78: Emotional and Intuitive Leadership with Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert

Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert is the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Family and Community Healing, a non-profit dedicated to helping others learn to create positive and rewarding relationships with each other and the earth. We talk about our relationship with the earth, practical ways to start listening to your inner voice, and the path to self-transcendence.

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Emotional and Intuitive Leadership with Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert

Our guest is Susanna Wu-pong Calvert, who is the founder and executive director of the Foundation for Family and Community Healing, a nonprofit dedicated to helping others learn to create positive and rewarding relationships with each other and the earth. She’s a frequent blogger with Psychology Today, who has a master’s in positive psychology from UPenn. And she also holds a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences. So welcome to the show, Susanna.

Thank you, Steve. I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

Absolutely. I don’t often have social entrepreneurs on this podcast, or I would say I don’t normally have nonprofit leaders on this podcast because you define yourself as a social entrepreneur. I’m very curious about our conversation. So my first question is, how does one become a social entrepreneur? How does that journey look like?

Well, you know what they say, Steve, it’s desperation or inspiration. I guess in my case, it was some of both. Personal desperation because after a long career in higher education and then switching to doing professional and personal development, leadership and career development work, my life fell apart when I lost my sister and husband to cancer in 2018. And then it turned into inspiration because, just like when everything in your life burns down, you have the opportunity to become the phoenix, and I received a divine inspiration to bring solutions to the world in the way of relationship skill education.

And as a lifelong educator, and someone who saw a lot of, I guess a big gap in not only our traditional education, but in professional development education, big gap between what we learn and what we can do. So we’re really focused on closing that gap and helping people provide the skills so they can develop new behaviors that can change their lives, their families, their workplaces, their communities, and really all of Earth. So it’s really a combination, and I bet a lot of people have some combination of both too when they’re taking on a grand adventure and venture

Okay, right. There’s a lot to unpack there So let’s you know, let’s start to peel the onion So what you call we talked about previously about your blueprint that you have developed and I think you called it the emotional Intuitive leadership. So I have two questions here. One is that what I heard from people when they went through some personal hardship, heartbreak, that it really helped them to discover more of their personal depth and become more empathetic. So I wonder if that was an input into developing your program, Emotional Intuitive Leadership. And then what is this program? What is this program or what is this concept?

Oh, the concept, okay. Yes, absolutely. I know a lot of people shy away from challenge, but I feel that the bigger the challenge, the bigger your growth opportunity. And so while I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, I also know that when life presents that to you, you have an opportunity to really grow and blossom. And for me, as you’ve gathered, I spent my whole life in school or working in the educational system, and I was so much in my head. And one of the worst things that ever happened to me, Steve, was when I got everything I ever wanted. That, you know, I got tenure and a nice house in the suburbs and two kids and it was the list that my mind created for myself as a recipe for happiness.

But the problem was I never checked in with my heart. And so having these challenges and traumas has taught me that if I stayed in my head, I would just crumble due to stress and anxiety and fear and self-doubt, but by going into my heart and into my intuitive self, my inner voice, that there is a much bigger version of me, one that is aspirational and does not know fear and is also the truest version of me, my authentic self. And I learned to listen to that inner wisdom in balance with my intellectual, where I really am finding my inner compass through that quiet inner voice that whispers to me. And I use my brain to execute and get things done.

And then I put my brain away in the gun safe, because that’s where I think it belongs most of the time, because our brains tend to be very judgmental and fearful. So finding the balance between the two, and really, actually, I’m relying so much more on my intuition and my empathy, how I feel, my emotional intelligence, feeling into how others feel, just provides so much more useful information and data to find the path forward. And why wouldn’t we use all the data that’s available to us.

Learning to rely more on intuition, empathy, and emotional intelligence provides a wealth of invaluable data for navigating life's path. Click To Tweet

Absolutely. It makes so much sense. So, so what is the process, how do you do that, how do you develop this muscle of being able to listen to some degree and to slow down and try to tap into my feelings and misgivings and try to unpack why am I having this and trying to figure out where it comes from and then reflect on it. What is the process as you see it for someone if someone wants to really develop this intuition and being able to listen to it. How do you do that?

Well, I think you hit the nail right on the head, Steve, that it’s sort of like a muscle. And even when I was just in my head 24-7, that monkey mind, I’ve somehow always known that when the really important decisions had to be made, that I quieted my mind and I looked for the wisdom underneath the chatter in my brain. And even my, the one that’s always in my head was able to do that. But doing that more throughout the day is helpful and important to stay connected to that inner wisdom because all those little decisions add up. And so I hate to tell you, but it truly has to do with being mindful, having a mindfulness practice and meditating is like heavy weight lifting for mindfulness. So it doesn’t have to always be meditation, but it’s just a practice of being present.

