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John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Deanna Singh. She is an authority in building innovative opportunities within underserved communities, and she’s also the chief change agent and founder of Flying Elephant. She’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Purposeful Hustle, Direct Your Life’s Work Towards Making a Positive Impact. Deanna, thanks for joining me.
Deanna Singh: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
John Jantsch: Hustle is a pretty popular topic right now. In fact, there are a number of books that I’ve seen over the last couple of years that have that in the title. How does Purposeful Hustle differ from hustle hustle?
Deanna Singh: Sure. I love this word hustle, but I have to tell you that when I first was writing the book and I shared it with my editor, she’s like, “I don’t think you should use the word hustle.” And I’m like, “No, I’m absolutely going to use the word hustle,” because there is a very specific meaning to me. When I think about the idea of purpose and the idea of purposeful, for me, that’s the why. Why do you do the things that you do? So what is that? And the hustle part is how. If you know what your purpose is and why you show up in the world, the hustle is how do you show up in the world, and how do you get through some of the challenges that you will inevitably face if you are living in your purpose? So those two words together meant a lot to me, and I think really got at the crux of this idea of making it through life and moving through things with a purpose in mind.
John Jantsch: Well, I do think that unfortunately I think hustle has a very positive connotation, but I think it’s taken on a negative connotation in some circles because it does sort of imply get there however you can. Sometimes hustle in that vein is not altogether healthy or positive.
Deanna Singh: Absolutely. Absolutely. And this really is this idea of get there but do it in a way that is going to make the world around you better.
John Jantsch: So you define, I’ll read this directly from the book, Purposeful Hustle is directing your life’s work towards intentionally making a positive impact in the world. So let’s talk about impact. How do you define impact particularly say in the context of a business?
Deanna Singh: I think that impact obviously has a lot of different ways that you can break it down. When you’re thinking about purposeful impact, what you’re thinking about is what are the ways that by me being in business, by us being in business, that we are moving forward this human agenda. Moving forward this idea of being able to connect more with one another. When we think about impacts, there’s this larger sort of a requirement I think that’s on all of our lives, which is how do we connect ourselves to one another? That to me is this impact. Are we creating more connectivity and are we creating more positive connectivity?
John Jantsch: Yeah. I don’t think… Sometimes people get bogged down by that because they’re thinking, oh, I have to go start a nonprofit agency and save the world-
Deanna Singh: Absolutely not.
John Jantsch: … to have impact.
Deanna Singh: Absolutely not.
John Jantsch: I think that’s a healthy message. I guess any business that is making one or a hundred or a thousand people’s lives in some fashion better, that’s impact, isn’t it?
Deanna Singh: Right. You think about all of the businesses that are operating, well, they’re all being operated by people. And so whether it’s in the direct work that you’re doing or the service or product that you’re putting out into the world, and you can find the purpose connection there amazing, that is where you get some of these social enterprises and nonprofits. But also just in the way that you’re treating the people who are part of your team. Are you giving them the opportunity to go out and make the changes in your communities? Those are all important questions and I think really all come down to the heart of what a business is.
John Jantsch: If somebody writes a book with the title purpose in it, or the word purpose in the title I should say, I guess it’s fair to say, how would you define your purpose?
Deanna Singh: I am so glad you asked. I always tell people, if you stand still long enough, I will happily tell you what my purpose is. I define my purpose as shifting power to marginalized communities. What that means to me is that, I’ve had a lot of amazing experience with a lot of different factors. I’ve been in leadership levels and have seen all of these different things. But one of the things that I’ve noted in my career and also my personal life is that the minute that somebody feels like they have the self-efficacy, they feel like they already have all the things that they need, but they see it and they recognize it in themselves. That’s where real power, that’s where real change happens. For me, it’s about how do I help companies? How do I help individuals? How do I help communities find that inner power so that they can thrive and really reach their full potential?
John Jantsch: All right, so I do have to ask what’s up with the Flying Elephant?
Deanna Singh: Sure. Really, the concept of Flying Elephant there’s a funny story behind this. My husband and I have been best friends since we were 10. We’ve been married 15 years. For my 10 year anniversary, he gives me this beautiful, ornate elephant, and I was like, thank you. But why an elephant? He said, “Well, to add to your elephant collection.” And I was like, “I don’t have an elephant collection.” Then he gently took my hand and walked me through our house. And I have an elephant collection, John. I have elephants from all over the world and didn’t realize it. You have to have sometimes people who are so close to you that they can actually see you more than you can see in some respects.
