One of my favorite lines from my friend Kristoffer (KC) Carter’s new book is this: “The greater the volatility, the more determined we must be to slow down and make better decisions.”
It’s something I need to remember, often. Maybe you do, too.
That’s why it’s the perfect time for KC’s book, “Permission to Glow: A Spiritual Guide to Leadership.” KC’s an executive coach AND a meditation teacher—a yogi in a suit, he’s said, proving once again that we can never stereotype anyone today. KC’s got some fresh ways to get past chaos and into calm, faster.
Enjoy our interview!
Support these ideas & the author by buying KC’s books here
(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links, which means if you buy here, Amazon puts a few cents in my account return. But please buy the book wherever you prefer.)
Here’s a transcript of our chat
It’s slightly edited for readability, but since we humans speak differently than we write, I’ll ask you to forgive errors of grammar or repetition.
Coach Darcy Eikenberg, Red Cape Revolution:
I am so excited today to introduce you to my friend, KC, Kristoffer Carter, who is the author of a great new book called, Permission to Glow. So, KC, thanks for being here on Red Cape Revolution today.
Kristoffer Carter (KC):
It’s awesome to be with you. Thanks so much for having me, Darcy.
KC and I met through another friend of ours, who is also an author. And we have books coming out around the same time. So, we’re both in kind of that nerve-wracking time right before your book comes out. But KC, I’d love to hear a little more just about you and your work and, then we’ll talk about the message in Permission to Glow. I love that title.
Thanks. First of all, I just feel so lucky to be connected to people like you and Leslie Ehm. Between the three of us, I think we have our bases covered: we’re glowing, wearing red capes, and we’re walking with swagger. What could stop us, right?
A little bit about me on paper: I’m an executive coach. I’m a coach for founders and executives. Also, I’m a meditation teacher for organizations. I look at those roles as kind of like a Trojan horse for what I think my clients need, which is spiritual insight, a little bit more of expanded awareness. I’m passionate about yoga, which at its core, is just union with spirit. I’m always trying to connect leaders and connect individuals to their own power, to kind of frame this idea of leadership as a spiritual conversation.
That’s really what the book, Permission to Glow, is about. It’s another level of nerve-wracking – like all the launch stuff that we get nervous about. But then there’s also that edge of our vulnerability when we’re pushing out everything that we’re all about in a very public fashion. So, I’ve been dancing with all of that lately. But more often than not, I’m just really excited to have it out there in the world.
Your story is so interesting, because this idea of leadership as a spiritual conversation; the idea that you are an executive coach, which conjures up images in some way; and then a meditation teacher, which kind of in conventional wisdom, seems like they might be at odds. But you’re finding that they’re not really at odds anymore. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that journey and the types of conversations that you’re having with your clients now.
When most of my clients get to know me over a period of years working together, they might assume that I wear a white robe and have a lot of toe rings and a beard, and smell like patchouli. But I’m wearing custom-fitted dress shirts with my name insignia on them because I do work in corporate circles.
And I think most coaches realize at some point that all coaching is truly life coaching at some level. You can’t divorce your personal life from your work life. It’s all integrated together. How I’ve been approaching it since I started my meditation practice about 15 years ago, was the more I meditated, the more I realized that I needed it.
The more I became passionate about evangelizing that with others—that here’s a habit that has the power to upgrade all other habits. I just thought it was crazy. So that intersection of those two things coming together, I never would have thought it would have manifested in this way. It’s not the work that I chose; it kind of chose me.
And as it continues to unfold, it just becomes this great adventure. I think most of my conversations these days with clients starts with the typical thing like “oh, I don’t have control of my schedule” or “I don’t know how I’m gonna get that Series B financing” or there are client’s relationships to the things they’re trying to create that we all work on as coaches. What I’ve started to realize in adding meditation practice into the mix for both the client and for myself, is that all of these things are capacity issues. We’re trying to increase our capacity to hold more of what we want to create in life, whether that’s more room for all the chaos and disruption that’s everywhere or more room for all this abundance that we say we want to create. That just started to feel like a spiritual conversation, day in and day out with these clients.
I’m curious though. How do we create that capacity? Certainly the issues of overwhelm and overload—I think our work overlaps in addressing those in many ways. One of the chapters in my book that’s getting the most noise is a chapter about “drop some balls.” but I’m creating more capacity sounds like a lot it would help a lot of people. How do we do that?
