Episode 10: A Silicon Valley Veteran on the Importance of Founder Mental Health with Janice Fraser

Apr 11, 2023 | podcast | 0 comments

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You can find the full transcript for this episode at the bottom of this page

TW: In this episode my guest mentions death by suicide of a family member

In this week’s episode we’re going deep. My guest, Janice Fraser, is a silicon valley veteran with decades of experience in the startup world. She’s also no stranger to mental health struggles, and in this interview she candidly shares about her own experience managing anxiety, depression, and complex PTSD (C-PTSD), including the types of treatment and support that have most helped her along her journey towards healing and becoming a more effective in all of her professional, and personal, roles.

You never know what someone’s going through, right? You never know what’s behind their decision making. You never know what’s behind their stress. And and so aside from just the value of sharing a story, what I would hope for your listeners is that they really hear the lesson that we’re all humans, even when we’re starting a company and caring for the human is the most important thing, if we want that peak performance, right? If we want to be founders doing amazing heroic things, we need to be peak performance athletes. And that means if you get shin splints or you break your leg, you have to heal before you can go back on the field.

Janice Fraser is an investor, sought-after speaker, and thought leader in emerging management practices to support innovation at scale. An enthusiastic, cheerful, and optimistic presence, Fraser is an unashamed disruptor in modern leadership. A Silicon Valley veteran with extensive knowledge of what works at a company’s ground level, Fraser is particularly committed to championing and extending access to the entrepreneurs who are typically underrepresented in the world of venture- backed startups.

Fraser serves as a Partner for Seneca VC, which connects pre-seed teams with a diverse community of investors and experienced founders, provides operational support, and teaches them how to build long-term value using the Lean Startup methodology. As part of her work for Seneca, she serves as an equity advisor to the CEO of Venus Aerospace, a hypersonic spaceplane startup. For Productable, an innovation management SAAS platform for large organizations, Fraser serves as the equity advisor to the CEO, and the Head of Portfolio, designing the company’s innovation portfolio management methodology. She is the equity advisor to the co-founder and CEO of the woman’s community organization, The Coven. Since 2016, Fraser has been a Strategic Advisor to Proctor & Gamble, supporting the company’s innovation transformation, including GrowthWorks.

From 2017 to 2019, she served as the Chief Product Officer for Bionic Solution, an enterprise growth solution that increases speed and confidence in net-new growth businesses. Prior to that role, for Pivotal, she was the Director, People Team. She began her work at Pivotal as the Director of Innovation ad Transformation Practices in 2014. From 2010 to 2014, Fraser founded and served as the CEO of LUXr Incorporated, which was among the first Lean Startup coaching and training firms for early-stage companies. Its accelerator program served more than 50 startups in San Francisco and New York. During that time, she also served as an advisor to Task Rabbit, providing product, design, and executive coaching to venture-funded startup. Previously, she was the entrepreneur in residence for Kapor Capital. Fraser was one of 187 women CEOs in the U.S. to raise venture capital between 2011 and 2013.

She previously founded Emmet Labs, an open wiki project that mapped the social network of the past, and from 2001 to 2008, she was the founding partner and served on the board of directors for Adaptive Path, which was acquired by Capital One. Fraser began her career at IDG in various editorial positions for high-tech publishing company, including a three-year post as the Managing Editor of GamePro magazine. She received her BA in English from Ohio University.

Janice delivers high-energy presentations that challenge audiences to think strategically and lead effectively. Over the past few years, she has spoken at numerous conferences including MX (Money Experience Summit), Mind The Product, Leading Design and others.

In April 2023, Janice and her husband Jason are launching their first book, Farther, Faster, and Far Less Drama: How to Reduce Stress and Make Extraordinary Progress Wherever You Lead. Using the proven Four Motions of Leadership, Janice and Jason provide an insightful and honest take on the pitfalls of modern leadership, encouraging executives and managers to identify and strip their egos. As a champion for those underrepresented in emerging businesses, their message empowers the upcoming generation of exceptional leaders.

In our interview Janice gives us a sneak peek into her upcoming book (be sure to grab your copy – I preordered mine right after our interview). Along with her own mental health founder journey we also discuss why she thinks founders need to care for their mental health in the same way elite athletes train, and the type of skills training she thinks should be in every founder’s mental health toolbox. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • How Janice first got started in the startup world in Silicon Valley in the late-1990’s
  • Her own mental health struggles and how it was impacted by coming from a family with a history of mental illness
  • Why it’s essential for founders to care for their mental health, and the types of therapy and other support Janice has found most helpful on her own healing journey
  • Why she thinks founders need to train their minds, and take breaks when they’re injured, in the same way as elite athletes do
  • The common mental health struggles Janice has observed in the numerous founders she’s worked with over the past 20+ years
  • The type of therapy skills that she thinks should be in every founder’s toolbox
  • Why founders and leaders need to read Janice’s new book, “Farther, Faster, and Far Less Drama” and what they can expect to find inside

Find Janice Online:

Gone are the days of leaders issuing edicts and rejecting input. In its place is an increasing demand for agile, collaborative, humane leadership, but stepping into these new leadership approaches can be confusing. 

In a recent HBR survey across industries, 61% of senior business leaders reported that they’re struggling to balance employees’ need for support with their company’s drive for high performance. How can the next generation step up to these new leadership models? The solution is to create a system that allows your teams and organizations to make fast, efficient progress with less stress every single day.  

