Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose. She left her dream career to help people quit their dead-end jobs, find careers that feel like home, and start businesses that make a difference.
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3 Key Points:
- Find a career that is able to make the impact that you desire.
- Passion should NOT be the main driving factor when choosing a career path, but, PURPOSE.
- Finding a business partner can add a fun element to your work.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:08] – Laura started out as an actor and pursued this career path for a decade; she then became an entrepreneur who helps people find careers which make a difference and are a reprieve from dead-end jobs
- [03:04] – Area of Expertise: Giving people a HOLISTIC view of their life and career: Laura helps people find careers that are financially rewarding and can help them build the life that they want
- [03:28] – You are a failure if you do not take into account the life that you wish to build, and instead focus solely on the rat race and the corporate ladder
- [03:52] – Laura does not believe in the theory of following your passion—instead, she urges you to ask yourself, “What kind of impact do you wish to have?” in and through your career
- [04:40] – Adding VALUE to your career: Laura rationalizes that if passion is not the main driving factor in business, business leaders should ask themselves what kind of impact they wish to make through their business
- [05:22] – Questions that normally plague business leaders are easier to answer if you start from this vantage point
- [05:51] – If business leaders are not happy with the impact they are making, then they should reevaluate and readjust to renew their purpose
- [06:15] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Laura spent years cultivating her acting career. She was in the middle of an acting job when she realized that her work did not make anyone’s life better. Moreover, she also had the startling realization that her work failed to make her own life better.
- [08:28] – Laura found it difficult to let go of her acting career since her identity was conjoined with her career – she found it difficult to let go of something that she had sacrificed everything for
- [09:26] – You need to ask yourself what you really want to do with your life; be bold and take the plunge
- [11:48] – Greatest AH-HA Moment: Partnering up with Michelle Ward to help people find meaningful careers. Entrepreneurship is lonely; joining forces with someone adds a fun dimension
- [11:50] – Success in business might be easier than you think it is
- [12:31] – What are you most FIRED up about right now? – “Michelle and I are getting ready to launch into another round of our course, 90 Day Business Launch”
- [13:39] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “A big thing that held me back from getting into this career when I was leaving acting was that identity shift from, ‘This is who I am, this is what I do’. Being able to see myself in a new light and just be the person that I had to be to do this kind of work”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you think is right.”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I think about death a lot. I don’t know when my time runs out. I don’t know if I have 40 years or 40 minutes. That kind of urgency of, ‘This is it, better make the most of it’ – that keeps me going.”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Freckle
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- [16:49] – Find Laura through her website
- [16:57] – Her parting advice is when you make a decision in business or in life, ask yourself, “What matters most?”
Laura: Yeah, let’s burn it up.
John: Yes. Laura’s an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose. She left her dream career to help people quit their dead-end jobs, find careers that feel like home, and start businesses that make a difference.
Laura, take a minute and fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Laura: Yeah, so today, I’m a mom. I’ve got a hilarious 3 year old son. I’m gonna be celebrating my ten year wedding anniversary this year. And I guess for me to be able to sit in my home office and talk about the work that I do and the family that I have is such a far cry from where I thought I might be several years ago.
I used to be an actor, and I was in that career for about a decade, and really, really loved it until I didn’t. And when I hit that point of, okay, what comes next, it was just a big career crisis, is really the best way to describe it. And I was worried that I will never have a job where I can have time to raise a kid, or I’ll never be able to do something that feels like it’s really in line with who I am and makes a difference.
So, I was able to find my way into that, and that’s what I help people do now.
John: So cool. And were you in anything that we might have seen?
Laura: Maybe. An episode of Criminal Minds –
Laura: A couple other little costars on television you might have seen.
John: Now, I do have a question. This is kinda super off topic but I feel like I need to know this before I make a fool of myself, and whatever. So, I heard you refer to yourself as an “actor,” and of course, there’s also, like, “actresses.” So, how does that work? Like, it’s not male and female, like actors are male and actress is a female? What’s the deal with that?
