An entrepreneur at heart, Jennifer is also a curious explorer of spirituality, self-discovery and human transformation, and believes that the meaning of life is to constantly improve yourself.
After over two decades of working in entrepreneurship and finance, our host, Jennifer Wu, found herself in an utterly different line of work than she had previously imagined. In this episode of The Founder Spirit, we explore Jennifer’s personal journey in launching this podcast.
Though her initial experience was filled with much doubt and fear, she managed to overcome these challenges by ignoring the negative self-talk and shifting her focus to the journey itself. By creating a platform that amplifies diverse causes and featuring a wide-ranging array of guests, running this podcast has been incredibly fulfilling and inspiring for our host.
By conquering her fears and pursuing her dream, it is her greatest hope that the podcast will inspire each one of us to pursue our passion, live more authentically, and become better versions of ourselves.
TUNE IN to uncover her journey as Jennifer reflects on the challenges of her entrepreneurial pursuit and how it has changed her perspective on leading conversations in her personal life. The concept of "The Founder Spirit" is also explored, encompassing commitment, persistence, mental resilience, and embracing failures.
An entrepreneur at heart, Jennifer Wu is a business executive with over 20 years of experience in financial services, strategic consulting and startups across the United States, Europe and Asia. She is also a curious explorer of spirituality, self-discovery and human transformation, and believes that the meaning of life is to constantly improve yourself.
[00:02] Jennifer: Hi, everyone, thanks for listening to The Founder Spirit Podcast. I'm your host, Jennifer Wu. If you’d like to learn about my inner journey of launching this podcast, why I am constantly inspired by my guests, and how it helped me to grow personally, feel free to listen to the season 1 wrap-up discussion with my friend Ingrid.
You can find us on Apple, Spotify and Google Podcasts, as well as social media and our website at TheFounderSpirit.com.
[00:31] Ingrid: Hi, Jennifer, it's been a long journey. I know that the background preparation probably took a long time, but from the outside looking in, it seemed like you moved really quickly, actually, from idea to full steam ahead implementation. How did you manage this?
[00:46] Jennifer: It's definitely been a long journey, a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery. I will be finishing season one at the end of July with 16 episodes.
It really took a year for me to launch the podcast, six months of mental preparation and six months of execution. About a year and a half ago, I had this idea to start the podcast featuring personal stories of entrepreneurship. After the first month when I was really excited and I told quite a number of people, the self-doubt and panic set in.
At times I felt like I was paralyzed by fear and really unable to move forward. To a lot of people on the surface, I appeared very self-assured. And I remember even my kids were asking me, Mom, are you still launching the podcast? And I would say yes, of course.
But I think deep down inside, I was really gripped by fear and seriously wondering at times whether or not I was able to pull this off. Like most humans, I had this voice in the back of my head that said, you're a finance person, you're not a communications or media person. What makes you think that you could do this? So a lot of times, we have these voices in our heads that would really stop us from accomplishing things. And, of course, I had that as well.
While I couldn't completely shut off the voice, I decided that I'm not my thoughts. And so I made a conscious effort to shift my energy. So instead of concentrating on the goal, and I'm a very goal-oriented person, I focused on the journey, on the first few steps toward the ultimate goal. And I was able to break down the project into smaller and more palatable pieces.
And then also, I remember last summer, just a few days before I was going to record my first episode, I met this guy at an event. And when I told him that I was going to launch the Founder Spirit podcast, he was very enthusiastic. He said, you know, most people don't even start because they're too scared to go through with it, and they stop themselves before it actually happens. So what he said really struck me and those words actually stayed with me for the next few days leading up to the point where I recorded my first episode.
And I remember on the day of the recording, I was really nervous, but when I was about 10-15 minutes into the recording, I realized that I was in flow, I was meant to do this, and I really enjoyed doing this. And I remember my kids were there, and the kids of my guest as well. And at the end of the recording, my kids thought it was really great, and her kids said, wow, Mom, we didn't know all these things about you, that's incredible. So that really gave me the self-satisfaction to go forth on the journey.
