Bringing Spirituality To Business and The Karma of Success
Bringing Spirituality To Business and The Karma of Success

"I think it’s about placing our order with the universe so that we put that power behind the intention of our voice." 

- Liz Tran

This week, Elizabeth welcomes Liz Tran, an Executive Coach renowned for her work with CEOs and founders in the tech world, whose clients have collectively raised over $400 million in funding and achieved a remarkable $4 billion in enterprise value. Liz wears multiple hats as an author, with her book 'The Karma of Success,' and as the host of 'Reset with Liz' podcast. Beyond her extensive experience in venture capital and tech, Liz brings a unique spiritual dimension to her coaching. Liz talks with Elizabeth about her own personal journey to spirituality and how it shapes her role as an executive coach. She also unveils the techniques she uses to empower her clients to manifest and lead their best lives including getting still, visualization, and the regular practice of gratitude lists to reprogram the mind for attracting positive outcomes. At the end of the episode, Liz shares a few of her own favorite wellness habits that keep her energized, grounded and ready for the next adventure.


    Elizabeth Stein 0:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey.

    This week's guest is Liz Tran, an executive coach to CEOs and founders of tech companies. Altogether her clients have raised over $400 million in funding and created $4 billion in enterprise value. She's also the author of The Karma of Success and host of the podcast Reset with Liz. In addition to her experience in venture capital and tech, she is also a trained meditation teacher and Reiki master and studied yoga at the Samyak Ashram. In this episode, Liz shares her personal journey to spirituality and its role in her success as an executive coach. We discuss the many ways Liz works with clients to live their best lives, like her process for manifestation, which includes visualization, self-gratitude, and a regular gratitude list to reprogram the brain to attract positive outcomes and practice confidence to improve performance. Lastly, we talked about the importance of utilizing downtime for clarity and creativity, strategies to help overcome fear and doubt, and the importance of maintaining a high energy level for optimal performance and well-being. There were so many great tips in this episode.

    Keep listening to learn more.

    Liz, welcome to the podcast. It's such a pleasure to meet you. And I can't wait for our conversation today.

    Liz Tran 1:45
    Thank you for having me.

    Elizabeth Stein 1:47
    So we'd love to start with your journey and what inspired you to become an executive coach. I know that wasn't always what your path was. What led you there? And how are you enjoying it?

    Liz Tran 2:01
    I'm 38 right now and I didn't even know that executive coaching was a thing. I didn't know it was a job until I was probably 31. As soon as I heard it, I thought that's what I wanted to do with my life. But it's funny when you're deciding what you want when you're younger, or what suite of possibilities are open to you. I had a limited viewpoint. And my mom was an immigrant from Vietnam. And it was always this idea that being a lawyer or a doctor would be prestigious. I thought that my whole life because I only had this very narrow sliver of what I thought I could do. I tried to go to law school and did not succeed. I was a little heartbroken about that and on a whim, moved to New York, when I was 23. I wound up falling into the tech world. The thought line there was I was always interested in what people were motivated by, what they cared about, and what made them passionate about their work. And that expressed itself in being a recruiter for some time. I thought I was good at that I was helping people connect to the right jobs, and getting the right people to join the organizations I worked for. Then I became a consultant working largely in talent and HR. Then from there, that took me to working in venture capital, where I became a talent-focused executive at one of the world's top venture capital firms. And while all those jobs were at different levels and they were doing different things, some were very tactical, some were much more cerebral, they all have this one through the line. I cared about what made people passionate, and what could help them live up to their greatest potential. As soon as I thought about coaching, started researching it, and studying to be a coach, I thought this was exactly it. Every one of my clients is so different. It is such a joy in life to be able to understand them on such a deep level and then come up with a bespoke program and way of supporting them that is unique to them. In the book that I wrote The Karma of Success, I thought coaching was inaccessible for most people. I didn't even know it existed. Could I write a book that could help people dig inward? There are a lot of people reading this book. But could this book tailored to every reader in some way that encourages them to look inward and say what are my gifts? What are my passions? What are my motivations? All the same, questions I asked my clients I wish someone had asked me 15 years ago are what I was hoping to do with this book.

    Elizabeth Stein 4:46
    It's so exciting. Congratulations again on the book. It is such a great toolkit for unpacking, as you said, like having those moments of reflection and asking those questions. And helping people to live their best life and try to go for something in life that they want because we only have one of them. And it's so easy to be on auto mode and not stop to ask those questions. And that's what a great coach does and what this book can also help people to do. Before we unpack the book, would love to hear a little bit more about how you work with clients. And for people who don't know, what's an executive coach. You didn't know what that was. A lot of people probably don't know what that is. Can you go into more detail about what is an executive coach? What does that look like? And how do you work with some of your clients?

