Lila Smith: Abandoning Broadway for a Bigger Life
Finding success on Broadway was simply the path of life that Lila Smith was taking. She was an actor. She started at a young age, progressed through school to finally achieving full membership in the Actors' Equity Association. Yet something was still missing.
A few years working in the corporate world taught Lila that she had something no one else in the corporate world did. Her professional acting training and experience gave her the ability to communicate better than anyone around her. A fateful day - one phone call and 7 hours later Lila moved across the country to start her new life!
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Shea Oliver: Hi, I'm Shea Oliver. Welcome to The Priority Paradigm. I'm sharing stories of amazing people who've made radical changes in their life for something more important. Today I'm joined by Lila Smith and she's got an amazing story to tell you. So without further ado, Lila, tell us your story.
Lila Smith: I'm Lila Smith. I'm a born and raised New Yorker. And that has meant that I've been around people who have lived all different kinds of stories. There's not one typical path for the kind of people that I've been surrounded by my whole life. So I was always encouraged to be creative, to think outside the box and to define the path that was right for me. So in that I feel very blessed that I have this creativity and that I have this ability to go for whatever it is that I want.
Lila Smith: But that said, when I chose a path as an actor and went to school for it and actually did work for 10 years professionally in the field, there were a lot of expectations that other people who live different lives would have of me. There were these rules that maybe there were unspoken, but that people could live vicariously through my crazy tour stories or they would know how to talk to me at family dinners or holidays. "Hey, what shows are you or what have you been in lately or that crzy kid she's always doing something -something funny that one time she played a Matzah ball. Tell them something that makes you laugh or tell them something about one of the things that you've done lately. Sing us a song."
Lila Smith: Right? So there are expectations that came with being an actor and I think because a lot of people had a vested interest in the support that they had given me, they kind of got to be the hero in supporting my journey in this non traditional professional field. So for 10 years I lived this life and I felt creative and I felt a talented. I got some good feedback. I got some good roles. I'm having nice, solid career trajectory from non union after to an EMC Equity Membership Candidate, which means that you're almost in the actor's union, but not yet.
Lila Smith: So to finally getting my actor's union membership and joining a theater company in Manhattan and I could see my path continuing, but that path and did a best case for me because I'm a theater actress and not a film. Best case scenario, Broadway and Broadway means you're performing eight shows a week, six days a week, evenings and weekends, and you don't even make that much money when you're at the top. So it's nothing compared to what film actors make. Even if you're a big, big name, there's only so much money you're gonna make from doing a show on Broadway. And then what? Like what happens after that show closes or you move on. There's a lot of uncertainty. There's a lot of competition, there's a lot of pressure to look a certain way to comport yourself a certain way to say or not say certain things on social media. Less, you upset somebody and they start feeling, "oh, she wouldn't be a good member of ensemble work. That doesn't really vibe with our ethos as a theater company. And you know, those political ideas don't align with ours."
Lila Smith: So there's a lot of boxing in even in this out of the box career that I had been feeling the weight of and during the day if you're performing at night, during the day, you're still auditioning or you're working a day job because you just aren't making that much money or you are spending endless money investing back into your education and back into your skills to make yourself stand out. New marketing materials, new headshots because you lost three pounds last week where you dyed your hair a little bit or it's currently today where you cut it and it's just, it is endless. So it's a very hard career to have a life.
Shea Oliver: It sounds like it is! It sounds brutal
Lila Smith: It is, and so just like being an entrepreneur if you are an actor, but you can think of literally anything else that you can do that would make you happy. Everybody says go do that. Right? Because it has to be. It has to end. It was for me for a long time. The only thing that I could see myself doing where I would be fully creatively active from what I understood that to mean if the time and I'm doing my part to be able to tell the stories that I thought really mattered in the world. So I thought it was a noble thing to do. I thought it was a beautiful thing to do. I had a community of actors around me, people in the theater who I shared a lot of things with and yet I was feeling, especially as I was getting older, this isn't for me.
Lila Smith: Something is missing here. I want a life. I want to be able to have a family. I was looking for things that would give me more financial stability, but also things like use different parts of my brain. So there's a lot of, you know, business brand and acting. You have to be able to market yourself and you have to be able to navigate different personalities and work as a group or a be resourceful. I always say that the theater is really like an MBA bootcamp in a bottle, but without the bottle, it's just in a lifestyle. There's so much that business from being in theater.
Lila Smith: And I wasn't even really loving performance. I would get deeply invested into one character and then when the run of that show would end. That's it. Cold Turkey. It's like being in a relationship with somebody and then they leave and you're done and you have no control over the run of a show when you're an actor, unless you're also a producer. And that's a whole other story about how hard things get when you're a self producing performer. But it just was, it was clear to me that the things that I was doing in my day job, which were, you know, marketing customer service, things that were like, you know, real things ended up being more fulfilling and paid more money and I was able to be a leader and bring out the best in other people. And I was still communicating and telling stories and finding ways to be creative and be an artist.
