Be patient — Creating a strong, long-lasting business takes time. When I first started, I expected things to happen very quickly. If I spoke at an event, I’d expect clients to come in within the next day (very naïve, I know!). The truth is you never know when people may find you from an event, podcast, referral or another opportunity. I find that I often see traction many months after the event (and it can happen years later too!). My best advice on how to manage this is to do your best, surrender to the timing and detach from a specific outcome. That’s when I find opportunities start flowing to me.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kara Latta.
Kara Latta is changing the world with the power of play. She is the Founder and Chief Fun Officer of The Playful Warrior and a Play and Mindset Coach. Kara’s message is that play is anything but fluffy; it’s the secret sauce to more success, health, adaptability, productivity, enhanced focus, creativity, and joy (science says so too!).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. I was a very playful, happy kid when I was young. I loved being outside, dancing, biking and playing. I loved the arts and theatre. When I was in grade 6, I started having nocturnal seizures at night where I’d wake up on the floor with injuries and it was very dangerous. I was later diagnosed with epilepsy and I always felt a lot of shame about this as a kid and even as a young adult too. I always felt like I was different and an outcast on some level. There were also mental health struggles in my family which was really challenging. I did a lot of healing as a young adult to help me move towards self-acceptance, self-love and self-worth, and it’s an honor to now do this for other people.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Terry Fox Foundation had a huge impact on me growing up. Learning about how Terry Fox ran with one amputated leg really inspired me. Even after his death, his work makes such a difference in cancer research and it showed me that anything is possible, despite the barriers that life may present you.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
“Making A Difference” to me means changing the world in a positive way and making the world a better place. This can happen on a multitude of levels. This could mean being kind to a stranger to make someone’s day, telling someone you love them, donating to an important cause, volunteering, speaking up for something you feel is important, helping the environment, filming a documentary to educate others, mindfully eating, creating a company that helps others, and so much more. I believe that no act is too small to make a difference.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
The Playful Warrior’s mission is to reconnect adults back to their inherent playfulness and uninhibited creativity. So many adults are disconnected from their true nature (I was too!). This isn’t our fault; our conditioning teaches us to strive for perfection, and to achieve, please and perform so we can feel like we’re good enough or worthy. We learn to deny and repress our playful parts and our childlike wonder. We then end up suppressing our true self-expression so we can feel validated and like we belong. All of this disconnects us from our true self.
Our mission is to create a safe space where you can be heard and seen for who you are, and where you can dive into play and self-expression safely and without judgment. We are healing the world with play so we can reconnect you with your true self.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
It all started from a darker place. My life seemed to be falling apart. I had a relationship end, ongoing health issues, a nasty cockroach infestation, I lost my job and I was working through childhood trauma. While losing my corporate job was shocking, I had been deeply unhappy for a long time. So, I knew this was my moment to actually do something I loved. There had to be more to life and I really wanted to help people. I just had no idea what that looked like. With everything feeling so heavy in my life, I thought back to my inner child and how I was such a playful kid. I decided to start playing and exploring my creativity again to see if I could find more joy in my life again.
As I began going on my own play journey, my life started radically improving. I began studying the science behind play to understand why. I was surprised to learn about all of its incredible benefits.
Once I understood how powerful play was, I became super passionate about it because what we learn in society is totally backwards. We learn that play is only for kids and it’s silly, immature, fluffy for adults. But the truth is adults need play (more than ever!) and play deprivation is actually a risk for our health according to Stuart Brown, MD. National Institute for Play.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Before I launched my play business, a lot of mindset blocks and self-sabotage came up for me. I then learned that 95% of what we do on a daily basis is driven by our subconscious mind and that my mind had a lot of limiting beliefs and programs that were stopping me from being the successful entrepreneur that I knew deep down I could be. I then decided to get certified in NLP and Hypnotherapy. This was a game changer for me! Once I started rewiring my subconscious mind, my confidence to go for it skyrocketed and I was ready to go all in.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Initially I limited how many people I told about my plans. I wanted to protect my work and my ideas from outer critics. Healthy feedback is good, but because my idea was quite unconventional, it’s not for everyone, so I worked for months while only a handful of people knew. I also did self-hypnosis every day twice a day to stay consistent, committed and confident. I hired a few coaches as it was important for me to stay accountable and this definitely helped me get out of my comfort zone and accelerated my growth big time. I also joined an entrepreneurship bootcamp with Laurier University that helped me learn more about the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story to me happened on the day of my business launch (at the time I only offered an 8-week program). I was excited, but nervous about putting my idea out there since it was quite unconventional. That same day I came across a mutual friend on Instagram who had just posted about wanting to play more, and how she was sure it would help her life. It really felt like a divine connection from the Universe. She and I got to talking and she signed up for my VIP package immediately. I love when synchronicities happen like that and it really showed me that I was on the right path.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I wouldn’t call it a mistake anymore since the outcome turned out better than expected, but my original plan was an in-person business. I was so confident in it that I moved to a space in the height of the pandemic that allowed room for my plans. I was ready to hire interior designers and could envision everything perfectly. But COVID-19 wasn’t seeming to improve and I started wondering if I’d have to pivot. I started brainstorming options to reconnect adults to play virtually. From there I created the PLAYBox and PLAYBook which could be mailed internationally. So, now I get to work with people all over the world!
