563 Grace Beason:
Well, here we are, 2021. I hope you’re feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the New Year with resilience, optimism and open mind in these fast-changing and challenging times. We’ve got an exciting year of Wings episodes ahead to help you start, grow, pivot and scale your business in alignment with your soul’s purpose and leveraging all the opportunities for personal and business growth in this new normal.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we kick off the year with an inspiring entrepreneur who believes in leveling up by looking within.
Grace Beason’s entrepreneurial journey sparked what she calls an unexpected spiritual journey – that in turn sparked a pivot from a successful wedding planning business to a coaching company that helps women in their 40s shift their mindset, reach their goals, and LOVE their lives.
I can’t wait to introduce you to Grace! First…
Are you looking for reinvention in your life? A way to reimagine what might be possible for you? A new year is always a good time to set your intentions – and what will make this year different from all the rest?
Grace Beason has been an entrepreneur since opening Grace Leisure Events in 2005 where she specialized in complex, large-scale weddings, social events, fundraisers, and food festivals. She was a busy mom – and also a big drinker. Then came a massive wakeup call and a total reinvention of her life – in her 40s. She went on what she calls an unexpected spiritual journey – and now she’s focused on sharing all she learned helping other women in their 40s find their true dharma and purpose by shifting old limiting beliefs so they can reach their goals and truly fall in love with themselves and their lives. Her business is called Grace Beason Coaching.
Today we talk about life transitions, what it takes for women to succeed in business in a sustainable way that aligns to the lifestyle you want – and what you love to do.
One of Grace Beason’s greatest joys is her Because, Why Not? Podcast – and like me with Wings, she created it to share her personal growth for the benefit of others in a way that combines her signature humor and relatable life experiences. Grace has also created a workshop series and is writing a book on the subject of Authentic Wedding Planning: Removing Pain From The Process. She also serves on the board of PORCH Durham working to end hunger in her community.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Grace Beason.
Melinda Wittstock: Grace, welcome to Wings.
Grace Beason: Thank you for having me, Melinda. I’m so happy to be here with you today.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, me too. Your coaching business concentrates on women in their forties. This is when we’re going through so many transitions in our lives, as mothers, as career women, entrepreneurs, and so much more besides. What is the biggest challenge for women in their forties?
Grace Beason: Gosh. Yes. I love this question and it’s so layered, because I became an entrepreneur in my twenties initially. Then of course, again, in my forties when I changed careers and became a coach full-time for women like me in their forties. If I could sum it all up, it would really be that the biggest challenge women face in their forties is in strengthening or getting to know themselves and strengthening their relationships with themselves because our twenties are so focused on sort of starting our lives and all this external validation we seek from relationships and jobs. It’s really just, I think of it as kind of a superficial decade for people who don’t become parents then. I think for many of us, our thirties are around raising children and growing our careers and there’s just so much go, go, go, go, go.
There’s something about the shift to 40 where women look at where they have been and look at where they’re going. Really, it becomes very significant moment of what do I want from my life. That’s when women, when they’re willing or when they’re able or when they’re given the right tools, choose to go inward and learn about themselves, who am I and what do I want and how do I strengthen my relationship with myself in order to lead a more fulfilling life going forward.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, well, we really find our purpose. I like what you said about the superficial decades, right, and all the doing and all of that. Then we get into our forties and this is consistent with my own experience. Suddenly we think, “Wait a minute. What do I want? What’s my purpose? Why am I here in an earth suit right now?” So what are some of the transformations that you see and you lead people to through your coaching?
Grace Beason: Well, the biggest one, the overarching one is this revelation that women have often for the first time in their forties and that I hopefully bring them to, because we all have the answers inside of us, and that’s what coaching is doing is helping you to find your own answers and move forward in a powerful way on your own, really. But the overarching thing is this realization that if I prioritize myself in my own life, if I put myself first, not only is that okay, but it’s actually what I ought to be doing and everything and everyone else in my life and my orbit will benefit from that. It’s a huge process for women and it is a really eye-opening experience for many of them, most of them, because it is completely counterintuitive.
