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Best of 2023 – How to Be More Mindful, Lead with Empathy and Kick Negative Self-Talk [PODCAST]

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In this Best of 2023 Episode, Adam Baruh, Host of The Change podcast & CEO of SuiteCentric, a NetSuite Consulting Company, and EIQ Media, shares how to be more mindful, lead with empathy & kick negative self-talk.

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Highlights of this episode include:

  • How mindfulness can impact you
  • Tips for kicking negative self-talk
  • Leading with empathy
  • Great Resignation and how business is changing

Kelly Wisness: Hi, this is Kelly Wisness. Welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast. We’re pleased to welcome Adam Baruh, host of The Change podcast and CEO of SuiteCentric, a NetSuite consulting company, and EIQ Media. Adam has over 15 years of hands-on and management at NetSuite Experience. He’s a creative and well-rounded technical leader with a unique blend of engineering, functional, and architectural perspectives and expertise. Adam was also an international wedding photographer who has photographed more than 200 weddings all over the world. As the host of The Change podcast, he’s amplifying the voice of servant leaders working to normalize the mental health conversation and build more empathy into business. In this episode, Adam will share with us how to be more mindful, lead with empathy, and kick negative self-talk. Thank you for joining us today, Adam.

Adam Baruh: So happy to be here, Kelly. Thanks for having me.

Kelly: Well, I’m really excited about our talk today, so let’s get to it. How has mindfulness impacted you and the work you do as a business leader as well as a thought leader?

Adam: Yes. That is a huge question. Where that all kind of originated for me was really out of a lot of personal struggles that I was having with my mental health. This actually kind of started shortly before the pandemic just as the CEO of the consulting agency working in the IT space with NetSuite, which I’ve been doing for a long time, as you noted in your intro. These types of projects are really, really complicated. They are long-running, you’re having to organize numerous people and get everybody into alignment. These projects are extremely expensive for my clients. And so that’s just from a project perspective. But just leading a company–I think just before the pandemic, we were around 25 or so employees, and there was just a lot going on. And I had never really struggled with this before, but I started getting these anxiety attacks.

I think a lot of it had to do with just work and business and the stress there. My wife and I had gone through IVF shortly before that and then had, well, my fourth child in October of 2019, and he wasn’t a great sleeper. And there was this one project in particular which I took on. This was now after the pandemic had already started, so just imagine. And we all experienced all that trauma, all that uncertainty, and how frightening COVID seemed. Not just seemed, I mean, a lot of people were getting sick and dying, but it was a really tumultuous time. And so anyway, this project came along, I think this was around June of 2020, and it kind of represented this huge, big, potentially long-term project.

And so here I am, faced with the uncertainty of my company, really leading a company that has always had a team first approach, and being very nervous about having to lay anybody off. We work in the e-commerce space, and I personally didn’t predict how successful e-commerce would be during the pandemic. I mean, it kind of makes sense. But I was still very nervous, and I didn’t want to have to lay anybody off. So on this particular project, unfortunately, I shouldn’t have done it, but I was really trying to take on as much as I could take on just to ensure that my company would be successful, I wouldn’t have to lay anybody off. And I was working 70 to 80 hours a week on this project because I put myself in the position of being lead developer, lead project manager, lead architect, kind of lead everything, while also being the CEO of my company and doing everything else I do here. And so with my little guy, who was now a few months old at this time, I was up until about 1:00 in the morning working with a team out of India.

And then, because I was already up late at night, I said to my wife, “Hey, when our little guy gets up, you stay asleep. I’ll get him back down.” And so that kind of just a little sidetrack. That’s just something I’ve been dealing with where I kind of take– I’ve never been good with boundaries, and I’m kind of a people pleaser. And so just in helping my wife, I kind of took that on and was only sleeping about three or four hours a night. And so I really think that with the trauma from the pandemic just kind of turbocharged these anxiety attacks. They were extremely debilitating. I mean, I had never really had them before. And so it was spiraling, and I really felt myself going into a dark place there. Anyway, I’ll kind of fast-forward around the mindfulness. So I kind of did that and I didn’t really know how to– I knew I had to get ahead of taking care of my mental health. I didn’t really know how to do it because I’ve never done it.

