“… it helps to know that you’re not in this alone, that people are struggling, people are winning, people are succeeding, that there’s a common ground in our mortal coil and our greatness that, on some level, we’re all hungry for poetry and to make a difference and there is a shared search. There’s a shared hunger amongst us.”
Toni Reece: Thank you so much, Danielle, for agreeing to be with us today; and before we get into the questions, can you take a few minutes to introduce yourself?
Danielle LaPorte: Sure. Thank you for having me, first of all. I’m Danielle LaPorte, and you can find me at whitehottruth.com where I write mostly about self-realization and entrepreneurship. I do what I call Fire Starter sessions, one-on-one and in groups with entrepreneurs. It turns out it was mostly women. I review your business in advance, and then we jam on the phone about everything from creativity blocks or social media to raising money to your next great idea.
I was lead author of a book called Style Statement that came out last spring. It’s about defining the two words that name your authentic self and using that to really design your life. And I’m working on my next book called The Fire Starter Sessions about creativity, vocation, and desire.
Toni: Thank you for that. When you think of the work that you’ve done, this great body of work that you’ve done and you’re doing and the word inspiration, who do you think you inspire, and how do you do that?
Danielle: Well, what’s reflected back to me is that what’s working about what I’m doing in terms of inspiration is I think I inspire people who are seeking meaning in their lives and seeking to create meaning in their lives. They want to be more awake, they want to be authentic, however they want to label that. It’s about living from your soul or your original self or your essence. They want to be free, and they want to make a contribution to the collective while they’re doing that.
Toni: How you do go about that, Danielle?
Danielle: I tell my story.
Toni: You tell your story?
Danielle: I tell my story. There’s a fantastic quote from Audre Lorde. It says “If women told the truth, the world would crack open.” And the response I get is “Thank you for being frank, thank you for telling it like it is.” I talk about my struggles in entrepreneurship, in relationships, in seeking and creating my own meaning. I’m very righteous and opinionated about what I do and how I do it and, at the same time, different strokes for different folks. I’m really open to people’s different choices about the way they find and define their own version of the truth.
Toni: So when you are working that way and relating to people in that way during the inspiration process, how do you think that helps people explore their own potential?
Danielle: Well, reflection is big. It’s dynamic. I think you need to open yourself to the dynamic process of seeing how other people are living their lives. And it helps to know that you’re not in this alone, that people are struggling, people are winning, people are succeeding, that there’s a common ground in our mortal coil and our greatness that, on some level, we’re all hungry for poetry and to make a difference and there is a shared search. There’s a shared hunger amongst us.
Toni: And the people that you work with, do they find you? Are they drawn to you for that presence, so to speak, of being honest and being frank and open and allowing them to be the same? Do you find that that’s the way that happens for you?
Danielle: Yeah. For me, it’s all about resonance. One thing I learned in my journey that became really clear a few years ago was I was no longer going to sell myself; that it wasn’t about seduction, it wasn’t about the sales pitch. It was just about showing up clearly and firmly about who I am, what I stand for; and if you resonate, great. If not, that’s great, too.
There’s lots of other people whose work you’ll love to read and who you want to do some strategic jamming with. I’m not so much into the pitch anymore. I’m into emanating my own vibe really cleanly, and people self select and members of your tribe find you.
Toni: Can you spend just a moment and help everyone who is going to listen or read your interview understand, was there a moment for you in this journey? Did you always come to the table this way, or did some sort of a moment happen for you to go, “You know what, that’s it, I’m not going to do this anymore” and led you on this other path?
Danielle: Oh God no, I haven’t always been this straight up. There have been a few defining moments, passages. You teach what you need to learn, and my whole shtick is about authenticity, so of course life is always bringing me sort of high stakes situations where I really need to bring myself to the table.
I used to run a think tank in Washington, D.C., and we had 20-some futures. We did scenario planning and strategic planning, consulting to the likes of the Pentagon and IBM’s mobile competing division, and that milieu had a lot of cache. But I felt like a big fake.
I’d get to my desk every morning and there would be the New York Times and the Washington Post, and I was supposed to be caring about weapons of mass destruction and AIDS and water issues, but really I wanted to read the Arts and Culture section. Our funding was very closely tied to the dot-com boom, and when that bombed it became clear that everything was falling apart, and my façade needed to fall apart. So that was a big defining moment for me.
Another — which was really my sort of Phoenix rising from the flames in my life — was I started a company a few years ago based on Style Statement and our tagline, our slogan, our empire, was built on “inspiring authenticity.” We raised a ton of money and Oprah called, and I had thousands of subscribers, but behind the scenes it was actually getting very inauthentic. There were leadership issues and venture capital involved and a lot of things going on in that equation, and I walked. I walked from … my name was on the letterhead, it was a domain name, and I knew that to really save my soul I needed to walk away. And I got truthful, and that’s how I created White Hot Truth.