It’s kind of the million-dollar question. I think it can look different for a lot of us. First of all, just the name alone, “drop some balls,” there’s so much compassion in that. And I think compassion is one of these really important conversations we need to bring to personal growth in general. We think in our culture, that we’re just supposed to just launch ourselves out of a cannon the first of the year, and now back to school season all over again. Just achieve, achieve, achieve, without the self-compassion and realizing like maybe I don’t need to juggle so much. Maybe I can set these things down and make room for my family. Just even bringing self-compassion to the conversation is one of those ways to increase our capacity.
That brittle need to always be accomplishing more, doing more, busy, busy, busy. I call it the affliction of “I got this.” I think it was well-meaning when it came out of 1980s personal development, which I loved, by the way. I was so into Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, all these things. Stephen Covey and the Seven Habits, all these things are amazing. However, they don’t account for this very real wall that we hit pretty early on, which is realizing maybe this is not exactly what I wanted once I start creating all this stuff. Or why am I so exhausted or disconnected from my partner?
So, to answer your question, that container looks a little bit different for everybody. And what I think is, the best days of coaching are when we connect or help our clients connect to their own power, and they start seeing adjacent possibilities. They start seeing that there’s space there. They’re able to breathe, and realize like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s time for what I want to create here.” When we’re able to give people that gift, I think that we could feel their capacity shift a little bit wider to hold more of what they want to create.
That time and that permission almost. I love the idea of bringing compassion to it. Because so many times when I talk to clients, they would never talk about somebody else in their world, the way that they talk about themselves. They would never put themselves down or someone else down in the way that they might do themselves. And this goes to some in the book. You have different permissions, including one of them is this permission to chill. Tell us a little bit about the permissions and where they came from and especially the chill one I’m very interested in.
Especially, I mean, how can we give ourselves permission to chill while we’re launching a book? I think that’s our own exploration, we have to take offline. Right?
Exactly, exactly. So some coaching from you after the recording goes off.
Happy to do it! When I think about permissions, these aren’t permissions that I’m here to give anybody else. I can’t even give my own kids permission. They’re far more wired for speed and power than I am; I’m just trying to keep up with them. All I can do is present these permissions and say you might want to give these to yourself. If you want to increase your capacity and do that thing you’re here to do. The book is framed in this pursuit of what’s called the Big Honkin’ Dream. We all have one. We’re here to create something bigger than ourselves. And there are four shadow characters that kind of get in our way. These are survival mechanisms and Ontological Coaching, which is what I practice. These are called survival mechanisms.
The first one that you mentioned is permission to chill—that shadow character is called ‘speedy rabbit.’ This is when we’re spooked into moving so fast all the time and we usually default to judging everybody for not keeping up. We’re pitting out in our pantsuit. We’re just chugging the Starbucks and wondering why everybody can’t move faster. We can’t stop. We have that shark energy. And the radical notion in our culture is to say, “Well, what if you just give yourself permission to chill the hell out? To just pause, be with what is. You’ll start to notice you have these adjacent possibilities”.
The easiest way to do that is through creating some sort of stilling practice—meditation practices, even five minutes a day, 10 minutes, 15 minutes a day—to just pause. Be with what is. It starts strengthening that meta attention muscle that keeps us in line with our original goals. Chilling to me is the foundational one. That’s like clearing the palate, wiping the canvas clean, so we can just start fresh.
You used a word, that meta attention. It’s a frame that I haven’t heard before. Tell me about the meta attention.
The meta attention – I call the muscle, the most important muscle. So there’s our attention. I’m focused on our conversation right now. But if I zoom the lens out a little bit, I might be thinking about what questions could be coming next. I could think about the goal or objective of what you’re planning and what I want to get out of our conversation. We have this meta-awareness. It’s the awareness of our awareness. See, I told you it was meta.
In meditation, what you’re doing is bringing the attention back as many times as necessary. So when your thoughts stray, that’s fine. Bringing that attention back to the breath or the present moment is kind of one repetition of flexing that meta attention muscle. And that strengthens over time. We start tapping into. In the Serenity Prayer, it’s called the wisdom to know the difference, or the discernment to know when we’re off course. Or how do we know when we’re doing something that serves us versus doesn’t? And that all comes back to our meta attention.
