How to Build Your Self-Confidence while Scaling Your Career with Alda Karen

March 17, 2021

Transcript

Dominique:
You’re listening to the Sigrun Show, episode number 424. This is Dominique, Sigrun’s content manager. Sigrun’s sick today, but the show must go on and she’s prepared a great interview for you. I’m happy to introduce this week’s guest, Alda Karen. Sigrun and Alda talk about how you can build yourself confidence while scaling your career.
Each week, Sigrun goes live to share with you inspiring case studies and interviews to help you achieve your dreams and turn your passion into profits. Thank you for tuning in today. Building an online business takes time. Sigrun shares proven strategies to help you get there faster. You’ll also learn how to master your mindset, uplevel your marketing, and succeed with masterminds. Today’s episode is an interview with Alda Karen. When Alda was 19 years old, she became VP of sales and marketing at the biggest production company in Iceland. Today, she’s an international speaker, runs two companies, and has published her first book.
In this episode, Sigrun and Alda talk about how you can build your self confidence while scaling your career. But before we dive in, do you dream of landing media coverage but aren’t sure which outlets to pitch to? Sigrun’s friend, Selena Soo, is an expert in all things publicity and has just released a brand new three part video training series on how to get featured in the media. The first video is ready for you now. Head on over to the show notes at sigrun.com/424, where you will find the link to the video and discover an extra incentive to watch, plus all the links to Alda Karen.
Sigrun:
I am so excited to be here with Alda Karen. It’s weird to be here with an Icelandic person. They are a rare occasion on my podcast. Welcome to the show, Alda Karen.
Alda Karen:
Thank you so much, Sigrun. Really happy to be here.
Sigrun:
So we are both in Iceland currently. And is that due to COVID or do you spend more time here now?
Alda Karen:
Due to COVID on my end. Got stuck here.
Sigrun:
Yeah. I am here partly due to COVID and partly to the fact that I bought a apartment and I would like to finish the decoration before I go off back to Switzerland. So I have two reasons to be here. And the third reason is my father. Yeah, he’s not well in health and I like to be there for him. But you are here now, but normally you live in the United States.
Alda Karen:
Yes.
Sigrun:
We want to talk about your story and how come you have two businesses. You’re relatively young, you have achieved a lot more than someone in your age, and at the same time, it seems like you have unbelievable confidence that probably older and much more experienced women are jealous of. They would like to have some of your confidence. So we’re going to talk about how come you have this, you’re oozing of confidence, and how other people can learn from what you have done to get there. So I want to start by asking you, you got a pretty senior job 19 years old. Can you talk about how that came about?
Alda Karen:
Well, I’m from a lower middle class family. My dad’s an electrician and my mom’s a store manager, and I realized pretty early on that if I wanted to do anything in life that was either entrepreneurship or just go far with my career, that I would have to move to a big city, which at the time was Reykjavik. That was a big city for me at the time. Now New York is, but Reykjavik, a hundred thousand people live there. Big enough for me at the time. And I got an internship, but that was my first thing. And I feel like this is an ongoing thing that I hear a lot with young women who go a long way in their career pretty fast. And I started as a sales intern for one of the biggest production companies in Iceland, [Sagafilm 00:04:25]. And I just went to work. I worked as hard as I could, and I sold an incredible amount of contracts, and all kind of product placement stuff to TV shows, and stuff like that.
Didn’t know anyone at the time, both at the company or in the city, for that matter, so I really focused on the work and just do everything, not ask specifically for permission. I would say yes to everything at the beginning, which I was told so many times at that time that I shouldn’t say yes to everything, but I continued to do it, and I kind of still do it today. I’m maybe a little bit more on the no side now, but still at that time said yes to everything. So I was doing a lot of work that I shouldn’t have been doing, and instead of complaining about that, I just did more of it, and more, and more, and more. And then the time came where the sales and marketing director quit. So I was already doing half of his work and a lot of other production stuff, so they just ended up offering the position to me and I took it. So it was really not, I don’t know, connections at the time, because I was so young I didn’t have any real connections that could benefit me.