    Liz Tran 5:42
    Yeah, definitely. I work with a very specific niche of clients. I work with CEOs and founders of venture capital-backed companies. These are companies that are usually growing pretty quickly. I see my clients either once a week, or once every other week for one hour. I coach them for as long as they want to be coached. For some of my clients, that means I've been working with them for three or more years, but for most of them, it's been on the magnitude of years. We work on three aspects. And the first one is just helping them be effective day to day, that can be as tactical as looking at their calendar and taking things off of their calendar and saying, “Are you sure you should be in this meeting? Does this make sense? Why don't we move your ones around?” Looking at their sleep patterns, how they are moving their bodies, whether or not they're focused and prioritizing the right things. That is just the bucket of are you the most effective version of yourself every day? We all know the difference between when we're feeling good, we're taking care of ourselves versus when we're just slogging through the work. The second piece is acute issues that pop up. A lot of it is I have to have a tough conversation with an employee, or I'm coming up to a board meeting that might be challenging, or I'm experiencing some type of disappointment. These are real-time issues, that just happened that week that we talked about, and we try to unpack and work through a solution. The final piece of it is zooming out and looking at the big picture. When we're busy, there's always a to-do list. As soon as it's done, there's the next to-do list, and so on. We don't stop to reflect and think about what well, what we could do better. So I'm this person who can say every quarter at the end of the year, let's do this reflection exercise. Let's see what the learnings are. Let's slow down a little bit and take everything that you're learning and see how you're changing and growing. And I call that the ontological side of the house. The three pieces are just day-to-day personal effectiveness, acute issues that pop up, and finally, the long-term, long arc growth of the person. How I work is generally I'm an employee or non-employee, but the client is the CEO, that person. But I have a relationship with the company that they work for. So my job is to make sure they're effective and get the metrics and the company goals done. Other career coaches do it a little bit differently. Some people work on a six to six-month program with their clients. Other people might say I focus on career transitions. I have a good friend who does that, and she helps executives think about the next thing that they want to do. She'll sign a three or six-month contract to help them figure that out. Some people focus on specific niches like engineers or sales, and I work with executives of all types, but generally, they're in a position where the company is probably growing faster than they are comfortable with. So I'm there to push them and accelerate that personal journey.

    Elizabeth Stein 8:55
    I love that. It's so important to have a coach for anybody to hold us accountable and for that personal and professional growth. We've done it for the last two years. We've had an executive coach within purely Elizabeth that everybody in the company utilizes. Not everyone has one but we've divided it where there are group sessions and then ad hoc one on ones. But to me, it's just been so important to have that personal growth and accountability and somebody to turn to that a lot of these conversations, you wouldn't take the time to turn to somebody in your close circle or be able to have that conversation until obviously having someone with experience to guide you. What resonated a lot in your work is the blend of spirituality into it, which I would love for you to dive into, and what your background was. How did you start to blend spirituality into this work? Because there are certainly some coaches out there who could be taking a more traditional look at it. And your approach is resonating with a lot of people today.

