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The Fable - Life on Your Terms, with Kris Kluver

Seasoned entrepreneur and best selling author of several books including Aspiring Soloprenear and The Business Startup Bible, Kris Kluver sat down with Jonathan Westover on a new episode of the Human Capital Innovations Podcast to talk about his recent book Life on Your Terms and how to accomplish life goals and maintain balance in your life.

Kris opens by talking about how many people often feel like they’re “... always going to come up empty…. [They’re] always going to feel like … [they’re] not measuring up, … [they’re] not going to be good enough. … [They’re] chasing that next thing.” He then suggest “... [w]e should be able to recognize our innate value and how we’re enough just as we are.” Many people often need to realize they’re personal value, worth, and what they can bring to a company before they actually move to chase the career they wanted. “Creating that awareness is number one.”

Kris also shared his a little about his own journey of discovery: “I was earnestly seeking, trying to figure out what fit for me, what I was interested in, et cetera…. I’m so glad I did because the path I took was much better aligned with me, my values, who I am as a person… We have to give ourselves permission and embrace the idea that we’re the primary asset of the organization and as such, we have to invest in that asset.” You deserve to prioritize your personal career and growth, because that is when you begin to find a career that best suits you.

It is also important to foster that same understanding for the people that we direct or lead. “It’s one thing for me to feel empowered and that I can be true to myself and chase my dreams. All that’s really great. But if I’m a leader of a team, I also need to be creating an environment where I can allow others that I’m working with to do the same.” Leaders need to allow that flexibility to their employees and/or team members. Doing this allows for you and your business to have people who are truly passionate about what they do and are willing to learn and grow for the business.

You can listen to the full episode at, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts, just search “HCI Podcast”.

Read the full transcript below:

Welcome to the Human Capital innovations Podcast. Thank you so much. It's humbling to be here, John, I appreciate it. It is a pleasure to be with you. You're joining us from the Omaha, Nebraska area. I'm south of Salt Lake City in Utah, and today we're going to be talking about one of your recent books, The Fable Life on Your Terms. I think there's a lot there that we're going to be unpacking and talking about life goals and dreaming big and how that applies to our lives and I'm excited to have this conversation with you today. As we get started, I wanted to share Chris's bio with everybody. Chris Kluver is a dedicated speaker, facilitator advisor and seasoned entrepreneur and bestselling author of the Aspiring Solopreneur, The Business Startup Bible, as well as the fable Life on Your Terms, part of the defining What Next? Series. He has helped thousands of individuals, couples and organizations find balance and achieve more than they ever thought possible using simple tools, candid, facilitation and unique stories. And I could go on, but I'm going to pause there. Anything else you would like to highlight, Chris, from your background, your personal context before we dive on in? No. I've been an entrepreneur. I serve my 1st 15 companies when I was 19. So I've been in those spaces, I get it. I built them, bought them, sold them, rectum and know what it's like to be on both sides, so to speak. Yeah, well, that's fantastic. You're a serial entrepreneur. That always brings a unique perspective to any conversation. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart and then scaling it to the point of being able to sell and then move on. That's tremendous. Many listeners and many in my audience are in the same boat trying to figure out how to grapple with the people management, the organizational leadership components as they're running their small business, and then others, of course, are from mid size to larger businesses and middle management all the way up through executive levels. I think we all have our unique path in leadership, we all have our unique path in business and I really appreciate your background and I'm excited for the insights that you're going to be sharing with me in the audience. Let's dive on into this particular book and we can zoom out and talk a little bit more broadly too, because you've done a lot of great work with a lot of people in a lot of different areas. But if we focus in for a moment on the fable life on your terms, tell us a little bit about why this book, what drove you to write this book, and then we can start to unpack it a little bit. Well, thank you again for having me on. And I can say that I've had the good fortune to work with a lot of different leadership teams in the strategic work and facilitation that I do. And I've had a tremendous amount of fortune helping people grow. A lot of tenx companies, we've had eight, nine figure exits, I've helped take company public, things like that. But one of the reoccurring themes that I saw over and over with the owners and the Csuite is when you can really get vulnerable and when you can really have a good, healthy