Lila Smith: And so about three years ago, I decided I would stop performing and I could come back anytime, as soon as I missed it, and I told my family. And you know, it's interesting at that time because this is my first of two major shifts that I'll share with you. They didn't, they didn't know for a while how to relate to me, what to ask at those family dinners anymore. Who was I now to them, if my entire life I've been Lila the actor. So now what? Now what am I doing that's interesting? Who can they refer me to? Can I connect me to, how do they introduce me? Here's Lila, she works in Ecommerce. Here's Lila, she works in commerce is less interesting to most people or they bring it up and then it's like, well, it's been great, you know? So there was that.
Lila Smith: And then there was also what happens with my friends. I was part of a community that we all shared this common ground, this common understanding of where we were coming from and what we would relate to that struggle that we shared. And yet this beautiful sense of, of this noble thing that we were doing the noble pursuit of Art, Theater, and the, you know, the thing that anyone can ever do and the biggest and the boldest and the bravest, right. So I also had judgement from friends of mine. "Oh, she's quitting. Oh, she's giving up. Oh, I'm so sorry that you are leaving. You're not going to feel, feel, feel fulfilled anymore. I feel sorry for you. And, I think that you're getting up" And people saying things to me like that I would this wasting gifts from God by not singing or performing anymore.
Lila Smith: So it really hurt whether they knew or not. But that was the kind of response that I got from most people when I said I don't want to do this anymore and I want to go. It was, it's funny to think about like leaving a career as an actor, going to invest more time as a career in ecommerce, as you know, choosing a path that I felt at the time was more right for me. Something something bigger, right, can have a bigger influence on a team or be creative every day, not just when I had somebody else's words to say, but as myself as a leader, so that was my first. That was my first experience pivoting, but when I found in ecommerce leadership is that as an actor I had all of these abilities that would help me as a leader that empowered me and empowered my team communication strategies.
Lila Smith: There were things that I learned as an actor, poaching a character. If you're really a good actor, you're drawing from your own life experience. You're drawing from your own context, your own background, the way that you see in fields, the world around you, and that's what you bring when you show up to a character. Otherwise, it's just words that somebody else wrote about about someone else. This fictional circumstances. So for me, being able to still have those communication strategies, but rather than using them to portray something real through fictional circumstances that fiction was gone, and I was able to communicate effectively using those same tools that I need to literally the training that I had as an actor. The Stanislavski system in the method acting, Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner, the Stella Adler School of Acting, including actions and tactics. So I've had a lot of training in different methods and putting all those together enabled me to have a way to be effective in like communication as a negotiator, as a leader, as a manager, as an employee, as a creator, as a creative director.
Lila Smith: And all of that was happening for me in ecommerce. And then after a few years of finding my way through success and to being the director of the department for a well-regarded company in New York City, I started feeling. I think I've reached the end of the rainbow here. I've communicated through every set of circumstances that I'm going to add a job like this. If I were an actor, I would go look for a new show at that point, but what does that look like? What am I even want to, I want to do a different job in ecommerce or is there something else? I ended up doing this. I came into the company as a customer service manager and then ecommerce operations manager, left and my ceo at the time was like, do you want to? Yeah. Okay. So I learned and that's how I ended up in that position.
Lila Smith: So what I did learn from that is that I can learn anything and I was always the person who said, "oh, all that tech stuff, that's for somebody else, that's where someone else to learn, that's not for me. I'm a creative person." But learning that technology was not something off limits to me that ecommerce and the backend of things and thinking strategically was something that was always natural to me. So why shouldn't it be natural to think strategically about, you know, the backend of a website and where data was pulled from and where it went to and what that did to merchandise and experience for a customer, and all of that. But it still felt like after a while that story was done, and I was just sitting there on the last page of the story, rereading it over and over and over and over again.
Lila Smith: I was not learning anymore lessons. And so feeling that, that momentum of, of creativity, of flow, of power. And at that time I started to get a little bit more active on Linkedin. This happened about a year ago, almost a year ago in 2017 around September. I started getting really active because I went in just to just to see what am I missing? Anything. I'll go on Linkedin, I'll look at job descriptions, not to look for another job, but because I want to see am I doing all the things that are in this list with somebody in my position with my title, am I feeling uncreative or stuck or that I've stopped learning. But actually there's more for me to learn, so I went to LinkedIn looking for self improvement, looking for mentors, looking for guidance, looking for people who could teach me more and invest more in this world.
Lila Smith: But what I found instead was something that I had been missing for the two and a half years since I left the theater. I found a new community. I found people who related to the things that I said that about anything. And I wasn't stopping myself. I said, I'm just, I'm here. I don't care what anybody else to say about whether I'm entitled to an opinion or not. This is social media, is Linkedin, whatever. Most of the people here just here to put on the resume is what I thought at the time. But some people would write things about recruitment. I would write about my experience hiring for the company I've worked for, or people would write about, just leadership or management or they would write about operations. And it was either, it was something from my experience in ecommerce or my experience in theater. But there was always something that I can say that added value to the conversation and built those connections for me because I was adding value to their conversations that they were starting. I built this community in the comments section of other people's posts on LinkedIn and when I was finally starting to publish my own, which I still don't do that often, but when I do, it's because I have something to say, keep the conversation that I want to start. And as I was going through that process, building this community, these people who were getting to know me reflected things back to me that I hadn't heard in a long time until people on linkedin. We're saying, your story is valuable. Your, your perspective is interesting. Wow. Theater. That's, that's fascinating. That I started seeing it as specifically valuable. Something that I could do to offer other people and to offer a variety of topics across industries.