That’s also interesting in the way you frame it. Because I know a lot of times when, and I don’t teach meditation, I’m an imperfect meditator—a seeker, not any kind of expert. But I know a lot of people who swear by it, and who have done it for years. But I’ve heard people have a resistance of saying, “Well, I don’t feel productive doing it. What am I doing it for?” And what you just said, was activeness in the stillness. So you’re building something in that stillness, which is a very interesting frame for a lot of very busy people who say, “I can’t take time and just sit and repeat a series of words for five minutes.”
Trust me, I have uncomfortable levels of energy. So me even sitting still for five minutes, let alone at Christmas we do an eight-hour meditation, which sounds ridiculous to me, but we do it. The thing about what you said is kind of like the foundational error I think that Western culture gets wrong about meditation. We think it’s the absence of thought. Oh, no, the monkeys will crawl in all the windows, when you try to sit to quiet your mind. Try not to think and then you start thinking, right?
But it’s that willingness to sit it out and to bring the attention back that strengthens that muscle. There’s a lot of compassion in that, to just be with your thoughts. To let it settle-to consciously settle it. That’s where the power of meditation comes in.
Tell me about the other permissions that you talk about in the book.
When we clear the palette, and we give ourselves permission to chill, it sets up the second permission, which is permission to feel all the feels. This is to just be with our emotional palate, to listen to, to be able to hear the wisdom our body is speaking, through our feelings and emotions. The shadow character called ‘game face,’ we just throw on the Spartan armor, like a 1950s housewife, like everything’s fine, there’re no weeds in my garden. And in reality, we might be feeling like, wow, I need help. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m suffering here. But when we cop to that, we could start tuning into this more intuitive path, to be able to interpret those feelings as data and to navigate accordingly. And those feelings point to root emotions, that if we’re guided by them, we could realize our body is telling us something kind of important here.
And I think coaches get this. Coaches are in the business of creating heightened levels of awareness with their clients, like almost painful levels of awareness, of what’s working and what’s not. And when we connect our clients to their intuition, to their kind of that whole body Yes feeling (it’s a conscious leadership term), we start realizing we have an edge. Because we’re not being guided or dragged around by our hair anymore. We’re consciously designing our experience. So, “feel all the feels” is the second permission.
I refer to that as “listening to the whispers,” and then had that experience in my own life where I’m going way too fast and not paying attention and they want to be heard. And how do you slow down enough to hear them? and then to create intentional action around them? And it’s a skill; it’s not something anybody necessarily teaches you. It’s something has to be learned.
Well, and this way I try to surround myself with really intelligent, powerful women like my wife, my coach, a lot of my mentors, you. Women are, I believe, wired to be tuned in to that intuition piece. And men, typically, in my experience, tend to drown it out with other things, whether it’s alcohol or work or whatever different isms. But to be with that still silent voice, I truly believe it’s the quiet voice of speaking God whispering to us and it speaks to us through those emotions and feelings.
So as you think about the other permissions, where do we go from there?
The reason why most of us hire a coach is for permission three, which I call “permission to glow in the dark.” You know, Leslie Ehm might call it “swagger.” You might call it “putting on the red cape.” This is self-actualization with witnesses, doing the damn thing we came here to do despite the ever-present fear—that’s permission three, permission to glow in the dark.
When I was writing that part of the book, I had to go deeper into that experience of the darkness and the contrast of light and dark and realize, we all travel with fear. It’s not a weakness. Courage is that muscle we build by doing the thing anyway, despite the fear, and dancing with the fear and doing it anyway. I used to think it was unapologetic, like, I’m just gonna do me and do my thing. It’s oh no, it’s the strength you build by working with your darkness.
It’s interesting to think about using your darkness because I think so many times I think we were afraid of it, right? We’re afraid of the things that we know we don’t do well, or the things that we know that we’re not great at, or the relationships that we know we’ve let linger, that we’ve let lapse. I think you have another permission. And then I really would love to hear like one thing that we can do right where we are, just as we are to put some of this into play.
Absolutely. A friend of mine, one of my heroes, songwriter, Ani de Franco, I was interviewing her for my podcast, and she said, Well, what if you could just glow? What if we all just glowed without any darkness? And that’s permission four: permission to glow in the light. When I had to kind of perceive and go into the meaning of this, what it could look like, I would think it looks like transcending competition for collaboration. It’s the people, those of us who are brave enough to do the earlier work of activating the first three permissions (to chill, to feel, to glow in our own darkness), and then, by virtue of doing that, we’re not so much interested in comparison anymore.
