Why Erika Gerdes quit a dream career at Google to undo everything society had taught her
Ep. 93
| with
Erika Gerdes

Follow Along:


    What if the secret to your happiness wasn’t in getting to the next milestone, or doing a bunch of things that society tells you to do, or accomplishing anything?
    What if the secret was in undoing all of the BS you were sold?
    What if the secret was in returning to who you were always meant to be before you were forced to be something you’re not?
    This week on the podcast, I got to talk to Erika Gerdes about how she left the dream career and dream life — an executive at Google, married with 2 young kids — to start undoing the facade that she had built around herself.
    We’ll talk about how it took a divorce and quitting a job at the height of her career, and one she actually liked, for Erika to master the Art of Undoing — a framework that she now uses to help other people.
    We talk all about how she jumped without a plan while being a single mom of two little girls and the sole breadwinner!
    Erika is such an incredible example of the fact that you can always go back to who you were always meant to be.
    Find Erika Here:

Show Transcript
Goli: Hey friends, how are you? I hope you guys are all well and surviving this Corona Pandemic. I am back with another episode. We recorded this episode before all of this stuff went down, but I think it's still really good and really helpful and also maybe a great way to take your mind off things. I'm really excited to have Erika Gerdes on and we will jump into her story in a minute. I did want to say that during this time because I think so many people have a lot of questions and I think we need a lot more connection. I'm making my coaching calls, my free coaching calls once a week instead of once a month through April. So we will be having a coaching call every Wednesday and I'm varying the times so that people in different time zones can all make it. If you're interested in hopping on a zoom chat and talking about your career, listening to other people's questions and really connecting... If you want to see a friendly face while you work at home, I would love to have you there.

I’ll email my list about it and I'm sorry if you guys are getting sick of those emails in April, it's going to be a lot more. If you do want it, you can sign up at quitter club.com/coaching or you could sign up for the newsletter on the website and you should get those links and the different times that the calls are going to be the week before. So I hope to see you all there. And we are in April for another book. So this month on the book club we are going to be reading Brene Brown's Rising Strong. I think it's perfect timing for what we're all going through. I actually haven't read it. It was suggested by a friend yesterday and I figured we can all read it together.

I think it covers a lot of the topics that we talk about typically on this show. And it's all about how to basically get back up when things are hard. So I think right now with what we're going through with COVID-19, it can be really helpful. So we're going to read Rising Strong and discuss it at the end of April. Okay. Now that the announcements are over, let, let's jump into this episode with Erika Gerdes. It is so good for so many reasons. Erika started out her career at Google and she ended up working her way up to a global business executive and worked there for over 12 years. And why I was so interested in having Erika on is because unlike a lot of our typical stories where people are deeply unhappy in their careers, Erika wasn't, she loved Google, she loved her manager, she liked the job.

But we'll talk about the impetus of realizing that there was more, there was more for out there. There was something where she could feel more fulfilled and how she had the courage to leave something that really wasn't bad. It wasn't somewhere that she was suffering in order to find something even better. What makes this story even more exciting and, and really interesting to me is that she left at the height of her career when she was a single mom of two little kids and she was the sole breadwinner. She didn't have financial support coming in. And so she quit without really having a solid plan. It wasn't as though she quit to pursue a specific job or another business. She just knew that she wanted to start helping people live to their full potential and figure out how to create lives that they feel fulfilled and overcome limiting beliefs and all of these amazing things.
And she didn't know how she was going to do it and she's still quit, which is incredible. And so I can't wait to jump in and talk to her about that whole journey because a lot of times it seems exciting to leave and start something new, but it can be terrifying and crippling. And there's all the doubt and fear there and how she kind of dealt with that. And we'll also get into how she finally decided on the business that she wanted to start. And the impact that she wanted to make. She is now an authenticity development and leadership speaker, coach and writer. And she's the designer of the art of undoing a proprietary practice that has helped hundreds of high-performers overcome limiting beliefs and unlock their full potential. I'll stop rambling so that we can get into this very interesting and inspiring story. So without further ado, here is Erika. Hi Erika. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Erika: Thank you so much for having me.
Goli: Oh, I am so excited to have you and jump into all the amazing things you're doing and all the art of undoing and figuring out what all that is. But we typically start back at the first career. And so why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got started at Google? What this amazing 12 year run at Google looked like for you.
Erika: I love telling this story because to me it is such an excellent, kind of full circle story of my experience. I fell in love with Google while I was in college and graduate school and this was like early two thousands shortly after Google started because it was so much better than Ask Jeeves and Dogpile and all the other things that I had been trying to use to research my degrees when I was out of graduate school and my boyfriend who lived with me at the time got a call, he was being hired for a job out in California. I was living in Wisconsin at the time. I knew I was going to move with him and I shortly thereafter realized that I was going to be living here, the Google headquarters and I spent, I'm not joking, months obsessively poring over the Google website.
