Alignment of Decisions and Self with Rebecca Folsom
In our 44th episode, Sofie is joined by Rebecca Folsom, a passionate singer-songwriter, to discuss the impact of making choices that align with our core values. Rebecca shares throughout the episode that she has always wanted to give the underrepresented a platform of power. Through her music, she has continued to work towards this goal and has found her purpose in leaving a positive impact on the world. In this week’s discussion, she also highlights some of the consequences that she faced in her career as a result of not living authentically and making choices that didn’t align with her inner values, which she refers to as “yesses” and “nos.”
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About the Guest
Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Rebecca’s formative years were inspired by the alternative pulse that beats in a town nestled at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She grew up running trails and writing songs amongst the pines and aspens, capturing inspiration from the plethora of spiritual teachings along with the sanctuary of the natural world.
Seasoned in a 20-year Zen Buddhism study, Rebecca meets these changing times with a much needed equanimity centered in relaxing into the Wisdom Of Uncertainty. It’s in this open spirit of being teachable that Rebecca has traversed the many bridges that have led to her latest album, Sanctuary. With Sanctuary, Rebecca uses her platform to serve the underprivileged, to inspire collective change, and to create an international movement.
In the spirit of collaboration, Rebecca wrote the songs for her latest album, Sanctuary, with activists, Zen masters, NYT Best Selling authors, Forbes America’s 100 Self-Made Women, social justice organizations, and those impacted in compromised, disempowered situations. Prisoners, refugees, Vietnam vets, homeless, elderly, and many others came together into creative circles with Rebecca. Together, superficialities fell away. They traveled the dark and the light, crossing the bridge of common humanity where the sunlight of spirit shines in even the darkest places. There, they shared in authentic conversations and deep listening. They found tears and laughter, and the natural inclination to share common human values.
For more than 30 years, she has been a transformational teacher and leadership coach. Nicknamed “the Creativity Shaman” by her clients of all ages and backgrounds, Rebecca has inspired thousands of individuals, large and small groups, and leadership teams of national and international corporations. She helps all seekers break down limitations, open more creative flow, and embrace more amazing life experiences. Her vocal empowerment workshops galvanize individual freedom and the creation of conscious communities. Her philanthropy includes serving with Blue Sky Bridge (a child advocacy organization), The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Onetreeplanted.org, and IRC International Rescue Committee, to name just a few.
In addition to her 13 released albums and vibrant coaching career, Rebecca has written and published two books of poetry and created numerous paintings of fine art.
Sofie: Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host, Sofie, and for this episode, we are joined by Rebecca Folsom to discuss alignment of decisions and self. Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Rebecca’s formative years were inspired by the alternative pulse that beats in a town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
She grew up running trails and writing songs amongst the pines and aspens, capturing inspiration from the plethora of spiritual teachings, along with the sanctuary of the natural world. Seasoned in a 20 year Zen Buddhism study, Rebecca meets these changing times with a much needed center on relaxing into the wisdom of uncertainty.
It’s in the open spirit of being teachable that Rebecca has traversed the many bridges that have led to her latest album, Sanctuary. In the spirit of collaboration, Rebecca wrote the songs for this album with activists, Zen Masters, New York Times bestselling authors, Forbes, America’s 100 Self Made Women, social justice organizations, and those impacted in compromised and disempowered situations.
For more than 30 years, she has been a transformational teacher and leadership coach. Nicknamed the Creativity Shaman by her clients of all ages and backgrounds, Rebecca has inspired thousands of individuals, large and small groups, and leadership teams of national and international corporations. She helps all seekers break down limitations, open more creative flow, and embrace more amazing life experiences. Please welcome Rebecca Folsom. Thank you so much for being with us, Rebecca!
Rebecca Folsom: Oh, thank you, Sofie. It’s a pleasure. I am glad to be here this morning.
Sofie: It is such a pleasure to have you on. You have had such a really well rounded experience. Oh my goodness. I am so excited to jump into a lot of these, but I would love to start off with your music career and your last album you created in collaboration with many different groups of people. And can you walk us through, you know, how this was possible and what that process was like working with so many people, especially those involved in the activism space, as well as, you know, people involved in that social justice space, that, you know, writing space. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that process, that journey.