Deanna Singh: But the idea of the Flying Elephant really comes from this notion of how do you take something that is heavy and big and majestic and it has all of those beautiful characteristics and put wings on it? And so for me, the idea of Flying Elephant and working with the clients that I have and the individuals that I work with, what are the big, heavy, majestic, amazing ideas that you have and how do we put wings on them? How do we get them off the ground so that everybody can see them and can benefit from them?
John Jantsch: So I’m sure you run across people, I do all the time, when we start talking about this idea of finding your why and your purpose, that a lot of them say, “That’s great.” I don’t know what it is. I can’t find it. You know, I’m searching for it and I don’t think I’m living it. Is there a way that you’ve been able to help people discover their purpose?
Deanna Singh: I’m going to tell you something that I tell people all the time. It’s going to be so simple. It’s like such a simple thing. I’m always shocked by how little leaders do this, which is schedule some time to do some absolute reflection where all you’re thinking about is your purpose, and you don’t have people who say, I don’t have the time for that. I don’t have… I’m like, yeah, maybe, maybe. But what’s happening, because you’ve haven’t scheduled some time is that it’s just nitpicking in the back of your head. It’s making that noise, right? So it’s kind of just like buzzing back there. When you actually schedule… It’s always there, and it’s kind of distracting you, but if you schedule some time to really sit down and then ask yourself some important questions. In the book I give a whole list of questions and things you can go through, but there’s some big ones.
Deanna Singh: Number one, what is something I could talk about endlessly? What is something that keeps me up at night? What are the things that are skills that I’m like the go-to person for? People will say, “You know, I’m going to go to Jennifer. I’m going to go to Deanna for this,” and are things that they’re really easy for me to do but might be challenging for other people. What are some things and maybe even individuals or experiences or events that have happened in my life that have shaped my character that make me really unique? Because when you start to go through those things, you start to see them and especially if you put them on paper. I always require any client that I’m working with to put it on paper. You’re going to start to see some themes. It’s not so much that you don’t know what your purpose is. I always tell people, you just haven’t uncovered it. It’s there. You’ve just got to sweep off some of the dust so you can get to it.
John Jantsch: Well, do you also ever find that there are people that maybe don’t want to discover it? And I don’t mean that they don’t want what it might bring them, but they might not want what they would have to do to live it. So in other words, there’s some fear of like, “Okay, if this really is my purpose, then I’m going to have to make wholesale changes in my life, and I’m not ready to do that.”
Deanna Singh: Absolutely. You know, one of the things that I do in the hustle section of the book is I talk about four characteristics that every purposeful hustler needs, their initiative, curiosity, courage, and resiliency. And so what you’re getting at, really, is this idea of courage, because a lot of times people are like, hey, I’m really comfortable where I am. I’m not necessarily aligned with my purpose, but I’m comfortable. I like my title. I like my pay, I like my… and I am not ready to give it up. It’s kind of along the lines of what you were mentioning before about do I have to start a nonprofit organization.
Deanna Singh: A lot of times it’s really walking through what are… Would it be a complete change of your life for you to get into purpose? Maybe 10 years from now, 15 years from now that’s maybe what your life looks like. But maybe right now it’s just a small change. Maybe now it’s like, “I’m going to take 15 minutes a day and I’m going to focus on my purpose.” And that doesn’t really change the dynamics that are going on around you. I tell people that that’s an excuse, and it’s a challenge that people see often, and they allow it to just stop them as opposed to them saying, “Well, that’s not tomorrow. “Right? Or maybe it’s never, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take little bitty steps that are going to get me closer to what that purpose looks like.
Deanna Singh: I will say, too, just full disclosure, one of the things that I’ve realized is that people are afraid of it because it’s something new and it’s different and we’re always kind of afraid of something new and different. But the minute people start to kind of be in that space, I mean realize the joy and the rejuvenation that they’re getting from being in that purpose, one of the things I hear all the time is, “Man, I wish I would’ve done this X number of years ago. Man, I wish I would’ve done this. I feel more complete.”