So while Christopher was ill, I would just sit in the Florida room and I would be completely present with nature because being in the future at all was just too scary and stressful. And so I almost had to develop that as a survival and stress management technique. And when you do that, when you clear your mind, then that you can hear that little voice. And that little voice just tells you the most amazing things. And when you learn to follow it, you go, oh, wow, that’s a source of wisdom that I didn’t know I had, a source of strength. And you start to really cultivate that voice. And with time and with practice, you can get better and better at listening. And it’s not just to our inner voice, but, you know, we can even listen to nature as well.

So I really want to get into that as well. I remembered an old CEO that I worked for, he ran a big bank. He’s a French man, his name was Bernard Jancourt. And when he came in to run our bank, which was a 3000 person bank in Central Europe. And he would run these executive sessions with 1215 executives and they would debate stuff and, and then everyone would look to him to make a decision.

And then he said, I have to sleep on this. And then he went away and we came back a day or two later and he made his decision. he had all the information presented to him, so he got the numbers and the stories and everything, but he just had to kind of synthesize it and listen to his gut, I guess, to come up with a decision. I get it how maybe someone can hone this skill of trying to do it for themselves, But how do you help someone else do this? So that you talk about using intuitive intelligence to inspire and motivate. So as a leader, how do you pull this lever to help other people get inspired? How does that work?

That’s a beautiful question. Well, I think what we can come up with from our intuition, to me, is really like our soul’s purpose. Why are we born on earth? What are we here to accomplish? And when we speak about something that is at that level, it just has a magnetism to it that I think something that comes out of our head might not have that degree of resonance with people. Like there’s something at the heart and soul level that resonates with people at their heart and soul. And so it tends to touch that nerve in other people when they go, ah, yes, this is a truth. This is a game changer. This is something of deep wisdom that we need, that we have forgotten, that we need to create in our lives.

And I just feel that when we communicate with our minds, that’s where we believe that we’re all separate and different and we have different beliefs and values and desires. But when we communicate at the soul and intuitive level, we know that we all want the same thing. We all want good lives and healthy lives, and we want that for everybody and everything. And we don’t believe in the zero-sum game at the heart and soul level. And so there’s a connectivity when we communicate at that level and we live at that level that I think is very attractive and magnetic and people want to participate.

Communicating from our intuitive, soulful essence connects deeply with others, resonating beyond mere intellectual conversation. Click To Tweet

So is it kind of a reflective process where you ask questions and then people start to elaborate on their desires and then you kind of pull the strings to pull it out of them. Is this how that works or is it do you actually read between the lines and tell them what you think this may be and so is it like pulling the string or is it feeding them your perception of things?

Well, so I guess there’s two different points of view. So when I’m doing my soul work and people are attracted to it. And they say, I’m interested in X, Y, and Z. And sometimes they say it without thinking, and they’ll identify what’s in their heart without it going through their head first. And sometimes there’s revelations that come just by having those conversations because you’re talking on a different level, again, the heart and soul level. As a coach, you know, when I was at Penn, I did my capstone on callings. And it’s, again, a similar idea that we have a really deep, authentic purpose.

And I’m not talking to people about my work, it is something that I can often discover with somebody by asking questions that are at the heart and soul level. And so if they’re answering with their head, then they’re going to end up with a to-do list like mine that led me down a path of unhappiness. But if I can get them to answer from their heart level or their soul level, then it’s more likely to be something resonant and genuine. It may not be their 50-year plan, like what they need to do next.

But as long as we keep following our resonant and authentic purpose, it’ll take us down a path to where we can reach a higher ground, a greater vantage point, and then we can see what that next plateau is for us, that next thing to reach for. And I think we go around and around, up this mountain or whatever, climbing up to be our higher self. And it’s not usually a straight line. We have to go in circles sometimes and into the dark and into the shadows. A lot of the awareness and knowledge comes through that work, that shadow work, and through that the challenges that we talked about help us uncover our true self and what we’re here to do.

Can you give an example of, it doesn’t have to be a real person, but maybe, you know, something that you come across where someone kind of blurted out that that desire which was maybe just a couple years down and then you kind of unpacked it over time and it became a big vision that was really inspiring and they went after it.