    Liz Tran 10:15
    Yeah, absolutely. I originally came to spirituality, because I was having a little bit of a life crisis. I got married in my 20s. And by the time I was 30, we were getting divorced. We had just grown in different directions as people. I had quit this job that I thought I wanted but didn't love and had spent a year traveling. I saved up some money and traveled. During that time, I wound up staying at an ashram in India and going to different monasteries across Burma, Japan, and Thailand, reading a lot about meditation. When I got back to New York, I started going to a weekly meditation group in the city. I remember I was there on a Friday night, and the teacher was like, “Listen, no one comes here unless they're having some issues in life.” Let's just acknowledge that. It's true. Things are going well, you're not there on a Friday night watching Buddhist movies with thirty strangers. But it was this solution for all these questions that I had why had my life taken this unexpected detour? How did I deal with this disappointment, the sense of failure? It was interesting because I was using spirituality to grapple with a lot of the questions in my personal life. It was very soothing to learn about Buddhism and detachment from the idea that life has 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Many principles and practices helped me find peace in all this turmoil. And while that was happening, my career was also taking off. Because of those spiritual practices, I was showing up in a way, where I was very clear-headed, very calm, and able to take on a lot. It was literally during this exact time, that I got this dream job step forward, where I got hired by this venture capital firm. They took a little bit of a risk on me, I didn't have the best pedigree or the best background, and I worked with all these people who went to Harvard Business School and graduated top of their class. I wound up excelling there. Within a year or two, I was promoted to be the only female executive who was doing well and had a big team that I was managing. I attributed so much of that to these behind-the-scenes, spiritual practices of me, being able to be grounded, clear, and confident in myself. I could show up every day and not have this anxiety that was holding me back. When I became an executive coach, I realized that it's the same for the people I work with where, yeah, it's work, right? Like we have work-life balance, you’d probably resonate with this, when you've started your own business, that line becomes a little foggier because you've put so much of who you are into your work. So when work is going well, you feel good about yourself as a person. But when it's not, you could feel bad about yourself as a person. So I started teaching my clients some of these tools to help them detach a little bit, detachment in Buddhism, to be able to see their work more clearly to not feel pulled into the ups and downs, dragged around ups and downs and to experience those inevitable ups and downs of starting a business, but to not feel them so emotionally. With my clients, I meet them where they are. Some people may not be open to the language of spirituality, but I will share Zen parables and stories from Buddhism. I will have them practice breathing exercises, or I might even just ask them questions down a line of thinking that gets them thinking more expansively. Then others are interested and they might say, “Liz, teach me how to meditate.” Teaching meditation was also working at this venture capital firm. Some might even say, “What's going on astrologically right now? Can you fill me in on it?” I don't force it on anyone, but I am there and very receptive. If they have questions that cannot be answered by what's seen in a coaching methodology book, or some business school case study. Honestly, that's a lot of what we deal with. Sometimes there are black-and-white answers. And most of the time, there are not. There's no way to find the right answer besides looking inward and then tuning into our intuition. Because no one's figured out that problem before.

    Elizabeth Stein 14:52
    You talked about tuning in and tuning into your intuition. In the book, you certainly start with that inquiring inward and that work that you do. So if you could talk a little bit about what that looks like, how do we set this foundation for freeing our inner genius and feeling like our absolute best in our life?

    Liz Tran 15:16
    Yeah. The first thing I want to say is that it's not easy in this world that we live in. It's very noisy. So our phones are always going off, we have a million emails to respond to you. The work is very simple. It's just about getting more of what I call the three S's which are silence, stillness, and solitude. This does not mean that you need to become a monk and just meditate on a mountaintop by yourself. But having these short moments throughout the day, where your inner genius and your intuition can come through, and you can hear it. We've all had this experience. This happens to me all the time when I'm walking with my dog. Walking with my dog, and suddenly an idea for a chapter came into my mind. Or I'm out hiking somewhere in nature and I suddenly get a ping to call a friend. And when I call her, she says, “Oh, my gosh, I was just thinking about you, I was about to call you.” Or I've been wrestling with a business problem that a client is going through. I don't have the answer. But I'm in the shower, and suddenly the idea pops into my head. And it's these little aha, or eureka moments that can only come in when it's not too busy. It’s a little quiet, and we can hear them. The work is all about creating those spaces for that magic, those insights, and that revelation to come in and pick your activity. Everyone's different. It could be over breakfast. I love having just tea, and a quiet breakfast where I don't have my phone. My husband's not there, no one's bothering me. And I can just look at my breakfast and eat and just allow whatever thoughts want to come through to come through. Some people do it through more formal meditation, and some people do it through movement, like yoga practice or exercise. Whatever those moments are getting to know when that space between your intuition and your consciousness feels thin. My favorite anecdote is Albert Einstein used to do this when he would sit in a rocking chair whenever he had a problem that he scientifically didn't know how to solve. And he would allow himself to drift off to sleep and say, “I'm gonna sit down, take a nap.” And he would hold these balls in his hands. And right when he was about to fall asleep, his hands would go limp, the balls would drop to the ground, waking him up with a noise. And he would spring up and write down whatever it was that he was thinking. Just so cool. He also went on long walks, slept for nine hours a night, he played musical instruments in the middle of the day. He did all of those things in service of knowing that was how he could open up the aperture of his imagination, creativity, and problem-solving. I always encourage everyone, my clients, to find those activities and to identify the areas in life where they most strongly hear that intuitive voice come through because we all have it. I'm willing to bet that anyone who's listening to this can think about a time when they had that insight, or they knew something right away and it happened during downtime.