And something that I talk about a lot in my podcast is this notion of being the provider. I mean, I have four kids, two of them are adults now, so they’re easy. But I’ve always had this giving everything of myself to everybody else first. I thought that’s what I had to do. I thought what I needed didn’t really matter. Right? And it all led into all this anxiety attack and claustrophobia and just other stuff that was just cropping up. It was terrible for anybody who’s had anxiety attacks before. I mean, I wouldn’t even wish those on my worst enemy. It’s really bad. And after several months of dealing with this, it was around march of 2021 now, I knew I had to change things. I couldn’t go forward kind of dealing with my mental health anymore just thinking, oh, things will eventually get better and then my mental health will improve.

Well, no, I actually had to get ahead of this and take ownership of fixing it. And so I hired a bunch of really expensive but super awesome developers who I trained on this project and spent the next six weeks just kind of turning everything over to them. And so that was step one. And then step two was I was extremely fortunate to one day get solicited on LinkedIn, which I do constantly, for somebody who promoted themselves to me as an executive coach. I’d already kind of toyed with this notion of having a coach, but for whatever reason, this one particular day in March of 2021 when I got the solicitation. And now I know it was just an automated bot, but it seemed so– this solicitation just seemed to reach out and speak to me, like, “Hey, this is for you.”

And it was from this coach named Kristin Taylor. So, I hired her and kind of my second session in with her had a really profound breakthrough for me where all of my challenges just as an adult dealing with some alcoholism and some drug use, nothing crazy, but just trying to numb and hide and not deal with some trauma that I had when I was six years old. And that all kind of came out. I had this amazing revelation one night and it’s like everything in my life now made sense as to why here I was at that time, how everything led to that moment. And anyway, one of the things that Kristin is an advocate for and one of the really powerful tools that she uses through her practice is mindfulness and various breathing exercises and really just addressing the nervous system.

She would lead me through some breathing exercises and talk about ratio or straw breathing, its impact on your sympathetic nervous system or your parasympathetic nervous system response. And all of that was making so much sense to me. And so I really started to just fully invest my thoughts around mindfulness and how I could be improving my self-awareness. There’s a tool that we used that was created by Tara Brach named the RAIN method, and that was fantastic. RAIN is an acronym for recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. And the nurture part of it, the N, was the most challenging thing for me.

When Kristin was going through these exercises, talking through stuff and then working through the RAIN process and getting to N, we’ll say something positive about that and about yourself, and I would struggle with that. So long story short, that’s how I discovered mindfulness. And just through mindfulness and through my work with Kristin, I’ve overcome profound imposter syndrome that I dealt with as a CEO of my company for several years, profound negative self-talk that is something I’ve been dealing with since I was six years old. My self-awareness is increased. It’s led me to really explore how I want to be a CEO and how I could take these things that were helping me and just be a model for that for whether it’s family, friends, especially my team here. I wanted to kind of stand up and be the type of leader that says, “Hey, I’m dealing with these things. I know we’re all kind of dealing with stuff, and especially through the pandemic. So we’re a team first, culture-focused company, and I’m here to help you guys.” So it’s kind of a long-winded answer, but I think it was important to kind of talk about my story and how I came to find mindfulness and how it’s helped me and how I’m implementing in business.

Kelly: Wow. That’s quite the journey to get there. What are some of the tips that you have for kicking negative self-talk? I know I’m guilty of this, and I know I’m not the only one in the audience who is.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, look, it’s going to be there. And really, the number one thing is to increase your self-awareness to recognize when it’s happening. That’s step number one. And that’s where mindfulness is really powerful, because mindfulness just kind of gets you in the moment where it’s like, okay, hold on, let’s slow everything down. I’m not talking to myself well right now. I’m feeling very anxious. Let’s explore that. Right? And so, again, this is part of the RAIN process. Stage number one: recognize that it’s happening. It’s what I just was talking about. And then allow it. And this was the thing that was also pretty profound for me. We fight with ourselves, and a lot of negative self-talk comes from the resistance to feeling anxiety, the resistance to just becoming more self-aware and just saying, “Okay. Hold on.”

Allow that emotion to come in. Don’t fight it so much. There’s just too much negative energy that can get invested in trying to fix something that’s bad about ourselves or that’s broken. And so just allow it. Recognize it and allow it. Give it a name. Okay. I’m feeling anxious. This is anxiety. Right? I’m naming the emotion. And then the I part is investigating. All right. Well, why am I kind of feeling this way? Oh, yeah, I’ve got this major client deliverable that’s due tomorrow, and I’ve been procrastinating it, whatever it may be. And then the N part, the nurturing, is like, “All right. Look, Adam, you’re doing your best. It’s really difficult that you’re juggling all these things and you got this big deliverable tomorrow, and it’s okay. You’re working hard, and you’re doing your best.” Right?

