430 Amber Trueblood: Stretch Marks
Think of all the times and ways you’ve grown as a person. What sparked the growth? For most people growth is sparked by a challenge, something that shocks us, knocks us, and gets us out of our comfort zones.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who calls these growth moments for women our “stretch marks.” And we’ve all got them, right?
Amber Trueblood is an entrepreneur, mom of four young sons, and the author of a great new book out this week called Stretch Marks. She calls herself an unapologetic bibliophile, having devoured over 250 books on behavior, management, systems, meditation, parenting and self-development.
Amber helps her clients clarify their values and their priorities – with a unique perspective that comes from her psychology degree, MBA, her humor and compassion … empowering them to make better discipline decisions, relieve mom-guilt, reduce self-judgment, and become a truly enlightened parent.
Amber Trueblood will be here in a minute and first…
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Now back to the inspiring Amber Trueblood – author of a great new book out this week called Stretch Marks. It’s required reading for any woman – the men that truly love us – to find an enlightened and conscious path … and be true to our best selves without guilt, apology or tradeoff.
Stretch Marks is testament to the fact that we can reject all those “should’s” – what we think we should be or do – and live exactly how we want without negative self-judgment. Amber wrote Stretch Marks while on a Broadway Tour with her husband and four sons, traversing over 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Amber is most passionate about providing mothers simple and realistic tools to guide them toward a happier, calmer parenting life.
So are you ready for Amber Trueblood? I am. Let’s fly!
Melinda Wittstock: Amber, welcome to Wings.
Amber Trueblood: Thank you so much for having me, Melinda. I'm excited.
Melinda Wittstock: Me too. Your book Stretch Marks' out just two days ago. Congratulations!
Amber Trueblood: Thank you. Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: Now, what made you write it? What was the inspiration?
Amber Trueblood: The inspiration, I've always been obsessed with books. I've always been a big reader, whether it's business books or self-improvement books, spiritual books, meditation books, psychology books. For me, when I was having a particularly rough time in my life, maybe five or six years back, I have four sons, and they were all quite small at that stage. I wasn't working, but I have a very entrepreneurial working mom mindset. That was really tricky for me to be at home and not have any outside projects or creative projects to be working on.
I hit a low that I really struggled to find my way out of, and books helped me do that. Once I got out, I looked back and thought, “Gosh, I really wish I had had a book that did this and explain things in this way and provided these types of tools and how to tone like that, and had stories like this over here.” For me, it was that revelation like, “I can write that book that I wish I had for myself at the time.”
Melinda Wittstock: Isn't this true always? I think that we start companies or in my case podcasts that I wish I'd had myself. I think we go through things in life just so we're well trained to be able to help other people on that journey.
Amber Trueblood: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: I love the name of your book, because for women, unfortunately, we do get stretch marks, especially when we have lots of kids and all of that and as we get older, and yet it's a wonderful thing. I think the positivity of it that because when we're stretching ourselves or challenging ourselves, we're growing. Was that the intent of the name?
Amber Trueblood: 100%. I used it as a metaphor for what we are capable of, and it's so simplistic. What happens to us physically is our body stretches beyond what you think is possible. These little marks are they're permanent reminders of what we're capable of, even when we think we're not. It can happen psychologically, spiritually. In any way, shape or form, we go through traumatic, difficult, challenging experiences, and we learn from them. We grow and we expand, and we become better as a result.
Melinda Wittstock: That is so true. I think business is one of those things, particularly entrepreneurial ventures. When you're inventing something out of whole cloth or just doing something that hasn't been done before or just testing yourself in a context where you can control say a lot of things about yourself, but there are other things in your environment that you can't really control, right? Things happen, but you can control your reaction to these things. When you think of this whole idea of Stretch Marks, how has that played out in your life as you've done new things or built a business or whatever, and you've been confronted with things that perhaps are not within your control?
Amber Trueblood: Well, you asked me before how I came to write this book. The second part of that answer really is combined here. I have a background in clinical psychology. I have a master's in psychology, a master's in business, and then I have years of raising these four boys. I knew somehow all of that was going to come together to create the next phase in my life, but I couldn't see for so long how. That was really frustrating. For a long time, I thought, “Gosh, I spent so many years and years and years studying all of these things and so many years at home just with sleepless nights and raising these children.”
