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Joining me today is renowned cardiac anesthesiologist, gender-equity expert, and TedX Speaker Dr. Sasha Shillcutt. As if that’s not enough of a resume, Sasha is also the CEO of Brave Enough, where she leads over 20,000 women on living connected and courageous lives. Sasha spent 2020 coaching women through the unwanted but very real emotions of the global pandemic. Whether talking with physicians and teachers on the front line to executives and furloughed employees faced with losing their careers she has found the same common threads. During our conversation we talked about everything from motherhood to careers, and the fear of failure. Sasha opens up about one of the biggest failures of her life, and how it’s helped to shape who she is today. We also talk about her new book, Between Grit & Grace and her podcast called Brave Enough.

One more thing, If you haven’t already heard, The Enneagram & Clutter Course is available now. It’s a self-paced digital course connecting the dots between Enneagram Types and the different types of Clutter. For a limited time, I am offering a special promo for all of my TOL listeners: Enter promo code TOL30 at checkout to receive 30% off the course price. 


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ANNOUNCER: Welcome to This Organized Life. If you're a mom, wife or coffee lover seeking advice on how to reduce clutter and reclaim time, look no further than your host, Laurie Palau, founder of Simply Be Organized and author of "Hot Mess: A Practical Guide to Getting Organized." For a lot of people, clutter is their dirty little secret, but it doesn't have to be. Each week we will share practical tips, chat with experts and provide strategies on how to keep you organized. I hope that by sharing our stories, you feel a little less alone and more empowered to tackle the areas that are holding you back. So let's get started.

LAURIE PALAU: Hi, everybody, and welcome to today's episode of This Organized Life. I am your host Laurie Palau and I am super excited to share today's guest with you. Joining me today is Dr. Sasha Shillcutt and she is a renowned cardiac anesthesiologist, a gender equity expert, a TEDx speaker, and CEO of Brave Enough where she leads over 20,000 women on living connected and courageous lives. Sasha has spent 2020 coaching 10s of 1000s of women through the unwanted but very real emotions of the global pandemic. She's been on the front lines and positions to teachers, executives, furloughed employees, dealing with losing their careers and many people losing their lives. She's found that the same common threads are among all of them, loneliness, boundaries, trying to juggle work life balance. She's also an author, she wrote the book, "Between Grit and Grace," and she hosts a podcast called, "Brave Enough." On top of all of this, she was kind enough to carve out time to come on our show, just to talk about her life, all her mission work and how she is inspiring other people through these crazy times. So without further ado, allow me to welcome Dr. Sasha Shillcutt to the show.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Thank you, Laurie, I'm really excited to be on your show today and to chat with you and all your listeners.

LAURIE PALAU: Awesome. So I gave them a quick summary of your very impressive bio. But I'm hoping in your own words, you could just unpack a little bit about who you are and what you do.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: So as you said, I'm a physician. I'm a cardiac anesthesiologist, and I'm also a mom of four kids, and I am an author. But I would say that the majority of you know, the first 10 years of my career, I identified my sole identity was in being a doctor. And that led me to a place of significant workplace burnout. In 2013, I felt like I was failing at work, I was failing as a mom. And after trying to, you know, putting in probably hundreds of 1000s of hours and dollars into becoming a physician, I wanted to quit, I wanted to walk away from it. And that really scared me it was a wake up call. I was very emotionally depleted. And while I looked good on paper inside, I was quite a mess. And so from 2013 to 2014, I rebuilt myself and really did a lot of internal work. Got really significantly real and honest with myself and my over commitments and over achievements. And my Why, I defined by Why. And then at the end of that year, I felt a lot better. I was healthier mentally, physically, my relationships were stronger with my family. But I was incredibly lonely. Laurie, I was very isolated, because I had really neglected friendships or relationships with other women in the middle of trying to build a career and become a mother. And so I started a small text group, where I sent out a bat signal and said, Hey, do you want to be my friend to about nine women? And they said sure. So that text group actually became a Facebook group, which now has 13,000 women doctors in it. And then I started my company Brave Enough because really, I realized that the things facing women physicians were facing women teachers and women lawyers and women entrepreneurs and women in business. It doesn't really matter what you do. We share more struggles and similarities than we're different. And so that's when I started my company Brave Enough, which resulted in a book and conferences and classes online that I teach women how to set boundaries and really take back control of their life.

