Monica Rodgers is an original. She is a writer, artist, and business woman. With brutal honesty she reflects on her life, choices and passions. But instead of finding guilt and remorse, Rogers has discovered a source of wisdom and power which is leading her to break through the myths and stories she believed about herself. She is tapping into her internal strength and truth to lead her to a personal freedom and greatness.
Rodgers has been transformed by the process. She, along with two colleagues, Andrea and Kim, is guiding other women to discover the wisdom and truth within to transform their lives. In the process they are creating a world community of women who support each other in the personal process.
Through The Revelation Project, the community members are leaving behind fear, judgment, and isolation to view themselves, world and other people with curiosity, self-compassion, and creativity. Rodgers writes in a manner that exposes her humanness and humor and welcomes others to be comfortable sharing themselves without apology.
Join me in enjoying the insights and wisdom Monica has to share in a personal interview.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What led you to quit your corporate job? How did you become an entrepreneur?
Growing up, I felt invisible, and misunderstood. I felt lonely,isolated and confused about what seemed to be expected of me, and why. The world felt competitive, contradictory, and hostile whether it was over grades, popularity, gender, politics, athletic performance, social class or pedigree, and I was completely mystified and angered by it. The only thing that really interested me was deconstructing the facade and understanding and exploring the reasons behind it. Since i was little, I’ve noticed that most people carry a tremendous shame or sense of unworthyness- especially women. I wanted to know why I was being handed a legacy without a good explanation- and so I went in search of it through the medium of photo-journaling, and all things “female”.
I observed that the path to numbing begins with everyday trauma. What’s traumatic for me is not the same for you and so on, but the base facts all bring us similar information by the time we are in our early 20’s, and that is that life is a struggle and that popular belief holds that the man with a secure job and health insurance wins.
My “social” research led me to non-conformity and I noticed that linear thinking seemed to guarantee a deadening career climb to nowhere, and for what? 401 K, “securities”, “options” and public school funding for the kids of vacant parents who’ve traded their spirit in for a mini-van. So where has everyone gone?
Everywhere i looked I saw a broken system, and I wanted answers. From what I could see- people were trading the penny wisely and the pound foolishly- inevitably sacrificing vitality and enthusiasm in exchange for resignation and cynicism- why is there nothing that exists to assist human beings in personal growth that’s accessible easy and affordable?
I became particularly curious about women- perhaps because I am one, but also because of the injustice, subjugation, and sextualization of our gender in societies around the world, and how ignorant we are as a society about our human rights emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
I never considered myself a “feminist” - until I realized that the word had nothing to do with minimizing or bashing men. I simply wanted to have conversations that mattered with people that were making a difference, and I wanted the same freedom’s, liberties and opportunities - and so I set out to find them. The entrepreneurial bug bit me when I worked for a start up in the early 90’s and became completely disillusioned by the “quick fix” of making a bunch of cash and selling out. I was sick of the corporate politics, and especially the double standards for women in the work world, it seemed that to get ahead, I needed to inject myself with testosterone, (and I’m far to vain for facial hair) or pimp myself out. Feeling resigned by the ripe old age of 29- I decided to get married and “settle down” - since thats what seemed to be expected of me anyway. Three months into my baby girls life I was miserable, tired, and lonelier than ever.
I started my first company and never looked back. I took the babies to work with me, and built a career for myself that was no longer defined by someone else- but was designed especially for my own unique lifestyle and designed around my values. I figured that if people liked what I was doing and saying- they’d buy, and they did. Before long I’d built a product line and a retail and wholesale distribution system selling high end baby gear made from remnant designer fabric while encouraging parents to use their buying power to invest in products that were not harming the environment.
2. Why did you start The Revelation Project - your current business adventure? What is your vision for it?
My vision for The Revelation Project is that it be a model/ or system for personal insight and an engine for personal growth. By doing the “project” - what we are really “doing” is life, but in a way that gives us access to seeing our behavior, desires, habits, goals from a different vantage point or perspective- one that is inclusive of others- and therefore unites us instead of perpetuating the egoic “me” that has us die alone inside because we never really lived deeply connected to our fellow human beings.