conversation. There's a lot of people who have tremendous financial success, and yet when they're really honest and candid with themselves, they're still not happy, they're still not fulfilled. Don't get me wrong, I think that financial is important. I love my homes, multiple homes and vehicles and things like that. It's important, but it's not the only way to measure success. And that was sort of the primary theme that I kept seeing over and over and over. And I started to realize that so many of us have abdicated that narrative of what success is. And what I mean by that is we've given it up to the wine commercials or the scarcity mindsets of parents or peers. Everybody's like, dude, I have more money than I know what to do with, and I'm not happy and I don't know what the hell is next. But I'm embarrassed to say anything. So that's sort of where it started, if that makes sense. Yeah, it does. I think that's helpful. And I appreciate your focus there on living according to your own definition of success and not being reliant, on external voices telling you what success should be or what success looks like for you, because we all have different paths. We all have different upbringing, different backgrounds, we all have different priorities, different values. And if we're constantly chasing this external validation of some external definition of success and what it is, we're always going to come up empty. We're always going to feel like we're not measuring up, we're not going to be good enough. We're chasing that next thing. And while it's good to have stretch goals and to be trying to get ourselves out of our comfort zone, we should also be able to learn how to recognize our innate value and how we're enough just as we are. And we don't need that external validation from wherever it might come from. I think. For example, I've shared this on my podcast before my own personal background, as many students did. As an undergrad student, I changed majors a bunch of times. And as I reflect back on that, it was two things. One, I was earnestly seeking, trying to figure out what fit for me, what I was interested in, et cetera. But I was also simultaneously trying to juggle what I thought the expectations were from my family, from my community, society at large, what a successful career would look like, et cetera. And so I found myself finally settling after multiple iterations, settling on a major, and being fairly far down that path, thinking, this is it. This will set me up for success in life. I'm going to have a good, successful, stable career, good income, et cetera. All those things, right? All the things that people say are important. And about a year into that program, I realized, I hate this. Like, I'm good at it, I could do it, but I really don't like it. And the more I reflected on, the more I realized, I'm just doing this because I feel like everyone expects me to do this. And I switched one more time, I switched to something that was far less prestigious, and I ended up going down a completely different path. Now, fast forward 20 years. I'm so glad I did, because the path I took was much better aligned with me, my values, who I am as a person. It's allowed me to excel in ways I never would have, I don't think, if I didn't like what I was doing every day. And so I'm really grateful for that. I'm not quite sure why I was able to get outside of myself to see that happening in real time back then. I know many people find themselves trapped into careers and in lives where they were trying to fit a mold and do what they felt like other people were expecting them to do, only to get 1020 years into their career and feeling miserable. So I feel fortunate that for whatever way it happened, I had that wake up call early on. But it's just a reminder to me that we need to always be doing life on our terms and not being so caught up in these external voices that we hear all around us in society, because there are many and they're constant, dude, I can't applaud you enough that you were able to break out of that mold. I think what I see over and over and over is people end up sort of reactionary and reacting into one thing here or there. They could do this or somebody knew that, or this was a safe job. And I think a lot of times with our parents, they have the best of intention. They want us to be safe, they want us to be secure, they want us to. And it comes from a good heart. But rarely do people say, hey, go out and break shit. Move fast, do stuff that's going to make you happy, breaks it, try it. And I think that that's kind of a challenge that a lot of us are starting to transition to because my wife, she's British, but she was the first one in her family to go to college. Immigrant in the UK from parents from this country in the Indian Ocean. Her dad was literate, she was really good at math and her parents wanted something safe. So she became an accountant and she had a great job and was good at and as an accountant for a venture capital firm in in London. Very prestigious. But she hated it. So she ended up at 40 transitioning to becoming a couples and family counselor. And oddly, you know, she's done really well with that. She's 55, like I am now. But as a result she's making more money, working roughly 20 hours a week, being an endurance athlete, helping people. But she was able to redefine that. And I think that that's sort of the intention with this whole