With decades of experience guiding teams and companies, leadership thought leaders Jason and Janice Fraser outline a framework for modern leadership that empowers greater alignment and quicker decision making. In Farther, Faster, and Far Less Drama, available April 11, 2023, the Frasers use radical honesty to take on the pitfalls of outdated styles of leadership and unveil the methodologies that have for decades driven the couple’s professional success. They advocate for a leadership model focused on The Four Leadership Motions (4LM): orient honestly, value outcomes, leverage the brains, and make durable decisions. By aligning with these four motions, teams and leaders increase organizational effectiveness and productivity, and alleviate organizational friction, waste and indecision. 

Turning large-scale culture shifts into digestible actions, the Frasers integrate practical workshops into each chapter, charging leaders to make active, real-time changes to orient their businesses with the 4LM structure. These principles have guided leaders in various sectors: NAVY SEALs, startup CEOs, school administrators, and software engineers. Beyond the boardroom or the war room, though, this system functions across work and family and life —a truly transformative approach that positively impacts every human relationship.

Farther, Faster, and Far Less Drama calls for honest, cooperative leadership and is a guide for those looking to fill the void left by their Capital-L predecessors. It is a must read for the emerging generation of humble, practical, everyday leaders. If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together. If you want to go farther and get there faster, you’re going to need some new tools. 

Resources & Inspiration from the Show

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About Founders’ Fears & Failures and your host, Dr. Melissa Parks

Melissa is an entrepreneur, former therapist (PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology), and an executive coach for entrepreneurs with a special focus on startup founders. Her passion for supporting startup founders in particular began after witnessing firsthand the emotional rollercoaster her husband experienced as a startup co-founder.

She started the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast with the mission of shining a light on the mental and emotional challenges that come with life as a startup founder. Having lived abroad for 10 years herself she realizes how much we can learn from hearing stories from around the globe which is why the show doesn’t focus on a country-specific startup ecosystem.

Melissa is also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapist Community, and a mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes, and fuels her passion for helping to make the world a better place.

If you are interested in coming on the show, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story.

Want to connect further? Get in touch with Melissa on social media:

Want to work with Melissa?

Melissa is a former therapist who provides mindset coaching for ambitious professionals around the globe. Schedule your free discovery call HERE.

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Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Leave your review on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Disclaimer: The Founders’ Fears & Failures is for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be used for personal health advice and should not be construed to constitute personal or professional consultation or guidance, or to replace medical or mental health treatment. The opinions expressed by this podcast, including the podcast guests, are not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a medical or mental health provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your medical and/or mental health needs. If you are in crisis, please visit this website to find a list of suicide hotlines around the globe. 

Episode Transcript

Melissa 

Hi, Janice, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Janice 

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Melissa 

Yeah, I was really so excited when we connected on LinkedIn. And you said you wanted to come on and talk about mental health in the startup world. You just made my day. And I’m so excited that we’re making it happen today.

Janice 

Well, it is a topic that I’m very passionate about. So I’m just really grateful that you’re doing this podcast.

Melissa 

Thank you. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to diving more into that part right where this passion comes from. But before we jump in, I would love to know, let’s just kind of warm up and get started by you telling us more about what got you started on this, this whole entrepreneurial journey? You know, I know you’ve been in this world for a couple of decades now. How did it all get started?

Janice 

Well, it’s interesting. I, you know, I grew up in an age where, you know, people had jobs, and you had the same job. And it was considered like, that you moved a lot if you change jobs every seven years. And like, that’s what I was taught coming out of college. And then I got to, you know, I ended up in Silicon Valley, you know, in the mid 90s, and I got a job at Netscape. And that kind of blew open my idea of what work could be like, there I met, I met the first freelancers, really, of my life. And I decided to become an independent consultant, professional websites were just getting built. So I was teaching big companies how to do that. And one of my clients said, Hey, I’m gonna start a company. Do you want to start one? Do you want to be my co-founder? And so 1997? Eight, that was 1998. And like, I kind of was, I mean, it was an of course. Yes. And it turned out I was perfectly suited to it. So yeah. And from there, it just went like, you know, one after another and this direction, that direction? And, yeah.

Melissa 

And that yeah, the rest is history. Right?

Janice 

Certainly is. Ancient history.

Melissa 

Yeah, well, you know, I know we could spend this whole podcast talking about about the career, your career. I mean, it’s so impressive. I, you know, already read the bio to everybody. And it’s so it’s such an impressive career. I know, you have so many words of wisdom, I’m sure to share with with founders who are listening. But I also want to make sure that we focus on this topic of mental health. And so why don’t we dive in there? Why why is this topic of mental health for founders and just people in the startup world, why is this so important to you?

Janice 

Well, it’s it’s important in two ways. And I’ll start with the most important way, and that’s that I have mentored and coached and trained, you know, hundreds of entrepreneurs pretty deeply at this point, including an accelerator program where we had 50 teams go through it. And so, you know, it was the founders. So you can say that was probably, let’s say, 150, conservatively, people going through that program. And so I got to see that I got to have this sort of like a crucible experience really up close, where I could examine what made some entrepreneurs able to create momentum more easily, and others having more challenge. And what I found is that a lot of founders come with mental health challenges, they just do, or they’re, you know, some version of neuro atypical, and. And when they were able to manage those things, it became a superpower. And when they were not able to manage those things, it could have really tragic results, including, you know, I’ve always joked that if there, you know, if I ever wrote a memoir, it would be called founder issues. Because, like, founder issues they’re real, co-founder issues are real. And it and they’re heartbreaking when you see a very high potential team, with a great idea fall apart because of something that could have been managed if they had each just gone to therapy, and not even couples counseling, just like individual counseling. And so, you know, simply from an observational standpoint, like how to create the best entrepreneurs, while you know, some of the mental health challenges do give us superpowers, and and how can we leverage that in a way where we’re creating the most positive change in the world through our companies? And and so I just really want to care for those people. So that’s one answer.