Laura: No, it is. I mean it’s just, I just kinda say actor as a gender neutral thing. I think a lot of times though, the word “actress,” it just sounds – I mean, it’s intended to –
John: Like, “I’m an actress.”
Laura: “Oh, I’m an actress and I just – ,” Like, “I have my own perfume line and I walk the red carpet,” and for most actors or actresses, that’s not – that kind of side of thing is not why people get into at all. You know, it’s much more about the work and creating stories and connecting with an audience. So, for me, just using the term “actor,” it just feels more grounded.
John: Cool. Well, that I know, I probably won’t make a fool of myself in the future, so thank you. I’m not sure how I would have, but I would have said something stupid at some point.
But Laura, let’s talk about what you consider today your area of expertise? What is that?
Laura: Yeah. So, I work with people to help them find the meaningful work that’s right for them, whether that is going and getting a j-o-b and being an employee, or starting a business that’s going to, um, let them contribute, support them financially, and help them build the life they want. I think career-wise, if we’re not taking into account the things that matter to you, and the life you wanna build, and we’re just focusing on success and achievement, and climbing a ladder, then we’re failing.
So, I really want to give people a more holistic view on their life and career, and help them do something that’s really gonna make a difference. And I guess where I differ from a lot of career advice out there is that I am not on the “follow your passion” bandwagon. I really work with people to start with their sense of purpose. So, we’re looking at contribution, how you want to be of service. The kind of legacy you want to leave. What kind of impact you wanna have, and really grounding what do you in that instead of, “I love to do this, and I wanna spend all my time in this activity that brings me a lot of joy.”
I still definitely want people to love their careers and get pleasure out of it, but I don’t see passion as the best doorway to that.
John: Yeah, and a lot of times, the quickest way to lose your passion to something is to make it your job and your career, and then the passion just kind of hisses out of that balloon.
But now, Laura, tell us something that we don’t know. Tell us something that we haven’t heard about your area of expertise. Like what’s something that Fire Nation can really take value from that we think we should know?
Laura: I think especially for entrepreneurs, if we’re looking at that shift between passion and purpose. Whenever I’m working with entrepreneurs, business owners to figure out, okay, either I want to start a business or I need to course correct, or something’s just not quite right, the question that I would put to them is, okay, if it’s not about doing what you love, then what I want to know is if there were no limitations, what kind of impact do you want your work to have? And if we start there, start looking at, okay, what kind of change do I want to inspire? How do I want to make a difference?
Suddenly all these questions about my brand, my offer, the language I use, all of those questions are so much easier to answer when we’re starting from that vantage point of what’s the impact that I want my work to have?
John: I think that word’s powerful. It’s “impact,” Fire Nation. Think about it. What is the current impact of your life, of your business, of that entrepreneurial trajectory that you’re on? Think about that and if you like the answers, then good. Like keep, keep going. Like, that’s what it’s all about. But if you don’t, you know, take a step back, breathe, think, and how can you adjust? Maybe sometimes it’s just gonna be a little degree left or right, one little pivot and you’re off to the races, but think about that. Think about that word, “impact.”
Now, Laura, you’ve had some ups and some downs. I mean, all actors have and I think that’s just reality, and all entrepreneurs have as well. Take us, not just to one of the downs, but to the lowest of the low. The absolute worst entrepreneurial moment that you’ve ever experienced, Laura, take us there. Tell us that story.
Laura: I feel I have a couple I could choose from, but –
John: There’s only one worst.
Laura: But if there’s one, this is actually back in my career as an actor, kind of around my turning point. I had actually spent this great day on set of a network television job, which is just exciting because you’re in your trailer and they do your makeup, and there’s all the, you know, the craft services and the food. I had really enjoyed working with the director. I really hit it off with the series regular that I shared a scene with. Had this amazing day. And I get done with the day, I’m going back to car, and just kind of like, whew, all the energy from the day. Like, it hits me, and I’m kinda tired, and I’m walking back to me car and I think did how I spend my time today make anyone’s life better?