piece is that rarely do we decide and define on a holistic level, not just in our finances but also in our fulfillment, in our relationships as well as our health. What does amazing look like in that well rounded life? And then we define based on that, where do we want to go? And once we can do that, it makes everything run a lot better. And that's sort of the general intention of the life on your terms, courses and programs and how we achieve that, how do you start to disrupt that? I was fortunate that I kind of had that awakening. It required me to switch one more time and take some extra time in college before I finished. And so it delayed me a little bit. But I'm so glad that happened on the front end right then. If I was at this point, I'm 43. If I was 43 and coming to the realization, man, I hate my career, that's a different thing because I'm married, I have kids, I have mortgage, I have all these other obligations and that's where people often start to feel trapped. So for anyone listening today, participating in this, either with the video or the audio, what could be those first steps in kind of stepping into the darkness? And that unknown as you start to realize maybe an adjustments needed to start living your true authentic life and doing it on your terms while recognizing the sometimes harsh realities of the world we're in where we do have obligations, we're accountable to different people. We can't always just blow up our lives and start over. So how do we start the process? There's a few different steps. The first though is always going to be creating some sort of awareness. We have to have a personal awareness of where we are and doing some assessment. And there's a tool, if any of your listeners want because it's you. They go to my website, it's, and there's a tool that it takes about five minutes to take it and it'll give them an immediate holistic result of where they are. But creating that awareness is number one. And something else along the line of awareness. You mentioned the idea of people always kind of moving the goal post, changing things. There's something called hedonic adaptation or the Hedonic treadmill. And in essence, it's the uptight psychological terms for saying moving the goal posts. But if you catch yourself saying, man, you know, if I only had 100,000, I'd be in a high cotton, it'd be great. And then, yeah, as soon as you get close to that, you're like, no, yeah, you know, I need 150, or, you know, we have the private jet, but, you know, we really want a bigger one. I've actually experienced this with clients. I think it's important then to realize that you've lost control of that narrative. So that's one of those things that can also help you with the awareness. Now, the second piece is that I am a firm believer that work life balance doesn't really exist. I think our cell phones and devices have off buttons, but very few people are familiar with where they are. And if you're not willing to embrace that, then you're never really going to have balance. But what I do think is we can have a work life integration. And just as anybody who's choosing to listen to you is a bona fide badass in achieving things and growing and getting to that certain level, if you can put the same intentionality on a holistic balanced life, an integrated life, then you can start to step back and say, no. What would amazing look like for my entire life? Not just my bank account or my career, but from my relationships with my family, with my partner, with my friends, for my spiritual, my mental, my physical health, and start putting that intentionality because when I'm working with people, I get pinned. And even if I'm working one on one with a heavy hitter CEO, public CEO, they'll be like, yeah, dude, but if I take my foot off the gas, man, everything's going to go to hell. And I don't believe that's true. I think that we have to give ourselves permission and embrace the idea that we're the primary asset of the organization and as such, we have to invest in that asset. And to do that, I would make the argument that when you're a better partner or spouse, when you're a better parent, when you're a better friend, when your physical health is right on your mental health and your spiritual health, you actually become a better leader, a better manager, and everything can expand. But if you only focus on the finance, you'll get a hit for a while, but it's going to come across at expenses in other areas and you're not truly protecting the asset. Yeah. So that holistic approach to success is what I'm hearing you say. Let's not get tunnel vision on just like, say, financial success. Now, of course, everyone wants to be stable. People want to be able to take care of their needs, have a warm place to live, food to eat, they want to be able to take care of their children, et cetera. Right. So there's a baseline that we need to put time and energy into to make sure that we're taking care of our needs. But to your point, once you get past that baseline and you get to the point even where you have some flexibility and you're not so stressed about money all the time, once you're past that point, just more isn't going to be enough. It's not going to fulfill you, and you're never going to feel like you've arrived. And so recognizing that that's just one piece of a holistic tapestry of all these different elements of your life that you also should be paying attention