I thought, “I know somehow I'm going to use all of this experience and knowledge to help other people,” but for the longest time, I couldn't see it. I had to let go of the how, which we've talked about before, and wait until it unfolded in front of me. Then I saw, “Oh my goodness, it's this book.” I can bring all of those different experiences and the knowledge and the education together, and use that with just my own personal tone because I think the best books and the best way to help people is to be yourself and not try to emulate how somebody else did it, because it worked for them because that was authentic to them.
I really wanted to bring my own authentic voice. I'm silly. I'm goofy, and everybody's different, and so I wanted to bring myself into it and use all of those different backgrounds to help people. Part of that is authentically sharing your own struggles. In the book, I talk about how I was trying to find what would really bring joy to my life again because I had spent so many years putting the needs of my kids and my family above everything else.
Melinda Wittstock: I like how you said though that in the weeds of it, where you've an MBA. You've got your psychology. You've got all these different things. You have all these boys. It's hard to see in the moment how all these things are going to connect together. The funny thing is in life, it always does. I think Steve Jobs said it best when he said it's impossible to connect the dots going forward, but when you look backwards, you can see.
I know this is really true in my life as well, that all these different lessons and experiences are there for a reason. What can we do to know that ahead of time and comfort ourselves a little bit by saying, “Okay, well this is good. Whatever I'm going through right now, especially if it's challenging, there's something good. There's a reason. There's a lesson in it. There's something good in this.
Amber Trueblood: 100%. I mean, I think that part of it is exactly what was in your last question is taking the time to look back in your own life, everybody, and remember any challenging terrible time that you think, “Oh my gosh, I would never want to relive that,” but what did you learn from that? How did you grow? How are you different if you never would've experienced that? What would you have missed out on?
I know Eric Edmeades, I don't know how to pronounce his last name, but he talks about the hindsight window in dealing with current challenges and saying, “Okay, how quickly can I get to that point where I see the value, I see the benefits of this terrible thing?” How quickly can I see, “Oh wow, what are all the things that I've learned from this, or how has this changed me as a human for the better?” With Stretch Marks, I had a story about stretch marks that was in the middle of my book that was about a physical giant stretch mark that I have.
My editor at the time said to me… This was before I had the title of the book, and I had gone through a bunch of different titles, the clarity crisis and living freely and all of these different things. He said to me, “You know, you have this story about your stretch mark. I've never read anything like that before. I think you need to lead with that. I think you need to pull it up to the front of your book, and I think it might be your title.”
Melinda Wittstock: I just have chills. It's true because I think sometimes with women, I'm curious your thoughts on this. Sometimes, we minimize ourselves. We put ourselves last. We don't want to bother anyone. We want to make sure everyone else's glass is full first. We tend to operate in business like that as well sometimes to the point where there's nothing left of us and that playing small doesn't allow us the grace of getting a stretch mark.
What is it that that makes women sometimes play a little smaller than they should?
Amber Trueblood: I would even back up a step further. I think some people, and myself included, before we can even give up that fear and go after it, I think it's useful to take a moment and be grateful for how has that putting everybody else first and putting your own needs last, how has that served us in some way? Obviously, it's served us in some way, or we wouldn't have done it in the first place. I think sometimes, we need to take a step back and say, “I'm really grateful that I was able to have all those sleepless nights, and make sure my kids were fed and taken care of and that I invested in my family or that I invested in this business day and night, and didn't eat right or sleep.”
Whatever decisions I made at that time, I made for a reason, and maybe give ourselves a break and see the value of that and say, “You know what? I did that.” At that time, that served me, or at least it was my intention. My intention was good, was really… I was trying the best I could with the information I had at that time, and celebrate that. Give yourself a pat on the back for that. I would say that's step one.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I think that's a truth for everybody really. I think, most people are really well intentioned, and most people are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. The sad thing though is when there's just a lot of subconscious stuff, old stories, old memories, not even our own, I mean, for in between zero, in the womb even, even way, way back with epigenetics going way, way back, and that we end up being… We think we're in control, but we're not necessarily. Our conscious mind is only something like 5% of our thoughts and actions are dictated consciously.
