Podcast Ep. 61 – Be True to You

Larry Olsen August 3, 2021


Tami Simon knew she wasn’t quite like everyone else from a young age, but instead of being fearful of that she let the path to authenticity be her guiding light. Now, decades later she has become the founder of a multimillion dollar multimedia company, called Sounds True. Along with creating an MBA program with LinkedIn to help the next generation of conscious business leaders bring their gifts to the world. Her tips to find success? Always follow what gets you excited, what makes you feel alive, and no matter what be true to you.


Larry Olsen: Welcome. I’m Larry Olsen, and what’s on your mind, once set, it delivers your life. To change the outcomes, we want we must change the plays we’re running. Join us at Mindset Playbook with Real people – Real talk – Real insight. 

Narrator: Today’s episode is sponsored by Aperneo, an Achievement Acceleration Company, whose approach to professional development enables clients to gain insights and perspectives to live, work and engage with more success.


Larry Olsen Well, I want to welcome everybody to mind set playbook and wherever you are and whatever’s going on in your life, thank you so much for giving us a little bit of your attention. And what we’ll do in return is make sure that we leave you with something that you can take action on immediately.


Larry Olsen [00:00:21] I want to welcome today a true pioneer in the power of the human spirit, Tami Simon. Tami is a founder of Sounds True. And I want all of you to pay attention to that and do yourself a favor and look into it. It’s one of the world’s leading wisdom-based multimedia companies whose mission is to wake up the world, Sounds True, publishes groundbreaking authors and teachers with topics ranging from mindfulness, neuroscience, psychology, trauma therapy and much, much more over its 35-year history. Sounds True has produced over 3,000 titles and has been included twice on the INC 500 list of the fastest growing companies.


Larry Olsen [00:01:10] Tami also hosts the popular Sounds True podcast, Insights at the Edge, which has been downloaded, now check this out, more than 20 million times. So who you’re about to listen to has been quite an influence in the lives of thousands. And you just arrived at the right time for this. She’s also founded the Inner MBA, a collaborative effort between Sounds True, LinkedIn, Wisdom 2.0, and Mindful NYU, to train the next generation of conscious business leaders by teaching them the inner skills required for success in today’s environment. And those of my listeners now you understand why I have been so blessed to have her on our show. Tammy, welcome to Mindset Playbook and thank you for investing your time with us today.


Tami Simon [00:02:06] Thank you, Larry. Thanks for the generous introduction.


Larry Olsen [00:02:09] You’re more than welcome. You know, I’d like to start us out by asking you what it was like starting a million-dollar multimedia company from scratch as a female founder back in the 80s.


Tami Simon [00:02:24] Sure, well, to begin with, at the time, it wasn’t a multi-million-dollar company, it was a glimmer in my eye and there I was. I was 21 and I, of course, I am in the body of a woman. But I didn’t lead with that inside. In my own mind, that wasn’t really part of my thing, of like, you know, you’re a woman, Tami, so that’s going to make it extra hard or that’s this or that. You know, I wasn’t even thinking about that. And maybe part of it is that I’ve always experienced myself from the inside out as a very androgynous person and somebody just to say it like it is who’s more of a soul leading with that inner strength and power inside of myself. So, I was coming from the inside out into the world. And really what I was looking for is, is there any way that what I care the most about could be offered usefully to other people such that over time I could, you could put it in fancy language, have a seat at the table, or I could just be a functional adult in the world who was making a living and could support myself. So that’s really where I was coming from. Thirty-six and a half years ago when I was 21 and Sounds True, came to me as a really vision of something I could do, disseminate spiritual wisdom.


Larry Olsen [00:04:00] And so let me ask you this. Where do you think that seed go planted in you, at that young age or was that seed already there? And it started to flourish to give you this insight and motivation to want to make that impact?