Melissa 

Yeah. Yeah.

Janice 

Well, yeah, but let’s talk about the other answer. That’s, you know, real also, I had no idea when I started my first company with Don, the client who asked me to join his startup. I had no idea how challenged I was from a mental health perspective. We weren’t talking about it openly. We didn’t have a lot of the same vocabulary that we have now. And we certainly didn’t have treatment options that we have now and nobody talked about it. Yeah, nobody talked about I was one of the first people I knew. So a to be a female founder and a startup and be to talk about mental health openly. And it wasn’t my, I think my third company, I had had a baby, and I had postpartum depression. And that postpartum depression led to a diagnosis of chronic severe depression, which I kept secret from all of my friends and co founders. And I was driving to San Jose one day, so it’s a 50 mile drive with a co founder, who was a friend, and I couldn’t find it in this person that I had had this diagnosis, I was really struggling. And he said, I need to tell you, me too. Only they don’t know what’s wrong with me. And I’m on five different medications, and it’s not going well. And I don’t tell anybody, I was like, Really, you seem so normal, and, and not just normal, but like, he seemed like a superhero. Like, wow, you’re fantastic. Like, oh, my God, you’re amazing. And he’s like, Nah, it really stinks. And when I’m not on, you know, sometimes I lay in bed all day. And, you know, and so that gave me this permission to stop judging myself, which, of course, you know, it’s not that easy. So it took another decade for me to really stop judging it. And, you know, but I started medication not too long thereafter. And that was like 17 years ago, maybe more. And I have had, I, my life has gotten significantly better. My effectiveness at work has gotten better my effectiveness as a wife, and a parent has gotten better. Because I acknowledged my mental health challenges, I acknowledge that, you know, my current diagnosis is complex PTSD. And with that complex, PTSD has come anxiety and depression. And I am so much more effective in my life, including as a founder, as an employer, as an advisor and mentor, and investor in other companies. So like, so not only has my lived experience taught me that founder mental health is critical to creating success in these companies. But also, as a coach, mentor, advisor investor, I see it in others. And I see that giving them permission to attend to their mental health has made their companies much more successful.

Melissa 

Yeah. Oh, well, thank you so much, Janice, for like, getting so vulnerable with us about all that, because I know, it’s hard to do, right. Even though this is this is a story like a part of your story is from a couple decades ago, but it’s still difficult. I know, we’ve we’ve removed a lot of the stigma of talking about it, but it’s still there, right? It still exists as

Janice 

Well, and I want to just acknowledge I don’t I, I don’t have much to lose from the founders standpoint, at this point, I am not starting a company right now. And I attempted to start a venture fund a few years ago, and during the during COVID that we just it didn’t work. Because, obviously COVID And then also other things. And so I’m at the point in my career where I have less to lose. And so it is less risky. It takes less courage for me to do this and speak this openly about it than it would have been 10 years ago. You know, when I was still kind of in it and hoping to do yet another startup like I, you know, I don’t want people to over ascribe courage like because, you know, they say I have few have fewer F’s to give now than I did 10 years ago, and 10 years ago, I thought I had fewer F’s to give than I had 10 years before that. And it’s because I don’t need anything from the system.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, I will say, since launching this podcast, it’s something I learned, like, I kind of had these ambitions with having people come on and like doing, you know, I’m trained as a therapist. And so I, you know, I want people to come on and get as vulnerable as possible. And I’ve had to, you know, get realistic about that to that. Yeah, that’s people can’t do that. They can’t always do that. But is it people like you who are kind of veterans in this system and like, you know, you can you like you’re saying you don’t have as much to lose its exited founders. Or its people who say, like, I don’t care, I don’t care. I you know, I’ve lost a lot already. And so I’ll share Yeah.

Janice 

Well, and that’s, you know, that’s, it’s so freeing to have less to lose. And what I have learned is that I get to be successful as myself. And you know, that comes with I mean, that itself took 15 years of therapy. I stopped counting when I was $60,000 out of pocket. And by therapy bills, and you know, and so they literally are hard won lessons that you’re going to be okay. If you show up as yourself. And if you take care of yourself, you’re probably going to be okay.

Melissa 

Yeah. Oh, yes, that’s such important lessons. And like you’re saying very hard, you might have to invest some years and a lot of money to get get to that place. Yeah. Well, so I’m curious, like, what are some of the things that you’ve been? You’ve talked, you’ve observed this in so many different founders? Are there any particular challenges are kind of like mental health struggles that you see coming up again and again?