Gosh, once you have a piece of information like that, and you think, “Oh man, am I even living?
Amber Trueblood: That's right.
Melinda Wittstock: Am I even living the life that I was meant to live? In your own life, Amber, I mean, how do you work through some of those things? Do you try and elevate them to the surface to let them go, or do you… I guess like me, one of the things that I've learned to do is every time I'm triggered by something, I'm like, “Oh goody, this is an opportunity.” This is showing me something about myself that's not serving, and I can let go.
Amber Trueblood: Yes. For me, it was really a moment where I was at a low, and I had on the surface, “God, I should be happy.” We talked about “the should’s”. I had a lot of people in my life telling me, “Your kids are still small. Just chill out. It's fine. You'll have plenty of time later to do what you need to do or what you feel you want to do, and just relax. Enjoy this.” That didn't resonate with me. It just made me more frustrated, and so I saw this life coach that was a friend of a friend.
She was out of the business, but she was willing to see me. She asked me. We sat there, and I had all my books and notes and everything piled up around me because that's what I like to do, and make all my lists. As she sat there, she looked at me and she said, “You won't be needing any of that.” Then she's turned to me and said, “Are you a crier?” I said, “Yeah.” She hand me the tissues. She looked at me and said, “Amber, what do you want?”
It made me uncomfortable because I knew she wasn't talking about like, “What did I want to accomplish, or what did I want to get done, or what were my goals or dreams, anything from any of my books or lists?” She was asking a deep, deep question. After the buzzing and my brain calm down a moment, the answer just floated up, and I said, “I want peace, peace.” I had four kids under seven at the time. Anybody from the outside would say, “No kidding, you want peace. That's obvious.”
To me, it was like, “Oh wow.” Then she said to me, “When was the last time you made a decision from your heart?” For me, this was critical because I couldn't think of one. I couldn't think of one. I had been in my brain for so long and actively pushing down and ignoring my heart, my intuition, my gut, all of that. This is what I said to her. I said, “You mean like a totally irrational decision?”
She said, “Ouch.” I said, “Okay, okay, let me think.” Then it came to me. I said, “You know, when I decided I wanted to have a third child and when I decided I wanted to have a fourth child,” because in Southern California in these days, that's just not… It's not common. You don't actively decide to have four children back to back to back to back. It wasn't rational. It wasn't logical. It didn't make any sense on paper, but it was something that my heart wanted, and I was so happy with both of those decisions.
I had something to hold on to then like, “Oh, that's how you make a decision from your heart. That's how you listen to God and your intuition and your heart.” I decided at that moment, “Okay, I need to open up those pathways again because I just shut them down with boulders in the tunnel, and I need to clear those out so that I can listen.” That's when I started. I started a meditation practice. I started a gratitude practice.
I started reading different types of books that opened up my eyes to how to really slow down, calm my brain, and be in the moment more. That's for me. I mean, it's a constant. It's a constant evolution. It's never going to be like, “Oh, I'm here. I'm perfectly balanced now,” but I've come a long way, and that's been a huge, huge step for me.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Do you think being a mom, especially of four, makes you a better entrepreneur, a better team leader? Does entrepreneurship also make you a better mom?
Amber Trueblood: Well, my short answer would be yes. I think so.
Melinda Wittstock: I think so.
Amber Trueblood: [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:34:19"] people attract what they can handle and what they want to handle. I'll see people with one child or no child, and they look at me guiltily like, “Oh, I'm sorry, I can't handle more.” I think you shouldn't. Nobody's saying you should handle more. Certainly, I wish everybody would really look at what is right for them and what speaks to them and what they can handle. For me, more is more. I love problem solving. I love the juggling. I love the chaos. I don't love the volume. I don't love the mess, but I'm learning.
Melinda Wittstock: This is where we need to forgive ourselves a lot more too. I remember when my two kids were really young and I launched a business, and Sydney, gosh, she was only six weeks old when our funding came through, and we launched. It was a crazy time. I did it because I'm just hardwired that way. I've always just been, “Oh well, okay, I'll just do it.” I worked fast and very productive, all that, but it was crazy to the point where I remember one day, it was a political news agency. I remember I had my reporter kit on one shoulder, and I had my breast pump on the other.
