The following blog was submitted by the November Powered by Purpose guest speaker, Sara Davis.
In 2016, my dad passed away. This hit me particularly hard - harder than any other loss I'd experienced up to that point and for many layered reasons. Mainly, I lived far away from my parents for many years, and I didn't see it coming. Even though he was weakening from his leukemia diagnosis, I could not imagine a world without my dad in it. He was such a force of life. And aside from the primary loss (his death), I was mourning the secondary losses, like the milestones he'd never be there for and the constant cheerleading he'd always done from the sidelines of my life.
My dad was a strong advocate for community work, and though I didn't know it at the time, he was working through me in some ways—to connect me back to the core of who he was and who I am. I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela route in Spain to spread his ashes. I walked for him, but I found myself opening up with other pilgrims about my story and grief. I was leading with vulnerability for the first time in my life. As a result, I found myself starting to heal and formed deeper connections with those around me.
I didn't realize it at the time, but this experience would form the basis for a longer-term storytelling project on grief and loss, a podcast and growing community called Breathing Wind. Just a year later, I'd attend a visioning workshop on social entrepreneurship, which would lead me to a greater cause and mission around this work that once caused me great pain.
Breathing Wind's mission has always been to de-stigmatize grief through authentic conversations and thoughtful storytelling. Though Breathing Wind started as a parent-loss storytelling podcast, led by one host (me) in response to my dad's passing and my personal calling to share stories of my peers who had similar experiences, it has evolved into a larger community and podcast.
Starting in the second year, I shifted directions to focus on training others to lead authentic conversations that connect us all to our shared humanity. I did this because I was missing collaboration in my professional life and wanted to mentor others, something I did naturally in a work environment but found lacking as a solo-preneur.
It is hard for me to explain what happens with Breathing Wind or how, as a producer, I might bring together aligned guest hosts. There is a degree of magic and momentum that the podcast has on its own, but if I were to codify it, I'd say that first and foremost, people are drawn to how we approach grief, change, loss and healing.
Only guests who are excited to be on the podcast make it on the podcast. Most of our guest hosts have either been guests before or are active members of my community already.
I usually put a call out through my newsletter at the end of the year for guest hosts and I'm always surprised with who comes forward in response. Usually, the response is related to a theme I've shared. Last year's theme was joy, and it was something many in our community had already been thinking and writing about. And usually, guest hosts are extremely aligned and talented on their own.
Training guest hosts is also a part of the alignment process. Some practical ways I offer encouragement for authentic storytelling include:
- Know who you are talking to - Breathing Wind listeners are introspective and heart-centered. They are primarily introverted, predominantly female, and usually the first of their peers to lose a parent. Even though many of the conversations on Breathing Wind do not focus on grief and loss of guests' parents, the idea remains the same: to connect deeply on a shared topic or aspect of work informed by a significant loss.
- Let your curiosity lead - At the core of being a podcast host is the ability to be fully present and listen to what guests are saying while following up on threads that are call for expansion.
- Mirroring - By repeating a phrase a guest says or showing up in a physically connective way, we are reinforcing that what our guests are saying is important.
After three years of collaborating with heart-centered individuals to create the podcast, I started applying what I learned to my work with clients to help them produce their podcasts as well. Now, I help heart-centered individuals and organizations find their voice, speak authentically, and build community through their podcasts. I do this because I have seen, firsthand, the effects of sharing our vulnerable voices with our community, and I want to share this with others. I want to see other heart-centered individuals finding their voices in podcasting, too. You can find out more about me and my work at connectedpodcaster.com.
Sarah Davis is a podcast producer, mentor and CEO. Davis helps heart-centered individuals and organizations find their voice, speak authentically, and build community through their own podcasts with The Connected Podcaster, LLC.