Being Your Unfiltered Self In A Filtered World With Natalie Siston
It’s Natalie Siston’s turn on the campfire with Tony Martignetti and she talks about being in tune with your authentic and unfiltered self. Growing up in a small town of 600 people, she shares an inspiring story of how she discovered the power of her voice. Learn all about how she uses her small-town skills to achieve big success with the people she works with. Follow her journey on climbing the corporate ladder into shifting to something she’s envisioned doing as a child. Engage and understand how the unfiltered version of yourself can open the doors for people to see the positive possibilities that life has to offer.
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Being Your Unfiltered Self In A Filtered World With Natalie Siston
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Natalie Siston. Natalie's career has taken her from Silicon Valley to the Fortune 100 and into entrepreneurship. Being raised in Republic, Ohio with a population of 600 people, it is where she learned her greatest leadership lessons. This inspired Natalie to start Small Town Leadership, where she uses these lessons to help leaders and organizations create big success in the world. She's a coach, speaker and published author. Her first book is Let Her Out: Reclaim Who You Have Always Been. It's where life story meets life coaching. She lives in Dublin, Ohio now with her husband and two small daughters.
I want to welcome you to the show, Natalie.
I'm excited to be here. I feel like we need some hot cocoa, marshmallows and warm blankets.
I love it. That's why I chose this. I feel that it creates this warmth. It's also about being in that place of having good conversations around a fire. It's so cool. First of all, I'm honored to be with you at the launch of your book and be able to congratulate you on such an amazing accomplishment. I know it's going to make an impact on a lot of people's lives. I hope that we can dig into some of the topics right here on the show.
I look forward to it very much.
To give you a little sense of what we do on the show. We will help you to share some insights from your story. We do that in a way that is told through what's called flashpoints. These are points in your story that have revealed your gifts to the world. There may be one or many. I'm going to give you the floor to share what you feel called to share. We'll pause along the way and see what's showing up. With that, Natalie, I'm going to give you the floor. You can take it from here.
One of the most important flashpoints in my life that I reflect on the book is what I consider finding my voice. The fact that we're doing this on an audio show recording should not be lost on either of us. I learned at the age of eight that I have a gift for speaking and conveying messages to an audience. I don't think I knew that at the age of eight but as I get older, looking back, I can see that as a flashpoint. The place where I learned to speak was in a dusty barn on the County Fairgrounds in Seneca County, Ohio. I was a member of 4-H. I know you're a big city guy but you've probably heard of 4-H. A lot of agricultural kids learn how to raise animals, do woodworking, sew, cook, and those sorts of things. Being in a rural Ohio town of 600 people, this was a big thing to do.
My family did not live on a working farm. The house I grew up in was surrounded on three sides by farm but we were not active farmers. I did sewing and cooking. In my first year in 4-H someone asked me to do the demonstration contest. I said, "What's this thing?" They said, "You go teach people how to do something. You stand behind this table, a mirror on top. You bring all your supplies of whatever you're building or making. You tell them how to do it." I thought that seems easy. I can teach people how to make cookies because my mom made cookies. I taught that audience how to make oatmeal cookies. It ended up earning me a trip to the state fair when I was eight years old.
Where there's hope for the future, there's power in the present.
I stood on a bigger stage in a not so dusty barn in the state fairgrounds, delivered the same presentation or surrounded by kids who've been doing this forever, had fancy things and shiny props. I thought, "I can't compete with these kids." At the end of the day, my family and I came back for the awards ceremony. I ended up winning one of the awards for that day. In that moment, I was dumbstruck because I didn't think I deserved an award after seeing all the other kids, but I also realized that I could take a microphone and say things and people will listen. Maybe it'll turn into a reward. That was the beginning of what's been years of career doing public speaking. It’s not always in a professional setting but always doing it as part of something I love and enjoy doing. It began right there in that dusty fairground barn.
There's an element of this being like you start small. You start to elevate from that point. It's the premise of this entire show. People start from small beginnings and step-by-step, they get into bigger stages, bigger arenas. That embodied the entire nature of what we do.
One of the things that I did in my book and inspired the book was finding all the diaries and journals I've kept since that time in my life at eight years old. As I was reading, there was so much in there about finding my voice and standing at the church pulpit because I did a lot of speaking in church growing up. There was this moment where I must have stood up. I did a lot of awards trips as a kid to Washington D.C. or Columbus, the state capital. I was that high-achieving kid who would go for that stuff. I took a trip to D.C. and I did several over in high school.