to, I think is a really important step. I can tell you. For us, we've been practicing this, and we actually we go through the exact process. We teach in the courses, and then we my wife and I get together for an annual retreat, and then we go away for quarterly events where we actually use a regular strategic planning cadence for what we do. But in the time we've been doing this, we've ten X star income. We live part time in Nebraska, part time in Colorado, both by choice, high country at 10,000ft, and we take three months off a year for adventure travel. We just got back from a month long sabbatical in Nepal. And on that note, when we did the balance wheel, one of the areas that we felt a little deficient was for our own personal spirituality. We weren't feeling strong with that. So we set a goal in 22 of exploring different options and different things that we can expand on. And as a result, we booked a six day, five night adventure and a monastery of exiled Tibetans outside of Katmandu. I'm not going to shave my head and join the monastery, but it expanded my thinking and got me to look at things a little differently. So it's putting that intentionality. And I can tell you that honestly, I've used a lot of what I learned from there in my practice. It helps me become a better and more vulnerable, open person. Yeah, and you've kind of referred to it a couple of times, but I know you do a lot of work around a roadmap, road mapping to ensure alignment and making sure that you have things clearly articulated and clear in your own mind. So both for your own success, but also you refer to your partner. You can do that within relationships, but as leaders within organizations, we can do that within our organizations, within our teams as well, because we need to have that alignment. So it's one thing for me to feel empowered and that I can be true to myself and chase my dreams. All that's really great. But if I'm a leader of a team, I also need to be creating an environment where I can allow others that I'm working with to do the same, where I can model for them that process and where I can support them in achieving their dreams and accomplishing really great things. Maybe walk through that whole roadmapping approach for us. Well, with the roadmapping or the experience that we walk people through, we start with the balance wheel and immediately we start to look for Arbitrage. Where can we find little bits of pieces and that people can start getting a little bit of breathing room? How can we get some basic hits? A little bit of victories just to start with. Then we use that same tool to help people visualize what amazing can look like. And we help people to start learning how to dream again. There's some tools we do and something we keep called the life changing goal. It's kind of like Collins's behav big hairy Audacious goal. But for me, I shifted my thinking a few years ago about ROI return on investment to a return on impact. And my life changing goal is to introduce a million people to a new way of thinking, impacting countless lives. That's my purpose. Am I clear on how I'm doing it? Not 100%, but it's getting clearer every day. But I know then that I'm having impact and I can drive and that really gives me purpose. And then based on that purpose, well, it's actually going to be fairly well, it'll be fairly lucrative, but that helps. We go through we create and we go through a process to clear our values, our true north, who we really are and our heart. So that what we're doing is in alignment with who we are and where we want to go. We have that big vision, we have that Bhag, that life changing goal. And then we go through and actually create goals. We create we create goals, we create quarterly objectives. We have a giant bucket list of adventures and things we want to do to make sure we don't lose them. And we have short term things that need to get done and a long term parking lot of things to hit. But actually this is mine. It's all worn up and tattered, but I keep it in my back pocket. And my wife and I actually, we go out on a date night once a week and we try and read through it. It helps us stay on track. It creates that accountability and structure for that. And that's the last thing we work through, is the idea of ruthless but compassionate accountability. How do we hold each other feet to the fire? Because once you have a goal and Candidly Man that's the biggest challenge for most heavy hitting people is how do we step back and think like a seven year old and say, you know what? If I couldn't fail at something, what would I dream I could do and let it go and start dreaming like that on what that is and get that energy and excitement again? Yeah, I love that. And that that energy and excitement is what can see us through the hard things that we face. Everyone has them. Everyone has their stuff, their baggage. Everyone has obstacles and roadblocks in life, whether that's physical or mental health related or relationships or disruptions or disappointments in work and career, we all have them. But when we have that energy, it allows us to navigate those choppy waters a little bit better, right? And it doesn't take away the hard things, but it allows us to bear them a little bit easier and to learn from them and move forward. And I think that's as much as we could ask in life as we're facing the ups and downs and all of that, and as you were talking about with