John Jantsch: Don’t you think a lot of people suffer from being comfortable? That’s what I find. It’s like, why shake up the apple cart? Everything’s okay. It may not be great. It may be mediocre, but it’s okay. I feel like a lot of times when people really decide to go on this search, it’s because something dramatic has already happened that has kind of given them the wakeup that they’re just sort of wandering through life.
Deanna Singh: Absolutely. I definitely think so. But you know that’s a really bounded way to live. To be living in a state of comfort is okay, but state of fear of something else, I don’t know. At least to me, I can’t see how that could ever be stress free or ever be acceptable.
John Jantsch: Well, again, I’ll go with I think a lot of people… I think some people recognize what they should be doing, but it just looks like a lot of work. And the fact that nothing’s really wrong, even though they’re not kind of maybe living the life they should be living, I think that resistance is greater than some of the fear of can I actually do this.
Deanna Singh: Absolutely. Because it looks like… And I think the other challenge that I hear all the time is people say, “Well, I’d like to do that thing, and it’s so far away to the top of this big mountain. How would I ever climb up that big mountain?” They’re just looking at that mountain top, but they’re not looking at the next step and the next step and the next step. And so we take these really big things, they are big and audacious sometimes, and kind of like, “Whoa, could I do this?” or, “Oh, that’s just too much work, or, “I don’t have the time,” or whatever the challenge might be, but instead of looking at it in just these little bitty tiny steps. One of the strategies that I talk about a lot is what could you do in 15 minutes?
Deanna Singh: Could you just commit to yourself and give yourself a gift for the next 30 days of 15 minutes and say every day I’m just going to do 15 minutes that are just going to be… Maybe it’s just some reflection time. Maybe it’s making a phone call. Maybe it’s listening to an amazing podcast, right? Maybe it’s whatever. But what could I do in just these 15 minutes? And then see what that feels like. Is it overwhelming? Have you learned something about yourself? Because once people get into this space, then it’s really hard to get out because you’re like, “Wow, this is a whole different way of living my life and I feel so much better.”
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John Jantsch: You have chapters on specific words. You talked a little bit about this idea of being courageous. I know as an entrepreneur just rather you’re living your purpose or not just getting up and going out there everyday takes a level of resiliency. But you spend a lot of time talking about curiosity. I tell people all the time that’s kind of my super power. I think it is what I bring to the world is that I’m just really curious about stuff and I break it down and bring it back and say, “Here’s something interesting.”
John Jantsch: How in your experience does… Why is that such an important trait in your opinion, about being this idea of purpose?
Deanna Singh: I think that being curious is incredibly important in all aspects of life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a business leader, whether you’re just a human being, just being curious, it is part of the thing that makes us human. I think it’s just an important skill and characteristic to nurture. What I talk about in the book is actually it’s directed at people who are like you and I who are curious, but thinking about how you take that curiosity and add it into some kind of an action plan.
Deanna Singh: Because one of the things that I see will happen is people will say, “I’m really curious,” and then they go down a rabbit hole. I did this all the time. So let me talk about myself. I’ll go down a rabbit hole. I love this rabbit hole. I find so many things in it, and then I find another one.
Deanna Singh: And then by the time I’m finished I have this whole little city of rabbit holes, but I don’t have any action underneath it. One of the things that I talk about a lot is, yes, it’s important to be curious. And here are many of the reasons why it’s important to be curious, and here’s some different ways to push yourself into some places where you can learn something new and kind of expand what your comfort zone is. But here’s also some ways that you can make sure that you tie that into an action. So it’s not just curiosity for the sake of curiosity, it’s curiosity with some movement behind it.
John Jantsch: So it’s curiosity that doesn’t just look like attention deficit disorder.
Deanna Singh: You said it, I didn’t.
John Jantsch: Do you want to talk about some of the projects maybe that you’ve worked on with people particularly in underserved communities?