Lila Smith: Whatever the person was that was, you know, whatever they were doing, whatever their industry was, I had something to say that could help them. And when I looked at the common threads, what those things were it was always about communication, it was always about the story that they were telling, what page they were on and where they were getting stuck, what resources could I tag in, what other connections can I say? Okay, add Shea Oliver, I bet that you have something to say about this as someone who's heard many stories about change and getting unstuck, so if that came up you would be someone I would tag in and that would cement the friendship and connection and add value to the original post. So through those connections, through those relationships, through hearing people say, then back to me, "Hey, you're really good at this communication stuff" over and over and over again. Or you're so creative, you're so good at connecting people or you always understand what I'm trying to say. Can you help me? That's when it started. Can you help me with this? I have something to say. And you always say things better.
Lila Smith: So it was a lot of people saying exact phrase that prompted me to just go and see. Let me just see if this url is available. Maybe I'll make a blog out of it or something, and it was, which I was shocked by saythingsbetter.com, which I haven't even launched yet officially, but is up there actually, you're the first to know better was just something that people said that I did. So I started thinking what that meant and why. I know because I'm in theater, I'm a good communicator, but actually there were those methods that I was trained in. What happens if I start applying that?
Lila Smith: Like instead advice about how to communicate things better or how to say things a little bit better that the positions that must be expert that helps them to get there. Yes. That gets buy in from the right people that builds the team, that makes things happen. That's communication strategy. But if I also apply my methods, my technique to those to those people, to that advice, I have something specific and now proven. So now after a while, after about three years and the last company that I worked for in ecommerce, I started a Hashtag campaign. #10tips10days with three friends of mine on Linkedin. This is a way of people finding ideas, finding videos that go under a certain challenge or a certain kind of topic.
Lila Smith: So the Hashtag campaign, #10tips10days, the number 10, the number 10 was a way for people to share some value about what they did, so tips for other people, providing solutions to the problems that their clients or customers had and Kiera Day, Bobby Umar, Jake Jordan and I started this especially asking people to share this information by way of LinkedIn video which had been around but a lot of people were still reluctant to try and we asked them to do this because video is connected. Video lets you see someone's entire face when they're talking about something that they care about and you can hear their voice and you can understand why it is that they are connected to what they do and what they offer. So with that I launched my own Hashtag, say things better and I went into my five step method of intentional communication and this was its public debut. So this Hashtag tips. Ten days was going to be the official launch of a side hustle that I had been doing that I was now asking to be paid for. So, you know, all this communication, advising and consulting, I thought, well this will be a fun way for me to launch this and tell people what I'm doing and how and how they can do it themselves. Because bottom line, I just want there to be good communication in the world. I want us to come together using communication that cares instead of communication that gets me to my end game but not yours. So my way is different. I'm not looking for dramatic conflict like you have to play. I'm looking for like dramatic collaboration and partnership.
Lila Smith: So what I have gets people to that point, get some the yes that they need while still caring for the needs of other people. And then that way the stories that I really about are the ones that get told and the stories that I really care about are the ones that I'm really working with and I can work with anyone in the story is different every day. I have people using The Five Steps, Say Things Better method to be effective in real estate sales. I have people using the method to establish international diplomatic programs that are tremendous.
Lila Smith: I mean, and this morning I was talking with somebody from another country and without giving away to much of that project, I can say that it's unprecedented for the area, and I'm very proud to be able to work on stuff like that and also just simple things like is your linkedin profile putting out what you needed to express? What's your objective with that and is it accomplishing it? The person reading it, your ideal audience, what do they need to get out of it? What do they need to understand? So whatever it is that somebody needs to communicate, if it's really important to them, if it's a high stakes communication event for them, people are now coming to me. Within three days of this hashtag campaign launching and my videos going public. I had booked $20,000 worth of work and speaking engagements at six different countries and I left my job and I said, well, I've got to do this now. So now I've been selling it and I feel happier than I've ever been. Now. And telling the stories. Now I'm helping people write and explain their own and now I'm going all over the place and I feel free. I feel expressive and I feel like I'm finally using all of my strengths at the same time. So that is kind of my story. The Say Things Better, The Five Steps.
Lila Smith: So the first step of the five is to identify your super objective. A lot of people see this as their why, their purpose, their reason for being. I really like to think of it as what's at stake for you, what's keeping you accountable to effective communication. What that really is for a lot of people is I really want to take care of my family. So if I don't get this one thing right now, that's at risk, right? So it keeps you from flying off. The handle, keeps you from losing your temper, keeps you from walking out of a room, and something gets difficult, keeps you in the situation, and performing at your best so that whatever that is for you is number one.