Rebecca Folsom: Yeah, absolutely. This album, it’s called Sanctuary and it was super collaborative, and that was always my mission from the very beginning was the idea that we would, basically that I would bridge people that are very undervoiced in our communities, in our world and bring them to people who have platforms of power, basically.
So moving with people that were homeless and with the staff at the homeless shelters, going into prisons and working with prisoners, working with refugee kids, and then working with nonprofits that are already doing really fantastic work with these groups and then, you know, bringing that to Grammy winning producers and, you know, just amazing musicians and, you know, now we’re at the point where the album is complete. We released it in March, and it’s number one on the folk radio chart.
So I’m using my platform of having a stage, you know, having a broadcast system in our nation, you know,. I mean, I’m small, I’m a folk artist, you know, so being a big folk artist, yet I’m able to take these collaborations that we created to that. And, you know, now we’re putting together a bunch of, we’re going to submit for a Grammy, you know. My vision was always to take the most quiet voices and whatever I can do to bring them to the biggest stages, to bring them to the mainstream.
Sofie: Yeah. And I want to say thank you for the work you’re doing there. And it’s so amazing how much, you know, impact that you can have and you can create. And, you know, I always enjoy when people use their platform for good, and it seems like, you know, that’s what you’re doing, is you’re saying, all right, I have this platform. Rather than, you know, using it for, you know, commercial success, I also want to, you know, create this community of people that can really help change the world and help show people that, hey, it’s possible to do this and it’s possible to use your voice. And so I think that’s so amazing that you’re doing that.
Rebecca Folsom: Yeah. And you know what I would say, too, is, one, I got so much out of this experience, tenfold, I think, of what I gave, and it really –- it is something I think, as a woman, as a young woman to feel into, what are we going to offer to the world? What are we going to give back? And, you know, there’s a couple of things I feel about that.
One, why I wanted to do this, but two, just touching on something, you’re talking about that they are hand in hand changing the world and having commercial success. That’s something that I had to –- I think as a woman, we’re sort of trained that they’re either or that it’s like, I will give myself to others and I will — it’s like, yes, give and get, you know, that there’s a very healthy loop there that happens and I think there’s work to be done for men and women, but particularly women, on learning to receive and allowing themselves to be paid well for what we do, to get something in return for what we do, and not that I went into this with like, oh, I’m going to get something back, you know, I’m going to give this and you’re going to give that. I don’t really believe in tit for tat that way. I believe in generously just offering what I’ve got and being very, very open to receiving great things, to receiving love, money, admiration, respect, fame, all those things.
And it’s been a real process for me to drop into wanting that power and allowing that for myself. One of the shift moves for me around that, and it was actually with a coach, a wonderful coach, Wendy White. And she’s with a group called Let’s Choose Love, and they’re all about grants for people doing creative projects. And she helped me align to be on the road so that I win a Grammy.
And with that, it basically was a dance with power. And I was like, oh, I don’t want to be selfish, and I don’t want it to be all about me. And she said, “You are a good person. You have a good heart. It’s like you have a track record of giving back”. She said, “You want power and you’re going to do power for good”.
And I think that something shifted in me. It’s like, oh, one, I can trust myself with power, and two, why not me? You know, because I can bring positive change into the world with the power that I’m given. So, anyway, that was a whole long thing, but, yeah, anyway, just, I loved what you brought up about commercial success and changing the world and that they really can go hand in hand.
Sofie: Yeah. And that was one of my questions, was, you know, really trying to figure out, all right, you have this amazing vision, and then how does that translate, you know, with appeasing? All right, I have, you know, people that are financially backing me on these projects that I have, you know, to show that commercial success to.
But at the same time, I’m the artist, and I want to make sure that, you know, it’s not successful just financially, but it’s also successful in terms of the vision that I have and that vision really coming to life. And so, you know, I love that you mentioned that balance, if you wanted to elaborate on that, because that was one of my next questions was, how do you balance that, you know, your creative vision, with commercial success?
Rebecca Folsom: Yeah. And artistic integrity and honestly, all the creative balance and the artistic integrity, it really is just personal integrity. And I have learned, you know, there’s a book that changed my life, and it’s called the Big Leap. It’s by Gay Hendrix. And, you know, again, we’re talking about, you know, empowering women and girls. And it’s funny, you know, because I really went forward, like, I want to meet gay; I want to study with him.
