a chance, bite into it totally, read the book, do the exercises in the book like mind mapping and the different questions that we’re asking you to journal about.
It is really important that every exercise or thing that we ask you to do has a rhyme and reason to it. There’s the book then the app and actually playing the game wholeheartedly.
Going to chapter meetings so you have the community and support and being mentored by someone in your champion circle—all of it, the whole process is what is going to help you get where you need to go.
If you try and piecemeal it, you will get some benefits but I don’t know that you’ll have the breakthrough that we are hoping that young women have when they use this system and that we have seen with young women that have tried it.
Rae Williams: I want to end on a personal note. What was your daughter’s feedback on this whole experience, you writing this book and just her process in general?
Heidi Ganahl: Tori is great. I mean she is so supportive, and it was weird because I kept saying, “Well this is really for you,” but then I found it was really about me and what I want my legacy to be and how I can use all the lessons I have learned over my crazy life.
It has been a crazy life. To help these young women hopefully not make some of the same mistakes I made and take a shortcut to a happier more authentic life…
It took me a long time to get there, and I don’t want it to take her that long, for my own daughters or for other young women.
So Tori was really helpful in just checking in occasionally and saying, “I think this is where we are going, is this accurate? Is this how you feel? Is this the challenge you’re facing?” and now I am excited to get Tori more and more involved into SheFactorand let her tell her stories, especially about what it was like to go on the journey with me and come out the other end such a strong, authentic young woman herself.
I am really proud of her and where she’s landed, and I am excited for her to tell her story in some aspects too.
Rae Williams: How can we contact you? How can we find you?
Heidi Ganahl: So I am very active on social media. I have a big Instagram following, do lots of Insta stories, and then also there is a website theshefactor.com, where you can go sign up.
Just leave your email address and we will keep you on the loop as things launch. The official launch for the book is April 30th and we will start a book tour all over the country. We are going to visit 30 different cities over this summer and have lots of fun. Parties and happy hours and book signings that really get young women engaged all over the country.