So it was really just doing the work and being smart about it. For example, I was so young and I was a woman, so whenever I would send out emails to get meetings, people would reply to me. So what I did is I made up two employees, two male employees, who I just created a email address for them. They were both men and they were my assistants. So they would send out emails to other sales directors around the country and be like, “Hey, I’m trying to book a meeting for my boss, Alda. She needs to go there or there, talk to this one.” And I would get meetings literally in three days. So it was a lot about … it’s definitely work hard, but it’s equally as important to work smart.
And especially when you’re a woman and you’re a young woman, you have to find these practical ways to use the weaknesses or everything that’s against you for your advantage. You have to see oh, okay. So I’m a woman. They probably won’t want to talk to me about this. Oh, I’ll just pretend to be a man, send an email, then I’ll show up. And it’s a whole whole thing. So I think I was pretty lucky, I grew up with that mindset that women have to work twice as hard. So I was like oh, maybe I won’t have to work twice as hard if I just work twice as smart. So I would analyze all these things around me that could be weaknesses and I turned defenses into offense.
Sigrun:
But how did you get these ideas? You realize okay, they might not want a meeting with me because I’m a woman, and if they figured out how young you are, probably not either, but then you’re just like oh, I’ll pretend that I have male assistants.
Alda Karen:
Yes. I mean I’m 28 today, but I’ve been “35” for the past 10 years. No, I feel like as a woman, I read a lot of autobiographies. I think that’s the hack I did that maybe not a lot of people realize, I read a ton of autobiographies by women. And what I love about being a woman is that other women share their stories so powerfully. So there’s so many inspirational women out there sharing their stories and sharing their mistakes. And I think that’s the advantage that us as women have over men, that you don’t have a lot of autobiographies of men that they’re sharing their mistakes and what held them back. So I was reading all these autobiographies by a lot of women. And I mean the most recent one that I’m reading now is not necessarily a autobiography, but it’s A Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, and she’s telling stories of all of these incredible women and incredible things that she’s doing around the world, and I’m already learning so much.
There’s a quote that she says, “It’s equally as important as how you introduce the science as the science itself.” And I related so hard to that because so many women talked about their stories in autobiographies that I learned so much of. And in one of those autobiographies, I can’t remember which one, she pretended to be a man over the phone to get meetings. This was back in 1950s or something in the US. And so I was like oh, I can do that now. I’ll just create an email address and send out meetings. So all those smart hacks I did, I learned maybe subconsciously on a level too, by reading all these autobiographies by women and reading their stories, because you don’t have to invent the wheel. Even though you’re creating a new career path or creating new jobs and stuff like that, and creating a new business, tons of women have done it before you. So it would be stupid not to read all their stories and get to know what they did wrong so you don’t have to repeat their mistake. And that propelled me forward a lot.
Sigrun:
Would you say that reading autobiographies replaced school or doing further education in some ways?
Alda Karen:
Yeah, well I mean I’m a college dropout, but I believe that the education system really needs a huge overhaul. I don’t believe in a system that’s based on distrust, but I do believe in education and I do believe in learning. And I learn every single day, and I learned by reading other people’s stories, and that’s how I learn best. So I definitely think that just constantly being open-minded, and learning everything, and listening to other people just really taught me a lot. I think experience also, I mean that’s the biggest school, after all.
Sigrun:
So you basically learned how to sell by actually being in a sales job. And then you were promoted to the sales and marketing manager, and then you were only 19 years old. And how can you go from there?
Alda Karen:
Well yeah, I didn’t have the experience so I learned from other people’s experiences and then just talked like them. And I’ve always acted and talked in a way that I was already where I wanted to be. So I’ve always spoken from a standpoint that I’m like oh, I’m already the CEO of my own company long before I launched my first company. So when I was around 21, I launched my first company, which was just an online boutique store, because I saw there was a need for dresses in Iceland, so I just flew them in and sold them. And then I sold that company two years later. And I imagined the person sitting at a table against me and is going to buy my company, and I’m 23. I have to sound like I’m at least 35 and I’ve done this 10 times before. So I would read all these stories and articles about businesses being sold, and listen in on people talking about how they sold their business.