The way the project works is that it also gives participants the ability to not take their mistakes and shortcomings so personally- and generates a self- awareness that is more conducive to self acceptance, and personal accountability. We basically created a self - sustaining “system” for women’s empowerment that uses imagery and journaling as tools to communicate attitudes, points of view and interpretations in a way that builds shared meaning & dispels myths while also encouraging the larger community to show up as a support system to “model” healthy interactions and safe supportive “space" for others. It’s women being women at their very best- a powerful force of love, nurturing, and creativity.
I realized early on that love, vulnerability, and self expression are the cornerstones to having a radiant purpose-filled life, and I’m passionate about bringing the excavation tools of self- discovery to women . To inspire a woman toward her own truth is a magical thing, and as each woman busts the myths that have imprisoned her or isolated her from others- she births a life force into the world- called POSSIBILITY.
What’s possible when women are empowered to use their authentic voice? What happens when they are surrounded and held by supportive women who are doing the same? I realized that the childhood roots of adult happiness run deep, and that what gets revealed gets healed- and most of us as women have some serious healing to do way back from childhood- which is when we were first told of our limitations as girls, and then later we gave up our power when we decided it must be true.
Having come from an alcoholic family with lots of secrets- I relentlessly pursued the path to healing and wholeness as a way back to the center of me- only to find that there lived my divine purpose. At the very center of myself I saw that who I am is perfectly imperfect, and that I am worthy and so is each and every one of us. When a woman feels her true worth she stops self abusing, and makes new choices for herself and her family, She produces more aware children, who become more aware citizens. It was clear to me that at the very center of women is an already existing holistic system waiting to solve many of the worlds current imbalances-and that by healping women to heal- we help them to reveal the greatest love and peace the world has ever known.
3. How did you find your partners in The Revelation Project? How often do you meet? What kind of communication works best for the group? How are decisions made?
My partners Andrea Willets and Kim Fuller actually found me through other women who had done the project.
Kim has been a practicing buddhist and photographer for many years and after seeing images, and reading interviews of women who had done the project- she wanted in. Andrea had come to me seeking some business assistance with a new venture and had inquired about doing the project. After she completed her workshop day- she came to me requesting I find her a spot so that she could embrace what she believed to be her “life work”. Andrea has a leadership and co-active systems coaching background and so we use many of the principles of “systems” work in our collaboration, and design.
We have found our way of communicating by being willing to REVEAL to each other what works, or does not without feeling unsafe about communicating directly with each other. One aspect of doing this effectively is to be someone who has great personal integrity, and is able to own his or her own sh*t. A few of our tenants are about leaving ego at the door, and seeking to find what The Revelation Project requires from us. We take more of a “service” approach which makes it much more enjoyable frankly. Our team is in service to the project, and here to be in service to one another. We are finding that everything works out and that when all else fails- we have an agreement to always look at our “work” through the lens of the project- which means we are actually always “doing” the revelation project and identifying new revelations as we go. If we trust in this- then the project actually continues to reveal the next step, and continues to call us forth as team.
4. You have had several adventures in creating businesses in the past. What is the top two lesson you learned about running a business? What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting an online business?
Yes, I’ve owned and operated four separate businesses and three simultaneously! The #1 question I would ask is: What / who is served by your venture, and why does it matter to you?
or What is possible in the world once this product or service exists?
The most valuable lesson I learned in business is this: If it’s not serving a purpose bigger than me- my passion for it will die.
The entrepreneurial spirit is infectious and inspirational - and sometimes looks and feels a lot like a bonfire at a roller- rink. It’s so important that as an entrepreneur you recognize your strengths AND weaknesses- hold your vision, but not so tightly that you extinguish the flame in others. Ideas without roadmaps can become to big too fast- you can get burnt, and fall on your ass really quickly while taking down lots of derby goers with you, so it’s best to be aware of your goals and not let your enthusiasm do all the driving.