I was so enamored by the colorful exercise balls they had all over the place and how happy everybody looked. It looked like adult daycare to me. I couldn't think of a better experience. I was obsessed with the idea of working there, but I never applied because I read that they got a thousand resumes a day and even though I had a graduate degree and had a 4.0 in my graduate degree, it was quote-unquote “only from a state school” and I had never taken a marketing course or an advertising course or an engineering course or any of that. And when I got out to the Bay Area a couple of months later, I started applying everywhere except for at Google. I never ever applied to Google. I was limiting myself completely based on what I thought I could get. I finally applied to an anonymous Craigslist ad because I couldn't get a call back for any of the jobs that I tried to apply to. When I applied to this anonymous Craigslist ad. It was for an internet powerhouse, but I was living in the Bay Area and it could have been three people in a garage. At that time it was also anonymous on Craigslist, which is super sketchy. Even then, it was really sketchy. I finally got a call back that was literally one of my first callbacks and it was a few days later and the recruiter said that she was calling in. The job was for Google.
Goli: That's so amazing. It's incredible how much we limit ourselves.
Erika: That is really what my entire story is about. For my entire life, I limited myself and I didn't even realize I was doing it, but all I could ever see was what I wasn't as opposed to who I was. Most of my journey was about learning how to shift from seeing what I wasn't, to really learning to embrace who I wasn't believing that I could really do anything that I absolutely believed I could do.
Goli: I love that and I think obviously it's so many of us relate to that, and it's funny because I think it's even particularly worse with high achievers. Part of what gives you the drive to do that stuff is to relentlessly pursue things and try to make it perfect. But what happens is that self-critical thought is so loud and we are constantly focusing on what we're lacking or our weaknesses and trying to either cover up for them or figure out ways to strengthen them that we just completely gloss over all the incredible attributes that we have and value we can bring. And I see this so often with people that are doing incredible things and just suffer from crippling imposter syndrome and all this other stuff and it's, it's amazing how much all of it is just in your head and kind of figuring out how to, how to get around that is really the key to unlocking so much potential.
Erika: I couldn't agree with you more. I mean I think that one of the things that really drove me to make this incredibly dramatic move of leaving Google as a single mom with no financial support and all the other things that (typically) people use as really good excuses for why they should stay secure and good jobs and all that, but was exactly what you just said. I looked around and I could see so many people who literally changed the world. I mean they had all the talent, all the intelligence, all the drive and motivation and everything that could enable them to go out and make amazing changes in this world, whether it's in their current jobs or someplace completely different. But they were unable and unwilling to look at that because all they could see is that the path is what made them great. And so they had to stay on the path in order to stay great without ever considering. Maybe it was them who made them great.
Goli: Yeah. Oh my God, I love that. And I want to get into everything that you just said because that is such an incredible story. So what were you doing? What was your job title? What was the work that you were doing at Google?
Erika: My final job, so like you said, I was there for 12 years. So obviously I had a number of different jobs. I actually, my very first job was back in 2006 when I did first started was to manually approve the ads that you see on google.com so I mean it was basically like slave labor, but it was wonderful because it was still an adult daycare so I couldn't. Right. And the last job I had, which I had for a little over three years was one of my favorite jobs and it made it really, really hard to leave. But I was a global business executive. I oversaw the global partnership with one of Google's largest global partners. So I managed and oversaw all of the strategic relationship and business development across the globe.
Goli: Okay. Well that's incredible. And I know that you are one of the rare people on this show that actually did love their job, which I think people wonder sometimes with Google or a lot of these tech startups then and now kind of the tech scene where it's like “adult daycare” and they have ping pong machines and beer on tap. And kombucha on tap or whatever, all this other stuff that you see and it sounds amazing. And then you wonder, is it really amazing or is it kind of hype? And they're putting this stuff - this show on. So it seems like from what you're saying, it really was amazing and it seemed like you enjoyed it. So when did you start having inklings about wanting to leave?
Erika: Before I get there, I will say it really was amazing. I mean, I was the preeminent Google cheerleader. I drank the Koolaid like everybody talks about. I drank the Koolaid from before I started to… Now, I still drink it. You’ll probably hear me say - I usually have to call this out because just as a part of who I am now - I say “we” as Google. Even now because I say that I graduated as opposed to last, cause I wasn't, I wasn't leaving because I was running away from something I didn't love. I was running towards something that I felt like was my mission. That was a really big shift for me. And so to answer your question about the inklings of why what made me decide I should leave when I worked there for four years. While I worked there, I always said it felt more like a job than a career.