Laura: And did how I spend my time today make my life better? And this is a career I had been doing for years, and I wanted to do since I was a child, so to – I mean, it doesn’t, maybe that doesn’t sound like a worst moment but to me, that those two questions would creep into my head and knock on the door when I had given up and sacrificed so much to build this career, it just felt like such a huge betrayal that the thing that I loved, this thing that I have, like, moved thousands of miles away from my family to pursue. I have missed weddings and funerals and graduations and birthdays to pursue this thing. I live in this tiny one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles to pursue this thing.
Like, that I could question its value to me and its value in the broader sense in the world was, shoo. That sent me into a downward spiral.
John: So, where did that downward spiral lead? What happened when that thought happened, because again, if you have a downward spiral after your worst moment, it gets worse. So, like where did it actually ground out, and what was kinda that tipping point that kinda started to bring you back up to the surface?
Laura: Yeah, so it felt really hard to even talk about this with a lot of my actor friends because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being an actor, and that’s how I, you know, where my social network was from and it’s what I did. And I was determined when I moved to LA that I was not gonna be one of those quitters who moves back to middle America or wherever they came from, and just does normal work.
So, for me, it took a couple of years of questioning reluctantly, like loosening my grip on that career. And it started to turn around when I started talking about it with friends more. And when I really started to allow myself to ask the question, okay, if I’m not an actor, who am I? And if I’m not gonna do this, is there anything else I can do that’s going to bring me this level of satisfaction?
But I think it was, you know, starting to talk to people about it and not having it be this deep, dark, private torture that I was trying to handle all on my own that made things start to shift.
John: And I think a lesson that we can learn from this is, Fire Nation, ask yourself, “If I’m not an X, what am I?” Just fill in the blank. Like, for Laura, it was actor. For you, what is it? Like for me, it was, well, if I’m not a lawyer, if I’m not an officer in Army, if I’m not in corporate finance, if I’m not a real estate agent. Like, these are all things that I had done that I was having the same questions and concerns that Laura has. It’s like, what impact am I really having in this world?
It was actually very clear to me what I was having as an impact during my four years of active duty service, which made it even more clear when I was trying law school, and corporate finance, and commercial real estate that I wasn’t, and that’s what made me keep trying. And it wasn’t like the next step was the right step. It was just the next step I needed to take to get me closer to where I wanted to be.
Now, Laura, on that note, you’ve had some great ideas during your life. Some AH-HA moments. What are your greatest entrepreneurial AH-HA moments? Take us to that moment and tell us that story.
Laura: This was about a year ago. This was not even my AH-HA moment. I’m stealing an AH-HA moment. I know you’ve had Michelle Ward on your show.
John: Oh, yeah.
Laura: She’s a career coach. We’re in a mastermind together, so we’re on this mastermind call about a year ago and we’re chatting back and forth. You know, we do similar work. We help people start businesses or figure out their careers.
And Michelle says, “Laura, do you ever just, like you get a client and sometimes you just kinda know what they’re gonna end up doing, and like you don’t really need to go through all this coaching stuff. You can kinda be like, you know that thing you said two minutes ago? I think that’s gonna be it.”
And I said, “Not with everybody, but definitely there are some people who, yes.” Like it’s just right below the surface, and basically they need someone to say, “I see it. I hear it. Let’s run with this.”
And she said, “What if we just worked together and combined forces, and helped people do that?” And so we did. And so that’s been really, really fun to – you know, as entrepreneurs we do so much work alone. It’s been really fun to have a partner to do some work with and to help people just get to their business idea right away.
John: Love that. And what do you want to make sure our listeners get from that story, from that AH-HA moment?
Laura: That sometimes the answer can be easier than you think it is.
