“Empathy is a superpower.” - Denise Liebetrau
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Ask yourself, “What am I worth?” Do you have a hard time answering that question? Sometimes we don’t know our true worth because it’s constantly being defined by other people.
As a widow and single mother, Denise Liebetrau used to struggle with this question. On top of managing a life with kids and a demanding career, she found herself working her way up the corporate ladder. But Denise no longer wanted to be constrained by other people’s definition of who she is and what she could contribute. After struggling to define her worth and who she is, Denise gained clarity and opened her highly successful business, Prosper Consulting. Today, Denise wants to serve a broader community of business leaders with her expertise so they can increase their profit, impact, and financial freedom.
On this episode of the #IAmMovement podcast, Denise and I discuss ways in which we can build up our self esteem and our core values, how we can master our mindset, and the steps we can take towards defining our identities.
00:00 –Intro to Denise
04:07 – “I’m not enough”
06:39 – Tapping into resilience
09:15 – Mastering your mindset
11:00 – Connect with Denise
13:55 – Defining your identity
15:25 – The desire to help others
18:40 – Inspiration need to take action
“You need to love yourself and lead yourself in order to put your best work out there.” – Denise Liebetrau
“If you train yourself to take action on those little things, the big things just happen.” – Denise Liebetrau
“The most powerful thing you can do if you want to evolve and get to a better place is to just say yes to the things that make you uncomfortable.” – Denise Liebetrau
“You have a choice in each moment.” – Denise Liebetrau
“We get caught up too much in our past. You have to look through the windshield and not the rearview mirror.” – Denise Liebetrau
Rock Thomas: Hi. Today’s guest is a very unusual guest. It’s not every day that you get to meet somebody that
Rock Thomas: Had to take care of somebody else for 11 years and during that period of time, discover a whole bunch of things about
Rock Thomas: Their own life’s journey. She’s gone on to become a CEO of her own company and and coach others and lead others inspire others to live a great, great life and she’s a fantastic provider for those people around her. Please help me welcome to today’s podcast, Denise Liebetrau.
Denise Liebetrau: Thank you for having me.
Rock Thomas: Denise. I like to take a deep dive right away and give people a little bit of a background on yourself so they can get a feeling for the evolution from from where you were influenced and how you’ve maybe shifted some of those things to be as
Rock Thomas: impactful and productive and profitable as you are today. So why don’t you take us on a little bit of a
Rock Thomas: walk down memory lane.
Denise Liebetrau: Alright, sounds good.
Denise Liebetrau: My I grew up on a farm in Kansas. So I’m a farm girl at heart, and grew up in a small family farm and learned how what it was like to wake up at first light and do chores and
Denise Liebetrau: Work wasn’t done until well after dark many nights. So grew up in a community where it was all about faith and family and God and
Denise Liebetrau: Pretty small. And as I got older and through high school, I wanted a change, right, because I felt like that was a little constraining and so went off to college and was the first one in my family to graduate from college.
Denise Liebetrau: And went on to graduate school, got out into the real world and said yes to a job offer out in Seattle, Washington. So transition from small
Denise Liebetrau: rural life and a small community where I went to college at Kansas State University to Seattle, Washington work for one of the largest financial institutions in the country.
Denise Liebetrau: And then once I got tired of the rain and the clouds and the lack of sunshine in the Seattle marketplace, I decided to come to Denver, Colorado, which is where I’m at now.
Denise Liebetrau: And my career here in Denver has covered my gosh, so many different industries. I’ve been in consulting and mining telecommunications and again financial services.
Denise Liebetrau: In mostly fortune 500 companies, but a few years ago, I started my own business, so that I could do a couple of things. Primarily help people.
Denise Liebetrau: Understand what their value is in the marketplace and help them get paid for what they’re worth and have careers aligned to their values.
Denise Liebetrau: But I also work on the side of the fence with business leaders, and I am an HR consultant and compensation expert so I help business leaders get their people, their processes, their performance metrics and the rewards in place to maximize profit and their impact.
Rock Thomas: So is that, is that something that you fell into because there’s a lot of things that you do. What’s the part of your world that lights you up the most.
Denise Liebetrau: Seeing people have aha moments where they are, like, you know what, I’m worth it. I have been undervaluing myself or I’ve been undervaluing the team that’s working for me and I need to show up and be a better leader for myself and for others and then inspiring them to take action accordingly.