LAURIE PALAU: I love it. And I actually watched your TED talk the other day. In preparation for, in preparation for our interview, I was like, Oh, I want to check it out. And I loved it. Can you talk a little bit about that? How did that come about? And because I think I'm gonna, obviously we're gonna link to it in our show notes, everyone knows just what you were talking about, I mean that the personal story of what happened to you, and that will let our listeners go and listen for themselves. But just the theme of striving for perfection, and all of that, I think is so relatable to so many people. So can you just talk a little bit about that, how that all came about?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Yeah, I mean, it's kind of funny that probably the thing that I have the biggest platform on is my failures. I always say like, it's good, it's a really good measure of how far I've come with my own kind of perfection struggle. I think that when you are a woman, especially who is in a male dominated career, you are really afraid to ever fail or to express any failings or lack of competence, or lack of proof for your imperfections. And what happened to me was, I was striving so hard to become a leader and to really be in an environment, which was mostly men, that I didn't feel like I could be my authentic self. And I surely didn't feel like I could be vulnerable, or express any frustrations, or struggles or challenges or obstructions in my day, which really made me kind of build this facade, and this wall around myself of perfection. And as you know, it's a constantly moving goal, right? Like, you'll never gonna reach perfection. So it leaves you at the end of every day, or a friendship feeling less than, and I think that added to my isolated isolation from other women, because I didn't know how to, you know, be vulnerable with other women without feeling like I was going to be judged. Or in the workplace, I was really afraid to do that. And then I, you know, suffered a significant professional failure that made me have to get really intentional with how I addressed my perfectionism. And that perfectionism was paralyzing me, it wasn't actually bringing me joy and success. And so I had to do a lot of thought downloads, and then I taught, I started talking about failure in medicine in healthcare, which nobody really does, because that's not something we're proud of, or we, you know, promote, our whole goal is to heal people and to do it perfectly. And so once I started talking about that medicine, it just became this kind of really great conversation in other industries. And that's kind of how I started to be defined in my role in medicine, and also as a leader, and also as an author. And so I talk a lot about it in my TED Talk,

LAURIE PALAU: It's great. And I love how when you said, you know, you're defined by your failures, I think failures, our failures make us relatable, they, they bring this level of, Oh, I'm not the only one, because so many of us look at what we see out there and just tell ourselves, these false narratives of, I'm not gonna be as skinny as she is, my house isn't going to be as organized as hers, I'm not going to be a successful. Look at all this, you know, she's gone. I mean, now we are in COVID times, but it's like, she's traveling, she's doing this, this person's doing that. And, again, we're seeing the best of what people are choosing to share in the narrative that they're choosing to share it. And all we do is look at ourselves, and where we don't feel that we're measuring that. And so I think when when you have somebody, especially somebody that is deemed somebody who does have it all together and has reached this plateau of professional status, and mother and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and you have met some vulnerability, that just has a huge power for women. And that's really what our platform is all about is to say, you know, we're all human, and we all are struggling in different places. And you know, some people's gifts are other people's, not everybody has the same gifts. So talk to me a little bit about before, you know, before we go into your book and your community, how did you as a mother kind of juggle this high pressure career, I mean, you're a cardiac anesthesiologist, like that's just not a nine to five, standard job like you're literally responsible for people's lives. Talk about how that pressure was for you or is for you, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Yeah, so great question. And probably the biggest question I get from people that I meet women that I meet, they want to talk to me about that because I think that I want to I always preface the answer by saying I don't have it all figured out. I am still a work in progress. I'm still a mom that's trying to show up at every stage of my kid's lives as what they need. And also, you know, not over parent or under parent, I think we're constantly asking ourselves those difficult questions. And, you know, a lot of us we, if we think about it, as women, we make choices for ourselves when we're 18 years old, and we pick our degree, or we pick our spouse, or we pick what we're going to study, or what we're going to do, and we know that most of us don't, aren't thinking about being a mother at that stage. And then we get to the point where we start to advance in our career, perhaps, or we finish that degree or we start to develop that business. And then all of a sudden, we're like, wait a minute, weird, is having a family fit into this? Like, how do I do this? So I think that, that was definitely me. I remember thinking like, Okay, I need to have kids, like, I don't know how to work this into my career, and how am I gonna? How am I going to do this? Because I'm tired, and I don't have kids. So how am I going to, you know, introduce this whole other element to my life, I think like anything, you just figure it out as you go, you fail as you go. And I think for me, I have to, I have learned, specifically in the last seven years that I have to get really intentional with my time management, and my boundaries, and who I can help because I tend to want to help everyone, I tend to want to defend everyone. I'm an enneagram, eight. And so I am like, the person Oh, yeah, I knew you were after I stocked you on Instagram, I knew you were an 8 from your posts. So I was like, you know, I always want to help people and defend people. I'm a social eight. So I want to go in and fix things and like stand up for everybody, and justice. And at the end of the day, if you do that to every person, in your view, you will be as you probably have experienced, too, or you'll be completely empty and burned out. And you'll have nothing to give to the people who live with you and who you're responsible for. So I've had to really learn that there's only so much of my energy and so much of me and I have to get extremely intentional with time management. I typically plan my week on Sundays and sit down and go, like, what can I do this week? And what can I not do this week? And how do I need to adjust my own priorities of what success is going to be for me this week? And not, you know, get myself a list of 20 things, but maybe three things to accomplish every day. So those are some of the challenges that I think most women face, right? We're constantly if we may be really in a successful season in our career, and then we go, Oh, my gosh, but I haven't made Christmas cards yet. Well, you know, we're constantly feeling like we're not measuring up and and for me, looking back, I realized, the more successful I am, it's because I give myself more grace. And I go, you know, I'm doing this at work. This is not the year for Christmas cards. It's just not going to happen. You know.