And I would jokingly say I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but the reality is I didn't know who I was. And the thing that changed my life and fundamentally pivoted my entire perspective and my journey and path forward from that point on was that when my daughter, my second daughter was three months old, she had spinal neurosurgery, which was so far off of any plan that I had ever paid for the path I was on. Thankfully, we live in an amazing area, had amazing health insurance, all of the other things that enabled us to get the very best care and fear is still really real and, and sadness and all of the other things that go along with senior infant go in for the most serious surgery that anybody in your family has ever had.
While I was in the hospital with her, she had a tumor on her spinal cord that had to be removed. While I was in the hospital with her. I remember walking in the pediatric ICU and seeing all these kids that were potentially never going to leave the hospital. As I sat in the hospital room with my daughter listening to her breathing and all of the machines that she was attached to and knowing that she had a long road of recovery ahead of her, all of a sudden, it's like my life flashed before my eyes and I realized in that moment that I was waiting for my life to start. I was 33 years old like how much longer did I need to wait and what more was I waiting for? I had this thought that I have one life to live. There are no second chances, no do-overs.
I get one go-around at this life. Why would I spend one more minute waiting to be happy? From that moment, I started looking at how I needed to shift the way I thought about myself and what I wanted and how I wanted to show up in the world. So the first thing I did after getting into therapy was I just had to get really honest that my marriage wasn't working. That was terrifying because I also had two babies, but I ultimately got divorced and it was actually being able to get divorced successfully and co-parent successfully, which was so different than so many people because I was able to do that. That gave me the power to realize I could do the same thing with my job.
Goli: Do you think that it's sometimes, once you go through something like that, you realize that we often blow up the fear of it so much? Like what keeps us stuck is we think how terrible it's going to be and that we can't get through it or that it's too much and so we stay stuck. And then once you do push yourself to go through something that is so difficult and painful and hard and you realize like, Hey, I made it out the other side that you start thinking like, well, if I can do it there, I can do it. You know, in other situations…
Erika: 100% of the time, I believe that what keeps us stuck is fear. And I think you nailed it on the head. And that's really what the art of undoing is about, which we'll get into it I'm sure at some point. But what is really scary for most people, and this is the thing that I don't really hear talked about that often. And so that's one of the reasons I feel like it's so important to discuss is that when we're, we're always at this crossroads of our life, we're, you know, we have an opportunity to make a change. And for so many of us, change is incredibly scary because it means letting go of good to walk toward a possibility of great with no guarantee. That's hard because then, of course, we get to that place of we're thinking that is selfish to me. I shouldn't want that.
I should just be okay with being okay. It's not that bad. I can make this work. So many people have it so much worse, “first world problems”. All these things are all fear because it's that fear of what if I get there and it's not better. When I went through that really hard thing of the divorce and what I had to get really honest with myself about is that I had these beliefs and so does most of society that we must choose between our happiness and our children's happiness or between happiness and security or whatever it is. And when I was able to do it differently and actually create a better relationship with my ex-husband, once we were divorced and when we were married, I realized there were probably a lot of other places in my life where I had these beliefs that were in conflict with each other that were keeping me stuck. And when I realized that I was staying at my job because I had a belief that I must choose between success and fulfillment. That's when I realized I can't, I have to change that belief and I have to believe that I can go after it.
Goli: And it's incredible that you can do that because I think that so many of us really do get stuck with better the devil, you know, than the devil you don't. And for you in the job you were saying that you did like it. Like it was a good environment. It wasn't a toxic environment where you have a boss that you hate and is making your life hell or you're, you know, never seen your children cause you're working a hundred hours a week and the stress is giving you panic attacks. There are things that a lot of people on the show have had where it's very dramatic where it's kind of like I need to get out or I'm not going to survive this. I think sometimes we have those thoughts of like, there has to be more, there has to be something that I, where I can feel fulfilled and excited and really happy.
But then that fear does creep in and then it becomes like you were just saying, either the shame of why aren't you grateful enough? Like you should just be happy or just like, I don't even know what else I would do. So I have kids, I have to pay the rent. We may have those bursts of inspiration of saying, I want this one life to be something adventurous and amazing and fulfilled. And then our rational brain kicks in and is like, okay, calm down. You need to, you need to pay your rent. So you're going to stay put. I'm sure you had doubts before you left. Even if once you've decided that you're going to believe in the possibility of having it all, how do you deal with that when you're like, okay, no, but I really do have something good here.
Erika: Oh yes. To everything you just said. I had really real fear. So just to put it in context, I had got in January, now I got divorced four years ago and I was the breadwinner in my marriage, so I didn't get any child support or alimony or anything. And I actually have my children, it's supposed to be 50/50 but I ended up having them closer to 75% of the time. So when I laugh I knew that I was going to be, this was all me like this... There was nobody else paying for anything. I have a house, I have two little children and all of the stuff that comes along with real responsibilities. And I was terrified because I have always been a person that did the thing I'm supposed to do. And then the good girl, the responsible one, the overachieving perfectionist people pleaser and to go out and make such a dramatic move, I call it jumping off the cliff, betting on myself and believing in myself to that extent was terrifying.