The bags were identical. I mean, seriously. At the end of this long day, I think I'd sold, I don't know, 10 packages. I had run payroll. I had given a report to one of our funders. I had reported a bunch of stories. I had edited other reporters' stories. I've done all this stuff, because in the first year, there were only three of us, and it grew to 20 people in the second year. Anyway, in this first year, it was insane. It was about [spp-timestamp time="7:00"] in the evening, and I was doing my last interview of the day.
I pulled out what I thought was my microphone. It wasn't. It was my breast pump, that little funnel thing. I was aiming it at this U.S. senator who was just looking at me like, “You've got to be kidding.” It was a woman. It was Senator Patty Murray from Washington State. She was laughing so hard. It was hilarious.
Amber Trueblood: [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:36:49"].
Melinda Wittstock: I was so tired. I didn't even know. I didn't even know it.
Amber Trueblood: Did she have to point it out to you?
Melinda Wittstock: She did, because I was like, “Answer my question. What's the problem here?”
Amber Trueblood: Why are you stalling, senator?
Melinda Wittstock: I just don't even know how I got through that period. It was chaos, but I remember there were so many other moms in the neighborhood or whatever who are not entrepreneurs or when the kids got a little bit older, and they were in school, maybe toddler Montessori or whatever. I was just so unusual. There was just no point of reference. I remember they were all stressing about their houses being perfect, and I'm like, “That was one of the things that I'll let go.”
I was like, “There's no way with the business and these kids and a dog and all of that, no, my house is not going to be perfect.” Even though I love beautiful things, I want everything to look… You have to pick what you're just going to let go for a little bit. It's not that you will always have a messy house. It would someday…
Amber Trueblood: The genius of that is that it really forces you to automatically prioritize. It's just like if you get a call and somebody you love is in the hospital, you drop everything. The things that were so important to you 10 minutes ago are nothing, doesn't matter at all. You're on your way to the hospital. It's the same thing. When you have such a heavy load, and your hands are so full, you very automatically let go of the stuff that's not a priority, that's not important to you.
I think you also as a mom of many children or as an entrepreneur or both, you become very adept at utilizing all your time in a smart way.
Melinda Wittstock: You have to.
Amber Trueblood: Most people. Otherwise, you just are not sleeping or something I suppose, but if you sleep and eat, you have to. I used Jon Butcher's stop doing list, where I realized, “Oh my gosh, I'm on Facebook, and I'm watching TV before bed, and I'm listening to talk radio in the car because I enjoy it.” Instead, I started listening to audio books in the car. I would just put my little ear buds on. The kids were in the car, and they read in the car. They have their books, and I have my audio book.
Then instead of watching TV before bed, I started meditating before bed, which also helped my sleep immensely.
Melinda Wittstock: That's huge.
Amber Trueblood: It's huge. Then I started doing these little workouts, these seven-minute hip workouts at my desk. Now, I know for me exercising, I have to change it up every few months. Even if I'm like, “This is perfect. I love this workout,” I'll do it for a few months, and then I'm done. I have to move on to something else. It's also knowing that I know that about myself. I know like, “Okay.” I have things in my book like, “Oh, I'm doing this workout. It's great,” and I think, “Oh my gosh, I haven't done that since I wrote that book.”
Now, I'm doing other things, so I know that about myself. I have to change it up. That's for me, I think, being an entrepreneur and being a mom, you really become so much more efficient with your time. I think in the last year, I read… I read about a book a week. I've read about 50 books. I don't finish a book. If it's not good, if I'm not gleaning any value from it, it's done. I read a couple chapters, I'll give it a shot, and then I put it aside. Those are just the ones that I actually finish and I love because I'm not going to waste my time finishing a book that I don't love.
A lot of women, like you said, you meet these other moms that don't have that entrepreneur mentality. Whether or not you've already started your business, there are entrepreneurs who just haven't started their businesses yet. That's true, but they're already their heart and soul. Then they're probably more frustrated that they don't have a business to put all of that energy and focus and drive into because it's in them already. If you're in that category, let it out. Do it. Start it. Get moving.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, I think it's interesting though with time. The more focused we get on what is truly in our heart, what we really want to do, what's in alignment and what's leveragable, time expands.