LAURIE PALAU: People, like if you could see my mouth right now, it's this is the first year I'm not doing Christmas cards, I couldn't do it. I swear. I said I'm done this like, and we've been very blessed. Like all things considered with the pandemic, we've been healthy and fortunate and all the things, but like, I'm done. I'm mentally done, I'm just, I'm, like, tapped out. I'm like, if you follow me on social media, you'll see what we look like otherwise, peace out. I'll catch you next year, you know, and I'm okay. And I had to like, just be okay with that. Because I'm like, who am I doing this for? And I know, there's so many women, when you're looking at again, whether it's you're looking at your house, or you're looking at your car, or you're looking at your career, it's like, what's your Why? Why are you doing this? Like, am I sending a Christmas card out so that I can say I sent out a Christmas card or like, like, do people really care half the stuff that I think we as women worry about? Nobody's thinking about us. We're like, you know, like, nobody cares.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: I know, I know, even coming on the show today. I was like, Okay, I gotta make sure that everything behind me looks organized, because I'm talking to, like, the Queen of organization. She's gonna be like looking and I'm sure you're like, I didn't even notice what's behind. You know.

LAURIE PALAU: It's true. It's true. We tell ourselves these stories. We're gonna take a quick break, and then when we come back, I want to talk about your book. I want to dive right into the book and learn all about it. So sit tight.