I mean, like I said, I didn't even believe that. I didn't even believe I could get a job at Google. So to get to a place where I was willing to walk away from that, even when I liked it, it was such a fundamental shift in my own beliefs. I remember the day that I decided it was time to go. I couldn't stop shaking. I mean, it's like I woke up that morning and I journal and part of what I call the art of and doing is, is really about getting very intentional and creating space so that we can let our dreams come up, start to realize what, what really is there with an S at a deeper level than our rational thoughts. As you mentioned, the day that I sat, they are, and of course I've been thinking about it for a really long time.
And the day I sat and was journaling and real and I in my head heard bells and [inaudible]. It's time I fought with myself so hard and I was like, no, I'm not ready. I'm not ready. And I cried all my way through giving my notice to my manager. I mean, there was no grace at all. It was just falling. The best way I can describe it is at a certain point, it actually felt like I was starting to be [inaudible] pulled out of Google. I could feel a metaphysical pull in my stomach and it was, the best way I could describe it is I sort of picture myself like vision in my head of sitting on top of the cliff and it's like I'm being pulled toward the edge of the cliff. And if you'd looked back, you'd see these nail marks from where I'm holding behind it going, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And the fear never went away. I mean, it's still there every single day, but at a certain point, the fear of not doing this became greater than the fear of doing this. And it was about really looking at the possibility in my life and knowing what it is that I wanted my land to stand for.
Goli: Okay, that's amazing. And so when you have this, clearly the financial pressure, the responsibility of supporting you and your own children, but you clearly have this pull to leave, did you know what you were going to go do? Was there a pull that like this is, I have to go spread this message or do this mission or whatever started this company? I mean, what were you leaving to do?
Erika: I don't really know that I made up work and it's still true. I didn't know at the time. I mean it really did feel like I was being pulled out. I knew that what I wanted to do was to help people. And that had been the thing that had always made me feel guilty about the work I was doing. I was really good at my job. I mean I was a very, very high performer in my job and I, and like I said, I liked it. I love giving them the achievement and the recognition and all the others along with it. And I actually really liked the challenge of the work. It just wasn't deeply fulfilling. And the thing that was missing was helping people change their lives and the thing that I love doing, the way that I love doing it is teaching and speaking so I knew that I wanted to leave to go out and really lean into, I call them gifts, the things that I'm just really innately nationally good at speaking and love teaching in order to help people, just their mindsets because I do.
I really believe that there's a different way of living. I also had no idea what I was doing. I mean, and this is what's so crazy about it, is I developed business strategy. That's what I got paid to do and I built business plans and all the other stuff. I didn't do any of that for myself because I knew that I would have absolutely no idea what life was going to look like. On the other side, everybody kept saying, well, what's your plan? How are you going to make money? What's your 90 day? All the other stuff and it's like, I don't know. I've never lived this life before. How could I possibly no, what it's going to be like when I get out there because I, I think that that actually is what led to me... if you want to say successfully leaving like it was terrifying because I was willing to be in the fog. I was willing to be in that uncertainty and live in that place because so much of the time that fear and panic as the uncertainty makes us want to immediately rush our way through it and we have to be in that place because we don't, no, we can't. No.
Goli: I love that. And I couldn't agree more having gone through it, but I know when I was on that side before I had gone through it and I think for everybody on the outside, like I'm assuming your family or friends were probably saying, what do you mean you're going to jump and you don't know what you're like, you don't have a job lined up or you don't know what business you're going to start. You don't have a plan. And I think that stuff starts seeping in when you start thinking like, yeah, am I crazy? This shit, I have a plan before I do this. This does seem kind of risky and I agree with you that I think if you, the more space you can give yourself to just be and to really uncover and figure out what it is that you actually want to do, the better off.
The more you can find the real thing that fulfills you... The problem is that when I talk about this on the podcast with other people, it's like, yeah, that's great, but I have to pay my bills so I need a job now. And so I can't jump like I'm going to start a side hustle or I'm going to do it while I keep this job. And so I, I think what you're saying is absolutely true. I also think it's very hard for people to accept. So I'm just wondering how when people were asking you, what do you mean you don't have a plan? How that didn't phase you?
Erika: Oh, I can't say it didn't phase me. I mean as a people pleaser, my default is to immediately change myself in order to please the person in front of me or around me or whatever it is. That's in part what made me really successful at my job too. So that default tendency is something that I constantly have to be aware of so that I don't fall into that when it isn't aligned with what is true for me. And deeper listening and awareness of well, it is my default and what is true is what really, really helped me get to that place. I mean, like I said though, it didn't happen overnight for me. When people come to me and ask me, you know, how did you do this? All that kind of stuff. The first thing I say is, or one of my first pieces of advice is dream and then plan. Most of us shut down our dreams as soon as they start to come up because we think how impossible that is or how that never will happen or I how I have to pay my bills or I have a mortgage or rent or whatever, all the other things. And it's almost like we don't even want to let the dream get bigger because it would hurt too much to have this dream that could never be realized. Yeah, we can never change our lives unless we dream of something different.