Lila Smith: Number two is to identify your objective for one communication event. Communication event is what it sounds like. It's talking to a podcast audience. Maybe my objective is to get you interested in working with me. One on one is a coach and won't be for everybody, but it will be for some people.
Lila Smith: So how do I get there? I have to identify what that person's objective is for listening to this. So that's step three. What does my communication partner want to get out of this? If I had identified you as my communication partner Shea, then that's one thing. If I identified that the communication partner that achieves my objectives, actually the audience for this, for this podcast, for this book, then that's who I'm talking to. Even though I'm speaking to you, my objective addresses them and what their objective is, so if I'm thinking about what they want, maybe they want to communicate something effectively, maybe they're stuck somewhere that they can't make their way through, blocked by someone else. They're blocked by a things that they lack. They're blocked because they don't have there are black because they don't have money. They're blocked because they don't have time. Whatever it is that they're missing, those resources, I can find them ways with communication of achieving those things so they don't need to spend any more than they have. They don't need to use things that they don't have, and that they can find a place to stand in a position of their own strength. So we've gone from super objective, which is why it's important to communicate effectively. Our objective, which is what we want right now, our communication partners objective, what do they want, what they need that person you're talking to in order to feel that this communication, I think was a success for them.
Lila Smith: And then step four is filled it, filling your toolbox. So if I feel my toolbox full of lots of features I'm caught, I'm going to call out from that toolbox, features that are actually benefits to the person that I'm talking to, so that might mean that whoever it is and I'm talking to needs to hear something specific from my background in order to relate to me, in order to be open to help from me in order to see themselves and be free and really mean that. So that step four is finding all of those things that I have that I can offer. I'm offering. In this example I'm offering my experience. I'm offering stories of how I actually did it. I'm offering examples of different industries I'm offering so that people know that they can relate to me and what I do even if they are in some weird field or they're trying something unprecedented. Communication is communication and that needs to be effective. No matter what. This method works, no matter how it is that you're trying to relate to another person, what your position of strengths are. Don't have to be the same as mine in order to use this method. So giving people, those things are in my toolbox
Lila Smith: And the fifth step is communicative action, so that's where it comes from. Stella Adler's actions and tactics and it basically takes a verb, which is an action word in a sentence you say, I run to the store, run is that verb. So to run a and I'm using communicative actions, these verbs to encourage people to express themselves actively. So if you want to get somebody on your team, you need to communicate with them in a way that makes them feel whatever they need to feel in order to be open to help from you. And that might be different for you. You might be able to get in and connect to somebody. And I do. So I go forward to disarm, you know, because I think that I'm being charming is something that I generally come in conversation with me. So that's how I approach things. That doesn't work for everybody. Some people are way less extroverted, some people are not as charming. So you know that's the case, but you can find whatever it is that works for you that gets you to connect with a person who really supportive to support would be an verb for you to consider.
Lila Smith: Maybe you are talking to somebody who needs to be shaken up a little bit in order to hear what you have to say, so maybe your verb to agitate or to concern you. It doesn't mean that you're trying to upset anybody with your conversation with them and your communication, but giving people what they need in order to experience your help. That's what communicative action does. That fifth step to intimidate, to patronize, and to dismiss are words that I say you should probably try and stay away from if what you're looking to do is connect, but if what you want to do is connect and build trust, get somebody onto your team where they not only say yes, but they say thank you for the opportunity. Then I say go and things like to partner to embolden and to uplift. You know, whatever it is that works for your communication partner.
Lila Smith: Think about what that is. Is that those actions and then you don't have to memorize that whole script. You can just memorize your intentions and then when questions come up you still have a way of communicating that's consistent and those verbs are also how I consult with a lot of companies, helping them to identify what their values are and then taking those values and putting them into action that they can use to express to everybody in their company from the top down, from the bottom up inside and out, internal communications, external communications like marketing, does your communication seek to do this, this and this, and those are easy things to scan communication by to make sure everybody's on the same voice. So now I wake up every single day feeling so grateful for my life that I just can't even believe it. I post these instagram stories and I look back at the end of the day of where I've traveled or what I've done or what I've eaten or who I've met and I just can't believe that that was my day and the next morning I wake up and I feel how could I ever have not been doing this?
Lila Smith: But it did take the journey. Okay. Think the feeling stuck and did take being on that last page, reading it over and over and over and over again, and then finally getting like another wad of paper thrown at me and hit in the head to say, Oh, oh, I can do this with this book. I can wear this book on my head as a hat. I can improve my posture. I can sit on this. I can write a new book in the pages of this one. I can highlight things and beautiful pictures. I can make patterns from this and I can give that to somebody else. So now I just love my life everyday and I want that for everybody else. I certainly want that for your listeners and readers and I think that probably sums up my story of my two major professional shifts and I would love to hear feedback from you or what your responses are to this kind of life story that I'm still living.
Shea Oliver: Beautiful. I love your story. It's fantastic. It's, I think it's the story of a lot of people where we, we really, when we're young, we have a direction we're going, we really think that we're on our way and it's okay that it wasn't the direction we were meant for our entire lives. It's okay to go now. This wasn't it, but I've got some questions for you. So, one of the things that struck me was that your family knew you...