And the person who actually said this to me is Mike Ang. So he was also one of my guests on the show in season one. And I think there is a very special reason why I met him at such a critical point and he also has just a remarkable story as well. So he, in some ways, really inspired me to continue my podcast.
[04:17] Ingrid: Do you still feel like that today when you run an episode? Do you feel a lot of fear leading up to it, and then when you're actually recording, you feel much better? I mean, it's a bit like a performance, I suppose, a lot of sort of pre-stage nerves. But then, once you're in it, you're so focused that everything else vanishes.
[04:34] Jennifer: You know, it's interesting because I remember the first four episodes, I was always very nervous and I always over-prepare. But when I was recording my fifth episode, and it was with Max Frieder from Artolution, and that was the first episode where I felt that I was a lot more comfortable with myself.
And you're absolutely right, it is a bit like a performance each time when I record. But I don't have the fear anymore, I just really enjoy listening to people's story. So I think that is a sign that I'm really doing what I was meant to do.
[05:13] Ingrid: And that's really focusing on the journey, as you say, and the journey being each episode and just the conversation that you're having with people. I think you can really hear that in your podcast, actually. Your confidence and your comfort, talking to people, that really comes across. And it's one of the strengths of your podcast.
[05:30] Jennifer: Thank you. Because the group is highly curated, I'm really inspired by my guests who are featured on the show. Their stories, the work that they do, their own inspirations, their motivations, actually inspires me. So in a way, this podcast is food also for my soul.
[05:51] Ingrid: If they're so carefully curated, do you find it quite hard identifying new people to interview?
[05:57] Jennifer: Not yet, maybe it's going to come. So far, everybody that I've wanted to do the interview with, have said yes.
I would say the first three or four interviews were from my own network, so people that I know well. And then most of it so far have been referrals, and I try to get a diverse group of people, so anywhere from social entrepreneurs to tech founders, to elite athletes and artists as well. I feel that I've featured quite a diverse cast of guests.
[06:31] Ingrid: So hosting a podcast is so different from dealing with startup finances, which is what you were doing in your previous professional life. How do you think that your previous work experience helped you on this new path? Or, in fact, has it, in some ways, been a hindrance?
[06:48] Jennifer: I think, on the surface, it might seem very different, and of course, that was the reason why I was so scared to begin with.
But at the end of the day, I think working in startups or entrepreneur environments really prepared me well in launching the Founder Spirit podcast. So much so that I sort of no longer feel that I'm doing something new.
I think the ability to think outside the box, having the self-belief, and also doing the hard work are things that got me through my professional career, and that's what got me to launch the podcast and these are values and work ethics that stay with me today.
[07:27] Ingrid: Where do you imagine going with the Founder Spirit in the next few years? Do you think very far ahead or do you live episode by episode?
[07:34] Jennifer: Well, I'm definitely a planner. I don't plan too far ahead, but I also definitely don't live episode by episode. I think I would love to grow the podcast to a wider audience and get millions of listeners on board. I definitely haven't cracked that nut yet.
In the first season, I just focused on generating good content, and I still haven't figured out my business model either. So I hope that I will have figured out my business model by the end of second season. Once I have the time and space, hopefully this summer, I'll be taking some time to think about it.
[08:10] Ingrid: I know that you've had some enthusiastic reviews from listeners. Can you share some of the positive feedback that you received?
[08:16] Jennifer: So I've been very much humbled by the positive feedback that I've been getting from my friends and my listeners. One common thread on the feedback has been it's very deep, it's very sincere, and it's very touching.
And I think because it's coming from the heart, whether it's coming from my heart in terms of producing the episode or my guests who are telling their stories and sharing tales from their struggles and entrepreneurship, and some of the stories also have brought people to a few tears.