So when we can catch ourselves in this loop of negative self-talk and just kind of break that cycle, just gain that self-awareness to recognize when it’s happening, go through the RAIN process, break that cycle, say something good and positive and nurturing about yourself, I swear you do that for 30 days– I mean, there’s this notion of doing anything in 30 days and then it becomes a new habit, but it’s really true. I mean, look, I’m not perfect. I still deal with a ton of negative self-talk because a lot of trauma and stuff doesn’t just go away overnight. And I think the really also powerful thing to say here is when I had this breakthrough and I was really discovering so much about myself and making sense for how everything unfolded in my life, whether it was my divorce from my ex-wife that we have my older kids from or, like I mentioned, the drug and alcohol use, we all deal with that. Just kind of recognizing that it all kind of came to be.

It’s taken me a long time still. I mean, when I had this kind of profound revelation. I think this was April of 2021 and we’re now November 2022, and I’m much improved, but there’s still a long journey ahead of me. Even the first six months after I had this initial revelation, several things were unfolded. Because of the hatred that I had for myself, the negative self-talk, that’s why I was never feeling like I could take care of my own needs and I had to give myself to my children and my wife and my business and everything else first. That was so difficult. It continues to be difficult. A lot less so now because I wholeheartedly recognize that if I am going to try to be the best I can be for my family and give everything to them that they need, it has to start with giving myself what I need. And everybody, you’re all worthy of that. We’re all worthy of that. Despite what we may have gone through that gave us a feeling of not feeling great about ourselves, we’re all worthy of self-love.

Kelly: Agree. Yes. It is difficult to move past it, but I completely agree. And what is leading with empathy, and how can it benefit business?

Adam: Really leading with empathy, it all comes down to just trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Right? The way that I look at it, that’s ultimately what it all comes down to. And we need so much of that now here in almost 2023 in general with how much division there is in the world socially, politically, whatever it may be. I mean, even the pandemic that was creating all these divides between the vaxxers and the non-vaxxers. Right? The solution is empathy. Just, okay, well, why– I mean, let’s use the vaccine example. Why is so and so not choosing to vaccinate themselves or their kids? Instead of judging that, maybe let’s try to understand that a little bit more. And so that’s super important in business. So from the perspective of my team and how I manage them, we see people and they’re performing great, and then something happens.

And just having that kind of awareness and observational awareness, the emotional intelligence, like, something’s not right with this person. Their performance is down a little bit. Maybe I should spend some time, do a one-on-one with them, and just not talk about where they’re failing, but, hey, just break it down on a personal level. Like, are you okay? Give me a scale of 1 to 10. How are you feeling today? I mean, that’s where empathy comes into play for managing team members. And then more so to that is how we work with customers. One thing that has really helped us at SuiteCentric is myself, my two of the partners, and many of our managers and our team members, so we’re NetSuite consulting partners, and many of us have been NetSuite end users, like, working at companies that use NetSuite. And that’s a profound perspective.

It gives us the ability now as a partner to be like, “Hey, we’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been on the other side of this. I’ve been the person that has had to go research partner companies to help me with my NetSuite needs.” And so it helps me get in the shoes of my customer. One short story is when I first was starting in my NetSuite career, this is about 2006, 2007, I was a developer, straight developer, and I would get these projects. And I struggled with trying to relate to, why is this customer wanting this? And I just couldn’t relate to that. And I think through the years and being a business owner and doing the wedding photography, which you mentioned I did for several years, so then kind of now here I am, 17 years into my NetSuite career. I spend a lot of time trying to understand the ROI for my customer. There’s a lot of money for them to invest. What is the true business case here?

I want to really understand it because I want to make sure I’m delivering on that. And so that’s where empathy comes into play in business. And the greatest beneficiary of a company that practices empathy is communication and transparency. And I think we do a good job here with that. And we let everybody know you can come to us with whatever. We’re okay with people making mistakes and failing on a project. We don’t want to have that be a repeat thing for the same mistake, but I’m trying to eliminate any sort of fear. I don’t want to be a fear-based business. And when I can put myself in my employees’ shoes and kind of– if I was in their shoes, what would I like here? I mean, how would I want– in terms of choosing the company I want to work for, what is it that I would want? And so I try to think about that when I’m making decisions as an owner.