Tami Simon [00:04:20] Yeah, well, I wanted to help people. I wanted to be helpful. And I think, you know, for a lot of us, that’s actually a core of what’s inside of us, some combination of wanting to actualize our potential as individuals like, you know, I want to get to the end of my life and say I gave my gifts. And I think that’s very natural to us as human beings. I want to give my gifts. And then this other thing is I want to be of service. I want to help people. Those two drives were very alive in me. I also had in me the anguish of disappointing my family because I dropped out of college and I loved learning and quite honestly, I loved academics. But what I was interested in studying, which was really the inner life, the life of inner spiritual discovery, it wasn’t really welcomed back in the 1980s in the traditional world of academia. And so when I left the academic path that I was on, I had a lot of guilt about that and also a lot of concern that perhaps I. Couldn’t find a way to belong in the world, how could what I cared the most about learning? Which was learning about the psychology of meditation, learning about how do you inquire into a question like what happens when we die? Who can I talk to about that? Who can I learn from? Who will have a really interesting conversation with me about that topic? Because that’s actually what I care the most about. So, I was just looking for a way for all of that to come together and for me to be a functional adult. And that that’s really those were the roots, if you will, that gave birth to, Sounds True.


Larry Olsen [00:06:19] That’s fantastic. You know, you mentioned something earlier that I think is worth kind of diving into a little bit. And in the first question I asked is, I also included being a woman, starting this company, which ultimately became a multibillion-dollar company. And you mentioned that, that was never part of the equation for you. That was never part of it, that I am a woman, and because of that, there’s going to be these types of obstacles or all of those preconceived notions. You stated that you came from the inside where the power lies and the growth and the spirituality and the essence of who we are as opposed to letting the outside define you. Where did that awareness come from?


Tami Simon [00:07:07] Sure. Well, I think let’s just, you know, call it the way it is. Early on in my life, I realized that my sexual orientation was not a heterosexual orientation. I was attracted both, to people of the same sex and to people of the opposite sex, both. And I knew that my attraction to people of the same sex was, taboo. I knew that. I also knew it was real. For me, it was indisputable and that, you know, attractions like that attraction are not something you make up with your mind because you’re supposed to, is just you feel that inner call and desire. And so, I felt that, and I knew that that part of me was also good. And I was unwilling to ever accept that there was something inherently wrong with me as a result of that. That was and I was fortunate that I also grew up in a family that was mostly supportive. I mean, when I did finally come out to my parents, you know, I was 20 and my father was like, “I trust Tami” and my mother was concerned. So, it wasn’t this unconditional,” it’s great.” She was concerned. She was concerned that my life would be harder as a result.


[00:08:34] She was looking at the social acceptance. Yeah. Yeah. Taking care of her daughter.


Tami Simon [00:08:40] And so what gave me the confidence? You could say in my uniqueness as a person because it wasn’t just the sexual orientation. I also said and this was actually harder for me than coming out, being attracted to people of the same sex, what was even harder was that I wasn’t going to follow through on the academic dreams that my parents had. For me, that was wholly taboo. That was like taking everything they had sacrificed for me and saying, “hey, I’m not really interested. I’m going to follow my own inner drummer and it’s going to take me to Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal. And I’m going to pursue something like meditation.” And they were like, “what? What are you doing? What is going on?” And I think and I don’t really know why, but as a person, this notion of being true, being true to myself, you can say being true to my own inner integrity, even when it wasn’t the conventionally accepted path, I looked around me and what I saw was conventionally accepted, was actually not working, wasn’t working for the people in it, wasn’t working for the culture, the society. Why would I follow it? These people don’t look particularly happy. It’s not working for them. It’s not working for the Earth. Why would I do that? And it was like, oh, something different to live in me. Maybe I should trust that. [42.0s]


Larry Olsen [00:10:13] So what type of challenges did you find in in developing this company because of you coming from a, what is now much more accepted mindset, and that is that we need to take time for ourselves. We need to have a sense of purpose, you know, all of these kind of cliches that you were actually living in manifesting. What did you find that you had to overcome, not in changing direction, but in maybe changing minds?