Toni: I would imagine that takes a lot of courage to do that.
Danielle: Yeah, it takes some moxy, that’s for sure.
Toni: Yes, there’s a great lesson there that will be learned by others listening to what you just said. When you think about inspiration from your own perspective, what do you need to be inspired? Where do you seek inspiration?
Danielle: Well, I think the whole inspiration question is potentially revolutionary for people. I think if we all asked ourselves “What inspires me?” it could really change the course of your life, because that is unfortunately not how many of us live. We live according to what’s going to work, what are the Joneses doing, what’s status quo – so I just want to put out there that I really value the question.
What keeps me inspired? Beauty, poetry. I’m obsessed with words. I have my own sort of inspiration file. So as a writer, what actually really keeps me going are other lectures and songs. So if I need a fix, I go listen to some TED lectures, some of the most brilliant, creative people in the world. I get 20 minutes of great juju and excellence. I pick up some Rumi, some Rilke, some Leonard Cohen.
I love really, hard, intense funk music. So if I’m stuck on an article sometimes, all I need is some Red Hot Chili Peppers or some Parliament or some Franz Ferdinand, to like funk me up; that helps.
I love children’s art. I love the perspective of the stuff that my five-year-old boy brings home from school. It’s like “Of course that’s what a dinosaur looks like. Of course, why didn’t I see it that way?” That does it for me. And light. I love the quality of light. It sounds so woo-woo and cheesy, but candles and incense and fire and being warm. I’ve got a big thing about being warm; that usually loosens up my own inner inspiration.
Toni: How do you take all of that, Danielle, and drive that towards the exploration process of your own potential then?
Danielle: My own potential … well, you know, I’ve often gotten the question about “What scares you?” Not very much. However, my one particular fear is that I won’t live up to my potential in this lifetime. So I guess I’m really driven by fear. Fear of being a loser, not writing enough books. On my deathbed, I may be saying, “I could have written just one more book.” So that keeps me going.
I’m hooked … I’m thrilled by the search. I’m thrilled by the search.
Toni: The search of what?
Danielle: Things that feel right. Things that feel truthful. Sometimes they feel absolute. Sometimes they feel universal. Sometimes it feels very personal. I am hungry for communion, connection, divinity. I want to feel at home.
Toni: Sometimes that doesn’t mean necessarily being home though, does it?
Danielle: No. Not at all, not at all.
Toni: When you talk about how you explore your own potential and the fear of not living up to your potential – what a great way to say that – and the things so passionately that you expressed that inspire you, how do you think that that all transcends — what you do to seek inspiration and to explore your potential. How does that then drive what you do when you inspire others and help them to explore their own potential? What’s the connection?
Danielle: How does that transcend and what’s the connection? Feels good! That’s it. I think the answer is that simple. It feels right and feels true to be of service, I think. I’ve always been wired that way. I don’t know. It’s a question sort of up for me right now. Are people naturally wired to connect and be of service? I don’t know, but I am; and I want to be useful, so that drives me. The desire to be full transcends the day-to-day. It transcends and it integrates the day-to-day.
Toni: And people who are not truthful and that are not authentic do not have the ability to truly inspire others, because it doesn’t come across that way.
Danielle: I don’t agree.
Danielle: Yeah. I think there’s lots of cheese heads and big fat phonies out there who are inspiring people, and people who are inspired by what they’ve got to say are resonating on some level. And I think … you know, there’s the old Winston Churchill saying that even a broken clock is right once a day. So even people that are inauthentic, sometime, somehow, authenticity shines through.
I mean, I’ve had a number of connections with charlatans and gurus who were in some ways incredibly corrupt, but in other ways really spoke the truth; and you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. So I think we run into … there’s a philosophical conundrum around expecting people to be perfect, and at the same time, I get what you’re saying.
Yeah, the more you show up in your honesty and your nakedness, I think the deeper you will touch people. I think the more sustainable it is, the more long-lasting your effect will be. But you know, even bozos have something to say.
Toni: Even bozos have something to say … I think you’re right!
Danielle: You know, maybe someone listening to this thinks I’m a total bozo, but they just got a little ounce of inspiration. Take what you want, and leave the rest; I’m down with that.
Toni: The bozos and the cheese heads will have to just go away! Oh my goodness! Well, I’ll tell you, you have been absolutely marvelous to interview for this Project, and you’ve given a lot of information and just by sharing your story of where you come from as far as inspiration and how you do it. I really appreciate the time you’ve given us today, Danielle. We will be putting information about you and how to reach you at the bottom of the blog post. I can’t thank you enough.
Danielle: Thank you. I love what you’re doing. Best wishes.
For more information about Danielle LaPorte: www.whitehottruth.com