And I ended up meeting his wife, Katie Hendrix, who I have fallen in love with. She has also written times bestselling, you know, books, and she’s totally changed my life. And one of the things that I learned, I already kind of knew, but I didn’t really know how to practice, and it was being in my personal integrity. And that’s not like a moral integrity. It’s more about being absolutely authentic and true to myself.
So a very simple exercise around, well, I call it my binary code of creative living, is my yeses and my no’s. So if I have an internal yes to something in my life that I don’t wait on that, or I don’t hold it back or say, oh, that’s too much, and if I have a no that I say no. And, you know, believe me, I had to learn this a little bit the hard way, you know, I said yes to things I had no’s to.
And as I got more and more aware of the power of being authentic and true to my yes and no, those consequences when I overrode myself, got even bigger. And, you know, I, yeah, I won’t go into the stories, but there were a few sort of career catastrophes that happened because everything looked good. It should have been a yes. My team wanted me to do it, my agents wanted me to do it like it looked great.
But I would tune into my body and my body would be like, no, this doesn’t feel good yet. I did it because I thought, one, I wanted to make them happy, and two, I thought it would make me money, you know, all the various different reasons that we might override ourselves, and they were disasters. And I learned, and I was actually thankful for the disaster, for the failures along the way, because I really got it. I just got like, man, my life is a very, very different, fast, fluid, creative life when I am true to my yes and my no.
So I would say that it sort of becomes a fundamental dance with all of it. So, you know, if I want to work with someone, I’ll get a sense of, oh, yeah, I love this person. I light up inside, you know,. And even though they may not be the better candidate or the this or that, it’s like if I’m lighting up like that, it’s a go. And the same if I’m getting it, you know, kind of feeling to it, it’s a no. I like that. It’s a go or it’s a no.
Sofie: I know it rhymed. I was like –- [Crosstalk] — and, you know, I love that you mentioned that because so often we really ignore that gut. And I have had a couple of guests on and we’ve talked about this. And, you know, when you ignore that gut feeling, when you ignore that part of you that’s saying, hmm, I don’t know why, but this doesn’t seem like a good idea. And even if you can’t put your finger on it, you know, there’s that little gut feeling of, there’s something off with this. I don’t know what it is, but this doesn’t feel right. It’s not sitting well.
And every time that we ignore that part, every time we’re like, well, you know what? My boss thinks I should do it anyways, or my parents think I should do it anyways, or, you know, my manager thinks I should do it anyways, or you know what? My friend is doing it, I might as well just do it, you know. What could go wrong? It’s fine. This seems like the right decision.
People are pushing me. People think this might be what’s best for me. Okay, I’ll just try it out. And every time that happens, nine times out of ten, if not ten out of ten, it doesn’t go well. Because that gut feeling was trying to tell you that, hey, there’s going to be something wrong here.
Rebecca Folsom: Yeah. That it’s not in alignment with you and it’s really not personal, you know, it may be great for someone else, it may be great later, you know, just may be. The timing isn’t quite right. But I think when we have that internal tuning fork and it gives us a read like that, it’s saying this is in alignment, or it’s out of alignment, you know, for me, and if I do something that’s out of alignment, there’s going to be friction, just like any you think of any rocket, you know, or any sort of mechanical thing. It’s like if something is out of alignment, it’s going to go, go, go, go. It’s going to shake.
So that always helps me. Because when I have a no, just be like, it’s not personal. It’s not like I’m better than someone else, or worse than someone else, or I’m worse if they have a no to me, you know, and really celebrating no, you know, when somebody brings a no to me. I just did a big donation, ask around my project and someone came back with a no. And there are plenty of yeses. Everything works. But I didn’t get all torn up about it. I didn’t have to wait a lot around it, you know, like, chew on it and be like, oh, what’s wrong? Or is there something wrong with me? And I really just like, oh, it’s no to me, no is flow, you know.
If somebody is hanging out with a maybe, and I think this is huge for women, if someone is a relationship or a job situation and they’re stringing you along with a maybe, or they’re saying yes, but everything in their behavior or their body language is saying no, that you’re stuck, you know. Your creative flow is not happening. So to me, no is flow, you know, if somebody, that person said no, it was like, great. All right, then I’m going to move on to a different area where I think I can make some money for my project.