Tami Simon [00:10:48] Sure. Well, I know I’m talking to an audience of people who are in business, to entrepreneurs and other people who are creating businesses. And I think if you’re creating a business, you will face every kind of challenge imaginable, if not every day of the week, three out of five days of the week. I mean, it’s just so challenging. People are challenging business models or challenging issues around technology, challenging, collaborating, getting people organized properly, being fair in your business dealings with other people so that they’re truly reciprocal, making sure that you’re understood and that you really understand other people creating a culture where everyone feels welcome and like they belong, and they can bring forward their best gifts. I mean, I could go on and on just, you know, the financing required to grow, what’s the right pace of growth. So many challenges.


[00:11:56] And, you know, the thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I actually like challenges. They’re interesting. What would it be like if there weren’t any challenges? I probably have to make something up. I’d have to make up like a puzzle or something that was really hard to solve because it brings forth. All the human skills that you have, it brings forth your creativity, it brings forth your teamwork with other people, so it taps your deepest capacities in order to solve these problems. And it even taps your deepest ethics to solve the problems in a way where at the end of the day, you feel good about you and how you did it and you feel good about your relationships, and you feel good about the way you’re leaving behind you in the world. So, I faced so many challenges and it’s still challenging.  


Larry Olsen [00:12:59] Yeah. Can I hug you?


Tami Simon [00:13:01] Yeah.


Larry Olsen [00:13:07] My life has been with that same attitude, you know, and what I find in working with organizations that are attempting to have that kind of attitude and engagement within a company where people actually are looking forward to coming to work, then this mindset while “you’re only going to Millennial for two or three years, you know, and why, why, why?” Why do you think they’re only going to stay that long? I mean, now they’re talking about off boarding. I mean, for crying out loud, you know. Well, let’s tell him how enticing it’s going to be to leave here. You talk about preconceived notions. You have this insatiable curiosity. But one thing I wanted to ask you is many people look at those challenges and because of conditioning, I believe in the amygdala, they take a fear approach to it, a fear response to it. And that can be really disabling. What do you share with people, because I saw your attitude was “it’s interesting”, I love challenges and other people see them as obstacles?


Tami Simon [00:14:12] Sure.


Larry Olsen [00:14:13] What’s the difference in the mindset? Sure. I mean, for you.


Tami Simon [00:14:17] Well, first of all, I feel fear. I see some of the challenges and I have a fear response. It’s not like I’m immune to that. However, I also have a courageous response to fear when it arises. So, I feel fear. Great. OK, now there wouldn’t be any courage if there wasn’t any fear. And courage is an incredible muscle to build. It’s like working out. You know, you build your courage, and you build your courage by walking through your fear and doing the courageous act that needs to get done, writing that courageous email and sending it off. And, you know, I do it all the time and it’s a little scary as I do it. And, yet what I found is it’s so gratifying and fulfilling and it builds a certain kind of character. I don’t know how else, how else to put it. And to be honest with you, it builds a certain kind of power when you walk through your fear and you do the thing that, you know needs to be done. It needs to be done for your community. It needs to be done for the health of your business and take it even further. It needs to be done for our world. You know, it needs to be done, scary as it is. And you do it that that builds something inside. [23.7s]


Larry Olsen [00:15:44] Yeah, I know whenever I face one of my fears, I mean, I know intellectually FEAR- Face Everything And Recover. You know, we intellectualize ourselves sometimes into not taking action. And why I’m so excited about what you’re sharing is every time we do go to the party or say “yes” to someone asking us to dance or saying yes to the job that we feel we’re underqualified for, we always feel great afterwards. I think it’s a real esteem building element, you called it personal power, which I totally agree with, but it seems like “fear” has gotten such a bad rap. You know, I know that from an evolutionary perspective, we’re all wired to survive, and we need to protect ourselves from some situations and events. But a lot of us don’t have the tools that you’re talking about to be able to see the “I’m going to be courageous about this”. Even though you experienced the fear. I thought that was powerful rather than I’ve overcome fear that. And so you gave everybody a great tip on how you approach that.