I think what really helps me is being able to provide this platform to amplify the causes and elevate the voice of the people that my guests serve through their organizations - widows in Sub-Saharan Africa, refugees around the world, and Latino communities in the US - people who are not necessarily visible.
Some of the feedback are, wow, it's incredible what this person has done, I had no idea that there are people like that in this world. Those are the responses that I get that pushes me forward as well.
And also, I always ask my guests to send the episode to their friends and their families. And often they come back, and they say, my kids or my parents have told me that they didn't really know some of the stories that were featured in your podcast. So that always makes me really happy.
And actually, one special letter that I received from one of my listeners, which I could share with you, she said, I love your podcast. Many people don't realize that every company has a soul. A soul from the founder that is passed onto the generations to come.
So my greatest hope is that the podcast would really inspire us all to pursue our passion and to live more authentically, and to become better versions of themselves. Because at the end of the day, I realize that what drives these people is really passion and purpose.
[10:29] Ingrid: Can you share which of the podcast episodes resonated most for your audience and for you in fact?
[10:35] Jennifer: It's interesting because I find a little bit of myself in every episode, so I tend to resonate with all of them, but from different aspects of my life. And in terms of the audience, I think it depends on where the individual is at what stage of their lives.
So, for example, the latest episode was with Coach Leighroy, and he's a startup coach. And I had one entrepreneur reach out to me, and she said it's very relatable. It really resonated with her, and it was exactly the kind of words that she needed to hear at that moment.
So I think every episode resonates with different people. Claudia Romo Edelman's episode is my husband's favorite podcast of all times. So much so that he actually wants to go work for her. And speaking of Mike Ang, a friend of mine sent me a message, and she said that she's having her 14-year-old son listen to it.
[11:34] Ingrid: Can you tell me what have been the biggest struggles along the way of creating a podcast?
[11:40] Jennifer: I think aside from the mental preparation, everything else was really easy, all the technical stuff.
The hardest part for me was really just telling myself that I could do this, that it doesn't matter if I fail, that I am doing something that I believe in. So being able to overcome that fear of failure deep within all of us when we're pursuing our dreams was the biggest lesson that I've learned along the way.
And I think when you are able to overcome fear and self-doubt, it gives you the confidence to then do something new, to know that you can accomplish things, and to know that you can reach your true potential. So that, for me, was the biggest struggle.
[12:34] Ingrid: And even actually, if you don't overcome the fear, like, I remember reading somewhere that it's useful to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and I always remember that. That's so telling. It's true. You might never not be fearful, but you have to just kind of go ahead anyway, right?
[12:51] Jennifer: Exactly, something I said earlier, which is I couldn't completely turn off the voice in my head that was telling me that I might fail. I was able to move forward despite of that. So, as you said, being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
[13:07] Ingrid: Do you think that interviewing people like this for your podcast has changed the way that you lead conversations in your personal life?
[13:16] Jennifer: You know, it's interesting because I do so much preparation before going into the interview, and I really get to know my guests from the perspective of their closest friend, their colleague, or sometimes even a family member. So I'm able to uncover some really interesting stories which are not public.
And when I sit down, I record the podcast. I feel like I'm their best friend, but of course, I'm not; but I feel that way. Well, on the other hand, they have no idea who I am and what I do. So I think it's a funny relationship because I feel a lot of joy being able to interview them, and a lot of love for what they're doing.
It made me a more empathetic person, a better listener, less judgmental to others and more open-minded.
[14:11] Ingrid: The people that you interview share what you call the Founder Spirit. Do you feel that your definition of what the Founder Spirit means has changed since you began the series?
[14:23] Jennifer: I think it's expanded. I think if you had asked me six months ago, I would say fearless, and I think I did say that on the trailer.
But I think now the Founder Spirit means a lot more than just having no fear. If you're a founder, you'd have to be a little bit crazy, which we all know, but it's also about having commitment and being able to persist in difficult time, having the grit to carry on despite all these tough challenges along the way, And having the mental resilience and trusting the process, and embracing all the failures and the mistakes that you make along the way.