It goes against everything we’re taught as women to be caregivers and nurturers and put others first. We’re taught that being attentive to ourselves and loving ourselves first is selfish. Really, that’s where the secret sauce is. The magic is in prioritizing yourself. So I would say that’s really the overarching commonality of the transformations that women go through with my coaching.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. We do tend to put ourselves last, whether we ignore our own self-care or we put everybody else’s needs ahead of us or we persuade ourselves that somehow we have to be human doings with these endless to-do lists to where there’s never any end in sight and there’s no real satisfaction or joy in that. It seems like our whole culture, it kind of acculturates us to this. Then kind of suddenly in our forties and fifties, we’re sort of waking up. It’s like, “Wait a minute. It doesn’t have to be like this.” What would it take for women earlier on to have these realizations like in their twenties and thirties? Do we have to wait until we’re in our forties or can younger women really grasp this essential truth?
Grace Beason: Gosh. I’m laughing to myself because this Rod Stewart quote just popped into my head, which is aging me. But I think it was Rod Stewart who famously said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” and or at least he appropriated that into a song. Gosh, if we could feel in our twenties what we feel in our forties, what would that be like? Would we even be able to grasp it? Thinking about my 25 year old self as sort of awake and evolved as I am today is in many ways unimaginable. I say that because I truly believe long before I had the language for it, I understood that everything that I was going through and experiencing was getting me to where I was going, wherever that was. For me, if I had sort of had this really, I don’t mean to sound trite or like a T-shirt slogan, but if I had had this spiritual awakening in my twenties, the entirety of my adulthood would have been different and who knows what that would have looked like.
So that’s my story. My life story brought me here. It brought me to 42 years old when the switch flipped for me. But are women in general capable of awakening earlier? Yes. What I really know to be true is that the discourse on this, on self-love, on women supporting women, on all of these wonderful things that empower women to know more and be more and not just do more, there’s just more of that right now. There are more books, there’s social media, there’s more conversations, there’s podcasts. I mean, podcasts are truly the medium that really changed my life in a significant way three or four years ago when I started a deep dive. That was sort of my form of bibliotherapy as it were. I just listened to all the podcasts rather than reading all the self-help books as I had for many years.
So there’s so much accessible to women in their twenties in a way that’s very different from 20 years ago when I was there. I do think it’s possible on one hand, in one column. On the other hand, there’s so much life that has to be lived to reach a point as a woman where you’re able to stand on a mountain top and look back, right, and also to be able to look forward. I do think that that’s the beauty of 40, is that you’re there and you go, “Wow, maybe I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. Maybe it was life experience. I got hurt. I hurt people. I learned, I lost, I grieved. I celebrated.” All of these things happen by the time you’re 40 and they just don’t often happen in such a significant way by the time you’re 25. So I think the answer is yes and no.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I think of women, though, in our forties who have children and as we go on this journey to higher and higher consciousness and self-empowerment, we’re teaching our daughters and our sons through our actions. So say, I look at my daughter who’s now 17 and she’s a singer-songwriter and she’s incredibly conscious. She has a consciousness that there’s no way that I remotely had at 17. A lot of the stuff that would have been considered woo-woo like way crazy is kind of normalized now. So it’s different in a way. But I hear you about the life experience. You can kind of have this inner knowingness and do conscious practices like meditation, all these sort of things in your teens and your twenties and your thirties, but you still have to go and live and you got to go out there like, as you say, make the mistakes and learn from them.
Grace Beason: Yeah. Well, you speak to something so significant with your daughter, and that is that the things that were sort of taboo or woo-woo or that we weren’t supported in feeling or learning or growing in when we were younger is so different for young women today because it’s almost like the cloak of shame has been removed. That’s what I’m witnessing. Women and young girls are free to be who they are. They really are more freely expressing themselves with less judgment. With this really palpable cultural movement towards authenticity and authentic living and being who you are and all of that, I mean, people are really expressing themselves freely in a way that we didn’t because we lived in fear of judgment and wanted to go with the grain, not against the grain.