[00:17:00] What would you share with the ones that have really had to revisit their own lives through this pandemic and, you know, everything is kind of there’s no back to the, you know, back to normal, if you will. We don’t know what the new normal is. We’re going to create it, but we’re living our lives right now and, what would you suggest to our listeners to be able to maximize these opportunities that they have right now, what kind of an attitude do they need to have about that?


Tami Simon [00:17:33] Sure. Well, I think the starting point is. An interest in your own interests and what I mean by that is what’s actually alive in you, like you asked me, well, how did you trust what you know? And I said, well, it started when I saw that I was attracted to people that was alive in me and I trusted what’s alive in me. So, if you’re looking back at your old job and it’s just like dust, forget it. What are you looking at that has real life in it for you? Like, that’s exciting. I experienced myself feeling, you know, I sit up straighter, I have attention, I have energy. So that’s the first thing. And then second thing would be to trust your own aliveness because you’re getting messages about what you should be doing, who you should be doing it with, where you should be doing it, etc. And then after you’re like, “OK, I’m going to trust my aliveness”, then have a dialog and intelligent dialog with the universe and just pretend the universe has answers to all your questions. Just pretend it’s a pretend exercise. Just pretend and shut your eyes and ask whatever questions you might have and then listen for the answers and see what kind of answers you get and just have this kind of oh, I’m talking not only is this thing alive in me, but you’re ready for this. Everything’s alive, everything’s alive and in communication. So, there is all of this potential intelligence and future emerging future that’s in communication with that inner aliveness you found in yourself, and that dialog starts happening, and then it’s not just happening in imaginary space. It’s happening because you have an email in your inbox that’s reflecting that aliveness that you sat and contemplated and asked questions about. It’s someone that’s calling you on the phone. It’s a friend of a friend that you suddenly think to reach out to, and then so much happens and comes in that supports the expression of your aliveness.


Larry Olsen [00:19:53] Beautiful. So, what I hear you sharing is, understand the evidence. Understand where that email came from, you know, I mean, it’s kind of like taking responsibility that we are creating our outcomes.


Tami Simon [00:20:10] Well, and even if you don’t understand, go with it. Go with that. Even if it’s a little mysterious and you’re a creative part. It’s not like all up to you. Like you’re creating everything. You’re a creative part. You have an aliveness in you and so is the entire world that’s in dialog with you all of the time. If you imagine like a huge web or net, anything that’s happening in a part, it’s happening, another part communicating. So get interested, pay attention, follow the life, even if it’s mysterious, even if you don’t understand it, where is the energy flowing. And go with that. Go with that and watch how you then become magnetic to other people. And people like what’s going on with that person. They seem sort of like happy in themselves and, you know, comfortable in their skin. And they’ve got lots of interesting things to talk about that they’re interested in. I think maybe I’ll ask them if they want to be part of this project. I’m starting on, blah, blah, whatever. You become so magnetic to other people because everybody wants that. Everybody wants that sort of authentic flow through us as vessels. People want to be part of that. 


Larry Olsen [00:21:31] Your success, would you say that was through collaboration, what happened with this company taking off and three thousand different titles and on and on and on. What would you think the contributing factor was to that?


Tami Simon [00:21:52] I really think there’s two big contributing factors, the biggest and then maybe some other smaller, but the two biggest factors are grace and perseverance. So, there’s some element of grace. I don’t understand it, but I feel lucky and blessed as a as a person. The persevering part is also true. I, I work tremendously hard. I have my own you know; I got my lists here and my lists here. I’m just saying to you, Larry and I have another set of my lists, and this is thirty-six years. Those little boxes or all the things I said I was going to do that I did, and so, you know, there’s this grace and perseverance coming together. I think the other element to expand on it is that I really like being part of the team. I love being part of the team, and I like being part of a team where other people also like being part of the team. So, I want us to be a happy team. I want it to be a team where other people feel energized, where, you know, if you’re a sports team, where everybody is, gung-ho when we get together on the court and they’re playing all out. So, I think that’s the other factor. And I’ve done a lot of inner work on myself and development through my life to be a really good teammate to other people. Because, you know, I think I was kind of playing my own game at first. And it took a lot of human development to figure out how I could be the most functional to bring out the best in other people on the team.