I would literally often not directly reference them, but I would use the same language to sound not necessarily smarter, just sound like the person I want to be. So every day, I think what am I doing today to make sure I’m in alignment with the person that I want to be? Whether that’s career-wise or personally, family, doesn’t matter. So I’m always in that mindset I’m always thinking 10 years ahead. If something bad happens to me tomorrow, that’s nothing because that’s day two of 10 years. And I’m always in the mindset of I’m just beginning my career. I’m 28, I have my life ahead of me. So everything I do doesn’t really matter in the longterm scope of things. And I feel like that’s really helped me being like I don’t give a shit. I don’t really take myself that seriously, and I think that’s helped with just constantly reminding me of the longterm vision.
Sigrun:
But still, what we do everyday is essentially what creates that longterm vision. So it sounds like your mindset is … Well, this is a similar phrase we use in my business. If you want to make six figures, you need to think like a seven figure entrepreneur. Think ahead. So that’s similarly what you do.
Alda Karen:
Yeah, exactly. And how you spend your days, how you spend your life. So even though you’re always acting 10, 20 years ahead of time, what you do now is what matters. So your mindset needs to be longterm and your actions need to be now.
Sigrun:
Yeah. But how did you get this idea that you would own your own business? When you say your parents didn’t run a business, maybe possibly no entrepreneurs in your family to be role models, where did you get this notion that you should become one?
Alda Karen:
Yeah. Well, my mom did run a children’s clothing store for a little bit, but had to close down. But I think I didn’t have anyone around me that was a full-on entrepreneur. And I think I realized it when I was working at Sagafilm and I was working for other people, and I just kept thinking every single day I would do this differently. I would run this business differently. I would do this differently. And maybe I’m just more impatient than others, but it comes a point when you’re just like I should just do this myself. So I did. And I think I related a lot to Steve Jobs’ autobiography about just not working for other people, work for yourself.
Even though I do not agree with the quote that if you’re not working on your dream, you’re working on someone else’s dream, I don’t believe in that because all the people that work with me in my companies, we’ve all had a bigger dream together, because your dream doesn’t have to be make this company gold, your dream can be get this amazing experience and then go somewhere else. It’s personalized. So I think for me, it was just the freedom of being able to travel, being a digital nomad, giving people chances. I love giving the people that work at the Tiger Gummies company, the vitamin company that I own now, I love giving them masterclass courses, invest in their personal growth and their personal career as well. So I think we all love to give more than we love to get. And I think when you run your own business, you’re giving all day long. So I think that really appealed to me.
Sigrun:
So you decided after you had sold your first business, after you had been selling dresses for two years, obviously online, what was next for you?
Alda Karen:
Then I got approached by a new startup, a tech startup, influence marketing startup. So I became a part owner in that business and scaled it all the way to the United States. So that was my ticket to the US. Once I got to the US, I launched my own consultancy and I started doing lectures on just mental health, startup, entrepreneur mindset stuff, and just overall consulting, just everything from spiritual to very practical, good advice that I’ve learned. So I’m basically sharing my experience. And then I wrote a book about my experience as well. So I’m trying to give back because all the stories of women who wrote books in the past gave me so much, so I’m so happy. This is the first of many books that I’m going to write in my lifetime.
Sigrun:
Oh, I’m convinced this is only your first, but I know that you also get some pushback from people to say who are you to talk about mental health? Or who are you talk about even spiritual things? Or even your own experience, because you were so young. How did you deal with it?
Alda Karen:
It’s so funny, I’m just not bothered by it because I’m such a data person, and I believe the data. I don’t believe opinions. So when it comes to my data, all of my lectures that I’ve ever held have all been sold out. My book was a best seller and the most sold book in Iceland in its first month. So if I shouldn’t be doing it, then why am I doing so well? And I believe that you share what you learn as you learn it. And that’s what I really like. I love reading stories and talking to people who are still on their way. When you have 30 years experience or 40 years experience, and you’re hugely successful, that’s great. Share your story. We can all learn from it. That’s awesome. But to share your story when you’re struggling, you’re like, “Oh my God, I fixed this problem I have,” it’s so new, it’s so fresh. Everything that you’re doing, you’re doing it now and you’re sharing it as you learn it, I think it becomes much more authentic and more real.