Sofie: Exactly. And I love that you said that maybe that in between is, you know, one of the worst places to be in, and I think we a lot of the time, you know, see, all right, yes is the best. Maybe is the next best thing. Maybe is kind of like, all right, they might be interested. So, you know, I’m going to hold out some hope. And then we get so disappointed with no.
And I think that really we need to rework that, reframe that, and realize no means you already got your decision. You’re not stuck, you know, trying to figure out what they’re thinking. You’re not stuck going, oh, gosh, do they like me? I don’t know. Do they want to be with me? I don’t know. Do they want to support this project? I don’t know. Oh, gosh, you know, you get that exact reaction of, okay, maybe it’s just not right for them. It’ll be right for someone else. That’s okay, moving on.
And then same thing with that yes side, right, where it’s that immediate decision of, okay, they like me. They like this project. They like what I’m doing. Great, let’s move forward. But then when you’re in that, maybe, Right? The maybe is the worst place to be because you’re stuck wondering, is it a yes? Is it a no?
Rebecca Folsom: Right. It’s an Eddie. It’s like an Eddie in the flow of it all. Yeah. And speaking about the yeses, it’s like they’re worth attention to. I think so many people have a yes to something, and then they’re sort of like their heart wings go out, you know, like, yes, I want to do this. And then they go, oh, and then there’s the litany of reasons, you know, I can’t possibly do that, or I’ll be too much, or, you know, that’s too selfish, or whatever their reasons around it, or it’s going to cost too much or all these different things of why we would override a yes.
And I think there are so many people out there, you know, when I’m coaching people, we’re so getting to what their yeses are and following the yes. The no is basically like, it’s the rock to get around in the stream. It’s like, okay, let’s not hang out here behind this rock, you know. Let’s get out from behind it and get back in the flow. So the yes is the focus, and it gets so exciting at that point. Like, oh, I have a yes to this. And people get really lit up around their yeses.
So I think often it’s a job of a coach to help someone ignite their yes and really start to take steps. And I think that’s a big part of it, is then you just begin, you just start going towards your yes, you know, there’s something called, like the, I call it like the life compass and feeling into, you know, what do I really want to accomplish in my life? Or it was gay Hendrix actually brought this up. It’s called the Five Deathbed Wishes.
And you sort of envision yourself at the end of your life going, wow, my life was a success because I did blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you know, I did these five things, or you could do it the other way. Wow, my life wasn’t a full success. I regret, because I didn’t do these five things, and, you know, I have that up in my office. I’m looking at it right now. It’s a reminder to me all the time. One of my top five is to inspire and inspire myself, inspire others.
Another one is to be in love, you know, to love myself, to love others, to allow others to love me, to let there be an exchange of love. And another one is to be fully self-expressed. So not to hold back what I want to say or what I want to sing, you know, to allow myself to be on bigger stages and broadcast my full potential.
Sofie: Yeah. And, you know, as you were talking about those, you know, five deathbed wishes, all of them were really resonating with me, and, you know, I think that that’s such a great tool for, I will definitely be using that, but also for listeners to use to really think about, you know, those decisions.
And when you’re approaching, you know, a new opportunity or a new relationship with someone, really breaking down those, you know, five deathbed wishes and asking yourself, all right, if I associate with this person or if I do this job or if I participate in this experience, will I inspire? Will I feel love? Will I be showing love? Will I be expressing myself, my beliefs, my values, and really asking yourself those questions? And to get that alignment. And so I think that’s such a fantastic tool that we can really use to figure out those yes moments and how you said that, you know, when we have that yes, a lot of the time we hold ourself back, we’re like, yes, but I don’t have time or, yes.
Rebecca Folsom: There’s a little anchor we put out rather than just letting ourselves go.
Sofie: Exactly. And so we can use those questions, I feel like, to really get that yes and turn it away from yes, but. And turn it into yes. This gets, you know, this deathbed wish. It approaches that wish. All right, I have to do it then.
Rebecca Folsom: Ahmm. Absolutely. It’s such a great help. It’s a compass in making our decisions in life. So, you know, feeling into just exactly what you said, I love that you went there, because, you know, if you’re sort of going, oh, well, should I move or should I take this job or should I take this gig or whatever, or should I take this client with it? It’s like, oh, it actually works. I do. I feel like that feeds three of my life compass, you know, goals, so it can be super helpful in that place.