We wanted it to be a part of what people were doing rather than being the one who stood out. So I love that because these young women and young men, they’re showing us even those of us in our forties how to be free about being who we are. So that’s really a language and an opportunity that they have that I didn’t have. I didn’t have that in high school and college in the ’90s. I mean, that did not exist. The people who were more freely being themselves and going against the grain were still ostracized. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen now, but it’s a beautiful thing about your daughter, because she’s clearly able to embrace who she is at an age when girls often don’t. I do think that that’s something very different that we’re experiencing culturally right now and it’s wonderful.
Melinda Wittstock: I agree. So what was the spark going back into your twenties? You became an entrepreneur in your twenties when a lot of women actually become entrepreneurs in their forties. So you kind of went for it then. What was the spark that led you there?
Grace Beason: Yeah, I think that the answer to that is that I’m inherently a risk taker. It’s funny, just was describing to you about being young and wanting to do what other people were doing and that’s absolutely true. But I would say I was always pushing boundaries and limits sort of within my own family unit and always the one that was like, “I’m going to go to school here, not there.” Or, “I’m going to hang out with this person, not that person.” Or, “I’m going to try this, even if it seems like something I might fail at.” So I very much wanted to fit in, but I was absolutely a risk taker from a young age in terms of not doing what my family necessarily expected of me, if that makes sense.
So I have this inherent drive to kind of go and do and be on my own, whatever I felt like I wanted to go and do and be rather than kind of taking a more traditional route. So really, this all related to my career. It took me years to set myself free in other ways. But with my career, I had a spark from the time I walked out of college. There were for sure a few months of sort of flailing, but I decided I wanted to be a wedding planner and I was like, “That’s what I’m going to do.” It wasn’t a thing. There were no reality shows. It was 1998. There were no reality shows. There were of course some successful wedding planners, but everyone kind of looked at me like I had 14 heads because I had a wonderful liberal arts education and had studied art history and was sort of meant to do something more traditional.
But I have always had a spark within me that has guided me. Now, I fully understand that that’s my inner voice. Some people call it your pilot light, your gut. That is my inner voice and I have always had a connection to it long before I knew what it was. So I began my career working for other women, really powerful, strong women in New York city. So I always worked for women who were entrepreneurs, who had their own small businesses or big businesses. I did that for five or so years before I worked for myself. It was really, I’ve always been one of those people that lept without knowing there was a safety net below me. It’s not advice I necessarily want to give my children.
I do think there’s a lot to be said for planning ahead and kind of thinking things through carefully. But there was no guidance for me for being an entrepreneur. There wasn’t a book that I could read that could tell my 23 year old self how to be a wedding planner or I started my wedding planning business, I guess, when I was 28 or 29. I just did it. That’s kind of how I’ve always been in life. I’m going to do this thing and then I do it. I would call that moxie or gumption mixed with naivete mixed with youth. I mean, just all those things. I’ve just had that spark in me always.
Melinda Wittstock: So what were the biggest learnings from launching your own business? What was the toughest thing and what did you learn along the way?
Grace Beason: Yeah, so advice for young entrepreneurs, this is where the planning comes into play. We’ve learned about this in the pandemic too. It’s a great lesson in the pandemic and one that people have had to learn in a very difficult way, I think, many of them, is that you do want to have a safety net financially. If you’re starting a business, even if you don’t have a lot of overhead, like let’s say for my wedding planning business, it didn’t involve a lot of overhead. I had a computer. I had my car. I needed to look presentable. I would get my nails done, but there wasn’t a lot of overhead. But there certainly would have been a lot less stress and strain if I had thought about saving six months or even a year of income as I started my business.