Rock Thomas: So we talked a little bit about this before the show this whole theme of the I’m not enough. Notice that go
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah, and it’s almost like a
Rock Thomas: Disease of the Western society. Maybe it’s just a human human experience. How do you help people build their self esteem and confidence? How do you deal with what you deal with on the surface? You go to a core issue. What do you do ?
Denise Liebetrau: And I try very hard to get them to understand what their stories of resilience and overcoming our because I think we all have those stories of overcoming something
Denise Liebetrau: And if you can tap into those resilient stories, you get a sense of, Oh my gosh, I’ve done more than what I’ve given myself credit for. And I need to own that and embrace that.
Denise Liebetrau: And then that can ignite your performance and the actions that you take from there. It’s really about getting really clear on the value you deliver into the world and recognizing that you need to love yourself and lead yourself in order to put your best work out there.
Rock Thomas: Okay, let’s talk about that a little bit. How does one love oneself when one looks in the mirror or looks at the results that they’re getting their bank account.
Rock Thomas: And they have some stories of overcoming and they have some resilience stories, but that’s maybe a smaller portion of their portfolio personal photo, then the failures and the losses and mess ups.
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah, it’s a mindset shift right, you have to reprogram your brain in terms of what to focus on. So it’s about creating those daily habits, habits like gratitude.
Denise Liebetrau: I have practice, I call them a book ending your day. So the one practices waking up in the morning and literally writing down three things that you’re grateful for.
Denise Liebetrau: And then at the end of the evening, looking back on your day and going, what did I move forward. What was I successful at and maybe that success was, you know,
Denise Liebetrau: Something simple like today, I actually got out of bed and I got dressed and I got shower for some people. That’s a huge accomplishment.
Denise Liebetrau: So celebrate that. And then for other people it’s like you know what I’ve been putting off having this difficult conversation.
Denise Liebetrau: But I took action on that today and I scheduled it and I’m written down the talking points that I want to have with this person that I need to give some feedback to
Denise Liebetrau: And have a difficult conversation with and I’ve got that scheduled. I’m going to have that conversation tomorrow, whatever it is, I think,
Denise Liebetrau: We sometimes don’t give ourselves credit for the success that we’ve had the the positive steps forward that we’ve done, we tend to focus on the negative and not the positive
Denise Liebetrau: And I’ve lost my audio. I’m not hearing you.
Rock Thomas: You cannot hear me.
Denise Liebetrau: Now I can hear you. Okay.
Rock Thomas: Yeah, it just froze there for a second. So let’s take it, let’s let’s piggyback on what you said is that, you know, you, you’re
Rock Thomas: You kind of have done what a lot of people want to do, which is you created your own world you Google got out and you are now an entrepreneur.
Denise Liebetrau: Right.
Rock Thomas: And you did that because you didn’t want people to really dictate what you were going to do. Correct.
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah I would call myself sometimes a corporate refugee because I left that world. And I’ve created my own, but
Denise Liebetrau: I will say what I have not shared is some, some of the hurdles and the hardships that I had to go through to get to this place right you can look at my life now and think
Denise Liebetrau: Oh my gosh, she’s got it all figured out. She’s got a successful business. But one of the things I have learned is along the way is that you have to have the right priority. So I’ll give you an example.
Denise Liebetrau: When shortly after I got married and moved from Seattle to Denver.
Denise Liebetrau: My husband got diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 38. Wow. And we had just bought our first house and hadn’t had children yet.
Denise Liebetrau: And there was an 11 year journey where he was up and down in terms of his health. He beat the cancer, but had net cancers are often very aggressive and so the treatment is aggressive
Denise Liebetrau: He beat the cancer, but was left disabled. So he never ate again he never was able to swallow. Again, eventually lost his ability to speak, the last disability to eat.
Denise Liebetrau: He lived on a feeding tube for 11 years and so I know what it’s like to have dealt with a loved one who’s had a major health crisis, I had two children with my husband during that time frame and I’m a single mom. I’ve been a widow since 2011 he died when he was 49 so
Denise Liebetrau: When I say you have to tap into resilience and overcoming stories, it’s from a very personal perspective.
Denise Liebetrau: Perspective of we all have things we’ve overcome some are much bigger than other people. Some are much smaller. It doesn’t matter. But if you tap into what you’ve overcome and you go, you know what I have overcome some big things even
Denise Liebetrau: And we don’t give ourselves credit for that. And when you think about that. Now I look at some of the hardships and things that I
Denise Liebetrau: Found that difficult as I was starting my own business. I’m like, there’s nothing you can throw at me. That is worse than what I’ve already been through. I have already gone and walked through hell and back numerous times.