The other one is if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not happy with something like I’ve made some choices, and then it’s like, oh, wow, this is tough. This is a little rougher than I thought, or there’s an issue here, or there’s dissonance with a group, or something is happening to be able to go back to my life compass and be with, okay, so someone is disgruntled in a situation, you know, where I’m leading and I am committed to being in love.
So what kind of move can I make? Maybe moving out of defensiveness, or maybe it’s a loving act to let that person go, you know, I mean, it isn’t always just sort of flowers and light, but it is coming from a place of love. So it’s great for even when finding yourself in a situation where you’re not completely happy with it all, I mean, there’s another great thing called yes, you know, and it’s basically improv if you’re a comedian, improv person.
And really to do yes, and with life is, I have found this to be so juicy that something is going on and it’s like, yes, that’s happening, and what am I going to do with it? Like you said, we did the yes, but thing, it really sort of tries to negate what is actually happening. So being with like, yes, this is happening and what are we going to do with it, you know?
And for me, I like to think of it was a big shift for me. When I began to think of the universe totally in my favor, so that no matter what was happening, oh, the universe has my back. So what is this bringing? What is it bringing that’s better for me? Rather than thinking that I failed or the world failed me or people fail, you know, looking at it like, okay, this is going this way, it seems, Caddy wampus, or it seems, what is this? And to open into wonder and to open into a place of, wow, the universe has my back. What’s coming? What could be the good thing?
Sofie: Absolutely. It’s that, you know, glass half full versus half empty mentality of no, you know, why is the universe out to get me? Why does nothing good happen to me? And rather, all right, you know, this might have been a hiccup, but I know that there’s good coming. I know that there’s a lesson from this experience. Even though it might have been awful in the moment, I know that there is a reason that this happened. Maybe it was to lead me down a different path. Maybe it was to a new person, to a new career, to a new city, something like that. And so to tie everything together, what is one thing that our listeners should take away from this conversation?
Rebecca Folsom: Yeah. I feel like sometimes when we’re out there doing our work in life, we, you know, work and our relationships, all of it, we think, well, what difference does it make, you know? What am I doing? Or I’m too small? I need to be bigger, you know. And especially as a musician that can come up, you know, you look higher, like, I’m not anywhere near Taylor Swift or I’m not getting the streams like this or the likes, like this, you know. But you can also look behind you, and other people are really admiring you.
And so, with it, what I would say is that you’ve got to follow your passion, you’ve got to follow your yeses and to trust that your ripple of whatever it is that you’re doing will ripple out into the world and impact the world. And you never even know. I’ve seen some people that they did things in their life and they didn’t even see their ripple till after they were gone. So sometimes you don’t even know what your legacy is with that. So trusting, trusting your inner compass. Absolutely, coming home to yourself, being true to yourself, and trusting that that ripple is going to make a difference in the world.
Sofie: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I think that, especially for me, I’m in the nonprofit sector. It can be really hard to, you know, think long term and to think about, all right, is the work I’m doing right now actually having an impact, you know? Is there going to be an impact when I’m gone? And I think that’s something a lot of us in the industry face is figuring out, you know.
All right, I know that there might be an immediate success, but, you know, how does that continue after I’m gone? How does that continue beyond, you know, this day, this month, this year? What does that look like in the big picture of life? And so I want to say thank you for sharing that perspective with us and for our listeners that would love to get in contact with you, connect with you. How can they do that?
Rebecca Folsom: Probably my website is the best because on my website you can find my Facebook and my Instagram and my Twitter. And on the website it is everything about my sanctuary project and what we’re up to. You can listen to it, you know, we really wanted to bring impactful messages to the world through beautiful, through beauty, through beautiful music. So it’s my name, which is rebeccafulsome.com. So it’s just r-e-b-e-c-c-a-f-o-l-s-o-m.com. So super easy!
Hop on there, run around, check it all out and stream the music. That would be great. That makes a big difference for us. And yeah, come to a show. I travel all over the nation.
Sofie: Amazing. I want to say thank you so much for coming onto the podcast, Rebecca. You have been an absolute pleasure to talk with and I think there is a lot of lessons that not just I’m taking away, but a lot of our listeners can really take away from this conversation. And so I want to say thank you again so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom.
Rebecca Folsom: Oh, thank you, Sofie. It’s a beautiful thing you are doing. I love Claim Your Potential!
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