Larry Olsen [00:23:33] Beautiful. Thank you for that. You know, I sometimes use the example of the transition from the five-year-old to the adult. At five, when somebody knocks on your door and you open it up and they say, hey, do you want to come out and play? Yeah. You know, as you get older, what kind of play are you talking about? How long is it going to take? You know, is there money and money involved and all of this kind of suspicion that we learn? And as I’m listening to you, I am saying to myself, you know, Tami, I’d like to play. I mean, I’m really getting off on your energy. I mean, it is like you say, it’s contagious and kudos to you on the self-awareness and going through the work that it takes to overcome some of these beliefs that we’ve had established in us that some of them we didn’t even agree with. But yet, we tried to follow. And that’s where I saw you say in your job becomes dust, you know, it’s just a paycheck. It’s no longer vibrant and vital. And you also have offerings and even an MBA program where people who are listening now and want to become a part of this infectious life that you live, can go, can you share a little bit about that with us.


Tami Simon [00:25:09] Well, just to first make a comment, Larry, we can play and be friends for a long time to come, and what I really appreciate is your sincerity. And, you know, all of us are different. We express our true nature and our true qualities in different ways. It looks different for each of us. I think what we feel drawn to in people is when we can feel that it’s true. It’s true in them. They’re not bullshitting us. Just to put it right there, you know, they’re being real with us. I think that’s the thing we really want for both in ourselves and in connecting with other people.  And Sounds True, started a program called the Inner MBA, which is a nine-month online immersion training program.


[00:26:00] We started it in partnership with LinkedIn and a gentleman named Scott Shute, who’s the head of mindfulness and compassion training for LinkedIn. And then Wisdom 2.0, which is an organization that’s out in the Bay Area that’s brought together conversations around wisdom, technology, and culture change in partnership with the division of NYU called Mindful NYU. And the goal is to train people how they, themselves can grow such that, their businesses can grow. And I think any of us in a leadership position can recognize at a certain point that we ourselves have become a ceiling type of obstacle to the further maturation and expansion of our business. And nobody wants that yet. We need to grow as individuals so our companies can keep flourishing. And we designed our program to address that growth imperative, in three different trimesters. The first one’s all about you and it’s growing in your mindfulness and awareness such that you no longer are tied in with every thought and emotion that comes up. But you have a bigger sky like mind, like the open sky, where thoughts and emotions and reactivity and triggers that come up. But you’re not identified with them anymore. And when you’re not identified with them anymore, you’re not as reactive. And believe me, you become a much more joyous person to work with when you can just kind of let it go and see. Well, that was an idea. It came, it left, nobody picked up on it. That’s OK. I’m not my idea. I’m a sky that had an idea come and go that nobody seemed to like. OK, let’s move on that kind of innocuous example. But how about my emotion of frustration? Can I let that go? So that’s the first trimester then in the second trimester, it’s all about interpersonal skills. Can we deeply listen to other people? Can we have the kind of difficult conversations we need to have where we can be kind and direct and share what’s really going on for us, the real problems we need to solve at work? So the second trimester is all about these essential keys for collaboration and then the final trimester has to do with when we’ve come in touch with our true heart’s values, do all the work that we’ve done on ourselves, how do we make sure that that’s baked in to every part of our organization and to have a courageous attitude that will look at the areas of incongruence, see and address them like, no, this doesn’t reflect what my real values are. There’s something I inherited. I inherited this from an old corporate mindset that actually doesn’t reflect my values. I’m going to think about it differently and reinvent how this organization approaches things.


Larry Olsen [00:29:21] Wow. Wow. So how does somebody go about getting involved.


Tami Simon [00:29:26] We’d love for people to join us for our second cohort of the Inner MBA. It starts in the middle of September, and you can go to InnerMBAprogram.com. And there’s a place there where you can learn more and apply to be part of the program if you’re interested.