At one point in my journal, I wrote, "When you stand in front of 600 of your peers, they don't listen to you because they'll keep talking over you. In this case, I made them stop and listen. What it's making me feel is 'Where there's hope for the future, there's power in the present.’” I said those things when I was seventeen years old. That was when I was getting to the height of this realization that when I take a microphone, people will listen.
That was a very beautiful way of putting it together. I'll say it but I want you to say it again.
Where there is hope for the future, there’s power in the present. It’s a timeless quote. I’m sure I made that up but if someone else made it up, we’ll cite that. As a seventeen-year-old, I feel like I made that up. It’s something we can have all plastered all over the place right now.
Hope is a great concept for us to hold onto. It's future-orientated but in reality, it has to be grounded now too because if you don't have it now, you can't orient it towards the future. It has to be in the present. I love the way you put that. I don't even know where to go from here. That was a bomb drop right there. You tell me exactly what happened. You have this feeling of, "I can start in these smaller stages and start moving up." What did you study in school that got into university? What was your schooling in?
There are a lot of a-ha’s that came up for me writing this book. I went to the Ohio State University. I'm a proud Ohio State Buckeye. My undergraduate degree is in Political Science and Psychology. I originally thought I would go to school, become a journalist and a lawyer and then work in politics. That was what I thought my path was. Along the way, I started taking Psychology classes and learning more about human behavior. That stuff came so naturally to me. It made so much sense. I started enjoying those classes a lot more. Here I am, many years post-college as a professional coach, writer and speaker where I work with people on human behavior stuff every single day. What's interesting is that I always wanted to do what I'm doing now.
As an eighteen-year-old high school senior, I said, "I feel like I've got my stuff figured out. I want to help other people as they're figuring out their past." In college, I felt grounded. I was grounded in my faith, knowledge and friendship. I wanted to be the support system for other people. I wanted to help other people see the potential they had in themselves. What is so ironic about reading all that stuff now and over the years, I've gone through my own professional reinvention to becoming a certified professional coach and speaking on bigger stages is there is no college degree for that. I am doing exactly what I always wanted to be when I grew up. There's no major for that, at least at this point in time. It took me rereading those journals to say, "I've known it this whole time."
Part of becoming who you are is following your intuition and your path to seeing what shows up along that way and then realizing when you look back that you became who you wanted to become. In some ways, that’s unique. I also think about a lot of people come on the show. There are always clues that are left behind. When you look back into childhood, some of the things that we did as a child or that we had as children, sometimes they are far-flung, but there are clues that are left behind. Yours were loud and proud. They are all up there. That's cool.
It didn't feel like that though in my 30s which was when a lot of people have their third-life crisis. That was the period of time when I had gotten all the accolades. I had gotten the second degree. I went back to Ohio State and got my MBA after living in California for a while. I got the big corporate job. I got leadership position at the big corporate job, got more responsibilities, more money, more and more in the corporate setting. That led me to feel empty like, what's next? What's more? What's different? I had departed from that path. I had not been following that trail of breadcrumbs that I've been living since I was eight years old behind me.
Somewhere along the way, I deviated from that path. I was doing all the things on the "should list" and not on the “want-to list,” or "feeds me in a spiritual way list.” I found myself working with a coach when I was 35 and asking myself a lot of the questions, I now ask my clients on a daily basis. What lit you up when you were younger? What's missing in your life that would bring you more joy? It's amazing once you insert one of those things back into your life. For me, that was speaking. All of this makes sense again, grabbing a microphone, getting on stage and talking about something. That's the gift.
What did you do when you started to get into that path of the corporate track? You graduated, you had all this education, and then what?
I did the typical post MBA track, which you've got companies coming on campus to recruit the best and brightest from these MBA classes. I worked at a great financial services company for twelve years. I totally followed the path that was in front of me rolled out like a red carpet. All I had to do is fill in the right papers and get the right interviews, then I was smooth sailing into the Fortune 100.
It's seductive. It's easy to fall into that trap. That's what a lot of people end up doing. They can see that this is a way to get that more and fill that need for the things that make us feel accomplished, but maybe not fulfilled underneath it all. We had a brief conversation beforehand about fulfillment. Tell me what happened as your story continued in the corporate world. What happened next?
What's interesting about this is I don't have any qualms about the corporate world. I was a great corporate person. I could have lived the rest of my career in a big corporation. For me, what happened is I got into this moment in time. It happened right in 2020 when the global pandemic hits. I was making plans to go out on my own full-time into my coaching practice, into my speaking practice and hopefully, write a book. That was the general plan for 2020. Global pandemic hits. The day I was going to put in my notice was the day that the governor of Ohio started shutting the state down.