Janice 

Oh, that’s a good question. And I do want to invite you if, you know, I am happy to be vulnerable, if you want to dig into any of the more vulnerable questions. I’m mean, I’m gonna end up writing a book about all this stuff anyway. So you know, we talk about it. Okay, so common patterns that I’ve seen are that so and I work mostly with women and people of color. So I’m, I’m examining a very specific kind of population. So it might show up differently. If you’re like the mainstream white dude that gets funded, you know, and you’re from Harvard or Stanford, like, your story is probably going to look and feel different. And I think excellence sometimes shows up differently in different in those different kinds of populations. So for the people that I work with, I have found a they, they tend to how to say this, they tend to take on so much, and believe that they have to carry it all so long, that they break. So there’s a tendency toward overwhelm, and over preparedness, and and they forget to blow off steam, because they think they have to stay nose to the grindstone forever. And so the one of the things that I’ve noticed is that for some kinds of people with mental health issues, or who come from a complex background, like I do, that, that your tolerance for chaos is really high. This is when I say they’re their superpowers. So that tolerance for chaos is, is really effective when you’re working in a startup, especially at the very early stages, when you’re in that founder stage, first year, first couple years, you know, pre product market fit, as they say, like, that ability to just roll with whatever happens and to like, you know, kind of have a response and continue on and persevere. And all of that is great. And it comes because we’re trained right? To survive, right? Anyone who has been a survivor of something has those skills. The downside of that the ugly side of that is that when we don’t care for our mental health, and when we don’t care for our energy and manage our energy, I really think about founder energy like elite athlete energy, like we need to be maintaining peak performance. And you cannot maintain peak performance. If you deplete your body, if you deplete your muscles, if you deplete your patience and wisdom. So finding effective ways to slow down, release the big emotions, the big feelings, like I have found them as a therapist, you know about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy? DBT. Yeah, the DBT skills training, I think should be in every founder toolbox. Like if I could have a wish for to the therapeutic community, it would be please God create DBT skills training for founders. Because emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, like, these are foundational, valuable skills for every founder. And so that like, pushing yourself too far, taking yourself too seriously, like I have to keep going or I’m going to it’s going to all fall apart like that. The catastrophe really only comes not because you take a break, but because you don’t take a break. So that’s kind of the package that I see is very, very common.

Melissa 

Yeah. Oh, so many words of wisdom there and I love hearing your passion for DBT. I love DBT as well. And unfortunately, in the therapy world, they’re still, not everybody,  but there’s still a lot of misconceptions that DBT is just for people. It was developed for people with borderline personality disorder, and it works really well for them. But I think everybody needs it and so I can get founders especially right yeah. It’s just life is hard. And life as a startup founders really hard and hard. So those skills yeah are so are so great I again, I love hearing your passion for it

Janice 

Well and I want to like separate out. So the DBT therapy is a total wraparound completely different thing than the skills training, like the skills training, like you buy a workbook and you go to a skills training class, and like I did every Monday night for like a year and a half. I did it twice. Right. And it was and it like, I think about some of the skills. So just for as an example for your listeners, the GIVE skill, right? So there are these three skills. And it’s like when you’re having an interaction with another person, this is in the section they call interpersonal effectiveness. And isn’t that just like such an important founder skill, interpersonal effectiveness, that sounds great, let’s have some of that. So the GIVE skill is like when you’re having conflict with a founder. And you really know that you have to work to preserve this relationship. Even though you need to get your own your needs met, you need them to hear something that’s negative, there are these two skills give is the acronym for preserving the relationship. And DEARMAN is the acronym for getting what you need out of a conversation. And in a single conversation, you can like employ one to calm it down, employ the other one to make progress. Right? I’ve used this in my marriage, I use this with my children. And it’s so simple it stands for for things Gentle, Interested, Validating an Easy manner. And so just think about that last one easy manner. Like it’s so insightful. I’m talking to my co founder, I care about them. I’m being a jerk right now, because they’re being a jerk. And so like we’re escalating. And if I just like, you know, it’s like a zoom screen, like keep a post it note says give if I’m having a hard conversation, so that I can remember to just like treat them like I love them. Just like and then I can go to the other skill, DEARMAN, it’s more involved, you can download the worksheet from the internet.

Melissa 

I’ll link to some some resources,

Janice 

Great. Like, you can then go into your DEARMAN with an easy manner. And you can be like, Look, we’re on the same side, I care about you deeply I care about the success of our business, this conversation is simply for us both to be better. And so like just remembering gentle, interested, why are you doing that? Why is it happening that way? Validating Oh, I can see how you would arrive to that conclusion. I might see it differently. But I understand now, right? These are just basic, good human skills. And when you’re in a challenged high stress situations like founding a startup, it is so helpful to have just tools ready to hand ready at hand that you can pull up for yourself. And that you can then teach to others.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah. Oh, I love this I love you are, I would say more of an expert in in DBT than I am I definitely use I’ve used some of the workbooks and stuff with clients before, but I wouldn’t be able to put those acronyms in as much as you have. So I can tell it’s made a huge difference for you and you really apply it.

Janice 

I do and I teach it like it’s in, you know, that’s great. And I when I run my accelerator program, it’s in my accelerator program. When I like do coaching with people, it’s often one of the first handouts that I send over. So I have found that that the GIVE skill in particular and, and DEARMAN, but especially GIVE have made such a positive impact on people’s relationships with their co-founders.

Melissa 

Yeah. Well, so it sounds like DBT has been the DBT skills have been really powerful for you. Is there any other type of particular type of therapy or support that you’ve also found to be helpful? Because I know sometimes it can be hard to fit find the one that’s the right fit for you.

Janice 

Yeah, and right now, there are so many wonderful I don’t know, is it actually called a third wave of therapeutic technique with like, ACT, DBT.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, I focus more with ACT with my clients. Yeah. And the all the mindfulness kind of based therapies. They’re fantastic.