Amber Trueblood: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: It expands too when you prioritize self-care. I mean, you were just talking about meditation. You're talking about reading books, making sure you exercise, doing all of those things. When those become sacrosanct and they just don't move from your calendar or whatever, everything gets done. It's like time expands. It doesn't have to be scarce. It can be abundant if you're focused on the right things.
Amber Trueblood: I love that. One of the things that that was a revelation to me as well because I remember thinking, and I think a lot of women feel this way, where they think, “There is not any way possible I can add more to my schedule.” That's what they think. I can't add on anything. I can't add on dance classes or add on a knitting class or add on whatever it is, X, Y, Z, I've been dreaming to do. For me, so when my two older boys were maybe four and five, I took them to a hip-hop dance class across town.
Melinda Wittstock: That's great.
Amber Trueblood: I remember I recorded it through the little window, and I'm just watching it just beaming and laughing. It was so ridiculously cute. Neither one of them are good dancers, but I grew up dancing. I love it, and so it was really fun to watch them. I come home, and I'm watching the video. In the video, because it was up against class, you can see my reflection in the video as well. My face in the video had the biggest, just the happiest smile on my face. It was like, “Whoa, I need to do more things that make my face look like that.”
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh, that's so, so true. I don't know whether there's some weird guilt about it or we're not supposed to enjoy ourselves, but we're here in our earth suits right now. If it's not fun, what's the point?
Amber Trueblood: Well, I think its part of it. Like you said, we think, “Well, we can't add…” We're already so stressed. We're already so this and that. We're already so busy, so my revelation was I went, I signed up at the… This is how I do things. I bet a lot of the women who listen to you to do it the same way. I knew the best dance studio in all of LA. There are two big ones. That's where all of the big wigs go, dancers. It was in Hollywood, which I didn't live in Hollywood, and so I found two classes in the middle of the day where I could get out to the class, take it and be back before the afternoon and because of traffic and school and whatnot.
I would drive out to Hollywood twice a week and take hip-hop dance classes. It brought so much joy and physical relief and excitement. It fueled me so that when I got home, and I had to make that chicken and rice with broccoli for the 400 million times, I wasn't upset about it anymore. It didn't drive me nuts like it drove me nuts before. Now, it was just like, “Oh yeah, I can make dinner, whatever.” Something that fueled me, that filled me up on the inside.
Then all the stuff that used to aggravate the heck out of me before, I would get so upset and irritated, “I have to do this again. Oh my gosh.” Instead, it wasn't a big deal. That came from adding something that I loved into my life. It wasn't getting rid of stuff that I didn't like. I still had to do all of those other things. Somehow, like you said, time expanded.
Melinda Wittstock: It really does. I'm curious how time expanded for you when you took your boys and your husband as well across the country for 16 months in, what, 60 cities. How did that work? I mean, that sounds amazing, first of all. What was the impetus for it, and how did you manage?
Amber Trueblood: That's multi-stage question, but yeah, so I had read this book Code of the Extraordinary Mind. In the beginning, the author says, “Be careful when you read this book because you might get out of a relationship, quit your job, move to Alaska.” I read it with my eyes rolling like, “Relax, I'm pretty happy. I have a pretty amazing life. Chill out. Get over yourself.” Sure enough, three months after I read that book, I decided to pull all my kids out of traditional school, and try homeschooling.
I decided we were going to travel more. We're going to use all that money from school and instead travel and explore the world. I decided I was going to start writing. Those were the three huge shifts.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful.
Amber Trueblood: That was when I realized, “Oh, driving 405 freeway every day for 45 minutes into this life that I didn't really want to be going in that direction,” and so once I realized, “What do I really want?” It was, “Well, I want to travel. I want to be with my family. I want to learn and explore the world, and then I want to help other people.” That was my mindset shift. Then so we took everybody out of school. Then I got a call from a friend that… My kids all play instruments. My oldest is a drummer. People knew this, friends and family and neighbors and whatnot.