As it turned out, I didn’t and it worked out, but that’s not the advice I would give to people. I really did rip off the band-aid, start my business and just proclaim to the universe I’m going to be a wedding planner. I do believe there’s a lot of power in that and that I did create that and I made it happen. But worrying about the finances and sort of when’s my next gig coming in and I need my next gig to come in in order to be able to pay bills next month. I mean, it’s not a healthy way to live. So that was one of the real struggles was just not having planned well financially. That’s certainly a lesson we learn as we grow older if it’s not something we’re taught when we’re younger, but it was a great learning experience for me. I mean, what can I say? That’s how I did it, but that was one of the big struggles.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. There’s a real providence though in when you know what’s in your heart and what you have to do and you take that leap. Often, events conspire to help you, that is when you’re in alignment. In your twenties, whether you do or don’t really have the consciousness about that, there’s enough what’d you call it, the pilot light, to guide you and you learn those lessons along the way. Even someone though that has planned and planned and planned for the financial stuff, there’s still stuff that comes around and it hits you in entrepreneurship, stuff you can’t control.
Melinda Wittstock: Obviously, it’s important to mitigate risk and be constantly looking for ways that you can not only grow your revenue, but make that revenue profitable, be prudent about the way you’re using money, all these sorts of things. But what I find, though, is that so many women never take the leap because they’re so busy making the plan.
Grace Beason: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: So when your coaching women say in their forties and they’re thinking of some sort of life change, like actually I always really wanted to do this, but I thought I should do that. There’s this nice moment of awakening where some of them will maybe take that side hustle and turn it into a business or do something. What is the block that prevents them from really taking that leap?
Grace Beason: Well, you’re speaking to my heart here, Melinda. I mean, this is really speaking my language and this has been my transformation and what brought me ultimately to be this kind of coach and the answer is so deep, but it’s so simple and it’s fear. That’s the answer.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. It’s true. Fear is the entire reason for almost every problem.
Grace Beason: It is. It is. I mean, you were just kind of in responding to me talking about sort of how I would’ve planned differently financially. You said so astutely even those who have all of the financial backing or consistency, or that’s not the word I’m looking for, but security, they have other things they worry about, right? It’s such a reminder that if it’s not one thing, it’s the other. But what’s ultimately holding us back from anything, anything in life is fear. So helping women release their fear and move forward in their lives is the ultimate goal. So how do we do that? How do we release fear? Well, there’s no quick answer. It is work. It takes work every day. I always say to people who are following along with me or to people on coaching or to friends, “I am right along side you here doing the work every day, every day.”
It’s about releasing the fear and the way we do that is really by moving out of our heads and into our hearts. It’s about tapping into that inner voice, that pilot light, that guiding force, that feeling that you can really, when you get quiet, you can hear it. You can feel it. It tells you exactly what to do. It is not in your head. It does not live in your head. Fear lives in your head. It’s where the thoughts are created. The thoughts that so often are not real and that we hold onto. The more we hold on to thoughts, they turn into beliefs and then our beliefs hold us back.
So it’s a process really of recognizing the thoughts that are there, the ones that aren’t serving you, understanding how to remove them and replace them with thoughts that do serve you. But more than anything, shifting from your head into your heart, tapping into that feeling and that voice that really when you get quiet and you turn off what other people are saying, what other people think, you separate yourself from that egoic part of you that is trying to stop you and get in your way and you really tap into what you want, it tells you everything and fear does not live there. So that’s our goal. That’s our work is to release the fear.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it’s so true. It’s the thing that stops us. It manifests in all kinds of interesting ways for women, in quiet ways. Like the woman who is a perfectionist, for instance. I do actually think there should be some sort of AA for perfectionists, right? Because the perfectionism to me is just a way of, it’s a manifestation of a fear that we’re not enough. So we have to over-deliver to kind of prove we’re enough or we’re up to the task, but it stands in the way of business growth, of taking action, really, really being in it. Another one is procrastination. Another one is putting everyone kind of ahead of yourself. All these sorts of things all come down to this inner fear that we’re not enough, right? How does that transformation for the women that you work with? Just the actual practical steps needed to, first of all, identify that fear. Most of the fear is subconscious, first of all. So it’s not even on the surface, it’s so deep within us. How does that peel away for people?