Goli: Oh my God, I love, I absolutely love that. And I say it a lot in my group coaching program or with the people that I help, I agree with you 100% is that instead of actually figuring out like the why or the what, like we're constantly looking at the how and so we limit our dreams to... it's like how am I going to get there? Okay. I could probably go two steps ahead instead of looking maybe 20 steps ahead and dreaming. And so I absolutely agree with you on that. When you were saying that it took you a while to get to this place and you've talked a lot about kind of getting through clearly these mindset shifts. What were you specifically doing? I mean, were you going to therapy or you working with coaches? What were you doing, like specific types of mindset work? How did you all of a sudden kind of make this transformation in the way that you went from a people pleaser and kind of this high achieving corporate ladder-climbing person to having these realizations?
Erika: Like I said, this has been six and a half years in the making and so it really started with me getting honest about who I was and what I wanted and how I want to show it in the world. And that started with my marriage seven years ago, if you'd asked me what my favorite color was, I couldn't have even told you. I would say, well what's your favorite color? And I mean, the irony is that I actually like a lot of things and so I don't always have favorites but, but I really, I didn't, all of my opinions were completely based on what everybody else's opinion was and whether mine was acceptable or like we've fit in with the crowds. Like I didn't want to stand out or be a distinct voice. This took a very long time. And so after that experience in the hospital, and thanks for my daughter is okay, I did start therapy.
My sister turned me on to mindfulness at the same time. And so when I started learning that I was not my thoughts, that was really the first place that I was able to start to change my thoughts. And so that's where I call it awareness. It comes in, it's starting to pay attention to what my thoughts were enabling me to see that they weren't me and they were just a thing that was happening in the brain and I didn't have to believe them when I went through my divorce. That catapulted me into a much deeper level of authenticity in my life. And it got to a place where I had basically reconciled most of my life to be very aligned with who I was except for my job. Well, I still liked it. Like I said, it got to a point where I felt like Charlie Brown's teacher going, wah wah wah wah at work and I just, I knew that there was more that I could be doing, but I didn't know what it was.
And so to the point of what was I doing, I was not in therapy at the time. I was reading a ton of books and getting a ton of awareness work, like journaling and getting mindful and becoming really aware of what was going on in my head and what those stories were and the limiting beliefs for what happened, the real catalyst for why I decided to leave. Is that an overachieving people pleaser? I had always stayed away from failure because to me, if I failed, I was, I was a failure. It wasn't the project, it was me. It meant that my range was really, really narrow and I would only do things that I knew I was already really good at, like I couldn't, I couldn't do something and fail at it because then what would everybody think about me? Who would I be?
I had a couple of projects that I was working on. There were really major global projects with my partner, with the partner that I, the business that I worked on, things I've been working on for a year and a half each and I had this play on, they were going to be the thing that was going to get me promoted and I was super excited about it and they both crashed and burned in the same week period. Totally separate projects, nothing in common besides the companies. I was like the number one common factor between them and I went from thinking I was getting promoted to thinking I was getting fired. I knew somebody whose head was going to roll and it was going to be mine. That was going to be the easy way to make it okay and clean. I spun out. And to your point, what you said earlier about people not being present and their jobs are in there with our families because they're spending so much time working. That was me in that moment. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't be with my kids… And I remember sitting in my a bedroom one day and looking in the mirror and saying, is this worth it?
This possibility of getting fired and not being present with my kids and not being able to sleep and eat and being so stressed out because of these projects that I don't really care that much about. Is this worth it? Is this getting me to where I want to go? And when I was really honest with myself, the answer was no. I started saying, okay, but then what is it that I really want? That's what made me start dreaming. And so what I say to your point, what you said earlier is dream first. Plan second. Most of us are living our lives by planning an injury.
Goli: I love that. I mean, I think what you just said, so many people that listen to this are relating. I think so many of us have been on this hamster wheel of achieving and doing what everyone else wants for us and really kind of losing ourselves. And to your point, I mean and we talk about it a lot on the podcast, the people that have worked with me know that the only thing I work on pretty much is mindset stuff because I think a lot of times we want the...we want like okay give me taxes. How do I figure it out? And it's like it's all just your thoughts and as long as you can control and manage that then everything else is figureoutable. Everything else is... like go to...to talk about bringing back Google, everything is Googleable. If you can figure out how to set up a business, you can figure out everything else.