Janice 

Yeah, they are fantastic. So I like I would love to hear like, what is third wave? Like, what does that mean? I don’t And I really do want to write a book about this. But here I’ll tell you a little bit more of my very vulnerable story just so that it’s out there. So I come from a severely mentally ill family. So I have a sister sister who had has, she is still alive has completely debilitating schizophrenia and has since I was a freshman in high school. And my father had bipolar disorder, which of course at the time was undiagnosed, so it got worse and worse. My mother is an alcoholic with depression. My stepmother, also recovering alcoholic. So, and my brother had narcissistic personality disorder, which we found out after he killed himself in 2008. So, so I’ve had experiences like in 2008, I was raising money for a startup for it was my first, my second tranche of venture money. The week that I was closing the round. On Monday morning, it was it was closing week, and I was applying pressure to get better terms, right on, I had my term sheet, but I was like, you know, I was working it. And on Monday morning, I got the call that my brother had taken his own life, and he was 50 years old at the time. And I called all of my investors and I said, I’m sorry, there’s been a tragedy in my family, our negotiations are over, you’re either in or you’re out. And then I went, I had to organize his funeral, went to his funeral, you know, dealt with my family situation in San Diego, and immediately went to the D Conference, which at the time was the premiere, like business conference, where all of my investors were going to be, and I worked the conference the day after my brother’s funeral. I mean, like, and, and so when I say that founders think that that’s the job, that’s where I’m coming from, like, that was the job you show up, you just do what you need to do, because otherwise your startup is dead. And what I should have done, is taken a month off. And what I should have done, is cared for my heart. And ultimately, you know, it was 2008, the financial crisis emerged a couple months later, like the universe was telling you to just chill out. And so I did. So I took a year off. And I and it was maybe two years, before I really started my next company. And when I did, it was great. And it was a very impactful company. So like, my, my life’s journey is much more complicated than I had any idea that it was, I was so in denial about the complexities of my life. And, and so you just really have to say this, you never know what someone’s going through. Right? You never know what’s behind their decision making. You never know what’s behind their stress. And and so I guess, you know, that, aside from just the value of sharing a story, what I would hope for your listeners is that they really hear the lesson that we’re all humans, even when we’re starting a company, and that caring for the human is the most important thing, if we want that peak performance, right? If we want to be founders doing amazing heroic things, we need to be peak performance athletes. And that means if you get shin splints or you break your leg, you have to heal before you can go back on the field.

Melissa 

Yeah, so true. So true. Yeah, we need to see mental health in that way. Right. And I would say even before that, right, like, because a performance athlete, they’re not. They’re trying to avoid those shin splints and broken ankle or whatever. And so yeah, I mean, obviously, we can’t always right, like a tragedy like that, like losing a family member. Obviously, you couldn’t you couldn’t prevent something like that. So, but I think it’s a balance of like, being proactive and then responding and caring for yourself when you need to.

Janice 

Yes, yes, being proactive is really important, which is why some of these new formats of therapy are so helpful. Yeah. So it’s almost like the therapist becomes a facilitator. You know, talk therapy is really been an important facet of my healing journey. But some of these other modalities of healing are so helpful. So you know, coming out of a complex PTSD background I have used I’ll just name drop a few internal family systems has been probably my rock and my anchor for the last two years. What is the one the processing one where you have stuck points? Which one is that? Is that ACT?

Melissa 

Is it CBT? Like cognitive behavioral? Is it or is it oh, it could be CBT? Uh huh. Well, that’s the one I know that’s more about the Yeah, like the the unhelpful thought patterns that yeah, get in your way.

Janice 

Sure. Sure. Sure. Yeah. So that’s probably it. See, there’s so many. There’s so many now that will work so that you can kind of see have been figuring out what’s, what is the growth moment that you have. And there might be a facilitative structured way to approach that in like seven to 10 weeks, like this doesn’t have to take forever. Right? And, um, you know, and so I just find it, I find it so helpful this this, so called third wave. So could you tell me what is the third wave?

Melissa 

Yeah, well, it’s kind of boring. They’re just there are it’s kind of like just different chapters in the history of psychotherapy. I’m not sure if I’m going to remember exactly which ones they are, I feel like I’m getting my history of psychology tested at the moment. But um, currently, I know that cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, was more like the second generation. And it was about thinking, like noticing those thought patterns and noticing, yeah, what things we could change. And what I found is that, while it’s effective, right, it’s helpful for us to tune into our thoughts and things that aren’t working. But I really like the third wave, because it’s brings in so much compassion towards yourself, right? Those internal Family Systems, ACT, DBT, it’s all about, you can have whatever thought patterns you want, you just can’t get wrapped up in them. And you have to distance and choose differently. You know, don’t let them rule your actions, right. But we can be scared of things. As long as we don’t let that fear hold us back.

Janice 

Yeah, so I love the idea of creating a little space between the thought and the action. And so one of the most helpful things that I learned in DBT was that the that the emotional system like that, what is it? What is the feeling is a question that I thought about a lot what it what are my I have so many feelings? What is a feeling? Well, it’s a thought, it is an action urge. And it’s a physical sensation, those are the three components of it. And, and just knowing that the thought is like, an unbidden chemical experience in your brain, and not necessarily, quote unquote, true. Like, that was a revolution for me like, Wait a minute? Yes, it’s just a thing that’s happening, it doesn’t mean that it’s correct or right. Yeah, you know, so like, the idea of Don’t believe everything you think, like, it took on new significance for me when I realized that this is just a neurological phenomenon. Yeah. And that it is a neurological phenomenon that was influenced by all sorts of things that I can’t control. So I can observe my thoughts, and then choose what to do with them in a very sort of, like, mindful choice full way.