    Elizabeth Stein 18:27
    100%. And it's so easy for us. We were talking earlier about walking our dogs this morning. And it's so easy to be multitasking. Most days, I'm walking my dogs and I'm listening to a podcast at the same time, or I'm using that time and making a phone call. After reading your book, I've been trying to be more conscious about having those moments. So instead of always having to layer on activity on top of activity, go on the walk without your Airpods, without something else to do, and have those moments of silence.

    Liz Tran 19:03
    That's so beautiful. For whatever reason, I think, the exercise of walking does open up those channels. And it must be because the conscious brain is distracted with doing something like making sure we put one foot in front of the other and don't fall into a hole. That's just on autopilot, so the subconscious brain can take priority.

    Elizabeth Stein 19:26
    Yeah. A big piece of your work is around creating a life that you want and feeling your best in it and that comes to manifesting. We'd love to talk about some of your favorite tools to manifest. I'm a firm believer in manifesting. So much of Purely Elizabeth has been born through different phases of manifestation, so I've seen it unfold in front of me. Would love for you to talk about some of your favorite tools.

    Liz Tran 20:00
    I love Manifestation as well, it's so cool. This is just a little funny story. My friend is a founder named Piera Gelardi, she started this company called Refinery29. Now she runs a company called Wild Things World. She threw this workshop that was about making a vision board for the new year. I invited my clients to come, and my client was just cutting things out and putting them on the page. Then she just texted me nine months later. So, it was around this time. She sent me a picture of her vision board that she had made in January. Then she sent me a picture of a cat that she wound up just spontaneously adopting, who has changed her life and been miraculous. The picture of the cat and this surprise cat that came into her life were the same. She hadn't even planned it. She just found the vision board when she was cleaning up her apartment to move. We are so skilled at it. And the explanation that I like to come to is, one because I'm always dealing with like my business side and my spiritual side, my business side explanation is that when we believe that something is possible, then we take all the steps to go after it. An example is how professional athletes do this. Michael Phelps, before he swims any race, visualizes winning it 100 times in his mind. So when he shows up, he already feels like he's won it. He can show up with calm, excitement, and confidence. We're doing the same thing when we try to manifest. We're familiarizing ourselves with this prospect. So when it comes to us, we don't push it away. We don't self-sabotage. We say, I'm worth this, I deserve this. Then the spiritual part of me, says the universe is always answering our wishes. But we don't ask for them. Sometimes I ask my clients what it is that their goal is or what they want. And they're like, “One day, maybe I would like to sell this company. Maybe I'd like to make some money.” I'm like, “How much? When? To whom?” It's about placing our order with the universe so that we put that power behind the intention of our voice, and how we do that. However, we want to do that, whether it's writing, or saying it aloud. My process for manifestation is first to set your vision and repeat it over and over again. For some people, that means looking at a vision board. I'm a little bit more verbal and written words. So I write my vision down on a piece of paper, and I reread it all the time. I think about this vision, I imagine myself doing it, and I share it with friends.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:52
    Is it usually like one vision that you're writing down? Is it multiple visions?

    Liz Tran 22:56
    Yeah, it's usually where I want to be in life at a specific period. It can be anywhere from like a year from now to five years. One example that I had from a while ago was when I was at a meditation retreat, that was very beautiful and inspiring. I wrote down that I wanted to have a place like that of my own one day that was in the country, had a walking labyrinth, had gardens, had multiple small buildings where people could stay when I could host them on retreat, had a secret passageway and a library. I wrote this at a time when I was unemployed. I was just recently divorced, and I had no stability to be able to accomplish this dream. Seven years later, I moved into the house where I live now. I looked through this old journal, and it had that list of everything it wanted. I looked around and I was like, I have a secret passageway. I have a library. It just totally happened by accident. I looked at the name that I had written seven years earlier of the place. I said I'm going to call this place the uplands. I wound up in that period, meeting the person who would become my husband. It turns out that he grew up in a small neighborhood in Canada, called the Uplands.

    Elizabeth Stein 24:14
    Wow, that's incredible.

    Liz Tran 24:17
    It was this power of intention. I'd even forgotten about it. Other times, I'll work with a vision that I'm actively working with all the time because I have some block around it. I write about this a little bit in the book, but I tried to get pregnant for three years and did all sorts of fertility treatments and it didn't work and no one could figure out why. I think I had a lot of baggage around trying to get pregnant for various reasons just the way I was brought up in my life. I wrote a vision that was described as walking around my orchard barefoot being pregnant, and allowing this pregnancy to remind me of my health and my well-being during a very busy time of my book launch. I wrote this vision back in November of last year. I kept reading it to myself over and over again. And then it turns out in April, I found out I was pregnant. And I was walking around my orchard barefoot. And I was like working on my book launch, which was happening in July. And I remember thinking, wow, this is so nice that I have this baby inside of me to keep me on my healthy habits instead of having too many glasses of wine or staying up too late at night. There are things where in the first instance, I put it out to the universe. And the second instance, it helped me intentionally break through a block I had of being able to see myself as a mother.