It's getting rid of the thoughts of who am I to do this? I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough. It'll never work. All of that stuff. Once you manage that, the rest of it is actually pretty easy. And so I love the work that you spent the time on, cause I do think that's what clearly brought you here and makes all the difference. But I want to know how you plan then financially, if like you were the sole breadwinner, this was how you were making your income and you knew you're leaving, you clearly didn't have a plan in the sense of like you're going to be making a set salary once you leave. So did you spend a certain amount of time planning financially for this jump or like realizing how you were going to keep yourself afloat while you gave yourself time to be in this fog?
Erika: It happened accidentally to be honest with you. I mean a lot of this stuff that happens in my life kind of happens accidentally. I think it might be considered manifesting, but I don't know how I did it so I can't really claim it as that. But I being the quote-unquote responsible girl, my entire life, part of my story has always been, I don't need to spend money on that. I'd like, I can do without or whatever. I mean, I have a very nice home in the suburbs and all of that kind of stuff. So it's not that I didn't enjoy spending my money. I did, but I really didn't give myself permission to enjoy it. And that actually changed after my divorce and I started doing things that I wanted to do. But at the same time what was happening is that I was saving a lot of money by accident.
Because that's just who I'd been when I finally got some point where I realized, okay, it's time to leave. It took about a year and a half from the time that I of that kind of looking in the mirror instantly I mentioned to the time I left, I really started focusing on building a nest egg or whatever at that time and really made sure that my financial house was in order so that when I left I could make decisions from a place of passion, not from a place of panic. And I think that's so important for people because so much the time we get into this place and we talked about it earlier, uncertainty and fear comes in and we start panicking and we start doing, it's like we get desperate and we hustle and we get, we go right back to creating the same lives that we just ran away from with slightly different scenery. And that's terrible for everybody. We've all been there. I mean I've done that so many times. I didn't want to do that here. So I really made sure that I had kind of plan B, C, D and then I always had, like, I always knew that I had a backup line. I could go back to school, I could get a job at Facebook or someplace or somebody would hire me.
Goli: Yeah. That's why I love that as a point. Cause I think sometimes when our fear goes unchecked, our mind goes unchecked. We create these scenarios like the whole world is going to crumble and, and I'm going to end up homeless under a bridge. And there are usually ways to course correct. If things really go sideways you can get another job. But I think we've created these things. If I leave even for a second, if I'd have any gap on my resume, I'll never be hired again. That's just crazy talk. But so I love that you, you kind of had that rational thought. Okay. So you have this plan, you create kind of this nest egg, you jump and then tell us about how you started the company that you started now and what the art of undoing is and what you're doing now.
Erika: When I left, I mean obviously we've talked about, I did a ton of mindset work and I agree 1000%. It's the idea of technical versus adaptive challenges and skills. I didn't try to learn how to run a business before I left. I also thought that I had done all of their mindset work that I needed to do in order to be ready to make this big change in my life. When I left, I came face to face with just how much of my identity was wrapped up in what I did when I didn't have. That job and that title of Google on my resume or the thing that I could say that was immediately going to impress people. I didn't know who I was. I was completely unprepared. Four, just how hard the leaving was going to be for my ego. I thought that I had gone through all of that.
So, I was prepared for it the first month of being gone to be all about fun and relaxation and instead, I sat there and it's like I was trying to find a hamster wheel just to run on all the time because it's, I didn't know what to do with myself when I didn't have okay ours and goals and people to impress challenges to blow through and all of the other stuff that had come along with making me feel like I was valuable. So I started saying that I was, when I would talk to, you know, old colleagues or whatever, I started saying, I'm practicing the art of undoing. I'm learning how to not do. I just had to be here and not try to do a bunch of things. That really started sticking in and I started realizing that that's what I had to do. I had to literally strip down all of this stuff about my identity they thought was there and was true. That wasn't about who I am and the value that I offer. And my worthiness and learn how to just be without there being any doing involved. And so that's actually where the art of undoing came from and it's kind of like go on from there.
Goli: I would scream if it didn't hurt your ears because I love that so much. I cannot even explain because I went through the same thing and I really want to prepare people when they go through this because there's sort of this euphoria and excitement when you quit. I just actually had coffee yesterday with one of my childhood friends who finally quit and I love that people come to me when they're quit quitting and they're going on this grand adventure and she is going to go live abroad and it's all very exciting and she has it planned well and she is, you know, thought of everything and I was trying to prepare her and I was going to say listen like right now it's very exciting. I just want you to know that it is natural that you're going to go through this kind of last down period where you're going to think, wait, but who am I when I'm not producing?
Because we have been programmed in our culture that your worth is tied to how much you hustle and what you produce and who, I mean, we have all kind of bought into this, especially if you have you know, taking the traditional path and climb that ladder and tried to, you know, prove your worth by getting higher and higher. And so often I see people who are beside themselves when they have nothing to do. They don't know. It's like, wait, I can't okay, but what's next? Like give me things. And I'm like, no, it's just doing nothing. It's just giving yourself space and we feel guilty. And I always say, you can choose, you don't have to quit. Like you can check do you feel guilty when you're sick and you have to take a day off.