Melissa 

I love hearing you say that, because I think a lot of times when people hear mindfulness, they just like, get this image of like, sitting on a meditation cushion. And like, I’m not gonna do that. But it can be so it can be like, it can be so life changing, and you don’t have to, I mean, sitting and doing like, mindful meditation is great. I am the mother of a toddler, and I can’t do that anymore. It’s impossible. But it’s okay. Because, you know, I’m used to it with my clients, I also help them find different ways to get creative. And, and it’s sometimes it’s just like you’re saying it just learning to notice? What are the thoughts that are coming up and happening and passing through my mind? Because the more you practice that the more you can get that space?

Janice 

Yes, yes. And it’s so powerful. It’s so powerful, especially when you look at who are the leaders as, as a founder, who are the leaders that I admire, they all seem to have that moment of pause before making a decision, right? Even if they’re, you know, making a decision or having a response, it always feels like they had, they have this like uncanny ability to find the right thing, or say the right thing, or do the right thing is because, because they’re able to create that space between their first thought and the thing that they actually choose. And I wanted that I want I aspired to that and you know, as someone who, like I make very fast decisions, I’m a very quick thinker. And and so to have that quick thinking ability, balanced with a moment, even a fraction of a second of space has allowed me to deploy that fast thinking superpower, right? In a much more wise way. Rather than just like speaking off the cuff and maybe I’m saying the right thing and maybe not

Melissa 

Yeah, you could push the pause button.

Janice 

Yeah, I feel just so much better and not for a long time. Like, it’s like a nanosecond pause button. And, and I’m more in the moment and more effective.

Melissa 

I love it. I love what you’re saying too, because it’s not right, we might need to go to therapy sometimes because there is like a mental health diagnosis right that we and or maybe some healing that we need to do. But it can also be to learn some of these skills. Right? And I think it could be a therapist it could be I do coaching now because what I do is much more about skill building, and it’s being proactive. So you can also find somebody that you know, has some training, right? You don’t want to just go to a coach who did like a weekend course or something, but, but I think that there’s that there’s a lot, there’s a lot of different ways you can tackle this and build your skill set as a founder.

Janice 

I completely agree. And, and by building skills, you will identify the things that are holding you back. And that are we know where you are less effective than you want to be. And so I really, when I talk to founders, I often don’t I, you know, I can’t remember the last time I told somebody that they needed a therapist, right. But I do in, I do encourage people to become more choice full, and to become more effective, like, the point is that everybody just wants to be effective. And sometimes the things that are preventing us from being effective are our own psychological challenges. Yeah. And as an elite athlete, you need to fix those things, or address them or notice them at least, so that you don’t make everything worse.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s just what you’re describing, and just putting a more positive spin on on on this topic, right? Because I think that’s where some of the stigma comes from. It’s like, oh, this is really problematic. And, but actually, what it means there are a lot of opportunities here to just explore and become become a better leader.

Janice 

For sure, well, you know, I’m over the pity part. Like I cannot if, if, if my life story elicits pity, then that is a burden on me, because now I’m having to deal with your feelings about my life experience. You know, I’m over it. Like, I mean, I’m still working on it, but I’ve got a venue for working on it. Right. So that’s my job. I, I want the freedom to acknowledge who I am, how I got here, and what I need to do next, in order to have the most positive impact on the world around me. And, and I can’t do that if we’re all up in our feelings if you’re up in your feelings. If, right? Like, you know, and that means in my story, like, my story is complicated. And for me, it’s been a challenge to get through. But it’s nothing compared to other people’s stories. There are stories out there that, you know, curl my toes. But it’s not helpful for me to put my feelings in that soup, they’re already dealing with so much. You know what I mean? Yeah,

Melissa 

Yeah. Well, like because I think sometimes people think that when we’re talking about like, getting more vulnerable, well, about stuff, it means like, yeah, you show up at like, the team meeting or something and you, you know, you use that as your therapy session. Yeah. Right. It’s like not that that’s not what you’re talking about?

Janice 

No, not at all. And like, so. So, do I have moments where I completely fall apart? Absolutely. Absolutely. And I have, I will, I don’t say this out loud very much, because the vulnerability is that someone will judge me, and I will lose opportunity as a result. So I’m gonna say this out loud, because it’s a little scary. It was the first time today I’ve said anything that made me nervous. I checked myself into a mental health facility a few years ago. And I did that because I was coming to terms with complex PTSD. And it was causing ramifications in my life in my home. And my, I just couldn’t keep my act together, like I was, I was falling apart. And so I, but it’s, it’s my business, and I took care of my business. And I approached it, like, I’m not ashamed of this, I’m afraid of it. But I’m not ashamed. I’m not ashamed of it. And I went, I found the people who could help me, I went there. We trained, like I was an elite athlete with a serious injury. And I treated it like a medical leave. And I was there for a little over a month. And it was the right thing to do. And I’m better than ever, like, I’m, you know, I’m back on the field. And I’m not doing another startup, but I’m doing a lot of other things that are, you know, career peak type experiences.

Melissa 

Well, thank you so much for sharing that because, yeah, I can understand that. It’s, it’s scary to share something like that. But it sounds like you also have some distance from the experience that you you can you’ve been able to weave it in as this is part of my story. And I can see the benefit of of making this choice.