And people were just constantly asking me for both advice, consulting, anything. And I mean it accidentally started my lecture career. I had this huge consultancy business in Iceland. I was moving to US. I didn’t want any Icelandic clients while I was in the US because I knew I just couldn’t do both, so I had this one big lecture at Harpa lecture hall. It was completely packed. It blew up. And I was only going to do it once, but because it blew up and I think hundreds of people, they couldn’t come because it was just full, just kept emailing me, texting me, messaging me, and I was like fine, okay. I’ll come back and I’ll do it again. And then four years later, I’ve had four lectures. So it’s insane.
So it was on accident. It wasn’t supposed to be a whole thing. My big thing was just always to write a book, so the lectures were just a happy accident that I did, but it came from a lot of hard work and a lot of just genuine experience and genuine sharing what you learn as you learn it. So I think it’s never bothered me. I don’t know, maybe my mind is wired differently, but I believe that you should share. It’s our responsibility as a human being to share what you learn as you learn it, because it might help someone. And I’m not going to wait to share what I’ve learned for 10 years because some people think I’m not allowed to do that. that’s weird. That would be like I’m going to wait to be happy until I’m allowed to be happy. What? That doesn’t make sense for me.
Sigrun:
I love that you say that because there are so many women who believe they need to be a certified coach before they can help someone, they need to study more, they maybe need to get a PhD before they can actually lecture or do what else.
Alda Karen:
Let me just give all those women permission right now. I’m not educated, I’m not a certified coach in anything, anything, and I still make a lot of money each month helping people with their own just because I’m genuine. And when I don’t know something, I don’t know, and then I send them to someone else. We’re all in this together. We’re all a team. So you’re either a team player or you’re not. So you have all the permissions in the world to just do what you’re doing. And if I can do it, oh my God, you can do it. Jesus.
Sigrun:
Thank you for sharing that. So why did you not just stick to consulting if that was going so well? What was the inspiration to start a second company?
Alda Karen:
I think it was opportunity to work with amazing people. And I think that’s always been my go-to. I say it’s a big yes for me if great people come up to me and they want to start something cool, like a project or a company, and I want to work with them. And I think I can learn a lot because, as you say, I’m always thinking 10, 20 years ahead of time. So I thought this would be a great experience and would teach me a lot, because as you say, we’re always learning. So I think that was the big thing, I wanted to work with the people behind it.
Sigrun:
So it was the team that draw you in. And can you explain what the company does? You mentioned it briefly before, Tiger Gummies, but people have possibly no idea what that is.
Alda Karen:
No, it’s a new vitamin company in the US. It’s only for United States market for now, but it’s a kids’ multivitamin company. Pretty basic, but it’s a subscription-based company, so it’s good to keep reminding parents of making the kids take vitamin.
Sigrun:
Yeah. You were drawn to the team. What is your hope to get out of this? Is that learning the business model? Or if you’re thinking already 10 years ahead, you probably will not be involved in this company, will be probably doing something else.
Alda Karen:
No, the goal is to sell it. That was always the goal. And I think what I want to learn, I want to learn about US investing, and I have a lot of great investors behind this company that have already taught me a ton of new things. And I think that’s probably what I’ll be doing in the future. I’ll be joining companies, and then selling that, and then joining again. And I’m really good at getting things started and blowing them up, but I’m not good at running them for a long time. That’s why I had to sell my first company. I didn’t want to at the time, but I needed to do it because I just couldn’t run it well. And that’s what I’m always really, really … I’m really open and really straightforward about my weaknesses, and I’m vulnerable, and I know my blind spots. So you have to be practical when it comes to these things. So for me, it’s just the same with this company. Just start it, blow it up, and then get acquired.