So yesterday, I was talking to someone, and she said that every obstacle that we encounter in our lives are just opportunities for personal growth. No matter how big or how small the obstacles are, they're opportunities for us to grow. So that really resonated with me. I think it's about having the courage to live out your dreams, no matter how difficult things can get sometimes.
[15:36] Ingrid: Thank you, so inspiring. You said earlier that these interviews have touched you, have been food for your soul. Can you just share with us in what ways these super deep, immersive conversations affected you or changed you?
[15:52] Jennifer: The guests that I have on the show, they're so passionate and driven by whatever it is they're doing. They've become an inspiration for me to continue doing the Founder Spirit podcast.
So what I've learned from them is that it's never easy, and success is maybe sometimes 20 years in the making. And when we read about entrepreneurship in the media, it's usually very glamorous, very glitzy. And we read about the success stories, but we never read about the struggles of the individuals in the background.
Because I'm able to get the stories out and a few of my guests have written books, so I do read them as part of my background research. I'm able to tap into the mentality that it is much more of a journey than a destination for all of them because none of them feel that they've reached a point of success where they can just rest on their laurels. They keep striving, and they keep moving, despite all the challenges that come along the way.
At the end of season one, I put out 15-16 episodes, but it's really hard for me to then grow the audience and to find a business model. But here I am, I'm talking to these people about how they've not given up. So I feel like, well, I can't give up either, and I have to keep going because it's just a journey.
And all these individuals, they're just such characters. So for me to talk to them, to really get to the core of who they are, is very interesting. For example, Max Frieder from Artolution, he became friends with a bunch of homeless people during his years at art school because he felt like these are people in my community. Why should they not have access to art just because they're homeless?
So I think it's that fresh perspective, that new way of thinking, that helps to feed my soul. So that's a long answer to your question.
[18:07] Ingrid: Can you give us a few sneak peeks about what to expect next season?
[18:11] Jennifer: Later this week, I'll be heading to the Villars Symposium. It's an annual conference by the Villasr Institute based in Switzerland, and they're focused on creating inter-generation collaboration around how to achieve net zero.
And I'll be interviewing a handful of people, and one person I'll be interviewing is Dr. Johan Rockström, who's a co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact. And he is one of the foremost recognized climate scientists on the planet who, in 2009, came up with the framework around Planetary Boundaries. So I'm pretty excited about that.
I will feature Elaine Pagels, who is a professor on the history of religion from Princeton. And we're going to be talking about Gnosticism and also her life journey. She wrote a book called Why Religion?
And then I will also be interviewing the Venerable Burin, who is a Thai Buddhist monk. And he founded The Midway Meditation Institute based in New York. So a lot of spirituality, I think, in the beginning of the second season.
[19:27] Ingrid: I look forward to it.
[19:28] Jennifer: Great, thank you.
[19:30] Ingrid: I know that you end every episode with a quote. So what's going to be your quote for this one?
[19:35] Jennifer: Good question. My favorite quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, philosopher and poet who led the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century:
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
I think this quote also summarizes my greatest hope for this podcast in inspiring us to pursue our passion, live more authentically, and become better versions of ourselves.
[20:06] Ingrid: Thank you, Jennifer.
[20:17] END OF AUDIO
(00:45) Overcoming Fear and Finding Flow in Launching the Podcast
(06:48) How Skills from Startup Finance Translate into Running a Podcast
(07:34) Vision for The Founder Spirit Podcast
(08:15) Amplifying Voices of Passionate Entrepreneurs
(11:40) Biggest Struggle Along the Way
(13:16) The Transformative Power of Interviews
(14:23) The Ever-Evolving Definition of The Founder Spirit
(15:53) Personal Inspirations from Immersive Conversations
(18:11) Season 2 Sneak Peek
(19:35) Jennifer’s Favorite Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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