Grace Beason: Gosh. Yeah. It’s really, in coaching, it’s a pretty, in some ways methodical, in some ways organic process of helping people, as you say, peel away the layers and not being prescriptive. So for example, I won’t ever say to someone, “This is what you need to do. Take this step and then that step.” It really is about asking the right questions in the way that you do in your podcast to get the best out of people and to get the most important information. It’s these powerful questions. Being able to actively listen and ask these questions that allow women to go to a place that they haven’t gone before. Because as you say, a lot of the fear is subconscious and there’s so much doing and so much, so many things that they’re doing to fill time or to stay busy or to do things that make them feel validated or relevant.
So it’s helping piece by piece peel away, well, why are these things so big in your life? Why is it taking up so much space? Ironically, as a coach, we don’t ask, I don’t ask why questions, because that puts you right into your head. There are other ways that I bring you right into your heart. But it is about asking the questions that allow a woman to notice her behaviors and unpack why it exists. Why is it important to me that everything is checked off my to-do list at the end of the day? Why is it important that all of my friends think that I’m the prettiest one in the group? Why is it that I beat myself up when I don’t feel I’ve been a good mother? Whatever it is, we’re trying to really excavate. I call it spiritual excavation and the process can be slow.
It can be slow, it can be fast. But it really is allowing a woman to hear a question that they may not have been posed before and question themselves and their own behavior and do the digging on their own with no one else telling them they are a certain way. So often as women, we’re not only told how to be in the world, but we are told by others why we are a certain way all the time. Coming back to being in our forties when we’re finally going, “Well, who am I really? Why am I doing these things?” So whatever that [inaudible 00:27:06] you mentioned perfectionism, procrastination. Certainly for me, it was a moment of recognizing that I had been engaging in this really excessive drinking for decades and I didn’t understand why. Finally, I took a breath to ask those questions and to be asked those questions. Really, what I believe Melinda is that all of this comes down to a woman’s willingness to excavate what’s inside. It’s not always easy. It can be painful, but it is also incredibly [inaudible 00:27:50].
Melinda Wittstock: Well, congratulations on your recovery.
Grace Beason: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: Because that can’t be an easy process. When you look back on it now, what do you think was the root cause that led you to drinking? What was the thing that really lifted you out of it? Two questions, I guess, but let’s go to the cause first.
Grace Beason: Yes. So for me, I think that everyone’s story is so unique in an individual. I understand now that I’ve been speaking this language of sobriety for almost two years that it is so nuanced. That’s another language that’s changing a lot, especially for women by women. So all that’s to say that I don’t self identify as an alcoholic. AA isn’t a program I go to. I was able to learn about myself and my drinking through other means. I just leave that there to say that there are a lot of options out there for women. It used to be very black and white. Now, there are a lot of different ways of approaching recovery or approaching uncovering why you have this relationship with alcohol. Really, it feels important for me to say that, that a wonderful thing about this time that we live in is that it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other and everyone’s recovery is unique. So for me, the reason why, and I feel really, truly, I feel proud that I can speak about this openly now without any shame.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Grace Beason: Women are shrouded in shame about anything that they struggle with. It’s been really important for me to speak openly about my drinking because there are millions of women who experienced what I have and feel the way that I feel, but we haven’t felt open to talk about it. So, yeah. There’s just been a lot of shame around anyone who says that they have a struggle with drinking. I call it a complex relationship with drinking and I believe the reason that it existed in my life was all because of my constant seeking of external validation and trust of myself. That is something that crosses over from entrepreneurship, my entrepreneurship and limiting my own growth as an entrepreneur, to personal relationships, to friendships, to relationships in my family, even to my early parenting. There was this lack of trust in myself and this abundance of limiting beliefs.
