Vanessa Loder is a cofounder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, a company that provides in-person and online educational tools to help women lead more purposeful professional lives. Through meditation, visualization, and coaching, Loder and her cofounder, Lisa Abramson, teach women how to tap into their intuition, let go of expectations, and get more of what they want in life. She graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2007. In our interview she talks about the tyranny of being your own boss, the productive value of hiking when under a deadline, and the tool executives can borrow from competitive athletes to reach their goals.
In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?
Teaching people to create success with ease — without striving and sacrifice.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Transformation is 20% insight and 80% action. I heard that from Shirzad Chamine, the author of Positive Intelligence [and a 1988 MBA alumna of Stanford GSB]. That insight gets me out of my head and into my body or taking action. It helps me to trust the wisdom of my body rather than just my mind.
What was the most difficult lesson you have learned on the job?
The most difficult lesson I have had to learn and relearn is about striving and my ego. Things don’t have to be so hard. I worked in finance for ten years before starting my own business. I finally had the freedom to work from the kitchen table and wear sweatpants, yet I didn’t allow myself to do it. Maybe my former bosses weren’t to blame. I used to think “working” meant sitting at my computer. But I get so many creative ideas while hiking or doing yoga.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs on how to build a great business?
Follow your heart and intuition rather than your ego, mind, and wallet. Many entrepreneurs start off doing that, but they listen to people who tell them what they ‘should’ be doing, and they cave on their vision and what lights them up the most. If you are not having fun it means your ego is too involved. You need to get clear about what you want and visualize what success looks like to you. Athletes use visualization all the time. There is tremendous power in the mind/body connection. Things just fall into your lap. You need to get crystal clear and specific about what you want. You need a deadline and clear, detailed goals. You need to see it with pictures, images, and symbols. And you need to feel it in your body. For me, I get goose bumps.
If there was one thing that has enabled you to be successful as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Vulnerability. Being honest with myself and open with others has created influence with others, which I didn’t expect. In one example I led a high-end retreat for moms when I, myself, was a new mom. I ended up exhausted and resentful. On the last morning of the retreat I shared that feeling with everyone, and it opened up a great dialog. A weight lifted off my shoulders. Being vulnerable can be a release valve.
What inspires you?
How do you come up with your best ideas?
Being in nature, moving my body, connecting with other people.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
I allow myself to be happy and satisfied in life, and part of that is because I don’t look at things as failures. I reframe them in my mind as feedback.
What values are important to you in business?
Authenticity. Integrity. Vulnerability. Courage. Leading by example.
What impact would you like to have on the world?
I want to empower and inspire millions of women.
Why are you an entrepreneur?
I love being my own boss. I was called bossy as a little girl, and now I am the boss.
What was your first paying job?
In high school I worked behind the cash register at a ski shop in Virginia. I loved the discount lift tickets. It was my first introduction to the idea that you could have fun while working.
Do you think there is such a thing as balance? How do you achieve balance in your life?
I practice intense self-care and compassion. The busier I am and the bigger the things I am doing for work, the more I ask myself what I am doing to balance it out. I make time to go to yoga or get a massage. Also I say no to more things. Doing that leaves space for the big yesses.
What is the best business book you have read?
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It’s great if you are thinking of starting a business but you are scared.
What businessperson do you most admire?
My business partner, Lisa Abramson. Also Arianna Huffington 2.0 — after she woke up in a pool of her own blood and wrote the book Thrive.
What do you think is the greatest innovation in the past decade?
Mindfulness in business. I know, it isn’t exactly an innovation — more like the rediscovery of ancient traditions.