Let’s see. It’s hard to know because I started this work when I was faculty and I’ve lost touch with a lot of students since then. But yes, I think it’s easy to see when they come upon this purpose. Pursuing it is another matter because you have to get beyond your I must, I should, I have to types of statements where it might keep you tethered to your current career path, which pays the bills and buys the nice cars and all that, and the tuition and the food and water and that kind of stuff.

So there are the realities of life. But yes, you can tell when somebody has accessed their inner purpose because they light up from the inside. It’s like a light bulb goes on, they sit up straighter, and they get excited about it. And if they honor it, if they honor that spark, it’ll grow. But oftentimes they let it go because it’s just not the right time for them to pursue it. But I think that they remember it on some level and they will come back to it.

So, I work with companies, leadership teams of companies, and one of the things that I’ve worked with them on is to discover the purpose of the company that really energize, would energize the team if they could articulate it. And then they always start with, you know, serving the customer and being a really good engineer or whatever they do. And then when I ask them, OK, why is this important? Then can they start to go deeper? And eventually we often get to a point when it’s about helping other people.

So ultimately, this is meaningful because someone will benefit from them. Someone’s life is going to be better. And when they realize that this is what they are doing, then as you say, they light up and they get so excited that kind of they figured out what their company was all about. I had this client who was in a laundry business. And he complained that they couldn’t attract great executives because it was a dirty business pushing dirty laundry around and very hot and steam room and was not sexy at all.

And we brainstormed with a group of CEOs, and it turned out that they were using environmentally-friendly detergents. They also created for the customers this feeling of cleanliness and comfort and safety. And then we started talking about that, then suddenly the business turned out to be a really cutting edge in terms of what it was doing, the difference it was making in people’s lives. And they filled that position, they filled two exact positions up in the next six months as a result. So that can be real powerful.

Absolutely. Beautiful work, Steve.

Thank you. It was fun. So let me ask you something about this relationship with the Earth. So you talk about it’s not just having relationship with each other, but also with Earth. Maybe it’s a stupid question, but why is this important and how can you have a relationship with an inanimate object like the Earth, which you might argue is a misstatement?

Yeah, well, it’s not a stupid question at all. Why does it matter? Because we are in an existential crisis around climate change, and we don’t seem to be having solutions that are going to make a difference in a way that is going to put everybody’s minds at ease. So there’s a lot of stress and anxiety about this, and we seem to be getting worse and worse. So something is missing, unless we are simply resigned to the outcome that the climate scientists are predicting. And to me, what’s missing is a holistic approach. And when I was caring for Christopher, of course, I wanted to provide his medical care, physical care, nutritional care.

But if I just left it at that, he would have given up and maybe not even have tried to heal. But by helping him feel safe, loved, and cared for, and to bring all of those resources, again, all that information we talked about, why wouldn’t we tap into all the resources for healing? So for a patient to heal, they need to bring all their emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources to the table and get their loved ones involved.

And so I feel that that’s what we need to do for Earth now. And I could be completely wrong, Steve, but at this point we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, not only for Earth, but for ourselves, because environmental psychology tells us that when we form a connection to Earth and the natural world, that it is good for our physical, emotional, and psychological health.

So, why don’t we take care of ourselves in that way, and it just might help Earth, too. with an inanimate object, well, I guess I would ask you, Steve, do you take care of your house and your car and your things and your business? Do you feel that they have their own energy, their own soul in a way? And do they merit TLC, just like your body and your other loved ones? Most people would say, yeah, they do. And I think that’s the most superficial reason. But there’s also evidence, and not everybody agrees with this, but there are theories in quantum physics that suggest that all matter is conscious. All matter is conscious.

And so if we believe our animals and our pets, and maybe even the plants and trees have consciousness, then why wouldn’t the biological organism that hosts them be conscious to. The Gaia hypothesis is pretty well accepted by ecologists, which says that Earth is a self-regulating organism that sustains life. So, I don’t know if they use the word organism, but Earth self-regulates to sustain life on her being.

And so, is she an inanimate object or is she a unique biological organism? And it’s possible, according to quantum physics, that Earth is conscious. So, if that’s the case, then what is it that we’re actually doing with Earth? We’re treating Earth like an inanimate object that is just there to provide for us. If we did that with our own parents who raised us, you can imagine it would not be very good for our relationship or health and the long term viability of that unit.

Addressing climate change is crucial; it's an existential crisis that's creating heightened stress and escalating concerns, demanding a holistic approach. Click To Tweet

That that makes sense. It’s definitely a, it’s a self regulating organism it might actually regulates us off its surface. If you do that because I think it’s going to come back, maybe it will take a million years, but it’s going to come back and it’s going to just be rid of us. So that’s super interesting. So what does that look like? Because I struggle with this idea sometimes. I mean, I try to follow my kids’ instructions in terms of what I should be doing. But how can someone take on this as a relationship? It feels like it can be an overwhelming thing. If I am the caretaker of the earth, there’s so many things to do that it’s impossible to do a good job. So what are some of the low-hanging fruits that we can do, or how does that relationship work?