    Elizabeth Stein 25:47
    That's so beautiful. That's incredible. So when you think about working through this process, using visualization, what are some of the other tools for writing down the vision that you suggest for people to do to manifest what they wish?

    Liz Tran 26:07
    Definitely. The vision part is about being clear about what you want. The second piece is about believing that you're good enough to deserve it. And that's the harder part, that was the hard part for me with being a mother. I didn't know if I deserved it. It felt like maybe I wanted to be a good mom. There was a lot of stuff that came in. Part of it is about rebuilding our confidence to believe that we can. This is a very simple tool, and it is about writing down three things that you did well every day, I call it your self-gratitude list. The reason why that's so impactful is that we have a negativity bias. All humans do, where the bad things that we do, where we mess up, or we have disappointment, the brain creates that as a memory immediately. It automatically inputs, everything that we've done wrong and saves it. But when it comes to the things that we do well, the number varies, some people say seven seconds, and some people say 20 seconds. But regardless, it's a very long time, where you have to purposely focus on something you did well for it to imprint as a memory. So they say the brain is like Velcro for remembering your shortcomings, and Teflon for remembering your assets and your strengths. This self-gratitude list is a way of reprogramming the brain, where you notice the things that you do well, three things every day. They can be as simple as you were kind to someone, or you solved a problem, or you even just got through all your emails, you woke up on time. Then you start to teach yourself that, you are a worthwhile person. And yes, you can do this thing that you want and you deserve it. To me, the exercise is simple but powerful. Because when my clients start doing it, they have a hard time coming up with three things they did well that day. And these are people who are highly accomplished. We all have three things. I woke up this morning, I made myself a good breakfast, and we did the dishes. That is good enough for me. We start to become not only gentler with ourselves but our own biggest cheerleaders. Then you create these synapses in the brain that start to look out for things that we do well because you're training the brain after several days to know that you have to do this at the end of the day, you have to write those three things. So, you start to spot them. First is vision. The second is self-gratitude. And the third is straight-up regular gratitude. Three things that you have in your life. And the reason why this is so important is because when we're trying to manifest, it's this energy of I want, I want, I want. And it's great. You want to go towards what you have. But we also have to balance that with this energy of I have already, I have. It's like, I want this, but recognizing that we already have enough is so important. I call this bouncing your pleas and thank yous. You say to the universe, “Please, I want to manifest this cool.” But you also want to tell the universe, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for what you've already given me.” My favorite anecdote is that Oprah kept a gratitude list for 10 straight years every single day without fail. And this was when her career was just skyrocketing. Even when she was getting what she wanted, she didn't stop. She kept going. It kept this positive flywheel going where the more good things happened to her, the more she would feel grateful for them. That gratitude would open the door for even more goodness to come into her life. It's keeping ourselves in the mindset that the universe is generous and is here to support us is super helpful, because the law of attraction says, whatever we believe is what we receive. And so that gratitude list is keeping us in that very receptive state.

    Elizabeth Stein 30:00
    Interestingly, you talk about the confidence piece because I feel like the times in my life particularly about the business where I've been able to like manifest the biggest pieces of the business have been times that I connect with feeling the most confident in my life. It's interesting how that plays a part in going after what we want. One of the things I want to think about is, to manifest, you have to sit down and have a vision for something grand, an unpredictable future that feels like it's not easy to attain. But it's hard for people in our day-to-day life, I think, to take that time. All of a sudden, we're so busy that we never sit down to be able to figure out the thing that we wanted to accomplish. How do you help people to take that time and put together that greater, grander vision for their future?

    Liz Tran 31:08
    It starts with just the smallest moments. Whenever I have a client who's doing anything, like about to have a conversation with one of their employees or to go ask an investor for help on something, or even have a conversation with their partner that feels a little challenging, I always ask the question, what does the ideal outcome look like? It's so funny because we often enter into everything we do in life without knowing what we want as the ideal outcome. So they're like, “Oh, interesting, I guess this ideal outcome, then I expressed myself well on this employee hears me. And then we agree to severance terms”, something like that. If you start to do that with small things, even in the morning, when you wake up and you go do a yoga class are go to walk, you say, okay, what would the ideal outcome for this wal

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