Okay, Sasha. So I'd love to tie your book between Grit and Grace. And we will again link to that in our show notes. Adding author to the list and I know what a big deal it is to write a book and the time and all that comes with that. How did that come into the mix of all of the things that you are doing?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: I have always wanted to write. I always loved to write. It's kind of therapy for me and I, and I would say that there was a span of about seven years early in my career, having kids where I didn't write anything, I didn't even write a sentence in my journal. And I looked back and I realized, like, how empty I was, and how tired and burned out I was. So, writing has always been a therapy. For me, I think the book came about because after talking to 1000s of women in my group, after, you know, speaking to 1000s of women, I see how women get put in boxes, like this woman is gritty, okay, so you're in enneagram, eight, so you're probably like me, you probably get labeled like bossy, gritty challenge, like you're coming out of the dugout, you speak your mind, right. But there's probably a very tender, soft side to you, that is very grace giving. You care about people, you have empathy, and you like, understand when people are hurting, you want to help them. And yet so often in society, because of our societal pressures, when we see a woman leaving, or when we see a woman speeding up, we kind of put her in this box over here, like, Oh, she's competent, but I don't want to ask her to coffee, she wouldn't understand, like my struggles. And then we have women on this spectrum. Who are those more grace giving women that we that maybe they're behind the scenes, maybe they're more helper, maybe they're more collaborator, teacher, and we see them, and we're like, oh, she's a great woman, she's approachable, but she's not a leader. And so we put these women in, we put women in boxes according to their characteristics and actions, instead of going, you know what, as a woman, I'm never going to lead as a man, I'm going to speak authoritatively when I need to, and where my male partners that work, that's they don't have to, there's no repercussions. I have to there's repercussions when I do that. At the same time, I have a very tender, soft heart. So I may cry with a patient's family before I take them to the operating room, knowing that that may be the last time they see this person. And I get backlash for that. And I just the whole point of the book is we all, all women, have some grace and some grit, and we're all on that spectrum. And it's not either or, it's who we were made, how we were created. And we need to embrace whatever margin of grit and grace you have, as an individual woman, to be that leader or that team builder or that collaborator, whatever it is, you're supposed to be.

LAURIE PALAU: I love it. And I think it really resonates with so many people, because after a while of being told you're in a box, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Right? And you at least for me, I can only speak for myself, after you know, being told that you're overbearing or loud or bossy or whatever, after a while, you can start to just you just start to wear that. And you're like, Well, yeah, that's me, this is who I am. And like you said, that's a very one dimensional part of who I am. And when we look at people through that particular lens, we're just leaving all these other opportunities on the table. And I I see it with people that I work with, and I'm sure it's in the women in your group. You see it too, like that they have so much more to offer, than what is the first impression perhaps.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Absolutely. When you kind of do a deep dive, and you start to do that internal work. And that's really what the book is about. So there's questions at the end of each chapter, there're questions throughout the book that make you stop and do like an internal reflection. And I did that because I think so many times, we find ourselves frustrated, as women in our workspaces or communities in how we are perceived and like we do the whole replay at night, you know, like, oh, should I have sent that email that way? Or was my tone too mature? Should I have spoken up or not spoken up? You know, we kind of like to do the replay. And sometimes I'll talk to my husband about it. And he's like, I don't ever do that. Why do you care? Why are you replaying your day, you know, and I realized, it's because I'm a woman and like, the pressure to be a certain way is so strong on us. And I think it's an added tax that we don't even appreciate is there until and so the book kind of breaks that down for you as an individual woman.

LAURIE PALAU: Without giving too much away. Can you just give some specific, maybe examples or strategies for people that might be sitting here listening, going, Oh, my gosh, like, this is me. You're talking to me, you've got people that are coming at it from all different perspectives, probably in all different seasons of life. Not everybody's a mom that everybody has this big life or death job like you do, but we all struggle, we all have our own baggage that we've taken with us from childhood and into marriage or motherhood or wherever. Are there common threads between that you can say like this is someplace that you could start regardless of where you are?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Absolutely, this is a great question. And I think when women find themselves at the end of the rope, overwhelmed, exhausted, undervalued, it's typically because we are not living our priorities. So maybe your priority is to spend time with your family at dinner every night. Or maybe your priority is to exercise everyday, whatever, whatever your priority, one of your priorities, and you are frustrated, because you can never live without those priorities. And you think as we think we go internal go, What is wrong with me, right? But we don't know how to kind of stop to reevaluate what we're doing or what we're not doing. Because we're so exhausted and tired and busy, it's like less time to do this internal work, I'd rather just scroll Facebook, or watch Netflix or have, you know, a glass of wine or something. So the common thread that I see is that women don't have dedicated time every day for themselves, which I call breathing room or white space in their day where they are unplugged, not not responsible for anyone or any other human, even a pet. And they're sitting there and they're taking 20 minutes, 30 minutes to go. What is my post today? How are my thoughts? What is my plan for the week? When am I going? Why am I frustrated? Why am I having anxiety? Why am I stressed about this thing on Thursday because I over committed to it. Perhaps I need to take five minutes and say I can't do this anymore. The biggest thing that I do is tell women that they need time alone with themselves every woman because it's not that your life suddenly gets better in 30 minutes, but you have clarity. You're like stopping to replay the scroll, the thoughts, the responsibilities that we have for every other beating heart in our midst, and we go What's my own pulse? Where am I today? And when women start to routinely do that in my classes and courses, they're like, Oh my gosh, now I can see I have clarity, that I'm not living my why I'm not taking care of myself. I'm over committed to things I don't even want to be doing just to check a box or please somebody, I've got to get this person out of my life who's toxic, I've got to leave this job that's toxic. I've got to start taking this all or nothing thinking I mean, there's so many things that you gain when you start spending time alone, which is the very opposite thing that you think you should do when you're so overwhelmed and busy.