Shea Oliver: Okay, great. So what one the things that I wanted to ask was. So you were, Lila, the actor, and that's how you interacted with friends, family that weren't in your acting community, and then you made that shift out and they didn't know who you are. Who to them today?
Lila Smith: I don't even know if everybody knows what I'm doing now. This is going to help me tell them and I guess we'll find out. One of the other things that's happened since we're talking about big shifts and changes is that I've moved from New York City to Dallas, and I did this because I found this incredible community of people on Linkedin who I feel are my people. I have professional opportunity here, but I also have so much love my friends here. My, all of my relationships here are deep and something that I can count on as I keep changing and keep growing. So I have a local community now, just the one that I met online, but a local community, people that I moved to be near the people who wanted to see me do crazy things. It was a big move but it didn't feel like a risk because I had already built that community with them online. And by coming to visit a couple of times, it didn't feel risky at all. It felt it feels much safer to me to be here where I feel like I have my people then to be back in a place where it was sort of dark and lonely and isolating and feeling at risk because I couldn't find my way or I just couldn't read that page one more time.
Lila Smith: So I had moved out of an apartment that I had shared when I was married, which I'm not now, and I had moved from that apartment to my mother's house. She lives in Pittsburgh, but there was a house in Brooklyn that I was gonna go and live in for a while and as I was, and this was the day that I had movers bring me over and put me into that house, put boxes in the basement, put furniture upstairs, unpack a suitcase. And as I unzipped that suitcase and started taking things out, I felt with each thing, I'm investing more and more and more into staying here on that page. And I didn't want to do it anymore. I could physically feel the ache of longing, wanting to be with my people, my loves. You know, I just wanted to get here, so I looked and I saw that I had enough airline points to book a one way first class ticket that would give me two free checked bags I wouldn't have to spend money on and I thought, I guess I'll go move to Dallas with that.
Lila Smith: So I called my friend Stephanie, who by the way, I met in the comments of someone else's posts on Linkedin and I said, I think I'd like to move to Dallas. I know we had sort of talked about it as something that maybe I would do like in September after all this travel that I have in August. But what about like instead tomorrow she didn't even flinch. She said, "your room is ready for you if you want to come, come, let's go." Okay. And I booked my ticket and I furiously started unpacking because my flight left in about seven hours, and I started unpacking, unpacking, unpacking until I limited my belongings to just what fit in two big check bags and one carry on. And that is what I moved to Dallas. So I don't even know why I started talking about that whole part of the story, but these who were rallying for me to come here for a long time, there was a behind the scenes hashtag and a message thread #Lila2Dallas that I think Aaron Hennen started, in, in this group message with a bunch of us who either uh, our friend here or did an event here, am I here? I mean Dallas because I live here now and a bunch of people are on this and we're rallying saying, what do you want to do, what do you want to meet? And then they arranged for that to happen for me. And they made me feel very, very ready to come.
Shea Oliver: You basically packed your bags, moved to Dallas in less than a 12 hour period.
Lila Smith: Yes.
Shea Oliver: So how scared were you?
Lila Smith: I was not at all scared. I was sad to be leaving my dad who still lives there. A couple of my best friends still live there. My brother lives in Philadelphia, so it was a much easier commute to see him when I was there and my mother and Pittsburgh and was still. It's still a trip so. But yeah, so I was sad about some things, certainly sad, leaving a place that I'm from that had felt so long like it was me, but it didn't feel like me anymore. Now this feels like me and so it didn't feel scary to come and be in a place where I would be having my best life and everything would be in alignment. That felt like a gift. It felt like a blessing. It felt like everything was finally coming together for me. I had heard this kind of placeholder life and I can only say that everything, you know, everything happens for a reason, the timing, whatever, but it really did take so much of this stuff and these people in this affirmation and this work and this overwhelming response to something that was just a Hashtag campaign on Linkedin. It took all of that to get me off my page. That I was stuck on and out into the light and I feel like I live in the light everyday now.
Shea Oliver: That's an amazing story. That's fantastic. I love that. I love that you did that. So I'm assuming mom, dad and brother know since they're the closest ones. Do any of your actor friends know that you've left the city that you've taken off?
Lila Smith: Some of them do. Some of them do, but the truth is that a lot of them had lost touch with me a long time ago when I stopped performing, not because I was ostracized or or because I was or not included or because they didn't want me there, but because it's a very busy, difficult thing to do. Your day is packed from beginning to end with ways to try and get yourself ahead in the business, and even if that means just being around the people that you need to be around in order to just survive this, you know, having people who are in the trenches with you is really helpful and I wasn't in the trenches so I didn't run into a lot of people. I wasn't in the same foxhole anymore.
Lila Smith: So there are people I'm still in touch with certainly like my friend Lily knows what I'm doing. My friend Erin right there, my friend Ian there for sure people who know what I'm doing understand it and applauded people who are very supportive, especially now that what I'm doing is not just ecommerce, but what I'm doing is talking about theater to a professional world, mainstream professional world where people get stuck in their own patterns of communication and their own nine to five and bringing a little bit of entertainment, and a little bit of storytelling and powerful, purposeful, intentional communication to their lives is something that I can do because I've had this theater experience. So in that way I'm now communicating with all of the people that I was ever connected to and honoring what it is that they do in a way that is also in line with what I now do. That feels better to me.