As a young person, I never felt good enough just as myself. As a very young person at 14 or 15, I started drinking to fit in. It’s what people were doing and I wanted to fit in just like I was talking about earlier. I didn’t want to be the one who wasn’t doing it. Then it really slippery sloped into something that I think is very common for young women, or certainly was when I was that age. Again, this is changing with young women and I love that. But for me, it was about that I felt funnier. I felt prettier. I felt more spontaneous. I felt more desirable. There was just this whole thing where I felt that alcohol gave me what I needed to be a whole person and gave me what I needed to have fun. Then as a parent and as an adult, it turned into what I relied on in order to relax, in order to de-stress, in order to not deal with my feelings, on and on and on and on and on.
So it became this thing about it was the external validation that I was looking for. When I ripped it away, it was incumbent upon me to provide all of that for myself and wow. Wow. I mean, the beautiful part of this story for me and for so many women is that one of the hardest things you can do is take away the thing you’re relying on and yet you find that all of the beauty of your life lies on the other side.
Melinda Wittstock: Thank you for sharing that because it does help de-stigmatize this. I know as the daughter of an alcoholic, my dad was an alcoholic. As a child of one, you go through this investigative process as soon… This is why I became a journalist in my earlier life was really seeking to kind of understand what lay beneath that for him. It’s such a similar, I came to the conclusion… Hearing you describe your own progression through this and all the reasons at different stages, it was the exact conclusion I came to about him.
Grace Beason: Wow. Wow. Wow.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, I just had little hair standing up the back of my neck. There are so many things that we can do to avoid feeling our feelings, right? It’s not just alcohol or substances or whatever. It can be workaholism. It can be a whole bunch of different things. It does take courage to really look within and find self-acceptance. The longer I’m on this entrepreneurial journey, business number five in my case, I realized that all the different things and all the different challenges, all the different, I don’t know, mistakes, failures, I don’t know, whatever you want to call them, successes, I mean, everything along the way has been a journey ultimately about self-acceptance and ‘enoughness’ and learning to enjoy the journey. It’s not really about the destination. Every moment of every day is growth, right? That’s something that, again, going back to our conversation about that youth is wasted on the youth. I wish I knew all those things earlier, but I know them now.
Grace Beason: Absolutely. It’s so much about self-worth. It’s like I said earlier about trust and about removing those limiting beliefs about ourselves. Sometimes that takes time. Sometimes it takes until we’re in our forties, but it really that’s what it comes down to. It is about our self-worth. If we can’t stand in our own self-worth, really we have nothing. We are relying on other people for our happiness. We’re relying on things. It doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or shopping or whatever. I mean, we’re looking for other things to fill us up if we don’t have self-worth and we don’t trust ourselves. Certainly, as an entrepreneur, trusting yourself and letting go of limiting beliefs about yourself, those are, I think, two of the biggest keys to success. Forget about necessarily the money in the bank or what investors you have or the business school you’ve been to. If you don’t trust yourself, you’ve got virtually nothing.
So it’s such a powerful piece in all aspects of our lives as women to really understand what our self-worth is and to fully live in that and lead with that. That is leading from your heart by the way and that is leading without fear. You can live and lead your life fearlessly when you really understand and believe fully in your self-worth.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah. So Grace, how can women find you and work with you?
Grace Beason: Well, my coaching company is Grace Beason Coaching, and that is my website, gracebeasoncoaching.com. You can reach out to me about individual coaching there. You can find me on Instagram @Iamgracebeason. I love that Instagram platform, really. I use it as a way to share tidbits throughout the week of things that I think can really be useful and helpful and uplifting to women. I think of them as just like little gifts throughout the week to help move you along. We’re all trying to gather more tools for our spiritual toolboxes. So that’s where I am on Instagram and on my website if you’d like to connect. I’d love to hear from you. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to chat with you, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: Likewise. Well, Grace, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Grace Beason: It’s been wonderful. I feel great. Thanks for the time and the opportunity.