One of them said, “Oh, there's a musical, like a Broadway, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that's looking for kids that are musicians first, not necessarily actor kids. They wanted kids that really play instruments, and you should send a video of Cameron drumming.” I sent a video, not thinking anything of it. My husband's a photographer, so we have thousands upon thousands of videos and pictures. Our whole life is documented. I sent it, and they said, “Oh, can you guys come to New York for an audition?”
Melinda Wittstock: That's amazing.
Amber Trueblood: We just thought, “Oh, this'll be a funny story, how you auditioned for a Broadway show when you were nine, and that'll be a fun story to tell people. ” We had never taken the kids to New York, so we pulled everybody out of school for a week. We went to New York. We saw New York. We thought, “I don't want all this pressure to be like we're going to fly across the country for a 15-minute audition. No, we're going to make it into a vacation, and then on Tuesday, you'll go for this 15-minute audition, and then we'll come home, and it'll be an experience.”
Melinda Wittstock: That's just fantastic. I love that.
Melinda Wittstock: Amber, it's so interesting. When you do take the plunge and you do something completely different, and there you are and you're enjoying yourself and you think, “God, why didn't I do this years ago?” I love that you share it because, really, it gives other people permission that, “Oh wow, they could do this too, right?”
Amber Trueblood: You're so right.
Melinda Wittstock: The more-
Amber Trueblood: I didn't realize how much that would be the case. How many people came out of the woodwork to me in the months following and said, “You know, I've been thinking about this, and I've been wanting to do that, and seeing you guys make that transition so successfully.” It did exactly that. It somehow gave people permission to follow their own dreams and in a way that they hadn't considered before. That was an amazing benefit that I never anticipated.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. What's next for you? We're about to go into 2020, a big year. I mean, it's a magical year, right? We can leave a lot of stuff behind in this decade. Go into 2020 with 2020 vision. What's your vision? What do you see the next decade is going to bring your way?
Amber Trueblood: For me, it's a big transition for us because like you said, we were on the road for 16 months, and so there was a lot of traveling. There were a lot of adventures. There was a lot of exploration. Every week, we were in a different city. Every Monday, the boys had shows eight nights a week, or I'm sorry, eight shows a week for six days. Then the seventh day, you'd pack up everything, hop on a plane, go to a new city, order groceries, pick up the rental car, find your Airbnb, do laundry, all of that stuff.
We were traveling with musical instruments. We were traveling with two guitars, a bass, a portable drum set, skate… They all skateboard, so skateboards and scooters and helmets and books and some clothes and one pair of shoes each. It was insane, but it was an adventure. I realized one of the things I love is change. I like to do new things all the time, so it fed that. We were also in a really neat community of people that we were all traveling together with the musical. That was amazing.
Now, we've moved to San Diego. We bought a home in a new community. We lived in Los Angeles before, so now we're in San Diego, new town, new friends, new neighbors, new home, new school. My kids haven't been in a regular brick and mortar school for three years, and so it's a whole transition. 2020 for me is to balance out, provide a more stable, not that it was unstable before, but it was just very different. It was much more on the go. I want a little bit more stability for my family this year as far as our home life is concerned.
We're loving where we're living now, which is fantastic. I feel so grateful for them.
Melinda Wittstock: That's wonderful. That sounds amazing. Well, San Diego is a beautiful, beautiful city. It's gorgeous. I have so many friends there. I get there quite often. Next time I'm there, we'll have to get together.
Amber Trueblood: That'd be wonderful.
Melinda Wittstock: Amber, where can people get your book? Just strongly recommend… I have an advance copy. I strongly recommend you purchase that and also just… How can people work with you? You do all kinds of great retreats. You do a whole bunch of different things.
Amber Trueblood: Stretch Marks is the book. It's available anywhere online. You can get it. The audible version will be out any day now. You can get it in Kindle format. You can get it in a hardback or paperback and on audible. Then I have a website, ambertrueblood.com. All my information about my retreats, all my blog articles, I've got videos on there. My next steps as far as 2020 part of what I'm doing, the size of the retreats and the book will be a digital mastermind and also a membership book club, which is going to be really fun.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Amber Trueblood: It's been a real adventure. I love it.
Melinda Wittstock: Awesome. Thank you.