Shea Oliver: So how long have you been in Dallas now?
Lila Smith: About three weeks. I love it so much. I have the best time and I'm still traveling a lot, so, uh, this week I was in Austin and Houston with a company called Tech Wildcatters. They are a startup accelerator program and I'm a communication mentor for the company. And, last week I was speaking at a conference in Salt Lake City for My Mini Casa. This unbelievable company that sells shipping containers, but what they really do is much more. The way that they're structured allows their employees to live lives of freedom and flexibility and to support their families. And I can't even tell you what it was like being there. You should talk to some of the people who worked for My Mini Casa, the speakers that they had that weekend besides those of us that they brought in, the people that were from that company, every one of them cried when they were talking about how much it meant to them to have some see them for their true strength and power and lift that up out of them and give them a platform to explore that. It was so beautiful.
Lila Smith: I'm going to be traveling to Toronto next week for the discover your personal brand conference where I'll be leading a Verb Your Values workshop as part of a full day event for C-suite and executives, so helping them take that fifth step, communicative action to take the values of their company and seek their own values and express that through their content, through their communication, throughout all their company structure and marketing and everything, and I'm going to be doing this with a group of people that I met on Linkedin, Bobby Umar, Discover Your Personal Brand. They work together a lot. Carrie Twig, who's one of the first people that I really followed the contents of a career counselor and Dr Brynn Winegard, who's this brilliant brain science lady who can unlock the reasons why people do things and how they relate to you on a physical level with the chemicals in your brain. Reacting and responding to things like taking communicative action. The whole day is going to be this incredible event that I feel so lucky to be part of and that's next week in Toronto, and I'd never met any of these people in person before outside of Linkedin. And then I'm going back to New York and then I'm coming back to Dallas and then I'm going to, in October I'll be in Copenhagen, London, Dublin, Berlin, and I'm traveling all over the place doing what I really, really loved now
Shea Oliver: So I can definitely see that you're enjoying this like crazy. So you spend a lot of time, as you said, in the trenches in the acting world, I'm assuming the personal life probably suffered a little bit doing something you thought you were supposed to do and how to do it just from the number of hours you were working and the worries and concerns. How has that changed as you've transitioned into this?
Lila Smith: Good question. It's funny because I don't really talk a lot about my personal life, like Linkedin people, which is where you and I met, but I will, since we're here. And so, as an actor, my personal life in my relationship did not suffer. My husband was an opera singer and he understood the creative life. He understand, he met me that way. I was an after I was again, like traveling a lot and doing things that were, oh, I like, that felt really natural to what he understood that I was, and that identity wasn't a factor, but it was something that came up as this isn't going to be sustainable if we need to have a two income family in order to move forward.
Lila Smith: So it came up there as something that I had to make a choice about and it did feel at the time, like we were on the same page about when that would happen and I did end up not performing anymore, but I needed to have focus on other things. It just sort of happened to be at the same time. So it wasn't a problem or I didn't see that it was a problem. Right. I didn't, I didn't identify because I was feeling this way too, that maybe that wasn't the right question to ask, you know, are we going to make any money, way that the right question to ask was, are you really happy? The right question to ask was how can I support you in any possible doing what it is that means the most to you. So now that I think back about, it wasn't about whether it was right or wrong or whether we were on the same page, but were we even reading a book that we should have picked up to begin with.
Lila Smith: And uh, Gosh, I mean that was my, like my big relationship, you know, together for nine, nine and a half years. And that's since changed. Not Because of necessarily my career choices. But certainly like back when I, when I did stop acting, we had more time together and that was a, that was a positive thing. So for us and for the adventures that we went on, I also had more time to spend time with my family, my parents, my brother, to see, to see my friends. So in that way, being out of the trenches brought me up into some kind of light where I could see, "oh, this is for sure a part of a life that I want to live. This feels different somehow." And that was, uh, that was one of the first tastes of how things could be really different for me if I just open myself up to that and then deciding, well, I'll try to do just, you know, more of this ecommerce stuff and I'll try to learn and I'll try to ride that roller coaster and see if that's the one that's going to take me to the peaks that I need to be at.
Lila Smith: And it is sometimes having that contrast, those little bits of light that show you that where you had been was dark. So getting unstuck was, was about these little flashlights here and there, these little stars, these little twinkles. That was, it was hard to leave my friends, but it did unlock some possibility for me and for my relationship. And so that at the time for that change for sure made a difference. But I think in, at least at the time, I thought it was a positive direction, and I think it was, I still value that time and those memories that I had the time to make. And then when I went to make this other change and I was spending time trying to get myself out of the darkness out of this stuck place. And I was still, I was married. I was in this relationship with someone who loves me, you know, and I love him and we still have a friendship and a connection that this a supportive in many ways that there were some things though that he would not understand. So there were times that I would come home from work feeling stuck on that same page, unfulfilled, just disjointed and just disassociated from my. And then I would get onto Linkedin and I would start feeling that joy again and start feeling affirmed in things that I was really good at. The things that made sense to me and made me feel alive in a way that I didn't realize that I'd been dead. So when that was happening for me and I wasn't feeling that light coming from the relationship, I wasn't feeling fulfilled.