Larry Olsen [00:29:43] OK, and those of you didn’t get a chance to write that down, we’ll have that included, in the podcast description. I just can’t tell you how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to share your spirit, to feel your soul, to, you know, to feel so good, because it’s nice when there aren’t there aren’t obstacles that we’ve created for ourselves that there’s obstacles that together we can overcome. I just want to give kudos to you for all the work you’ve done, because I’m not saying you weren’t there when you popped out of the womb, but…..


Tami Simon [00:30:34] I wasn’t there, you know. I mean, I had some difficult, personal, intimate relationship work to do in my 20s and 30s. And when I met the woman who’s now my wife at 39, I learned so much about how to be a good partner in relationship. And it’s those learnings that I then took into. “Oh, that’s what the team’s been asking me for, too.” That’s what they want. They want me to stop interrupting, OK? Just like she’s asking for. And I was finally ready to learn about what partnership meant and then not just one on one partnership, but what it really takes to be, you know, not just some, you know, terrific spokesperson and out their leader. And, you know, but this is what it takes to really let people know you care about them. If you do, how do you communicate that regularly and often and appreciate people and make space for them and let them lead. So, all of that stuff, those were skills and capacities that I had to intentionally develop.


Larry Olsen [00:31:46] Well, you’ve hit a nerve with me as to one of the most essential elements in any relationship is the ability to listen. And we all get so caught up in listening for a response that we’re going to make when the person pauses and I’m guilty of that because I think my question is going to be so much more revealing and I find myself not listening while I’m listening to me get ready to answer. What suggestion would you make to all of us? And I’m coming from a very selfish perspective for myself to be the trigger that. I know that everybody has a story and I want to hear their story. But I need to get out of my own way and become a better listener. What would be a suggestion from you?


Tami Simon [00:32:36] Yeah, it was actually a really deep question. There’s a lot to say about it. But the first part is to recognize that listening is a gift, OK? It is a huge gift that you give someone. Huge. So, if you want to give someone a gift, if you care about them, you’re like, I love that person, I care about that person or anybody you encounter. And you’re like, I want to give them a gift, give them a gift of your full presence, your full alert, empty, open, receptive presence. It’s like giving them the medicine that their heart and their being longs for just they’re just listening, just really listening to them. And then I think you can also do some things to stay embodied. So let yourself feel heavy in your chair. Let your feet feel flat on the ground. Let tension melt from your body so that you stay receptive. So you’re not leading with your own thing, but you stay open, receptive, receiving, so those are just a couple suggestions. But I think the core of it is wanting to give the gift of your full presence to another person, really one of the most precious gifts we each have free to give to anyone every day.


Larry Olsen [00:34:05] Well, you’re one of the most precious gifts that’s been given to all of us, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you to you have touched me, and I’m sure you’ve touched our listeners with the energy that you’ve shared, the presence that you’ve offered and the transparency. I thank you for the time you’ve taken, and I’m looking forward to all our listeners having the opportunity to be blessed by this podcast as well. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Tami Simon [00:34:45] Thanks, Larry. Thank you so, so much.


Larry Olsen [00:34:55] You’re so welcome in this world. Thank you. Thank you. I want to thank all of our listeners as well. And I know you’re anxious to find out more about Tami and the work that she’s doing and how to get involved so we’ll have all of that available for you. And what would you like to leave as final sharing for our listens, Tami, before we sign off?


Tami Simon [00:35:21] Be true, be true to you. Do that. Be true to you.


Larry Olsen [00:35:24] All right. “Be true to you”. Well, thank you again. And thank you, listeners, and remember, wherever you happen to be, whoever you’re with, you’re exactly where you need to be right now. So come from love. Make the right choice and just watch the evidence keeping you on track. So, thank you again. And we look forward to to our next opportunity. Take care.


Narrator: Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we ask that you please subscribe and share with your friends and associates.  Larry’s next guest, Susan Houde, is a make-it-happen person who gets results for her clients by her quest to grow and develop herself, while continuing to deliver remarkable work. Learn what it means to approach life with no preconceived notions and the importance of challenging the solution when you’re looking for the ultimate solution everyone can agree with. 



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