Kelly: Yeah. I think that’s really important, and I think that more of us do need to exercise having more empathy in business and in life. Right?

Adam: Absolutely.

Kelly: And so what do you make of the Great Resignation and how business is changing?

Adam: Well, I’m super happy that we’re seeing that trend because it’s reflecting something or it should reflect something to us as business leaders. I mean, the good business leaders are going to be the ones that are looking at trends like the Great Resignation and trying to understand the reason, because on one level, it can piss you off. I mean, it sucks, especially in my business, when we lose people because it’s extremely expensive. I mean, I can’t go on to say how valuable our assets are, not just from a personal perspective, but there’s a major cost to us when we lose people. So, this was what was happening in the Great Resignation. I think the contributors to the great resignation, obviously the pandemic, it just kind of flushed out this notion of like, hey, we all got forced to work from home. What do I want coming out of the pandemic?

Do I want to go back to having to work in an office where I hated that, and I had an hour and a half commute each way? It was a catalyst for people to check in with what’s important to them. And I think that’s fantastic. We should always be doing and making decisions based on what’s important to us and our goals personally. That’s where it has to start. And there was this notion before the pandemic like let’s create just this amazing environment at our office for our team members. Let’s have a foosball table, let’s have free lunches and snacks and all this stuff. I mean, that’s great and all, but I don’t think that’s the thing that employees want. They want freedom. They want to have– I mean, I’ve had numerous conversations with various people about the Great Resignation, and I think the common themes are people want to have meaning and value with what they’re doing and where they’re investing their time and their mental energy.

And so as a business leader, I need to look at that. I need to understand what are the driving factors for this Great Resignation because I need to make decisions in my business to overcome those potential barriers. And if that means paying people more money, if that means giving people more PTO or time where they could– if you want to go work from a mountaintop as long as you get cell phone service or whatever. You have to be–as a business leader, you kind of have to start to be open to these things a little bit more. Versus when I came up in business– I’m a Gen Xer. I’m almost 50. As I was coming up, that freedom wasn’t there. You got a job that was the best paying, that offered the best growth trajectory. Right? So totally different decisions where it came to where we chose to apply for jobs and stay at versus what’s happening now.

And I really think this millennial generation and Gen Z are driving a lot of it also now, and I certainly hope that this continues. I’m so excited for these younger generations because they are the ones really that called out this stupid business methodology where– especially in the IT consulting world in which I’ve invested my career, the giving up the nights, the weekends, the holidays, the vacations because you have to work. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to do that, but that’s not going to fly anymore. So, yeah, I’m super excited that the Great Resignation happened and that companies are changing the way they’re doing business because of it.

Kelly: I agree. I think a lot of companies have seen that and have made some positive changes, and there’s a ways for us to go still. But I’m with you. I think in my career, it was butts in seats at 8 o’clock, and you were there till 5:00. Right? And that was the expectation. And like you said, I think the younger generations are kind of pushing us forward, which is fantastic and which needed to happen. What’s the background for your work on The Change? And how are you using your platform on the podcast to inspire change?

Adam: So, yeah, I mean, EIQ Media, which is just an LLC I set up to be a production company for– the idea is to host and produce numerous podcasts all around just the subject of emotional intelligence. Right? So, for me, The Change, I literally never saw myself as a podcast host. I think I’m kind of an introvert extrovert, and I think I do a good job socially. But when it comes to center of attention, being on a microphone, it’s never really been my thing. My older brother is an actor, so I let him have– that was his thing, and he’s pretty good with it, but it was never my thing. So, as I mentioned, all of my own personal struggles with mental health, anxiety, everything that I was learning through my work with Kristin and overcoming my imposter syndrome, where– I’m not a trained business person.

I’ve had businesses that I’ve run and owned. But I’m a software developer and wedding photographer and my college degree is in environmental studies, and I was a park ranger for the National Park Service. So just kind of trying to think for the first four years or so of running my company that I didn’t know– I thought I had to be somebody else in terms of a CEO. And that work with Kristin and everything that I was going through really kind of–I was able to call BS on myself for that, just like, “You know what? You’re a sensitive, empathetic person.” And for me, I discovered that my path as a CEO is going to be kind of modeling and showing to other CEOs and business leaders that you can invest in your team, number one, and not have this bottom line or customer first approach, but rather team first approach and still be super successful in business and financially.