Lila Smith: There were things that I wanted from that relationship that I realized when I had this quiet time. Well, I've really been waiting for a long time for him to come around and, have children with me or other things that I really, there were a lot of things that I've been waiting for, let's just say. And I kind of felt that it went along with that feeling of being stuck on one page where I couldn't identify necessarily this is the way that I'm stuck. This is the way that I'm stuck in, this is the way that I'm stuck. But when I saw that I had been stuck, I saw a whole long list of all the ways I wanted to unstick myself and that happened to be one of them. So I moved away from the relationship and I moved towards the things that felt good. The things that feel good to me at the time were these professional things. They were these relationships, connections, you know, building, building my network, but not just network but my friends, love, I mean everything you can find, anything that you're open to, if you know that it's out there, if you open your eyes to even the possibility that he deserve it and that maybe you had been in the dark, if you go and seek out that light, as soon as you feel it here, as soon as you feel it resonate, you can recognize that if you recognize that light or you recognize that feeling here of what feels right for me, at least I knew what to go to. It wasn't for me so much about running away from. But what I had to go to, what I was pulled towards and I went all in on that, you know, all in on love, all in on life, all in on passion and experiencing things and exploring, and having my story, having my life that I'm meant to live. And that didn't include continuing this marriage and it didn't include living in New York anymore. Even though my family is there. It included my story. The one that I found out I was writing as I was writing it.
Shea Oliver: Outstanding. Outstanding Thank you for sharing that.
Lila Smith: Yeah. I have not actually talked about it before. So, I don't know why, but I felt like sharing it now.
Shea Oliver: You know, it's interesting you answered a few of my questions as you, as you told your story. I think a lot of people know they're stuck, and you know, it's just, it's, it's here someplace inside them and they, they want the rational, they want to say a, b, c, these are the logical reasons why I should move from where I am. But you just beautifully illustrated that sometimes. that's not it. You can't put it down on a pros and cons list. You have to look inside. And you just stated that beautifully and answered like a whole bunch of questions that I was writing down as you are talking
Lila Smith: I will say as a communication strategist, you know, I do believe in strategy. I do believe that not everyone is going to be the person who takes the big leap. I wouldn't have come here to Dallas if I didn't feel that this was the safer, better choice for me. I wouldn't have made that leap. I had to ask a lot of questions for myself before I was even aware that it resonated so strongly that it felt so bright that it was obvious to me what the choice was. And it was obvious what the other option was. And I didn't want to be stuck anymore. I wanted, I had to physically had to move out of where I was in towards the thing that felt better. So sometimes they think there's a lot of this, "woo, you should jump, you should take the leap." And then it's like, okay, but I have three kids. You know what? Which I don't, but I'm just saying for other people, you know, that there are other considerations. Okay, but I actually have to take care of. My parents are okay, but I, I still have a lot of money that I owe that having a plan can be what empowers those people. So not everyone's going to be someone who takes a leap. Sometimes people need a strategy to get there, if it has anything to do with communication, I want to help those people. I don't come cheap. No, but I do come with a ton of value and make a big difference for people really fast when we worked together and I'm just talking to somebody today about what it is that he really wanted to do and showing him that he didn't have to compare himself to other people who were in the same industry, that he didn't have to compete. He at that level that he was like certainly talented but maybe last a couple of different resources. So if he built those resources into his pricing, he couldn't compete at that price. That's what the people were charging was like this mind blowing thing for him. So a lot of the strategy, a lot of the buy in and finding other people to be on your team. It is what makes you feel safer. It is having a plan, a strategy, steps to taking action that makes you feel freer. Or at least it did for me that when the time was right and I knew I felt it, I already had all the connections I needed. I already had what I was going to be doing. I already had an income that I can rely on. It didn't feel. It didn't feel to me like such a big brave leap.
Lila Smith: So, however it is that people need to make their move. I just hope that they make it. I hope that they don't sit on that last page feeling like it's over. You know there are other books, there's a whole library, there are universes of libraries, and there are books that haven't been written yet. So you have a plan or you at least have an end point. You can start going backwards from there. Or if you have the beginning point, if you just start with, I'm not, I have something that's going to change the world, or I have a big business idea, or I have an idea on a napkin. If you just start with, I have something to say, the way that I did in Linkedin comments a year ago, you'll start to feel that resonance. You'll start to feel what feels good, what feels right, what compels you to speak, what compels you to put your life into motion in a way that you take responsibility for because you have to, because you're just drawn in that direction. That can be the beginning of the clan having that plan. I don't think there's a bad thing having steps. I don't think that's a bad thing either, but identifying that, being open to what that beginning or end or middle point looks like, that's really the key to unlocking whatever path it is that you are meant to be on it.