Yeah, well, I encourage you not to use your mind, Steve, as smart as you are. Our minds can only process and understand so much information, and the information is of questionable quality and completeness anyway. And so, you know, we just have to make the best decisions we can in terms of being consumers and all that. But in terms of your relationship with Earth, you, my recommendation is that you mind your relationship with Earth. You don’t have to worry about everybody else’s relationship with Earth and that you care for Earth as you would any other loved one.

So how do you care for your current loved ones and especially those that are ailing, like what what would you do with them? What would you, what would your heart ask you to do? Well for me, if I had a loved one who was sick and needed me, I would drop what I was doing and I would go spend time with with them, and I would notice how they’re doing, and I would check in, and if I saw that something needed to be done, I would do it if I could. I mean, obviously, I couldn’t do everything by myself, but I would do what I could. I would express my love and gratitude to them.

I would notice how beautiful and wonderful they were, and I might reminisce about all the ways they’ve cared for me and were generous with me and taught me so much. I would absolutely pray and meditate for their healing and their well-being. And if I were more artistic, I might paint or sing a song or do something to entertain that loved one and to celebrate them. And the list is endless. That’s just some of the things that I would do. I would also just really listen. So, just being quiet and paying attention to the whispers. Even our pets or our babies that don’t have English words for us in complete sentences, we can communicate with them and we can communicate with Earth.

And so, but it requires shutting off our monkey mind and listening with our heart and soul. And all of those things are good for us. They bring us insight and inspiration and healing, a sense of calm and peace that lowers our blood pressure, our sense of well-being. And to me, it’s what Earth wants from us too, that we return to relationship with her. And when we do that, if we did that on a regular basis, I think we’re much more likely to make the right choices for Earth. We wouldn’t choose to drill and to harm rare species and pollute and that kind of thing.

That’s, that’s great. That’s a lot of things to reflect about. I have to really send to this podcast myself for sure so let’s go, let’s switch gears here and talk about a couple of the things that I really want us to dive into before we wrap up here, so what I’m really curious about this whole idea of transcendence and is it even possible and what does the end state look like? So, if someone is transcendent or transcended themselves, what does that person look like?

Great question. So self-transcendence refers to connecting to something greater than ourselves and that can be, oftentimes, it’s an emotional end state where we might go from feeling bored or interested or curious to inspired and in awe and having a sense of wonder and a sense of oneness with all. So it’s sort of a degree of the state of our minds and our hearts and our bodies. And when the more that we are listening to that inner wisdom and pursuing our authentic purpose, our soul’s work, the more we connect to that higher self.

Self-transcendence refers to connecting to something greater than ourselves, it's an emotional end state where we might go from feeling bored or interested or curious to inspired and in awe and having a sense of oneness with all. Click To Tweet

And the more we live that in our work and in our personal life, the more we become that soul that was born on this earth for a unique purpose. And to me, when we become, when we are in alignment with that, we are decreasing the barriers between us and our soul. And in so doing, I actually believe, Steve, that we can create heaven on earth in that way. Right? When we become the, our expressions of our physical being is in alignment with our soul, we can create heaven on earth for our self. And imagine that we do that across the globe.

And so this is how I feel that heaven on earth is actually possible. And it’s available in pockets and I don’t know if I’m there yet, but three years ago I had a disastrous trauma and right now I know peace and inspiration and a sense of meaning and purpose, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And I just know that it’s available for all of us, Steve, and I think it’s within reach for everybody. And especially if we partner with Earth and be the family members, the caretakers, the lovers, the friends of Earth that we are meant to be that we can find our true selves not only individually but as a collective.

And is this something that we have to find in our work. I mean I assume someone who’s independently wealthy can find it anywhere right but someone who is, you know, the the pressures in life with the transcendence and to what degree can I just And I’m just curious, you know, is it going to take care of me or how does it work? How do you draw the balance and the line?

Well, it was probably about 2010 when I first had my first aha moment about what my life’s purpose was. And it was that I was here to help people become the best version of themselves. Except I didn’t have any skills, Steve. And I didn’t have any knowledge or education. And so, you know, this can be very frustrating to people that you actually have to develop the skills and knowledge before you just give your life over to a new passion and vocation. And it took me six years before I found my dream job, doing that work full time. And, you know, and that was five years ago. And I’ve had a lot more changes where I’ve taken my life to another level.