So anyway, I created EIQ because I had this idea for a podcast that I would host. Our first year or so, or season, if you will, was more kind of aligned around the Great Resignation and talking about things like burnout and just things that happen in our work life that I just wanted to have conversations how to overcome these things or even where we go in business going forward. And then I did decide kind of maybe three-quarters of the way through the year to narrow my focus to talk about mental health issues in and around business a little bit more specifically and more often. So that was a little bit of our own change that we went through at The Change. But through EIQ Media, I was able to convince my coach, Kristin, that she should have a podcast and talked to her about what interested her.

And so we came up with how I made it through. And she does a fantastic job hosting that podcast. She’s just a really great speaker and just super down to earth and just very relatable. And so her podcast, she just started season two and she did a little bit of a pivot also. She’s now kind of focusing more on near-death experience, people that have gone through that, talking about topics in kind of the spiritual, nonreligious, but spiritual kind of realm. And so I really enjoy doing this podcast work. Unfortunately, there’s no money coming in from that. So now I’m running a third company. I don’t know why I keep doing this myself, but I guess because I’m a serial entrepreneur. But I actually just went live this week, I think it was Tuesday night.

I went live with a web application I wrote called Pod Task, which is a CRM and production flow tool designed for podcasters to manage their podcasting business and stay on top of all their episodes and deliverables and production process. And it also has a guest directory because where it all starts when you’re working on an episode is finding guests and then booking them and being a guest on other podcasts and reaching out to other podcasts and people to promote yourself. So, it has all of that. I’m super excited about it. And I was actually just walking into the office today, just walking past my executive assistant, we were talking about Pod Task, and I’m like, “Well, I’ve got all–” it took me three months of development. I just stood it up by myself. I’m like, “Well, all the developments over, I can sleep better at night. But now the real work is ahead of us, which is all the marketing and trying to launch this other business.”

So, I don’t know how I’m going to balance all these things. My sleep has definitely been the thing that has been the odd man out through just getting Pod Task stood up, but I know how important it is to, like I said, identify what I need personally. Good sleep is something we all need to stay on top of our mental game. But, yeah, this idea of Pod Task was kind of like a whoopsie, because in talking about saving money, I used to manage all our episode management production workflow, because I manage multiple podcasts and we work in a team environment where I’ve got my assistant and I’ve got my sound engineer. We have a marketing team. I’ve got Kristin in there. It keeps us all on top of where we need to be to stay on cadence with all of our episode production cycle. I’m really excited about it. But I created it because I wanted to– we were using a tool that was super expensive and I wanted to not use that tool and save money anymore.

So, I built Pod Task with not even the idea to productize it, but just to use it internally, and then kind of realized I should productize it and try to make some money off of it. Anyway, I’m just trying to figure out now how to go about running three companies and having four kids, two of which are seven and three. So, it’s good times. Oh, and I have an Australian Cattle Dog. So, for any of your listeners who know that breed, I mean, there’s another huge chunk of time I got to dedicate to keeping this dog happy and all of her needs met, so.

Kelly: Yeah. It sounds like you have your hands full, but you sound very passionate and fulfilled, and that’s a very good thing.

Adam: Thank you. Yeah. I feel good with that.

Kelly: Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Adam, and for sharing all this great information with us about how to be more mindful, lead with empathy, and to kick that negative self-talk.

Adam: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Kelly. This has been great to speak with you today. It’s a super important topic to me personally, and I do feel excited more than ever to be living in the time that we’re living in. I mean, I think there’s a lot of great progress being made in the area of mental health and changes in business that are a lot more empathetic to the workforce, and I think that’s great. So, thanks for giving me the opportunity to be here and to talk about it today.

Kelly: Yeah. Thank you. And if, Adam, someone wants to get in touch with you, how best can they do that?

Adam: LinkedIn is the best way to do it. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, send me a direct message. I’m pretty good about responding to those, so, yeah, I’d be happy to talk to anybody who’s got any questions.

Kelly: Wonderful. And thank you all for joining us for this episode of The Hospital Finance Podcast. Until next time…

[music] This concludes today’s episode of the Hospital Finance Podcast. For show notes and additional resources to help you protect and enhance revenue at your hospital, visit The Hospital Finance Podcast is a production of BESLER | SMART ABOUT REVENUE, TENACIOUS ABOUT RESULTS.


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