I looked at my husband that morning. He's like, "Is today the right day to do this?" I've been planning this moment for years. I took that as a personal front of, "This isn't happening." He's like, "No, this is going to happen. You will do this. We'll be successful but maybe not this exact day." I said, "Fair point. Let's wait it out a little bit. Let's see how bad this thing is going to be and how much is it going to make my business not be viable at this point in time."
What I found was that the global pandemic made people wake up and realize that they wanted to focus on themselves. They wanted personal development. They wanted to do it on their own terms. I saw my coaching practice start to grow. I saw interest in my speaking services grow. I was also doing a lot of pro bono work at that point in time because I knew people could benefit from the services I offered. At one point in time, I looked at myself and said, "Who quits her job in the middle of a global pandemic?" The answer that screamed at me was the person whose dreams are bigger than her fears.
Be the person whose dreams are bigger than your fears.
That is the power of this. We have to overcome that feeling that you're holding yourself back from. That story is powerful. It's what people need to hear in this time when you're sitting on the precipice of something big and you're feeling as though, "What should I do?" You did it.
What's interesting is it ties back to that whole quote about where there's hope for the future, there's power in the present. The main antidote to fear is hope. We were hearing that a lot. To your point, it's all been bubbling up. 2020 is the year that I've released these ideas and thoughts in a bigger way out into the world. Hopefully, by me doing that, it's telling other people, "I have a voice and a story that deserves to be reflected on, shared and heard in a different way than I've allowed myself to show up in the world projecting."
This whole message around having a voice is so cool. There are so many people in the workplace or in the world in general who don't let their voices be heard. I feel like we need more people like you who are out there helping people to have their voice, or to know that they have a voice and share it. Tell me more about some of these ideas that you work on with people.
I love that you focused on that because it's a huge one. It's something that I had to work through personally in order to be helping people on the other side of that and the feeling that I have. This is common among many of your readers. It’s the feeling of when you are on the outside shaking your head yes, but on the inside screaming no. It's this polite and nice, "I'm not going to ruffle feathers but inside, I'm being torn up." I had that experience way too many times, whether that be in a corporate boardroom and in a one-on-one meeting. Finally, I had to get right with myself to say, "Why are you allowing yourself to do this?" You're afraid of being mean or not being liked. You don't know what to say. What is the case? What started happening is you need to be authentic and unfiltered.
The last five years I spent in Corporate America, I felt unfiltered. There's a time and a place so I wouldn't in a certain company be the unfiltered version. More people saw the unfiltered version of me than not. That opened the doors for so many people to see that this is possible. It's possible to be honest. It's possible to be truthful and for people to know you're doing that for all of the right reasons. I coach a lot of middle-level managers. I coach at both the C level but I also coach middle-level managers. I liked that level because those are the people who are sitting there, shaking their head yes while screaming no the most. They're not ultimately the ones in charge. They're trying to work both sides. They're managing up. They're managing down. They're managing to the side. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to go along to get along. You probably know as everyone else knows that the long-term effect of that is burnout, fatigue, resentment, and all of the nasty feeling that one day will show up. It can lead to an explosion if you're not prepared for it.
I love that you choose the middle management area. That's an area where people say, "What's the worst that could happen if I do speak up?" In that instance, they may feel like, "I might lose my job if I speak up." Sometimes, we're in this world of there's not a lot of jobs out there. We get stuck in this cycle of what-if. It’s the things around that I start to challenge and I say to myself, "If you're fired from a job for saying what's truly on your mind, what job is that? What kind of an organization is that doesn't allow you to share what's truly on your mind?" That's when I start to get frustrated around being in a world where people can't share. Even if it isn't the right answer or the right thing to say, you should feel free to share what's on your mind.
It's the title Let Her Out. It could be a him too. That's who the world needs to see. Not the one who's hiding inside, fearful of saying the right thing. We have to find a path so that person is who's showing up in all the places, home and at work. The other thing that I coach a lot on is people who are showing up at work one way and show up at home another way, which has been interesting in 2021 since they're both one and the same for many people. The way it manifests from a virtual work environment is the people are like, "I give all my energy to my work people. By the time I'm ready to emerge from my home office and be with my family. They don't get the good version of me."