We’re not so much interested in holding down underserved communities to lift ourselves up. We are here for the upliftment. I think if our Creator would want anything for us, it would be to look around the planet. We’re in dire need of healing at a lot of levels and it’s to lift one another up and to see what true collaboration can look like.
I think no matter what your belief system that the bigger message is somebody out there needs you. What I think is interesting about your work in this “glow in the light,” is you bringing yourself to work, to you bringing your superpowers to work, as I say, and being able to help others and through that, help yourself and be able to do the things you’re meant to do so well.
I think it’s a huge point about coaching in general. A lot of coaches listen to these conversations. And I truly believe we are lightworkers because we are in service to somebody other than ourselves. And yes, we get paid well, if we’re lucky in the process, and now we get taken care of. But anytime we hitch our cart to the universal good, or the good of others, beautiful things tend to happen and unfold versus just worrying about ourselves all the time.
That’s one of my little internal prayers every time before I speak or do something online, it is let me help somebody today. That’s what’s behind it for me.
So I’m curious then, for someone watching, who some of these techniques still feel a little woo-woo, airy-fairy, they’re in a corporate environment. But they’re hearing some of those whispers. They know that there’s probably something else to tap into. What’s an easy way to get started?
I’ll give you a very stealthy way for all of our corporate warrior friends. And, also too, there’s nothing soft, or woo-woo, about the discipline it takes to clear your mind. So I would start by just doing 4-7-8 breathing cycles. You exhale, then you breathe in your nose for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven, then breathe out through the mouth for eight.
You do four cycles of that it takes about 57 seconds. You’re enforcing breathing patterns onto your involuntary nervous system. As you do it, everything is slowing down. Even just that one cycle you could feel it brings you a little bit deeper into your body, into the moment and you start realizing you have more options than just staying in the do-do-do hamster wheel. So I would encourage people to practice four cycles of the 4-7-8 breathing cycle. It takes 57 seconds. You could do it with your eyes open. Nobody’s going to judge you. You don’t have to light a candle at your desk or sit on a meditation cushion or put on your LuLuLemon pants. You can just stealth breathe with yourself.
And then when you do that, I would tune into feeling sensations in your body? What are my thoughts, feelings, body sensations? Just create that meta-awareness. After you do that breathing, what is my body asking of me right now? Is it hungry, angry, lonely, tired? What is it that I am working on and trying to achieve today? You just become a little bit more intentional. From that place, I would look at permission three, what is biggest, most important work I could be chipping away at today? What is that one little thing I will do today before I leave just to move that forward? And then you’re starting to thread and connect these concepts of chill, feel, glow, which is still yourself, tune into the wisdom of your body for a moment, and then get back to work and doing your most important work versus staying down in the maze.
I love that. What comes to mind is ‘still yourself before you kill yourself,’ right? Because we move so fast. And even just that little bit that under a minute. That’s fascinating that just taking that beat. That is something that any one of us can do. And it’s totally free!
It’s amazing. And I mean, if you look around the world, I mean, there’s so much what’s called VUCA, in military terms. It’s Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. It is everywhere. So if it’s not our political discourse, it’s climate change. It’s certainly COVID. And what to do or not to do about it. It’s everywhere and all of us are spooked into moving too fast right now understandably.
We think if we sit still, we’ll lose our job or die or our family will end up in the gutter. There’s just all of this perpetual feel, but just reclaiming the power by breathing. It sounds very simple. But why aren’t more people doing it? And taking that pause 57 seconds, and then tuning in with yourself and then getting back to work. It just starts training that meta attention into just being more intentional, pursuing more meaning and fulfillment versus just getting stuff done.
Well, KC, I think that’s a great strategy to leave our viewers with. So tell us where they can find more about you.
Permissiontoglowbook.com is probably the best resource these days. We have a new trailer for the site, as well as just some fun packages we put together around the book. Also, thisepiclife.com is my website for my conscious leadership training.
Terrific! The book, Permission to Glow, comes out the week before mine. By the time you see this video, it should be out there and KC’s traveling around talking to people. Watch for him in a neighborhood near you and go and grab the book. As I always think that a purchase of the book is a vote for the author.
And thank you, KC, so much for the work you’re doing for helping us all chill a little bit so that we can glow more, and thanks for being here today on Red Cape Revolution.
Thanks so much, Darcy. I loved our conversation.
Find out more about KC here.
Get a free chapter of my new book, “Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job” by texting the word RESCUE to 1-800-270-4755.
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