My lesson here was that it’s so important to be adaptable and I don’t always know what’s best. A lot of us want to control things and we may have an exact plan for how we expect things to go, but staying open and flexible will help us come out on top. Also, I believe there is no failure, only feedback and lessons learned.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
My biggest influence was my Dad. He was so supportive of me throughout the journey and knowing he was cheering me on was huge for me. He never questioned what I was doing or tried to convince me to do something ‘safer’ by societal standards. He always told me he was proud of me and his endless support meant the world to me.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
One of my clients has been through a lot of trauma. She’s an amazing mom and grandma who learned to please everyone but herself and she was at a point in her life where she didn’t enjoy it and felt very disconnected from herself. She has tried therapy for years and has never been able to find anything that works for her. The idea of reconnecting to play and her inner child piqued her interest, so she signed up for my 8-week program ThoughtPLAY. ThoughtPLAY has been remarkably transformative for her. She has said it’s the best money she’s ever spent and that play is the only thing that has made her life better. She feels like a new woman. Seeing any adult reconnect with their childlike wonder is an amazing thing, but it is truly an honor to see how powerful it has been in her life. She has learned to prioritize herself and now enjoys her life, so much so that she is excited for each day!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First, I think organizations should start incorporating ‘play’ into their accounting line. This should become common practice. Workers are struggling with burnout and mental health challenges. Bringing playtime to the office will help reenergize staff, boost morale, creativity, productivity and mental health.
Second, we need to see leaders like politicians talking about the importance of play for our health and well-being. They should be setting an example. Let’s see politicians playing, talking about the benefits they get from it and funding organizations and individuals that promote playtime for groups of all ages and backgrounds.
Third, I think in society we should learn (from an early age in school) to schedule playtime into our calendars. This should be a lifelong practice. We need more people talking about why it is a priority, and when we start making time for it in our schedule, and we see other people doing the same, we’ll learn to start prioritizing our wellness and reaping in all the incredible benefits of play.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Be patient — Creating a strong, long-lasting business takes time. When I first started, I expected things to happen very quickly. If I spoke at an event, I’d expect clients to come in within the next day (very naïve, I know!). The truth is you never know when people may find you from an event, podcast, referral or another opportunity. I find that I often see traction many months after the event (and it can happen years later too!). My best advice on how to manage this is to do your best, surrender to the timing and detach from a specific outcome. That’s when I find opportunities start flowing to me.
- Don’t take rejection personally — Nobody cares about your business as much as you. Because I love what I do so much and I feel so deeply connected to it, every rejection felt personal at first. I’ve learned that ‘no’s’ have nothing to do with my worth or value, they just go with the territory. Not everyone will be a yes. Amidst the rejection, it’s important to know your value, so don’t start undercharging because you’ve gotten ‘no’s’. If you are delivering high value, have validated your offer and have proven results, confidently share that, and your ideal clients will come.
- Focus on your progress — Dan Sullivan shares an amazing idea called the gap versus the gain. When we’re in the gap we’re comparing ourselves to an ideal future self and where we want to be. We’re focused on what’s missing and how we aren’t where we want to be yet. This means we’re disappointed much of the time and emotionally attached to outcomes. When we live in gain, we measure our progress. We see how far we’ve come. This means we’re in a greater headspace. We’re more motivated. Our brain comes to expect more progress and we have much more gratitude. So, my best advice is to live in the gain and focus on your progress. From this place I believe you can create more momentum in your business and you’ll be that much happier.
- It’s okay to say no — It’s important to assess what opportunities are right for you. It’s okay to say no to a client who wants to work with you if they aren’t an ideal client. It’s okay to say no to collaborations that aren’t a good fit. When I first started, I said yes to every opportunity (some that should have been no’s) because I was so focused on getting my message out there and hitting my income goals. But at the end of the day, more money won’t make you happy, especially if you’re working with the wrong people. Trust yourself and stand in your integrity.
- It will feel like a roller coaster — Even if you’re doing what you love, there will be so many ups and downs. It will feel beyond overwhelming, hard, and lonely some days. You can feel the biggest highs and lows of your life on the same day. This is part of the entrepreneurial journey. Stay the course and know that you are not alone.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
We are the future and our actions matter. It’s easy to think that with over 7 billion people on the planet you won’t make a difference, but I can promise you that’s not true. When you choose to make a positive impact, you invite and inspire other people to do the same. It’s important that we come together to heal as a collective. Every action counts. You are more powerful than you imagine, I promise.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Brene Brown! Beyond being the queen of vulnerability, Brene has mentioned that she’s a big fan of play and I feel that she is a fellow playful warrior. Brene, I’d LOVE to play with you!
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!