It's amplifying this experience. It's people who feel like they either have to give it all away at work and they have no energy left for the people they love the most, or they're showing up completely different from who they naturally are at work as to what they be in natural life. That is stressful. That takes so much extra energy. The more we can get closer to showing up as our authentic self. There are lots of assessments and tools and that sort of thing to help with that. It's an assessment we have to do for ourselves all the time. Was I tired at the end of the day? Yes. What happened in that day? I wasn't showing up authentically. I was doing things that weren't suited to me. I wasn't being true to myself and being real. That stuff all takes such a toll. I want my message to feed to people, find the better balance for yourself. You may never swing the pendulum all the way, but at least if you can swing it a little bit to the left or right of where it needs to go, you'll feel that much better.
Getting into your coaching career, what has been the biggest challenge for you in terms of getting into this new world? Has there been anything that has been like, "I didn't expect this?"
I had to kill myself on my own bull crap. That's the Republic Ohio words that I can use for you right there. For so long in my corporate career, I had been telling myself, “You are the only person who can do this job. You are the only person to do the job this well this way. If you leave, the house of cards will completely fall down.” I kept telling myself that so much to the extent that it was precluding me from following my own business and putting all the energy into the jobs I was in. Once I woke up to realize that is not true, everyone is replaceable, and it could be a great opportunity for an organization to find a different person to sit in this role, then I was able to get out of my own way and say, "Let the next person handle that. You go focus on your own business and your own outcomes.” That was the flashpoint for me that said, "You can pursue this."
To take it a step further, knowing that there are things in your business that is outsourceable too, you don't have to do it all.
Thank you to all the people who I’ve hired. It's so true. When you’re only working in your own business part time in my case, I was only making part-time money doing that but shifting to that full-time, I've been fortunate to have great clients, great contract opportunities early in this time. I'm able to have replaced most of my income. I can spend some of that for lots of great benefits. The team that I’ve been able to hire to help me do these things, someone who helps me with social media, and someone who does virtual assistant work. My favorite will be a good story for your readers too. I knew I wanted to build a separate website for my book. I have a Small Town Leadership website but I wanted to build a separate LetHerOut.com website.
Randomly, one day one of my high school classmate posts on Facebook, "My husband is starting to work with this new web design company. If anyone has any needs, let him know." Immediately, I didn't look up the company. I didn't look anything. I just said, "I need somebody. Can we talk?" Days later, I ended up hiring this company sight unseen but they're based in my hometown. Guys who went to the neighboring high school, and the company that they built the website prior to mine was for locally sourced canned meat. This guy who built the locally sourced canned meat website proceeded to build the most beautiful website I could want for my book. Everyone can go check it out. It's easy, LetHerOut.com.
He designed the logo for my book. He designed the cover concept without even knowing it. He built me these beautiful downloadable PDFs for people who read the book so they don't have to write in it. They can just download the PDF and write all over that. I would have never made that connection without that one passing Facebook post from a high school friend. I love how this process has made the world so much smaller for me. I love the fact that I'm supporting lots of small business owners in this process.
What you described is a perfect example. I'll take my own riff on what Small Town Leadership might look like. It is working that whole angle of connecting with people. The more you connect with people in a local way, before you know it, you're supporting your neighbors. You're supporting people around. Everyone's raising each other's boats. That's so beautiful. It's nice to see that happen in a way. You're referring people. He's building his business by way of helping you do what you need to do. It's a nice connection. This is a nice example of small businesses helping small businesses.
I love the idea of creating an economy. I feel like when you own your business, you are creating an economy. If I wasn't running my own business, I would be taking up a paycheck in a corporate scale and this stuff wouldn't exist. I have been able to create my own economy and create an economy for other people with this. That's where the fun starts to happen. We were talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We have so many people focused at the bottom basis for many good reasons. There are a lot of people who are suffering. Let's help as much as we can.
For a lot of people, they've well surpassed the bottom two rungs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. There's no need to live in fear for the roof over the head and the food on the table. It's getting to those higher-level areas. Many people don't let themselves do that but when you can and when you start to think about self-actualization, empowerment and building stuff, magic can happen. That's what's fascinating. It fascinates me every day when I wake up and think, “What am I going to work on today?” If you're sitting in a corporate job, you can say the same thing in many regards. You might do your work differently that day.
I always want to bring that element into the story. It's not about pushing people out the door and saying, "You need to go and start your own business because it's the way to do it." It's not an easy path to get out there and do it. It's not for everyone. There's a way to make your life in corporate better to make it more fulfilling. It starts with just as your book says. Let your voice out. Get your voice out into the room and don't hold back. I feel like we've covered so much ground but I wanted to give you the chance to say, is there anything through your journey that you've learned that you want to make sure people hear, one last message or something that you wanted to share?