Denise Liebetrau: I’m going to be fine. I’m resourceful and decisive. I can figure things out. I’m not going to quit.
Denise Liebetrau: And so I think when you tell yourself and reprogram your brain in terms of the stories that you
Denise Liebetrau: Focus on. That’s where the power comes in. Right. And too often we focus on the negative and we have people in our lives that don’t help us focus on the positive. And so you have to make a very conscientious choice.
Denise Liebetrau: To decide what you are going to focus on both internally, personally, as well as those in the people in the tribes around you and then that can help you shift.
Rock Thomas: How did you do that. I mean, you gained 40 pounds during the time that you were taking care of your husband. You’ve helped a lot of people lose weight.
Rock Thomas: I did. And so how did you get to a place of mastering your mindset where other people struggle.
Denise Liebetrau: You know, one of the things that I said yes to was some coaching programs. So I did a weight loss program, which is what you’re referring to.
Denise Liebetrau: I gained a lot of weight and went through some major periods of depression and anxiety when my husband was sick.
Denise Liebetrau: And I found myself in a corporate setting and a big company and I found other employees who were losing weight. And I asked, what were they doing and what was the program.
Denise Liebetrau: Said yes made myself uncomfortable and said yes and got into the program and I found out it wasn’t just about the food you eat right, we all know we need to go from our walks and eat broccoli, but we need to
Denise Liebetrau: Focus on mindset. It’s what you tell yourself it’s those stories. It’s connecting to the y and the vision for your future that’s bigger
Denise Liebetrau: And that immediate focus on maybe eating a donut, or you know something else that isn’t as healthy for you, so it’s those micro moments and building habits and building a mindset that are really incredibly important. And then I did another coaching program.
Denise Liebetrau: With a coach who was focused on helping women play bigger
Denise Liebetrau: And through that program. I learned how to beat imposter syndrome and some of those other things that were again mindset shifts that shifted me
Denise Liebetrau: So what I learned. And I had always known this to some extent. When I was in major corporations investing in yourself is a good thing.
Denise Liebetrau: But a lot of times, you can’t do this stuff on your own. So it’s finding the right resources, the right coaches, the right Matt, the right therapist, the right doctors, whatever it is you need to dial in.
Denise Liebetrau: As not thinking you have to solve it yourself it’s reaching out and asking help from those experts that can help you.
Rock Thomas: So if somebody wants to get some help from you. How do they get in touch with you? What’s the best way for them to become informed about that?
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah, it’s super simple. Just go to my website. It’s prosper consulting llc.com very simple you’ll find my email, you’ll find my phone number, easy way to connect with me. I’m on social media. I’m on LinkedIn and Facebook. The easy ways to connect with me there as well.
Rock Thomas: And you say you’ve coached over 19 people who lost over 300 pounds. Is that all of them together collectively 300 pounds.
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah, as a group,
Denise Liebetrau: When I was doing weight loss coaching. Yeah. And what I learned is that it’s all about the micro habits. It’s those day to day choices and habits and it’s keeping the bigger y in mind about why you want to achieve the goal, you’ve set for yourself and it’s
Denise Liebetrau: It’s staying consistent in what you do on a day to day basis.
Rock Thomas: So let’s talk about that because it sounds so simple.
Rock Thomas: Reality is people live with this desire for immediate gratification and we’re trained in programs that way by society. So, okay, great.
Rock Thomas: I feel like a donut doesn’t have rock and it has an apple. I don’t feel like an apple. I want to donate. What are the, what are some of the strategies that get you around things like that.
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah, so I’ll give you an example. So one of the exercises. I’ve done with with clients if they want to lose weight is
Denise Liebetrau: Is getting really clear on why you want to lose weight, how it is going to impact your life, is the doughnut worth it if you’re saying something really big. So my why when I was going through that program was
Denise Liebetrau: I want to be here for my kids. My kids don’t have their dad.
Denise Liebetrau: If I don’t make the right healthy choices today so that I don’t you know have poor health outcomes. Then my kids won’t have me. And you know what, I can look at that donut and go
Denise Liebetrau: My kids are more important and their ability to have a great mom is the energy to keep up with them.
Denise Liebetrau: is way more important than that frickin component that sitting on you know the countertop. So I’m going to throw the dominant in the trash because I only have so much willpower.
Denise Liebetrau: And then I’m going to go cut up that apple right and I’m going to get something some protein because I know that protein is it is a trick to help yourself you know stand fuller
Denise Liebetrau: And when it comes to career searching and helping people with salary negotiation. It’s keeping in mind. What is the value you deliver again? What are those stories and what is your why and why do you want, what you want in terms of a
Denise Liebetrau: New paycheck, or that promotion, you’re going after and paying attention to those micro habits that will help you get there you know it. It feels really big. But if you train yourself to take action on those little things, the big things begin to happen.
