Lisa Skye Hain: A Primary Calling
Stride: Your LinkedIn profile reads like you’ve already worked a full lifetime – you’ve been in real estate, TV, the restaurant biz, startup world, you’re an author. How have you approached your work life?
Lisa: I’ve always been a connector. Sometimes I joke that I came out of the womb networking. I love creating communities and bringing people together and have always gravitated towards taking on responsibilities. When I was a little girl, I was bossy and now I like to joke and say that I’ve "finessed my leadership style" over the years – whether working as a restaurant manager, television producer or Director and President for the global networking organization BNI.
Stride: You endured a tragedy that really put work into perspective. Can you tell us about it?
Lisa: My dad was a workaholic his whole life and then he went through a tumultuous breakup in 2002, which really caused him to take a closer look at his life choices. During that time, he started really showing up for me and my brother. He told us that working so hard wasn’t as important as he once believed – he wished he had spent more quality time with loved ones.
After that – and this was 11 years-ago now – he took a soul-searching motorcycle trip through New Zealand and Australia. On Valentine’s Day 2004, he was hit and killed by a drunk driver driving on the wrong side of the road just south of Melbourne. I got a call that morning that changed my entire life – it became palpably clear to me that everything can be gone tomorrow. I began to regularly question: if I die tomorrow, will I be happy if I spent an extra three hours working, or will I be happier that I pursued what my heart is telling me? Before my dad’s death, I was working in the traditional world of salaried positions in television. After he died, I found the courage to step into the freelance world.
Stride: That’s an incredibly sad story.
Lisa: Yeah, his death is the biggest bittersweet of my life. Bitter because I miss him so much and think about him all the time. But also sweet because it became the catalyst for me to live a more empowered life – one where I get to choose who I want to be.
Stride: Who are you choosing to be right now?
Lisa: I’m 38 and in a networking organization surrounded by many people who have launched their own businesses. For years I’ve thought I need to do this, I want to get paid for connecting people and creating community. Earlier this year, I was connected to an Executive Suites company that wanted me to help them create community, and one of the co-founders at WeWork (where I was the 2nd employee) offered me the opportunity to come back and help them to build community. That set off an internal alarm – now’s the time, I have to launch my own company. So I called an investor I knew and he said, “Alright, let’s do it.” We’ve now secured funding to launch two shared office space locations in NYC that we’re calling Primary.
Stride: That’s bold, well done. Why are you calling it Primary?
Lisa: Along with my business partner, my husband and I are working on this project together, and we’ve realized that when caring for yourself becomes a Primary focus, your mind becomes more clear, and everything else thrives. This shared office space will have fully-furnished, turnkey work spaces, and also dedicated space for yoga classes, meditation, fitness, strength training, and nutrition education classes. We have a partnership with a fresh juice provider, and we’re talking to a restaurant group that provides 24-hour farm-to-table food. Studies show, companies that bring in wellness components increase productivity and create an environment where people are ultimately happier.
Stride: When are you opening Primary and how do people rent space from you?
Lisa: March 2016, and updates will be available at liveprimary.com.
Stride: What’s been the hardest part about getting Primary going?
Lisa: Figuring out the component that will make us unique, which I now know are our wellness offerings. I also had to accept that even though I wanted to start this three years ago, I had an intuition it wasn’t right to push it forward until now. I really had to surrender to the flow of timing.
Stride: It sounds like you’ve made intuition your ally. We’ve all been stuck on the “what do I do next?” question. Any thoughts on how to push through that?
Lisa: I’ve made listening to my intuition a big focus over the last 5-7 years. My advice on getting clarity is to communicate early and often with those who will be impacted by your choices – mainly your spouse and friends. It’s not about listening to other people’s advice, it’s about hearing yourself speak out loud, so you can reflect on what’s also being said inside – your inner voice. If you have to sit on it, do that – but set a deadline for making choices that will move you forward. Say, “I’m going to make a decision by X date.” For me, decisions always come back to communicating and processing, then getting still and checking in with myself.
Stride: Can you give us an example of a time your intuition lead you down the right path?
Lisa: I was in the mortgage business in 2010, and my intuition was telling me it was time to move on – I wasn’t loving what I was doing anymore. I showed up at my next networking meeting and said “I’m opening the mortgage seat, but I don’t know what I’m going to do next. My strengths lie in communication, connecting people, and creating community – does anyone have any suggestions for me?” Literally, at that meeting, the guest of another guest was one of the co-founders of WeWork. That afternoon, he invited me to look at a building he had recently leased, and the next Monday morning at 8am, I started as their 2nd employee. By taking the risk and opening the mortgage seat with honesty about my career uncertainty, the next step presented itself.
Stride: Seems you were open to help in a confident way, not a desperate way?
Lisa: Yes. I cannot encourage people enough to be authentic and true to themselves. When my dad died, I did some personal development coursework that helped me to realize that who I am in this world is inspiration to people – and I’ve been committed to being that for the past 10 years. Seeking inspiration when I need it for myself, but being inspiration for other people.
Stride: People really get stuck on the perceived monetary hardships of working for themselves. How have you gotten past that?
Lisa: With money, I’ve always encouraged people to ask two questions: What’s the worst that could happen? AND If I don’t venture to try this thing, how will I feel? People will take greater risks when they recognize the feeling of not trying. Yes, you may fail, but even in failure opportunities arise. Figure out how long you can take a financial risk before you may need to step into a salaried, full-time job again.
Stride: Even with savings, this concept still applies.
Lisa: Yes. Even my husband and I, with some cash in the bank, stress about money occasionally. I don’t like that my bank account has been going down for the past two years, but that’s been my choice. Now I’m going to launch this business and earn some money back. My husband and I have played out the worst-case scenario, the what if we lose all the money? We would potentially have to make hard choices and maybe take jobs we don’t really want for a while. But we’ll never look back on this time with regrets because we didn’t pursue a dream.
Stride: How’d you find Stride?
Lisa: Through my husband – who did some research online about the best healthcare option for freelance and independents workers.
Stride: As wellness thinkers, you and your husband, what do you think is the biggest health risk for society?
Lisa: [They were driving together and compared answers]. As it relates to America, Brian and I have basically the same answer – said in different words. He says obesity, and I say processed sugar. We are really big fans of Katie Couric’s documentary Fed Up, and the documentary Forks Over Knives, which is about eating a plant-based diet. We very strongly believe that food is medicine. If we could bring awareness to this idea, that food can literally reduce the risk of disease, that would be an incredible gift for us.