John: And one thing I wanna throw in there too is, Fire Nation, are you into mastermind? I mean, masterminds are where the ideas happen. I mean, that’s where you get together with like-minded individuals and people that think outside of the box. They might be in a different industry, or just whatever it might be, that can give you that one little idea. Or even in Laura’s situation, somebody else can have that one little idea that can be like, “Yes. Yes. That’s it.” So, find your mastermind. I end every episode for a reason. The average of the five people you spend the most time with. Like, get your five up.
Now, Laura, what are you most fired up about right now?
Laura: Well, actually Michelle and I are getting ready to launch into another round of this work that we’re doing.
Laura: It’s called 90 Day Business Launch, and we take someone. They give us this massive download of what they think they want their business to be. Michelle and I and pow wow for several hours together, and we come back with their mission, their message, how they’re gonna make money, their marketing and milestones so that they can launch their business in 90 Days.
You wanna talk about fire. Like, it’s really amazing to see people take action when the big question marks are out of the way, and they just, like, get their marching orders and go do it. It’s really, really fun to see people go from idea to business, fast.
John: Now, if Fire Nation’s, like, “That sounds interesting. Where can I learn more?” Where would you send them?
Laura: Yeah, they can go to 90daybusinesslaunch.com.
John: Fire Nation, if you think that Laura’s been dropping value bombs thus far, you’re right. She has been. But we have some more coming up in the lightning round that you are not gonna want to miss, as soon as we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Laura, are you ready to rock the lightning rounds?
Laura: Yeah, let’s do it.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Laura: I’ve actually always been an entrepreneur. I’ve never pursued traditional employment. But a big thing that held me back from getting into this career when I was leaving acting was that identity shift from, ugh, this is who I am, this is what I do, and being able to see myself in a new light and just be the person that I had to be to do this kind of work.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Laura: From my mom and dad, they told me again and again and again when I was a kid, and it came back to bite them in the butt later but they would always say, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you think is right.”
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Laura: I think about death a lot, which sounds weird and I don’t mean –
John: A little morbid.
Laura: I don’t mean in a creepy way but I just feel about acutely aware that I don’t know when my time runs out, and I don’t know if I have 40 years, or I don’t know if I have 40 more minutes. But just kind of that urgency of “this is it; better make the most of it.” Shoo, that gets me going.
John: Well, I’m hoping for at least four more minutes because this has been a good interview.
Laura: I hope so.
John: And I don’t wanna cut it off short, so earthquake, you hang out there for a little bit more time. Share an internet resource like Evernotes with Fire Nation.
Laura: I use a software called Freckle every day. And it is a time tracking software, and you can create different projects within it so every time I sit down to work, I log in or clock in to whatever project I’m working on, and it has been fascinating to see where my time goes. It’s given me a really good idea of how long I spend on certain tasks, and I can also go back and say, “Okay, I spend this much time creating this product or this offer. This is how much money I made from it.” And it’s been really cool to see where my time is best spent in terms of the dollars I get in return.
John: If you recommend just one book, Laura, what would it be and why?
Laura: I am obsessed with the book, “Essentialism,” which is all about doing less of the more important things.
John: You know, it’s so strange because it seems like these books come in batches sometimes. I had a guest just yesterday who said, “You know, I think you probably hear this a lot on EO Fire but the book, ‘Essentialism’.” That was their recommendation. But the thing was, I was like, it’s been years since somebody’s recommended that because you know it came out a couple years ago, and it was all the rage, and it was like every other episode, it seemed. I’d even start saying like, books like “Essentialism” just to stop people from saying that. But then it was like, I haven’t heard for so – hundreds and hundreds of episodes, but not back-to-back. How random is that?
Laura: I flip through it all the time, just to get a refresher. It’s so good.
John: Kate loves that. It’s, like, her favorite.
Laura, let’s end today on fire, with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Laura: So, you can find me at withlaurasimms.com. And I guess my parting thing would be to say when you’re trying to make a decision in your business, in your life, the question that I ask myself the most is what matters most?
John: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with LS and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, type Laura in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz: time stamps, links, transcripts. And of course, check out withlaurasimms.com.
And Laura, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation.
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