Rock Thomas: That’s amazing. That’s great. So how would you define your identity today?
Denise Liebetrau: My identity today, is it defined
Denise Liebetrau: I am a fierce advocate for people to know their worth
Denise Liebetrau: And it’s way more than getting paid for what you deliver. That’s a value, it’s loving yourself enough to set the right boundaries, it’s loving yourself enough to say no to things that are unhealthy.
Denise Liebetrau: It’s loving yourself enough to create those that tribe and that community around yourself that will uplift you instead of taking you down.
Denise Liebetrau: It’s loving yourself enough to create those micro habits of gratitude and celebrations of success that will help you reprogram your brain and your thought process so you stay focused on the right things. It’s
Denise Liebetrau: It’s not easy, but it is simple. If you dial in the right little habits, day in and day out, and you know that’s from your own story. Right.
Rock Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s through hearing it from different perspectives, very similar but set in a different way that people start to go okay you know I’m not crazy.
Rock Thomas: Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can break through. I know for myself and I’m a, you know, I have moments of some high levels of success in moments of feeling completely disappointed and frustrated and
Rock Thomas: It’s not even like being depressed. It’s more like is this worth it.
Denise Liebetrau: Yeah.
Rock Thomas: It really worth me to push this hard and figure out this technology and build this or should I just, you know, in my case, I have enough money just go to the beach and relax.
Rock Thomas: Chair so
Rock Thomas: Everybody’s going to have those questions. And it’s a matter of navigating through them and deciding, like you said, what you envision, and what you want to create. And how do you want to impact? And what do you want to hold on to? Do you want to feel in your life right
Denise Liebetrau: Exactly. And for you. I’ve worked with a lot of executives, because I’m an executive advisor to many folks as well.
Denise Liebetrau: It’s really about creating a legacy for some of us, we’ve shifted that corner from from making those changes in ourselves to sharing the wisdom and the guidance that we’ve gained through our stories with others and then creating
Denise Liebetrau: Change and other people so that we leave a legacy and we serve the world and a greater good. And that’s what gives us, it’s less about the money. Right. It’s more about developing the relationships and the impact
Denise Liebetrau: Then than anything else. And I’m there too. I’ve got enough money in the bank. If I wanted to take it easy. I could do that.
Denise Liebetrau: And I’m less about that now. And I’m more about how I help others get to a better place, even if it’s small steps small steps. Every day leads to big things over time.
Rock Thomas: Do you think that that’s a natural progression first, you know, you put the oxygen mask on yourself and you get yourself fixed up and you work on yourself and then you’re like, Okay.
Rock Thomas: I got food and a roof over my head and I got some good stuff going on. Now what well you know what, oh look at that person struggling over there doing what I was trying to do. Hey, buddy.
Rock Thomas: Hey, and and that is you think that’s a natural progression. Did you think that some people just have this desire to give and help others.
Denise Liebetrau: I don’t think it’s a natural progression, I think, for those of us who have been in deep enough pain and who have evolved to leading ourselves and loving ourselves wholeheartedly.
Denise Liebetrau: I think many of us step outside of ourselves and want to serve the greater good.
Denise Liebetrau: But I don’t think it’s a natural evolution. I think many people get stuck along the way and they never get out of the cycle and it always hurts my heart when I talk to people who come out and look at the world.
Denise Liebetrau: I could call it more of a scarcity mindset than an abundance mindset, right. So they have this world. The world isn’t going to, you know, I can’t do that.
Denise Liebetrau: I tried before and it didn’t work. I’m a victim of everything or everyone’s against me, like, there are some people who never get out of that and they can listen to all the podcasts and all the inspirational people in the world.
Denise Liebetrau: And they can never reprogram themselves.
Denise Liebetrau: And then I think there are people who do find themselves saying yes to those little micro moments and maybe through podcasts will find something in this one that will be in spray inspirational or they’ll listen to you. And they’ll be inspired.
Denise Liebetrau: And then they’ll take that next step and maybe invest, like in your mastermind or in your 90 day program or they’ll buy your planner and right there’s little things you can do.