Like there are so many people that cannot take a couple of days off to recover. They're constantly like, Oh, get up. You're fine, you're fine. Or if you take a nap on a weekend, like do you feel guilty that you're wasting your weekend? These are all just signs that you can't give yourself rest. And I think it's really... the important work is dealing with that is…. who am I? If I'm not this person, who am I? If I'm not at Google or a lawyer or a doctor or whatever. And if I can't tell people that and I don't have that instant hit of prestige or pride and it's, I mean, that is really the important work and the hard work, but it is so hard to go with it.
Erika: Oh my God, I say that if I had known just how hard some of the inner work was, I'm not sure if I would have left. That's not true because again, I really believe that for every single person that we are intended to teach, we must first learn. So I had to learn this the hard way in order to help prepare other people because to be honest, exactly what you just said, I had never heard anybody say that to me. Nobody said you are going to go through detox when you leave. Nobody said to me, you're going to come face to face with who you are is not what you do and you're not going to know how to handle that. Nobody talked about that stuff. What I think causes so many people to immediately jump ship and not jump ship from their jobs, but jump ship from their dreams and abandon their dreams and their plans is that they get to that place of uncertainty and fear and they don't know what to do and so they just go back to doing what they know.
When we can go into these uncertain, well I call it being in a fog place. I know that it's an experience we're having, but it's not who we are. Then we can get through it and learn from it. That's where all of the awareness of mindfulness comes because I really, really believe that we can learn how to have fear without letting fear have us. When we choose to go back to what we know and what's comfortable or when we choose to stay stuck or when we choose to stay in places that are just okay, fear has us, it means that's the thing that's making all the decisions and I think for all of us, we all deserve to be making the decisions and being intentional in our lives.
Goli: And I talk a lot to the people that I work with that there's pain both in both ways, right? But just clearly you're listening to this podcast or you're making your plan to quit because you're in pain. Like the pain of being stagnant and doing the same thing and not feeling fulfilled and feeling like there has to be more and wanting to make this one life count and yes, there's also the pain of growth. If growing wasn't painful, then everybody would do it. It's a matter of it's hard work, but on the other side, it's so beautiful because you really become your self. Again, like you were just saying, it's the undoing. It's the peeling back the layers of if I wasn't this people pleaser that had to make everybody else okay and I focused on what it is I truly want, what would my life look like? And it's so hard, but it's so beautiful on the other side and it opens you up to a whole other world. And so it's like you just got to pick your poison and like what pain do you want? You want to just stay where you are for the next 40 years. That's fine too. But it's don't like fool yourself into thinking that that's not going to be painful.
Erika: Yes. And what you said the thing that just came up for me as well is the outer work is so much easier than the inner work. And so that's the reason we always look for, I call them bandaids. You kind of mentioned tips and tricks a little bit. It's like trying to find a new skill or look for that article or that book that's going to give us the answer that we need to change our eyes. None of that actually exists. The only place where your truth is is inside of you and it's buried those layers of the stuff that needs to get undone in order to find it. That's why I have been practicing for so long. That's what I mentioned earlier, creating space because when we're constantly living in this reactive mode, finding things to do in order to fill our time and keep our minds busy, we're never creating space for those deeper truths to come up for ourselves and it's that, you know, when we get into that fog, all that stuff kind of comes, hits us in the face and we need to be prepared for it so that we can learn how to get through it because it's always going to come out somewhere.
It's just a matter of if it's coming out slowly over the 40 years in the job that you hate or if it's all coming out at once as you make a really dramatic move and jump off the cliff into the fog like I did.
Goli: Right. Absolutely. Okay. So when you were in this fog, when you were kind of in this place of undoing and realizing that you would tie so much of your worth to being a Googler and all of a sudden have, at what point did you, like how long did it kind of take for you to start realizing that you wanted to speak about this and teach this art of undoing and start creating more of a business around this concept?
Erika: I left Google in order to speak and teach. I just didn't know what it was going to be about. I thought it was going to be honest about my experience with my divorce because it's one of my proudest accomplishments, being able to divorce when I call, get on married or divorce differently, was really surprised by is that the thing that people were most inspired by was actually my willingness to jump off the cliff and leave really good in order to go after great and all the other stuff. I always knew that my experiences were going to be the thing that I was going to teach. I just didn't know that this was going to be, I started really thinking about how can I make this something that, or talk about this in a way that other people can relate to and they can learn from and it's not necessarily, and I know obviously your audience is really thinking about quitting their jobs and making changes, but I think the artist I'm doing is important everywhere for every single person, no matter what kind of change do you want to make in your life and whether it's a job or it's a relationship or it's just the way you show up or how you, how confident you are.
It was an immediate thing. Like I said, that's what led me, what drove me to leave Google. It just took me a really long time to come up with what that message.