Janice 

For sure. Well, and you know, part of the reason I was able to do that is that I have a very strong support system support network. I have close friendships. I have a loving partner, my husband of 25 years, I guess we’ve only been married 20, my partner of 45 years. Yeah. And my kids are mostly grown. My son is in college. My youngest is in college like so there are a lot of reasons why it was possible for me to let myself fall apart that way. And, and my income stream was resilient. Right, I was able to, even though I’m independently employed, my client relationships I knew would endure. So there were a lot of reasons why it was the right timing for me to, you know, I’m gonna say go there, I kind of had to, I went into the dark place like, you know, Luke Skywalker going into the dark tree and confronting his father, like, in the movie. Yeah, go into my go into the dark place and find my way through. And, you know, and I want to just acknowledge the depth of privilege, financial privilege, educational privilege, like, you know, whiteness privilege, like all of the privilege, allowed me the space to do that. And, you know, and I don’t want to trivialize how hard it was. But it was also it was also so clearly the only really wise choice that my husband and I could make.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah. And so it sounds like that. Also, you did that made that choice together as a team? Yeah, yes,

Janice 

absolutely. I, you know, I I am so grateful to have arrived at the place in my life where I have that kind of love and support. And that is part of my mental health founder journey. Right. So I have a healthy marriage, because I have a fantastic talk therapist. And we’ve been together for 17 years now. And I mean, I would have blown it all up. I would have blown up my marriage, I would have blown up my relationship with my kids, I would have blown up my startups, I would have blown up my investor relationships, my reputation if I hadn’t attended to my mental health, because I just would have been reactive rather than wise.

Melissa 

Yeah. Well, what about the people who maybe don’t have all of that privilege, right, who are just starting off? They don’t have that option? What what’s one of the recommendations that you give to some of the founders you work with? who maybe don’t have all the resources to be able to be able but the who needs some support?

Janice 

Yeah. So I think that the most important thing is to notice that, that you need new input. And that there is a lot, there are a lot of free places to start. So I started my mental health journey at adult children of alcoholics. Okay, yeah. And I went to two meetings a week, and I bought the books. So that’s where I found my actually, and, you know, it was one, it was like, one step before that. There is the employee benefit, you know, you get eight therapy sessions for free situation. And I actually started with that. And she said, I’m glad you’re here, I think you’re going to need a lot of therapy. Work, let’s focus our work on finding you some resources. And so the one who connected me to a therapist that I had for two years, and it was that first therapist that helped me find adult children of alcoholics. And so for no cost. I had my first two months of therapy, and I got into this kind of it was a 12 step support group. And I was there for two years. And nobody knew it was just, I just did it myself. Yeah. And so Saturdays, I would go, I went to therapy, then. Then a meeting of ACA and then yoga. And so that was my Saturday, and then I would journal. And I did my Saturdays that way for probably a year. Yeah, maybe a year and a half. And so Saturday was healing day. And, you know, Sunday, I started going to church, I went to this church in San Francisco called Glide Memorial, which is a liberation church that deals with a lot of mental health challenges. And so I really started to invest in my own wellness. And those were the things and and most of that stuff, like the most expensive thing, there was the drop in yoga class. You know, everything else was free. And, and so I was able to start, I guess, in the lingo was resourcing myself, right? I was able to start building resources and we’re talking about like, this was like, 1995. Right. And I, I was married to a different guy then and we ended up getting a divorce. which was the right thing for both of us. And so you can really, really start very small. And what matters is that, you know, you’re investing in yourself, you know that there are many people out there figuring out how to heal on your behalf, right? Like, I don’t have to invent new modalities of therapy, because you and your industry are out there doing it for me.

Melissa 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Janice 

I can just be the beneficiary of all that knowledge and wisdom.

Melissa 

Yeah. I love that. Janice, thank you for sharing that, like, what that looks like for you. Yeah, I have so many more questions I could ask. But I want to make sure that we make some time for a really exciting topic. Not that none of this has been excited. This is very exciting. But I want to talk about your book, right that you have coming out. We’ve been talking about your next book already. But let’s let’s not skip ahead.

Janice 

And I do so I do have plans. So hopefully, I’m not jinxing anything by talking about it out loud. I do want to write that book about mental health. Yeah. So the both of them my husband and I have just have just released, it’s the release date is April 11. So at the time of recording, it’s next week.

Melissa 

And there will be the date this episode is released is is the date your books coming out. So exciting day,