your wife and having that mutual accountability with your goals and this big vision and everything that you were wanting to achieve, again, applying that into the workplace, it's the same principle. As a leader, I should be coaching and mentoring and working with members of my team. I should be having performance conversations, help them to establish those big goals and then help them towards achieving them and then hold them accountable for achieving those goals. That's what good performance management is all about. There's plenty of examples of bad performance management. We don't need to go there right now. But from the context of what we're talking about, I think that's one of the things that we can focus on with our teams is helping them to think big, to get out of their own way, and then to work towards achieving those awesome things. Which, by the way, are also going to help you look great as a leader. It's going to help your organization achieve and excel and accomplish really great things. So it's a win win all the way around. Well, and I would take it even a step further because it's the same tools. I've done strategic planning and facilitation with leadership teams forever. And basically we're taking the same tools but applying it to an integrated component of your life. I've actually worked with entire leadership teams and their spouses or partners and gone through this process. It's like, well, how does that have anything to do with leadership? Well, I tell you what. If you have younger people, and I would argue that the millennials and the ZS are some of the hardest working generation we've ever had, provided they have the why. If they're clear and they have buy in, they'll bust their home. But if they don't, they'll bounce out almost immediately. But I remember working with one team, and there was a gentleman there, heavy marketing, and he and his wife came up with and they said they wanted to live in Tuscany for three months. And he was very sheepish about even bringing it up, but he created that long term life term goal, and they talked about it openly and honest in front of the leadership team and the owners like, well, let's make that happen. It's not going to happen this year, but let's look at that, say, three years from now. But to make that happen, you're going to have to have your department running like a top. You're going to have to be able to have some virtual access. But what it did is it really integrated the spouse into understanding and being a champion for that husband, because now he can say, I got to work 90 hours this week. And she's like, Good, go, go do a good job, we're going to Tuscany in three years. But it also created champions among his whole leadership team of the spouses. But it unified the alignment and then others could say, well, I want to learn how to do this. And it was universal that they suddenly are coming together to help each other in a fully, like I said, work, life, integration. It's not just work and life, it's together. But they can start to R and D, rip off and duplicate those same concepts and do that for their teams, and suddenly it starts to really expand out. And the engagement that you get, that to me is what the new workplace is going to be in the world. It's going to be that kind of integration. And if you don't have that, people are going to bounce out almost immediately. Yeah, well, I love that vision for the modern or future workplace. Hopefully we're there sooner than later. Hopefully most. If I'm in an organization today, that's what I'm going to try to create. That's the type of environment and the type of culture that I want to propagate within my team, within my organization. Chris, this has just been a fascinating conversation. I know we've only scratched the surface. There's so much more we could dig into, but I know the time and I need to let you go. So before we wrap things up for today, I just wanted to give you a chance to share with the audience how they can connect with you, find out more about your work, where they can find your books, and then give us the final word on the topic for today. Alright? Okay, wonderful. Thank you again very much. Man so people are welcome to go to you can get my book on Amazon. It's life on your terms, discovering what's next. It's a fable. And my name is Christopher, with K. Christopher Kluver on LinkedIn. K-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E-R. Kuver. You're welcome to connect with me there as well. As life on your And I tell you what, because it's you and your group, if they heard about you here, have them reach out. We've got a new cohort launching in February of 23 that is going to run through. It's an eight week course, and I'll give them a discount to put a pin in it. I like to say that sometimes extraordinary lives in the unreasonable be unreasonable. Anything is possible. And when you start thinking that way and you start openly communicating it, the whole world changes. But life is way too short to be miserable. How do you figure out to go out and thrive? I love it. Thanks, Chris. It's been a real pleasure. I encourage my audience to reach out, get connected, find out more about what Chris can do for you. And as always, I hope everyone can stay healthy and safe, that you can find meaning and purpose at work each and every day, and I hope you all have a great week.



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