The second most valuable lesson I’ve learned is: Don’t bullshit people. Often time we think we are hiding our faults from others in order to save face. You’ll lose far more in the long run if you refuse to be straight with people. If you screw up- then be the first to own it. If you give yourself permission, you’ll see others do the same. You must lead by example, and be willing to have the conversations that matter with the people whom you matter to.
5. The world of business and entrepreneurs is still heavily dominated by men, what is your advice for women who want to climb the business ladder?
My advice is to use your feminine energy and the gifts that are unique to the femine and capitalize on them and speak about them as a source of great power and strength. Many women have taken the position that they should be more “male” in order to get things done in the work place and so they act more agressive. This is such a mistake. We are such powerfully intuitive beings, and we have a natural innate ability to see the big picture - and use our senses to guide us emotionally, mentally, and intuitively. We must use full self expression as our greatest asset when it comes to balancing the gender inequality and continue to point to our strengths as a valuable and irreplaceable asset to any company. In order to do this- women must first believe that they are powerful, and valuable, and gifted in their own right and stop minimizing and comparing themselves. Most women I know suffer from a syndrome I call: SASS (self- abuse- stockholm syndrome) They’ve done it to themselves for so long, they honestly don’t even hear the voice inside them that berates, compares, judges, puts down, and shames them. It’s like they are totally unaware of the fact that they are sleeping with the enemy!
Women are their own worst tormentors, and it’s got to stop, and is. The most atrophied muscle in the female is that of self-compassion. Women are really terrible at loving themselves well. A woman will do anything for anyone, anytime… except herself. Hers will be the last need she tends to ...until it’s too late. That’s a terrible way to waste the worlds greatest natural resource. Both Men and Women need to strike a balance in the work place- each a witness to each others strengths. Both are needed and equally valuable.
6. One of the concerns of many wanting to step into a business is the startup cost. In the beginning how did you manage those expenses?
There are a number of ways.
Initially I found friends and family, and then later I got a small business loan that was specifically for women owned businesses.
My advice is: start simple: If you have a product or vision to bring to market, first you need only prove it’s a product or conversation others want to consume or participate in. There are many ways to create a proof of concept without spending a ton of money inclusive of social media audience building around your vision well before a product even launches, or using another crowdfunding engine like kick-starter. If you can get a few other people to believe in your vision, you’d be shocked at how quickly you can raise start up money. What you need to be clear about from day one is ROI and ROR ( return on investment and return on relationship) and the difference between them. You want to try to leverage your relationships with a givers gain model- always seeking to give value as an exchange. Also- get creative. In the day of social media- many entrepreneurs have an already rich and active social media following. What kind of crowd-funding might already be at your fingertips just by thinking outside the box and generating some start up funding by campaigning around something infectious that your friends want to be a part of?
7. Like many talented and creative people, you have ADHD. What helps you to stay focused on the work on hand?
Sometimes the issue for me is not one of staying focused but of breaking the focus and switching gears from work to mom mode when the kids come home. I have a tendency to be “hyper-focused” more often when it comes to work. I’ve had to really work a lot on turning off my devices when the kids are home and it helps to have a structure set up to interact with them. I have a routine that at 3:30 ( 15 min before the kids come home) - I put the computers and phone away until they go to bed. I use the 15 minutes to center myself or get excited about some activity with them. I usually have to plan with them what the options are, and so some days we bake or paint or play a game after homework. Then I’m usually getting ready for dinner and for the next day’s preparations while they take their own TV or entertainment time between 6-7 pm. It seems to work for us, but it’s always a hard balance if we have a deadline, or a crisis.
8. You have two elementary school aged children. How difficult is it to balance work and family? Do you have any tips for others trying to maintain the balance?
I think no matter what, home and family are a bit of cha-cha dance, as you learn you are going to get your toes stepped on. With kids- the only constant is that there will always be a change of plans.