Denise Liebetrau: I think the most powerful thing you can do if you feel like you want to
Denise Liebetrau: Evolve and get to a better place is just saying yes to. What makes you uncomfortable. Our brains are automatically wired to make us really comfortable and not take action on things that make us, you know, highly
Denise Liebetrau: Frustrated or anxious and so it’s just those little yeses that can lead to so much more. But give yourself permission to invest in in something that gives you
Denise Liebetrau: Some accountability that gives you some tools, some resources and some inspirational coaching or some leadership that will help you get to a better place.
Rock Thomas: Sounds like you should be a salesperson. For me, one
Denise Liebetrau: I think there are a lot of us out here who are doing some good work. Right. I mean, you’ve got your own programs. I’ve got my own programs. There’s a lot of people who have I think people just need to find
Denise Liebetrau: Who resonates with them, who helps inspire them to take action toward the goals that they set for themselves.
Denise Liebetrau: But I think we often sit back and we just, you know, look at the information. But then we if you really want to transform you have to act.
Rock Thomas: Yeah, definitely. Well, well, said, and obviously you’ve done a lot of work in this area because you’re very eloquent and saying it. Is there anything you’re reading right now or consuming or events or you’ve gone to recently that you’re like, wow, you know what I really that’s valuable.
Denise Liebetrau: Um, you know, I have had a couple things I’m kit on. I hit my radar that I am finding inspiring. I have
Denise Liebetrau: Been as it relates to businesses and helping the business leadership that I help and dialing in their people, their processes and performance metrics.
Denise Liebetrau: I’ve been looking more at the book traction and the entrepreneurial operating system that us and methodology as a way to
Denise Liebetrau: Try to help business leaders, and how can I kind of tag on to that to help people find simple solutions to challenging business problems.
Denise Liebetrau: I love the book atomic habits. I think that one’s a really good one. I have on my website and the resources, a whole list of book recommendations that I give to folks.
Denise Liebetrau: And then the other one. I’m looking forward to is there’s a there’s a thought leader named sigh Wakeman who talks about
Denise Liebetrau: Getting drama and reality based leadership in organizations getting drama out of the workplace and so I’m looking forward to when sign her to come to Denver in April to doing
Denise Liebetrau: An all day event with them. So I think there’s a lot of things that are inspiring me right now. But those are the ones that are top of mind.
Rock Thomas: Well, that’s fantastic. I want to thank you so much for coming on the I Am. I Am podcast and sharing with you your wisdom and experience and the inspiration of what you overcame. I mean I don’t know 11 years you took care of your husband.
Rock Thomas: That’s incredible. Like hats off to you. It requires this very special soul to do that.
Rock Thomas: And to do it selflessly and then all the life lessons you got from it. Now, are there to serve people because you’ve emotionally experienced some really, really intense pain and heartache and are serving other humans that way.
Rock Thomas: must make you an incredibly empathetic coach. I would only imagine.
Denise Liebetrau: I often will tell people empathy is a superpower. If you can walk in someone else’s shoes and feel what they’re feeling and hold space for them and that path, it can be really powerful. Yeah. That’s amazing. So thank you so
Rock Thomas: Much and let me remind the listeners of the words that follow. I am following you. It’s a very powerful force within us when we start to describe ourselves.
Rock Thomas: And to your point, you know, you say the stories we tell ourselves we keep on telling ourselves a story. I’m tired. I don’t feel like working out.
Rock Thomas: I just can’t do what other people are doing. It’s a story we tell ourselves. It’s an inner narrative.
Rock Thomas: And I like to say to people, words, create your world and your voice is your choice. So why not choose a new voice. Give it a different
Rock Thomas: Inner narrative surrounds yourself with people that are not going to tolerate you speaking to yourself that way and treating yourself that way. Put up your boundaries and take ownership for the epic life that you want to create and live each day fully alive.
Denise Liebetrau: Yes, exactly. Choose in each moment you have a choice.
Rock Thomas: Yeah, and the word choice is such a beautiful word because it gives you the power to
Rock Thomas: Decide how you’re going to live your life. Correct. Yeah.
Denise Liebetrau: I think we get too caught up sometimes in our past and we worry too much about the past, you have to look through the windshield and not through the rearview mirror. Yes.
Rock Thomas: All right, Denise. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And we’ll have you back on the podcast. Once we hear from everybody how excited they are to have connected with you and hopefully one day we’ll get a chance to to play or connect at an event in person.
Denise Liebetrau: I would love that. All right.
Rock Thomas: Thank you so much, appreciate it.
Denise Liebetrau: Thank you.
Why we need to love ourselves first if we want to succeed.
The reason we should always say yes to the things that make us uncomfortable
Why we should focus more on changing the little things over time
And much more!