LAURIE PALAU: It's fascinating because and I love you know, you call whitespace. I talk a lot about using the word margin. And I think ultimately like trying to build that margin in. And then my husband throws it back at my face. And he's like, oh, when I'm like busy, he's like, Oh, where's your margin? But it's true, but I think we've normalized as a society, this busy. We wear this business this [inaudible] as a badge of honor. And it's like, I'm so busy. I'm so this. And in some ways it becomes and I don't know, correct me if you feel otherwise. But I think it becomes an, I don't know if it's a word an excuse. But it's a it's an easy out for us to avoid dealing with the stuff that we really need to deal with. Because you have all of these external distractions. I have to get the kids here, I have to do this, I have to you know, and even with COVID we weren't allowed to go out as much. But we have all of these added things. Now we've got a distance learner kids now my husband is working from home and off working from home now like those 10 more times more dishes in the sink because we're eating every meal at home. So even though we weren't, our calendar may have lightened up from like, extracurricular activities. It was just replaced with all these other things. And now we're like confined to seeing it between four walls. And it's adding a whole other layer. I think it's it's making that intentionality and for a lot of people present company included. It's easier said than done.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Absolutely. And we, you know, I call it the martyr mom, like we have more I mean, we like to just elevate women who don't put themselves first. It's like part of our society like, Oh, you know, I did this for my kids. And then I did this for my work and then and what do we do to that woman? We like, celebrate with her. We We We like say Oh, you're an awesome person, and you're such a good mom. And at the end of the day, she may be super unhealthy. Because she's trying to live up to that standard. And I think we do it I know I do it. You know, I I think I have to tell myself all the time that like my worthiness is not my to do list. Not how many things I can cross off and check off my list for the day. And I think we have to stop promoting the persona of the busy woman who is the most amazing woman instead of pulling back and creating What you say the margin, I call it whitespace in your week for you and knowing that by Wednesday, I'm probably going to be really tired. So by Thursday, I need to find an hour that I just keep open for myself. Like we don't do that we don't teach women to do that we don't celebrate that as much as we do. The busy mom who's, you know, running a million miles an hour never has time for herself.

LAURIE PALAU: I love it. And I'm curious about it, and I didn't even like prompting you for this. So I'm kind of just kind of going off script. But I want to just go back for a second and talk about how you started finding your tribe, because I think there's a lot of loneliness that people feel in isolation. And whether it's asking for help, physically, like, hey, I need help with something or just like, I need somebody to like vent to about where I add in my life, or my marriage, or I'm feeling like this as a mom or whatever. I think it's really hard to have those, to develop those relationships, especially as your kids get older, you know, we go through different, you know, periods in our life where it's easier to make friends. And then it's not, what can you share with our listeners on how to kind of where to start to reach out to find those people to like, let them know that there's like a white flag that you might need help in a certain area. Because again, you know, there's this T shirt, you may have seen it like on Instagram or whatever, where it's like, it's fine, everything's fine. And I think we're all like, everything's fine. It's all good. When in reality, we're like, drowning in a particular area. And, I think our women relationships are so important. And you've obviously built a community about that. I mean, that's your whole business. So can you just speak to that a little bit?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Yeah. So I really believe that the community is the foundation of my business. And I have something called the table, it's a membership, and you can join month to month and we go on different topics and things. And the reason that I I have that is because no one heals alone. Okay, you think you do, you might have told yourself that narrative. But if you look back at people who have overcome things, they heal and the community they heal by sharing their struggles or vulnerability with another person, that's how we heal. And so most women don't feel safe, oftentimes to share those things, just throwing it out there. And we're so busy, that it's not like we're seeing each other aren't in the neighborhood, or, you know, sharing a cup of coffee. And so the great thing about an online community is that it can be a very safe place for women to come and go when they need, and to have that community foundation, because what happens is, they say, you know, I'm struggling with this today. And all of a sudden, 10 other women go, I'm struggling with that. So number one, it normalizes our challenges. And then there will be 10 more women who said, I was struggling with that last year, and this is what I did. And now it's like you get peer coaching, you get affirmation and normalization of your struggles. So you don't feel like something's wrong with you. And you're the only person struggling with this. And you get encouragement and positivity. While there are definitely I think, some negative connotations to social media, I have this I love my membership group, which is private because it's something that women can come to when they need some advice on career or professional personal life and get it in a safe place. And that's how we heal, I heal. I go in there and I heal when I read things other people are posting and I go, oh, I need to change that thought about myself, you know, I'm okay at looking like I look today or be or struggling with this today, or whatever it is.