Goli: And now, what does that look like in your business? How do people work with you? Do you speak and teach, is it typically like to companies, do you work one-on-one? What does that look like?
Erika: It's all of the above. So when I'm being really audacious and sometimes I get a little bit scared still of saying this, even though ironically I talk about audacious authenticity, but I press the artist I'm doing every single day. I have fears that come up all the time that I have to look at. So one of the audacious things I say is, I left Google because I want to help change them. I didn't leave Google to go succumb to my fears. Yeah, I did it so that I could really make a difference in the world. And so for me, my, my grand, his visions are, and I can touch people's lives all over the world by sharing my stories. It’s about helping them see life in different ways and how they can live differently. Right now, the way that I do that is I do work with companies. Interestingly, I work with Google a lot because I know it and, and I think it's such an amazing place to be, to be able to go back and help these people that I know and love. I also work with individuals one on one and then I'm really starting, I'm working on a book and speaking at conferences as well. Like I said, I've just been looking for as many ways to get my message out there as possible to touch and serve as many people as I possibly can.
Goli: Do you have any exercises or tips that people can use if they want to start exploring this art of undoing or mindfulness stuff, things that they can maybe use to kind of start peeling back a layer?
Erika: I've sort of been peppering some of it and as we've been talking to, and I think that the first place that I always recommend starting is, well actually depending on who I'm talking to, but I'll go back to them. One of the things that you said earlier is actually... Because I think again, like you said earlier, most of us can't even do that on the weekend, much less, you know, when we try to leave our jobs. And so one of my favorite assignments for audience members when I'm giving talks or for individual plans is to actually sit for 10 minutes and just be. Most people say but what am I supposed to do? And that's the point. Not do anything. And just watch your thoughts because again, what's so amazing is most people have no idea what they're thinking. And we don't realize just how much power the stuff that we don't realize we're thinking has over the behaviors that we exhibit or the decisions that we make or how we show up in the world or any of that by creating space just to be, we start to bring awareness to our thoughts.
So I would say first, be. And the second thing, one of the most powerful tools for transformation, in my opinion, is journaling because it enables us to see the stuff that we're actually thinking. And it helps us find patterns that we didn't realize that we have in our lives. In addition to that, it helps us go deeper into what we really want. So I would start there to get to uncover some of the limiting beliefs that we all have that are holding us back and keeping messed up.
Goli: I love that. That's wonderful advice. Thank you. Where can people find you if they want to follow along or maybe reach out?
Erika: I would love for your audience to go deeper with me on my website, which is Erica gurtis.com. I actually have a number of my blog posts, articles that I've written about my experience with leading Google, what it's like a year out, the sort of standing in the fear and the fog working on the art event doing. And I also have a great free download that helps people get clarity and increase their mood and their outlook immediately is a scientifically based research of practice that I walk people through in order to help them really good, a high level of confidence. And so that's free on my website as well.
Goli: Wonderful. Well I will link to that in the show notes. Erika, thank you so much for joining us. This was incredibly helpful and I'm so excited to see what you keep doing with the art of undoing.
Erika: Amazing and thank you so much for this. I, it was such a pleasure to chat with you and to hear your perspective as well. And I'm so excited that I had the opportunity to do this, so thank you.
Goli: Oh, you're very welcome. You guys. How good was that episode with Erica? So inspiring. Here are my three takeaways. I think actually the biggest thing that she said that we might've glossed over, but it's really the secret to everything is that she figured out that you are not your thoughts. So many of us come to mindfulness in different ways. It could be meditation, it could be journaling, it could be thought work, but really understanding that that voice in your head is not just a narration of your thoughts. It is the programming and the criticism put from everybody else in society. It is not who you are. And if the more you can observe those thoughts, the more you can overcome them and change them and figure out how to get around all the limiting beliefs and fear and doubt that we all seem to be crippled with. So understanding that you are not your thoughts and setting time to observe them and deal with them will really make all the difference.
You have to give yourself a space to be in the fog as Erica liked to put it so often. We're so hurried too. Figure it out too. You know, get to the end, whatever that end goal is, even though we know we're just gonna change the goalposts and push it back like there is no end. And yet if you can give yourself space to be in the unknown, to really be in the area that you start figuring out, well you are when you start undoing, that's where the magic kind of happens. But it is a scary and often confusing space. And so we find ourselves trying to rush out of it. The more you can sit with that, the better off you'll be in three, give yourself time to just be, it's incredible. Once you start realizing how much we're all conditioned to be doing the never-ending to-do list. There's always something. We're always busy, everyone's busy, and if you can just start with 10 minutes a day of letting yourself just be, it can really change your life. I hope you guys liked this episode.

If you did let Erica know and I will be back next week with another one. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook @lessonsfromaquitter and on Twitter @quitterpodcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.