Why I Just Quit the Best Career I Ever Had

I realized recently that my whole career in Silicon Valley has been a fraud.

It’s been a delightful fraud, from my point of view. I’ve worked on some of the biggest media, real estate, wellness and consumer technology brands in the world. I’ve worked with the best and brightest, the most conscious and thoughtful teams and CEOs in this Valley.

I was an early employee at two startups that went on to storybook exits: Trulia and, more recently, MyFitnessPal.

And I’ve had the great fortune to work in a way I consider to be “on purpose:” I only work with brands and products I consider transformational, products that help people live healthier, wealthier and wiser lives.

I actually wrote the book on this. It’s called The Transformational Consumer, after a framework I created to help leaders and companies reach and, more importantly, engage hundreds of millions of customers through the lens of behavior change, the lens of the undying human aspirations of the customers we serve to live better lives and be better people.

All of this has led me to my latest move: joining Lightspeed Venture Partners as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Here, I’m envisioning new ways of helping millions of others through the deepest, most illuminating segments of their transformational journeys.

What I have come to realize is that I’ve spent virtually all of my career doing what Steve Jobs called “head fakes”. I’ve been using transformational brands and products as cover, as a strategy for secretly answering people’s deeper, spiritual SOS calls. You want to lose weight, eh? Ok, I’ll help with that. (Enter MyFitnessPal.) But while I was building out that marketing team, heading up our world-class content program, and serving an executive team that grew that business from 45 to 100 million customers and an acquisition by Under Armour in the 2 years I was there, my team and I were slipping our customers all these secret messages.

Secret messages about radical self-acceptance. Secret messages about how deeply worthy of love they are. How deeply worthy we all are.

My dialogue with our customers in my mind went like this: “Behavior change hacks only work for a moment, and you can power them by a desire to change. But you can’t hate yourself skinny. You’ve got to have your basic psychological needs for love and worthiness met for this to be a long-term thing. So, our secret messages, they WILL help you lose weight. But they’ll also lay groundwork for deep well-being. For your deepest peace and joy.”

The older I get, the bolder I get and the more committed I become to bringing 100% of myself to work.

Exhibit A: I’ve been introducing myself on various stages as who and what I really am, in a personal branding/Daenerys Targaryen sort of way: Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Sexy Black Church Lady, Disseminator of Upliftment, Mother of Pugs.

Exhibit B: As a passion project, I’ve been running a series of 30 Day Writing Challenges for Conscious Leaders and Creators, taking a small community of incredible leaders on a journey of transformation and creative flow. The first Challenge had about 100 people. We’re on Challenge #4 now, and we have over 1500 people in this one, all collaborating as they put their souls on deck in their lives and their work.

Exhibit C: Now, as an EiR with Lightspeed, I am devoting my full attention and spirit to working directly on the issue I care about the most: the well-being of our souls. I am on a mission to help others feel the grace, ease, flow and limitless possibilities that I experience every single day, at scale.

And I’m kickstarting this whole project by doing what I do best: immersing in the real-world journeys of the real people I aim to serve as they seek to care for their souls, unlock meaning and purpose and bring the sacred into their everyday lives. My code-name for this project is SoulTour, and I’m in the midst of connecting with regular, everyday people and caretakers of soul all over the country, talking to them and participating in their communities and everyday experiences in an effort to spot the places where I can use content, digital and product to unlock.

I won’t lie: as someone who identifies as a progressive Christian and practitioner of various New Thought modalities, I started this project with the premise that the institution of church was mostly broken, and that God has a PR problem I’d like to help resolve.

But my earliest finding from SoulTour has been quite the opposite: most people still deeply want a relationship with God, with the Divine, with their Source. But they are crafting their own practice and belief systems that work for them, rather than accepting some out-of-the-box pre-packaged kit of beliefs handed down by people who they feel know nothing about their lives.

They are Spiritual, and they are Seekers. Some identify as members of the Religious Left; many others as Spiritual-but-not-Religious. But they are all seeking.

These are my people.

I’m hearing a lot about the incredible appetite for inspiration and guidance for soulful living, and the epidemic levels of anxiety and internal chaos people perceive digital as triggering. But I’m hearing just as much about what is working for people: how they are cobbling together all matter of teachings, wisdom, practices from all manner of content sources, and how they are integrating mobile, content and offline experiences that serve them in the moments, seasons and journeys of their souls.

I’ve been using this weird quote I found online as a poetic sort of framework for my new work in service of our souls. I shared it, and my Beginner’s Guide to the Human Soul, in a TEDx Talk a few weeks ago [Audio of Talk here]. It goes like this:

“You are a ghost, driving a meat-covered skeleton made of stardust, riding a rock hurtling through space. Fear nothing.”

No one seems to know who originally said this. But I love this quote because it contains a through-line from soul and spirit, to our physical bodies, to the laws of the universe and back to us, to our emotions and actions.

No more head fakes. This is the next era of transformational business and leadership: to help people care for their brilliant, beautiful souls.

I’d love for you to join me. Here are a few ways you can get involved.

  1. Watch or listen to my Beginner’s Guide to the Human Soul.

Watch the VIDEO on YouTube: https://youtu.be/o4F3rQNJEPA

Download the AUDIO on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/tara-nicholle-nelson/beginners-guide-to-the-human-soul/s-UxtBf

2. Take the SoulTour survey to share what you do to care for your soul and spirit, and help me understand what would help you live a more soulful life: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZBTN5LN

3. Join my email list if you want to get updates as we move into the next season of this project: Get on Tara’s List.

4. Join my next 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders and Creators, which starts in November. It’s free and we’ll each be setting our individual visions for 2018.

Register here: taranicholle.com/30-day-writing-challenge

Head up + heart out,

TNN