I really just have to give myself permission to put work away if something with the kids needs to take priority. I think it’s about being flexible, and it certainly helps as so many women these days are doing both - and ultimately changing the “tolerance” in terms of how business is conducted. I’ve been on many a conference call and had to muti-talk a peanut butter and jelly while negotiating a deal. Gone were the days when you tried to hide all evidence of child rearing while making a living- it’s generally a much more accepted practice that women can in fact - get the PB&J made and still have the report on your desk by close of business. It’s not about a lack of integrity with women, it’s more about giving ourselves a bit of wiggle room when we have to call in a “mom” moment.
9. You offer programs for individuals as well as organizations and businesses. In the beginning, how did you capture the attention of the organizations? What is the most surprising thing you have discovered about marketing those programs?
I think it was the women themselves that came to do our programs and saw opportunities for their own organizations. Because we are big on collaboration- we usually co-create a vision for what they might want to accomplish and go from there. I think the most surprising thing is that corporations are still not contributing to inner growth work with employees as the norm.
10. What do you enjoy most about this business adventure? What is the most difficult aspect to manage?
I get most enjoyment from the transformative impact of the work. To have a woman experience any of our programs is to eventually hear her marvel at it’s impact on her perceptions. I love that “aha!” moment when we can all laugh together at our human-mess and have that moment where you want to bonk yourself on the head and say “duh!” why didn’t I do this a long time ago! ?
11. You're extremely transparent in your blog, mentioning things that most people would choose to hide, like the fact that you've been arrested a few times or that you've cheated your way into college. Do you find that being extremely open has helped your business? Did it shape your own life in any way?
Ha! yes, hmm… did I say that? lol. Yes. I am a big believer in transparency because without owning my “shadows” in life I could never truly embrace the magnificence and good in me. Life is ultimately this continual paradox: to the depth that you know what it is to suffer is to the depth you can recognize joy, and so on.
I think my goal is to really be as real as possible so that I don’t convey this “untouchable” facade that continues to isolate us. I want women to know that I am both a hot mess AND a powerhouse, and depending on the moment, I can either put together a profit and loss statement or a mean peanut butter sandwich. That in order to give women the freedom to be brilliant, fun, sexy, powerful, vulnerable, amazing- that we must first re-define what that looks like.
By giving each other permission to be exactly who we are- in all of our unique, complex, ways- we have to realize that it does not have to “look” a certain way. I want women to know that i have my shit like everyone else, so lets cut to the chase- here’s mine- wanna show me yours? Great, now can we go play and be friends? I mean, jesus- lets just get it over with so we can go have some fun. No more secrets means no more shame. No more shame means no more hiding out in fear that someone is going to “reveal” my baggage. Yeah. I’ve got baggage- you don’t?
12. We are just beginning a new year. What dreams are you working to make reality in 2014? I know one of your dreams is to write a TED TALK about what you’ve learned through The Revelation Project, any target date for reaching that dream?
You know Tal. I’ve learned to trust the project, and to know that when it’s time for TED- TED will reveal itself. Seems sarcastic but it’s true. I’m not at all being a wise guy when I say that I let the project reveal itself to me - and I trust that it will continue to lead the way.
13. Lastly, what is your message to someone who's about to embark on his dream?
There is only one you in all the world with your unique purpose. To do the project is to reveal your most powerful self in ways that will astonish even you. The only one that keeps you from any dream, or any possibility of making anything happen is YOU. Remember this: YOU are a divine being with endless creative power that begins with your voice. Speak your truth and use it to ignite resonance in others. Scrape your knee’s, get dirty, break some bones even - it’s not a strait, neat, pretty line, and it never has to “look” a certain way. You’ve been fed a bowl full of bullshit about yourself since you were a baby. Stop.eating.shit.
Now go start a revelation.
Loving your answers Monica. Thank you!
Monica Rodgers is the founder of The Revelation Project, a photo journey & workshop for women to reveal themselves, to themselves. You can also find her on Twitter at @Revelationproj