The main antidote to fear is hope.
It is so incredibly important for us to remember our roots. For me, that means the place I come from. It means the family and friends who raised me up in that area. I do not live in my small town anymore. I live in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. I don't go back a ton. I go back occasionally to see my parents and that type of thing. I am not a fixture in that small town anymore but it doesn't mean that I don't love it and appreciate it as much as the person who stayed after high school and raising their family there. There's something that we all need to do to reconnect to those roots.
For some people, the roots might have been planted in college. Maybe it was the place they went away from home and they've discovered their roots. Maybe it was a place they traveled overseas and found themselves. Everyone can examine and look back over their life. Halfway through the book, I have an exercise. It’s an intermission. It's like write your own story. I give five different ways to go through and write your own life story up until that point in time. It's such an incredibly powerful experience for everybody to do because there are likely things that happen on that path that you've forgotten about that you don't go back to enough, or that you need to bring forward into your life in present day.
I have one last question for you, Natalie. It's a different type of question. What's one book or books if you're so inclined that has had an impact on you in how you think?
There are so many. I am a ravenous reader. When I drove somewhere, I would listen to nonfiction on all my drives, and then I read fiction every night before bed. The author and the two books that she's written that have helped me think about how to show up and how to put my truth out into the world is Glennon Doyle. Her two books Love Warrior and Untamed. Untamed is significant for me because it was the last nonfiction book I read before I wrote mine in earnest. I purposefully cut myself off from nonfiction during the period of time I wrote my book because I didn't want to have any outside influencers. The nonfiction focus was mine. Untamed, she says that it's unconventional. It's the chapters. Some are 2 pages, some are 10 pages. It's a beautiful story. For those who follow Glennon's journey, there are no secrets that you learn. You know everything, but the way she puts it together and makes you want to show up differently in the world is incredibly powerful.
People have recommended Untamed before on the show. Everyone has a different take on it. As I often say, we can all read the same book but we're going to take different parts of it out and show that. That's why I appreciate your perspective on that. That's nice. How long did it take for you to write the book? I have a feeling that you just whipped it out.
There are two answers to that question. One is that it took me 32 years because there are passages from my diaries from the time, I was eight. In some ways, I've been writing this book for 32 years. In earnest, once I settled on the idea and it was confirmed in my mind that this is a book because originally this was just a keynote. It was a TEDx submission that got rejected. It's the thing that morphed. It was the TEDx rejected talk that turned into a keynote that turned into a book. In April 2020 is when I hired my book coach and I had my first rough draft done by Memorial Day weekend. I had my final manuscript done by Labor Day.
Once I was off, I was off to the races. From my book, a lot of it was a curation opportunity. It wasn't as much writing because I had all these journals. For me, it was sitting down and reading those, which was horribly painful a lot of times. I was like, "There are so many voices that I liked. I don't want to revisit all those stories." For me, it was a lot of rereading. I've been blogging since 2016. I'm sure not many people read blogs anymore because my most popular blogs might have had 100 people read them. I was like, "I can repurpose all this stuff all day long." The book reads like a seamless book but it's many different pieces that I put together from stuff I've been working on for 32 years. It's a long answer to your short question but I like to peek behind the curtain for people.
I appreciate that because that gives people a sense of like don't throw away notebooks. It's important to keep those things. There are so many nuggets hidden behind. Some things you don't want to revisit. At the same time, there are so many great nuggets that are hiding there that are waiting to be uncovered and to reveal themselves.
Many of them are included word for word, misspelling, weird annotation and all in the book.
I can't thank you enough for coming on the show. This was so amazing. Your stories were so powerful. They've resonated with me and I'm sure with all the readers who are going to be reading this. I want to give people an opportunity to know where they can find you if you want to give us a couple of the key places where you can be found.
I am easy to find. Pick one of the following. Take action on it as soon as you get done reading here. I am on all the socials @NatalieSiston. My preferred hangouts are LinkedIn, which is how Tony and I met, Facebook and Instagram. The website is LetHerOut.com. It's your best stopping point to learn more about the book, to download those beautiful pieces that I talked about, and to find out where you can get your copy.
Thank you again for coming to the show. Thank you for the readers coming on the journey with us.
Thanks for having me.
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About Natalie Siston
Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people.
As a Certified Professional Coach, avid writer and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they feel like a small town.
She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.