Sigrun:
Love it. I’m going to go back to you talked about mental health, spirituality, and you wrote your first book. What would you say the right … You call it life keys. Is that the right translation to English?
Alda Karen:
Yes. For me, every wall is a door, I just need to find the right key.
Sigrun:
Okay. And what are the most important keys?
Alda Karen:
Well, in my book, it’s called the Life Bible. It’s not out in English yet. It’ll probably be out in English later this year, 2021. But I think the most popular life keys in the book that open all the doors that you think are walls that are holding you back, I think the biggest one that people talk most about is that you are not your thoughts, or your feelings, or emotions. And I think it’s in a very practical way. A lot of spiritual coaches talk about this, and mental health coaches who talk about your brain and stuff like that. And I always think of him as my roommate, he’s my forever roommate, and whatever I see, he sees, and whatever I hear, he hears. So I am not holding myself back in any way, but my brain is.
His only goal in life is to survive. That’s the brain’s only goal. He’s the only organ that knows he’s an organ, but he only has this one goal, that’s to survive. So if you look at this very practically, your goal in life is to live to the fullest or enjoy yourself, be happy, grow. Your big goal in life is just to grow as a human being, but you can’t grow if you’re constantly trying to stay safe and survive. So this is where you and your brain of clash. That’s why he doesn’t want to get out of his comfort zone because he wants to preserve energy in case there’s a tiger behind that cupboard or whatever. He always wants to preserve energy and really keep you alive, but you want to live. So you have to think of your thoughts and your emotions like oh, is this coming from me right now or is this coming from my brain?
So whenever I’m scared, whenever I don’t feel confident, I’m like oh shit, I can’t do this, I’m like whoa, that’s coming from my brain. I’m going to side that and then I’m going to do whatever I can to prepare. And what do I do if the worst thing happens? What do I do if the best thing happens? Then I do all these practical other ways to lower the volume in the brain. But it’s very, very important to know, and it’s a very good key to have, that whenever you are talking against yourself or you’re tearing yourself down, that’s not you, that’s your brain. So you have to learn how to talk with your brain and sit down with it, journal, do visualizations. The brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so you have to learn how to live with your forever roommate and he won’t hold you back.
Sigrun:
Is that the most important key or are there multiple keys?
Alda Karen:
Oh, multiple keys. I mean we have a very good one that’s the roadmap of the emotions. So basically your emotions, when you feel the most, when you feel most angry or most upset, your emotion is in the middle of your brain, right in the middle here. It comes up through your spine and then you figure out your emotions in your frontal lobe. So whenever you feel the most, they’re stuck in the middle of your brain and they’re feeding all the neuro-transmitters, and you really want to hit something or scream, you just have to wait. And that’s where the term sleep on it comes from. You have to give the emotions time to reach your frontal lobe so you can accurately work through them. And then we have vulnerability. That’s one of the big ones too. To be completely vulnerable is one of the bravest thing you can do. And like Brené Brown says, you are enough. I think been … I think that’s what I’m most known for in Iceland right now is you are enough. They picked that up and made that a whole thing.
And I think that’s a big thing that I’ve done for a very long time, and that’s helped me with imposter syndrome and confidence. I’ve told myself I am enough for nine years now. Nine years, I’ve said I am enough to myself every single day, and I just show up as I am, and I do my best. And I think maybe that’s what’s gotten the biggest advantage for me, that’s maybe what I’ve done differently than a lot of other people, I’ve just constantly reminded myself I am enough. And now, I have such a very strong, unbreakable foundation in my mental health that’s just based on the sentence I am enough. So everything I do with a day is a bonus because I’m already enough. I don’t need anything. I want to do this and I decide to do that, but I don’t need to do it. So I feel like that gives me a lot of power and a lot of freedom too, this small sentence.