Shea Oliver: That's beautiful. Thank you. So you have made a huge change in a lot of ways in who you are from the girl who first stepped on stage, I'm assuming probably in high school or before. And especially as you went into professional education, if you could go back and talk to that 20 something or even teenage-you and tell her something, what would you tell her?
Lila Smith: I would tell her, and I want to tell acting students everywhere you are learning so much more than what you think you're setting out to learn that there is value in the education you're getting that goes beyond the stage. Pay attention to it so that you can be intentional with it. Whenever you want to communicate anything, whenever you want to do anything you bring now specific context that is unique and valuable to you. Whatever it is that you want to do, you're going to bring that with you. So don't discount it. Don't discount any part of your story because it might be the thing that's really truly valuable for somebody else to hear what they need to hear from you as opposed to someone else.
Shea Oliver: So now let's, let's jump forward to who you are today. And if you could run into somebody who was looking at that book of theirs, unable to turn that page knowing they needed to turn the page, and you could only tell them one thing, what would the one thing you would tell them be?
Lila Smith: I would tell them that they have a toolbox full of value, and if they opened that box and start writing things out, what are all of the things that are special about me? What are all of the things that are unique about my story that someone else doesn't share? You'll start to see patterns emerge in the things that are in that box that you're really proud of. The things in that box that you really enjoy doing, and you can just put a star next to those things and see what story that tells you. See, when you read those strengths out loud, who's story it is that you're telling, just ask yourself who that protagonist is and whether you want to be them and whether your life right now is using all those tools that you have, the ones that you really want to use, the ones that are your favorites from that box.
Shea Oliver: Very cool. I love that. Well, I tell you what, this has been a phenomenal conversation. I really have enjoyed everything you've said. Your story is fascinating and I absolutely see it as something that will be very encouraging for people who are, you know, in essence successful in where they're going. Like you were successful in acting.
Lila Smith: Yeah, and then ecommerce, in the corporate world. Yeah, lots of people are successful and still stuck.
Shea Oliver: Yes. I think that is absolutely true and maybe more common than we even acknowledge that it is true. So if people want to learn a little bit more about you or get in contact with you, what's the best way for them to do that? Or what are the various ways for them to do that?
Lila Smith: Oh, well people can connect with me on Linkedin. It's Linkedin.com/n/LilaSmith, which is l I l a dot s, m I t h or you can look up the Hashtag, #Saythingsbetter on Linkedin. That's all one word. #saythingsbetter. Or got to SayThingsBetter.com. Submit an inquiry over our contact form or email Lila@SayThingsBetter.com. It's L i l email@example.com. So any of those ways you'll get me.
Shea Oliver: Awesome. Thank you. So I always end with one last question.
Lila Smith: Okay.
Shea Oliver: And the one last question is What question did I forget to ask you?
Lila Smith: Well, I think I talked a lot. I'm glad that you enjoyed the conversation, but I was so excited talking to you because I really believe in what you're doing. Maybe the question that I recommend that you ask is why did you want to talk to me? Why did you want to stop in the middle of the day? Get it on a zoom call with somebody in a different state and have this conversation now.
Shea Oliver: So you're asking me the question?
Lila Smith: No, I'm asking that like I will ask you that question if I get to ask you questions. We'll be here all afternoon, but if you want to ask another question would be why? Why did I want to talk to you?
Shea Oliver: So, answer your question?
Lila Smith: Okay. I wanted to talk to you because I. because I believe in what you're doing because so many people need to hear the stories that you're putting together and because I think the more of our stories, our different stories of how we were stuck in how we got unstuck. You can see in the diversity in the very broad spectrum of people who've lived stories like this, that we really are more alike than we are different. Even though every story is different, there's one thing that's the same and that was that feeling, feeling stuck, feeling unfulfilled, and that next step of however it is that we chose to get unstuck. There was a next step. So I think pulling together those next steps will give somebody that little sparkle, that little, "I know what my next step will be. I know what that feels like for me. Let me go and see what resonates. Let me go and listen to my heart and see what I feel I want." I want that for everybody. So the more of these stories that you're able to collect from people, the better. If I can be part of that, I think that's a huge meaningful change that I can be on the wave of and I so appreciate that you reached out, that you had time for me and that you wanted to include my story and amongst all of the amazing people you're talking to. So thank you so much for having me.
Shea Oliver: Thank you. Actually, thank you very much, you have expressed a lot of what 'm trying to do, I
Lila Smith: Did I say things better?
Shea Oliver: Yes, you did! You said things better!
Shea Oliver: So thank you so much for your time today. This has been a wonderful conversation to have with you and I can hardly wait to see... I may have to come to a conference or two just to see you speak. I'm excited to see where you go with everything.
Lila Smith: Come to Toronto next week. I'll send you a link where you can go to bit.ly/dypbilia, and I'll send that to you afterwards too. I would love to see you in Toronto. That was going to be a really good conference. If I weren't speaking at it, I'd attended.
Shea Oliver: I wish I'd have known about it before. I might have just hopped on a plane and going someplace else next week. So thank you very much.
Shea Oliver: Good luck with everything that you're working on.
Lila Smith: Thank you Shea. Good luck with yours.
Shea Oliver: Thank you.