So the analogy of going up the mountain, I think, is appropriate here, that you don’t just go from the valley to the apex. You have to climb up, and you have to go around in circles a lot. And sometimes you have to double back and climb over rocks and go through valleys. And sometimes you just fall down the hill. And but it’s a long process. And but you can start with one step at a time. And that step might be, OK, I’m going to develop my inner voice for six months. And I’m going to just do that. And I’m going to start connecting with nature. And I’m going to just pursue those little things that really spark my interest and my joy.

And I’m going to read about those. Joseph Campbell talks about that as follow your bliss. So those things that just feel so exciting and you can’t get enough of, or that you do these things and people go, wow, Steve, how’d you do that? That was amazing. Or when you just feel joyful doing things, those are your breadcrumbs to your highest self. And you can do it a few minutes a day, and then a few hours a day, and then a few days a month, and so on. And the more you develop your skill in it, the more you’ll be invited to do it. The more successful you’ll be, the more people will start paying you for it.

And you’ll do your best work because you’re going to have unlimited energy for it. It will align with your natural talents, and it’s a step-by-step process, but the journey up the mountain is wonderful. And I think it’s a step-by-step process, but it’s a journey that we all need to take. And I think it’s a step-by-step process, but it’s a journey that we all need to take. And I think it’s a step-by-step process, but it’s a journey that we all need to take. And I think it’s a step-by-step process, but the journey of the mountain is wonderful and the view is unsurpassed.

Yeah, very poetic. And I’m thinking about the entrepreneur that is constantly in a bigger way, which will, you know, which which takes some risks to be able to manifest, And there are also the constraints that you cannot run after shiny objects because that, you know, they generate the cash that ties them over for the following weekend months. I guess I don’t mean to solve the problem on this call. That’s probably not realistic. So before we wrap up, I just want to quickly ask you. So you describe yourself as an entrepreneur, yet you run a foundation. And how do your nonprofit associates accept an entrepreneur as their leader, is my question.

I guess you would have to ask them. But I think entrepreneur, I use that term as a way to describe the change that we’re trying to create in the world. That it will generate income because even as a non-profit, we have to sustain ourselves and we have to feed ourselves. At least that’s the plan. And that if we do it well, we can also sustain and feed others too, because this is a great big tent. There’s a lot of work to be done.

We can’t do it all by ourselves. And we hope to spark a lot of activity in this area, which is namely healing for humanity separately and together, and it’ll bring well-being and achievement for everybody. So, we’re aiming to change the world with our work, Steve, and the people who jump on board have a resonance with that. And it’s not about money. In fact, our product is available to everybody on a gift economy basis. We just believe that it’ll be of sufficient interest to everybody that we will generate enough income in order to keep our mission going.

Okay, so let’s talk about what is available and where can people reach you and how can they learn more about what you do and connect with you personally.

So again we have online learning modules that are available 24/7 on relationship skill development, so our relationship with ourselves, each other, and Earth, and the loving force that connects us, whatever that might mean to you. To me, it means our soul’s purpose and what we’re here on Earth to do. And we have a growing number of modules on that spectrum. Right now we have six, and we’re about to add two or three more over the next few weeks. And the modules are suitable for individuals to learn on their own, or much better to learn in groups.

They’re self-facilitating and self-guided, so you don’t need me there, but if you want somebody from the Foundation to come help, we can do that too. You can find us at healingedu.org. And we welcome people who have means to pay it forward and pay full tuition or more. And those that can’t afford that to pay what they are able or just pay zero. And all are equally welcome to participate. This is skills and knowledge we believe humanity needs that we all need. And you can contact me at Susanna at familyandcommunityhealing.org.

Fantastic. So, Susanna, thank you so much for sharing the information and also to be so generous with your foundation’s services that they are available. As you said, the Gift Economy, I mean, that could deserve another podcast to talk about the Gift Economy. We’ve not discussed this term on this podcast. But nevertheless, you know, I think we have enough for probably three episodes, what we discussed. So thank you for coming to the show.

And for our listeners, if you enjoyed this conversation, please don’t forget to rate and review us and subscribe on YouTube so that we get out to more people and have more people listen to the show with Susanna, Wu-Pong Calvert, and other exciting entrepreneurs that’s gonna come the next week, so stay tuned and Susanna, so stay tuned and Susanna, thanks again for coming on the show.

Thank you for your generous and beautiful work, Steve, and your service to the world.


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