There was a moment when I was a teenager where I think I heard the sentence first with Brené Brown, I’m not entirely sure, but I wrote it on little Post-it notes and I would put it on the steering wheel of my car, and I would put it on my computer, and I would put it on my desk, and stuff like that. And I would just constantly be reminding myself that I am enough as I am. There’s an incredible chance of being born already. Your life is a gift, so you have to treat it like it is. So I think that’s helped me a lot and giving me a lot of confidence. And I have a couple of keys in the book about how you can create confidence, like power poses, all the practical stuff.
And also just really abstract ideas as well, like think of yourself and your life in abstract ways. Like who’s going to tell you that this is not a computer simulation? Who’s going to tell you that you can just program success into your mind? I do believe that we have programs running in our minds. You either have a mindset that’s a victimized mindset, everything is against you and you’re such a victim, or you have a growing, learner, student mindset that you’re just constantly growing. What is this teaching me? You always have a choice, and you always have the power to choose, and the power to reprogram your mind a bit. And I really like that. And I’m constantly reprogramming myself, and just observing myself and my reactions, and especially thoughts and emotions, because that’s the guy I need to reprogram the most, that’s my brain.
Sigrun:
Yeah. How did you come up with all these keys?
Alda Karen:
Well, my short experience, I guess. I’m just very observant. I write everything down. I’ve been journaling for years, but I think I’m just really observant of myself. And I think self-awareness is one of the biggest things you can do to propel your career, just knowing yourself really well, because not a lot of people do it, I feel like. When is the last time you sat down with yourself in a room and you were just alone with your thoughts, no phone, no distractions. We don’t really do that anymore, but we used to do that a lot. So I think a lot of people have started meditating, which is great. That’s a really good tool that I use a lot. But really just knowing oneself. I think self-awareness can get you ahead.
Sigrun:
And did you then start to see some patterns? Something that was stopping you? Like there was a door and you needed a key to get through it?
Alda Karen:
Oh my God, yes. I mean my biggest doors have been I’m not smart enough, I’m not cute enough, I don’t speak well enough. I mean I’m a public speaker and I don’t think I speak well. That was a huge door I had to go through. So I had to unlearn that. That was something that was just a negative belief that I had, a negative core that I had about myself from a very young age. Don’t know where it came from, don’t care, but I needed to unlearn it. So that was what I did. So it was like you can’t open doors that you don’t know about and you can’t get through walls that you don’t know about. So the most dangerous thing when it comes to mental health is not knowing what’s holding you back. So that’s where self-awareness comes in. What’s holding you back and you don’t know about it, that’s when you need to sit alone in a room and really think about your life, and how you’ve reacted to your life so far.
Sigrun:
Oh, I think that’s a juicy nugget for everyone who’s listening. If you hit a wall, just sit down and figure out what that wall is, and then you can find the key. And you can find the key by reading your book, if you can read Icelandic. Maybe you need to come back when this out in English, then you come back on the podcast or maybe on my YouTube show. We can then promote the book with you, because I think everything you’ve shared here today, women at any age need to hear it. And I actually think the older women, the more experienced, the more educated they are, there are more issues. And somehow maybe that comes from the education or the experience that there are more troubles.
Alda Karen:
The smarter you are, the more issues come up. Why do you think I never finished college? I’m terrified.
Sigrun:
You just got to stay where you right are. Alda, it’s been fantastic to talk to you. Definitely going to invite you back when your English version is out with Life Bible, I think that would be the name, right?
Alda Karen:
Yes, that’s the name we’re going with.
Sigrun:
That’s the name you’re going with.
Alda Karen:
Very humble.
Sigrun:
Thank you so much. Yeah, of course. You’re oozing of confidence and I think that’s very helpful for other people to see. There’s no reason because we are enough. Thank you for coming on the show.
Alda Karen:
Thank you so much.
Dominique:
Go to the show notes at sigrun.com/424, where you will find the link to watch the video of Selena Soo, plus all the links to Alda Karen. Thank you for listening to the Sigrun Show. Did you enjoy this episode? Let Sigrun know that you listened by tagging her in your Insta Story or your Instagram post, using your handle @Sigruncom and the hashtag SigrunShow. See you in the next episode.
(silence).
 

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