Janice 

Oh my god. So it’s called Farther faster, and Far Less Drama. And it really is a result of trying to help all of those founders go farther, right, get there faster, and like just stop bickering. Like I just, I want there to be so much less drama in the world, because the world is manufacturing lots of drama on its own. And you know, I’ve had plenty, so let’s just kind of reduce the temperature, turn on the volume, whatever your whatever your metaphor is. And so it’s four leadership motions. And these are things that we’ve observed that the best leaders do to make progress and to make progress easier to achieve. And I would say, you know, we didn’t invent this, we observed it, and then tried to make it repeatable and teachable. And so this is probably stuff that most folks will recognize, that they kind of accidentally do. And by naming it, we can do it on purpose. By naming it, we can teach it by naming it, we can create our company cultures around it. And, and so these four things are just really, really helpful. And that’s what we want this book to be. It’s just like, so I think that it’s leadership, empathy, like I have empathy for all kinds of leaders, and then practical support. So that’s what we want leadership, empathy and practical support. And, and so I’ll just tell you what the four motions are. And then the book is sort of the elucidation of all of them. The first one is Orient Honestly. So orientation is like, where are we standing? So this is about like, where are we right now? And what makes this moment complicated? So we’re all taught a lot of goaling mechanisms, we’re all taught about, you know, like, how to create smart goals and all of this. But we’re not taught how do you notice where are we right now? And what makes this complicated? And the thing is, if you don’t align on where you’re starting places, you’re going to the, the plans that you make will not get you where you think they’re going to where you think they will, right? So so orient honestly is like, what is the situation? And what is the complication? And this thinking comes from a thinker named Barbara Minto M-I-N-T-O, she’s amazing. Look around. Long ago, she developed this this way of organizing for McKinsey, actually. So she developed the McKinsey communication protocol. So Orient, honestly is number one, figure out your point A so that you can get to point B more quickly and easily. So then this the second item is, the second leadership motion is Value Outcomes. So we think a lot about our plans, what are the things we will do, and what will we make when we do them? So deliverables and activities. And that’s how we organize our plans. And that is very important. But what three, what we have to do is remember that what’s more important than those plans, and those activities is the outcome we are intending. So we often place more value on the planned activities than we do on the outcome those activities are intended to create. So value outcomes means value outcomes more than your plans and activities. And that creates a release, like you release the pressure to follow the plan and deliver the plan. Because what you really want to do is adjust the plan as you go to get you closer and closer to that outcome. Yeah. The third item is the third leadership motion is Leverage the Brains right? Like, these beautiful, diverse brains in the world, each one with a piece of the answer. And so as a leader, you don’t need to have the answers. I think that’s like we call that capital L leadership is the like, visionary, I have all the answers later. That’s not as effective. It takes a lot longer when you’re that person than it does if you lock arms with other people leverage their brains and help them contribute in the best possible way. So we talk about how do you do that? And what are the right brains to include and who do not include, which is very important. And the final is Make Durable Decisions. I think the source of a lot of drama comes from decision making. Yeah, and if we can just have a few tools to make decision making better and more effective, then we’re going to reduce the drama, the load of drama, and we’re going to create that that momentum that faster, farther kind of momentum. And so we give some practical tools for making decisions that really last that you don’t revisit and really re-litigate. So that’s the whole book.You don’t have to buy it.

Melissa 

No, now you have like, I had already read the synopsis and the reviews. And so it was like, Oh, this book really sounds like it could be for anybody. Right? Definitely for founders. But I mean, you mentioned in the in the synopsis, like even for a stay at home moms can benefit from it. And I’m, I’m really hearing that when you say this, like I need to get this book. That’s my takeaway. So I hope that others listening are having that same takeaway as well. I have to ask, is there an audiobook version?

Janice 

There is an audiobook version, and I read it myself. So Oh, yay, that you get my amateur reading.

Melissa 

I love it almost feels like like you have the author like in your kitchen with you while you’re listening? It makes me want to listen more even. Oh, great,

Janice 

great. Well, and then we do we mix the examples, pretty balanced between at work and at home. And or not just at home, like, it’s like, it’s lessons from starting the PTA, as well as lessons from the Navy SEALs, like it’s wherever people lead, they lead like people who lead just show up that way, wherever they go.

Melissa 

Oh, right. Well, I’m definitely you know, that one is definitely getting linked to in the show notes. We’ll make sure that everybody, everybody can find it. And when you’re listening to this, it’s out, it’s already out. So grab, grab, grab your copy, I’m sure I can probably preorder it now. Right, it’s available, you can

Janice 

Definitely pre order it. Team, if you buy it and like it, and there’s a team of people, I can get you a great deal on on, you know, 25 copies or 50 copies we can all right. And I’ll I’ll even come and do a talk if you buy if you buy like you know, a quantity.

Melissa 

Okay, well, we’re gonna make sure we have your contact info too in the in the show notes. But But before we do that, I would love to know, is there any words of wisdom that you would give yourself if we could go back in time and words of wisdom you’d share with yourself at the start of the journey?

Janice 

Yes, two things. One, I love you. I love you so much. And two, you are okay. That’s it. If I could just have adopted that mindset 25 years ago, it would have been so much better, and I would have suffered so much less.

Melissa 

Oh, I love that. It brings a bit of tears to my eyes, because it really resonates with some of my my own healing journey as well. And just the things I’ve seen in clients, like if we could just tell ourselves those messages. Wow, that would be really powerful.

Janice 

I just like I love you so much. And you know how long how much. Do you know how much money and time it took for me to get to that place? Oh my gosh.

Melissa 

Yeah, I wish we could just rewind the tape and just infuse it.

Janice 

Exactly. only it were that easy.

Melissa 

Well, Janice where can people reach out to you if they want to get in touch and learn more about your book and all the great work you’re doing?

Janice 

It’s easy. I’m Janice at Janicefraser.com

Melissa 

All right. Well, that is easy enough. And we will add it in the show notes too.

Janice 

Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much for this interview for this podcast. Thank you so much for taking on the topic. It is so needed, and I’m really really grateful.

Melissa 

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for those words. And also thank you for coming on and sharing your story. Really appreciate it.

Janice 

You’re welcome.

Melissa 

Alright, thanks.

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HI I’M MELISSA

I'm a therapist-turned-coach who loves working with clients around the world! I work with the globally mobile community to support them through transitions as well as entrepreneurs who need support navigating the rollercoaster of entrepreneur life.

I'm also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community, a mom, a self-compassion advocate, and an aspiring author.

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