Deanna Singh: Absolutely. There’s a couple of companies that we’re running out of Flying Elephant. One, is we do coaching and consulting specifically for women and people of color who want to go into the social enterprise space. For your listeners who may not know what social enterprise is, it’s really organizations that are created to solve for a social issue. So really trying to make sure that that sector has a lot of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Deanna Singh: Another company that we run out of Flying Elephant is called Story to Tell Books, and there what we do is we focus on making sure that there’s books out in the world that feature positive images of children of color. Right now, children of color, and we’ve got more than 50% that are school age kids, but are represented in less than 14% of books, which is a real problem because you ask a reading teacher, “How do you get a child excited about reading and, therefore, excited about learning?” And they the number one thing they’re going to say, “Help them find themselves in a book.” So we have this book in print that does just that, and it’s really trying to get at changing the narrative.
Deanna Singh: The third company that I run is, I’m a doula. I started with a business partners a company. Doulas are people who will coach birthing people through the birth and labor process. We started a company called Birth Coach Milwaukee, which is where I’m from. The whole point of that company is to try and eliminate the disparities in birthing outcomes. The research shows, again, you introduce a doula or midwife, you can really eliminate those disparities.
Deanna Singh: We have a one-to-one model for every person who is able to pay full price we’re then able to provide services to women who otherwise could not afford it. So those are three companies that we’re working on specifically out of Flying Elephant. A lot of diversity there, a lot of fun, super amazing. Looking at some of the impact, it makes for incredibly interesting days if you can imagine.
Deanna Singh: Some of the other companies that we’ve helped with really kind of run the gamut, but a lot of them have to do with economic development. Creating new economic development opportunities for individuals who might not have the same kind of access to social capital, actual capital, network, and those things. And really trying to create the environment that allows for them to take their ideas and put wings on them.
John Jantsch: If somebody was… I know we talked about you don’t have to start a nonprofit, but I do think there are a lot of businesses, a lot of entrepreneurs, that actually would like to help in, as you described them, underserved communities. I’ve heard from people say it’s actually kind of hard to know where to start. Any advice for somebody who’s listening who thinks, yeah, I would like to reach out and maybe help entrepreneurs that are having trouble getting started, that I’ve got something to give there. What are some ways that you kind of figure out how to do that?
Deanna Singh: I think that’s an excellent question. A lot of cities will have places where there’s economic development boards. They call them different things in different places, but looking at where are the agencies or organizations that people who don’t have, again, those networks or those experiences, their own personal wealth to be able to get their ideas off the ground. Where are they going? And if they’re not going any place, one of the things you could do is create that space. Create that conversation or that space where people could come to, but hopefully… My hope is that there is something like that that exists in a lot of different communities and then reaching out to them and saying, look, this is my expertise. This is something I’m really, really good at, and I would love to be able to share that expertise. What’s the best way for me to connect with the people who are coming through your organization? So you don’t have to start anything, but you can bring your expertise to bear.
John Jantsch: I have to tell you a story about the word underserved. It makes me nervous every time I see it. Early in my business, I was doing a directory for a nonprofit. Actually, it was United Way. I somehow in the text turned underserved into undeserved, and gosh darn, it changed the meaning-
Deanna Singh: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It was actually… I see that.
John Jantsch: The problem was the thing got proofread about eight times, but that was a normal word. It just wasn’t the right thing. It was just a couple of characters mixed around. But boy did it change the meaning. So every time I see that word now I get a little cold shiver. So apologize, I had to share that.
Deanna Singh: Yeah, no, I just got a bad shiver for you, but you survived.
John Jantsch: I did. I did, I did. So Deanna, tell people where they can find more about what you’re doing there at Flying Elephant, and, of course, how to pick up a copy of Purposeful Hustle.
Deanna Singh: Sure. Purposeful Hustle can be purchased on any of the normal avenues that you go to, Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any of those places. But you can also get it directly from our website, which is Deanna, D-E-A-N-N-A, Singh, S-I-N-G-H dot com. Deannasingh.com. You can get the book. You can see the children’s books. You can kind of see all of the different things that we’re doing and sign up to get the weekly blog just to hear how other people are really living in the Purposeful Hustle. And then also any social media platform. Almost any social media platform. Love to connect with some of your listeners.
John Jantsch: Well, and we’ll have all those links in the show notes both to the site as well as links to Flying Elephant. Deanna, thanks for joining us and hopefully keep up that great work, and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road.
Deanna Singh: Awesome. So grateful to be here. Thanks.
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The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur
by John Jantsch
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