LAURIE PALAU: I love it. I love it. I think it's great. And again, we'll link to that because I think we do need, you know, we do need connection from other people and, you know, communities a big foundation, in my personal life and my professional life. And again, I too have a love hate relationship with social media. But it's been wonderful to be able to connect with people that might not be in your backyard, but yet you can turn to them. And so I love that you're doing this. Before we go to our last break. Can you just let our listeners know where they can go to learn more about you where they can find you, the book, your podcasts, a membership group, all the things?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: Yeah, so you the easiest place to go is becomebraveenough.com. You can sign up for my Friday newsletter, I send out a little bit of inspiration and some just encouragement to women professionals on Fridays. You can find out how to join my membership group there, the book, the podcast, all that kind of stuff. So that's the best place to go or you can find me on Instagram @becomebraveenough.

LAURIE PALAU: Love it. We're gonna be right back and I'm just gonna put you in the hot seat with our wrap up questions, so sit tight.

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This has been such a great conversation, thank you so much for your inspiration and words of wisdom, I just really love it. And I can't wait to go check out your membership group myself. So we always like to wrap our show up because our show is all about honesty and authenticity. So as somebody who is a leader who inspires so many, I'm curious to know from you what book or podcast has been impactful in inspiring you to make change? And something that's been that it could be something old or new. That is a good takeaway for you?

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: So one book that I use in my classes that I really encourage women to read is called the Confidence Code. You can listen to it on Audible. It's a great book on the science of confidence and how we build confidence as girls as in our youth compared to how it changes as an adult. And it was so eye opening to me because I was like someone was in my brain. And so I don't think you know, if you look at my bio, you probably would think well, she's very confident. But actually there's a lot of times I really lacked confidence and things I and I have imposter syndrome. So I really love that book and I encourage women to read it.

LAURIE PALAU: I love it. Thank you so much. I wrote it down. I always get such great suggestions from our guests. It's awesome. And then our last two questions that we ask all of our guests is in this particular season of your life, where do you feel the most organized and where do you feel like a little bit of a hot mess? And it could be physical self, it could be your calendar, it could be your car, whatever.

DR. SASHA SHILLCUTT: So I definitely feel most organized in an operating room, I have my little triangle of power, where I have my anestesia cart and all my meds, drugs and ever supplies. And so that's my happy place. And if somebody messes it up, I kind of want to scream. I would say I feel like a hot mess. When I go into my pantry. I feel like no matter how hard I try to keep everything organized in the cereal in this aisle and the hands aligned. Nobody else cares that the other five people I live with could care less if cereal is next to the rice. So I literally have to go in there and tell myself, you're just going in to get you know, a granola bar. You're not going in here to clean because I'll find myself 20 minutes later, angry and like throwing stuff. You know.

LAURIE PALAU: The struggle is real. The struggle is real. I hear you. I hear you. Well thank you for that. Well again, thank you for joining us if this is your first time tuning into our show. Thank you so much. Don't forget to click the subscribe button. New episodes drop every single Thursday. If you're on social media head on over to our Facebook group called This Organized Life Podcast. You can post your comments your questions, or follow us all over social media on Instagram at simplyborganized. Until next week, I'm Laure Palau.

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