Speaker, Author, Coach, Futurist
Ayelet Baron is a force to be reckoned with. After a successful career in the corporate world, she’s made a true pivot and has abandoned the Silicon Valley for the wilds of British Columbia, embarking on writing a series of three books. Through it all, she is driven by her desire to share her insights with the world.
We spoke about:
- Her vision of conscious leadership
- What it’s like writing three books in a series, one right after the other
- How she’s building a new platform beyond the books
If you want to learn more about Ayelet:
- Visit her website
- Find Our Journey to Corporate Sanity on Amazon or Bookshop
- Find her book F*ck the Bucket List on Amazon
Listen to the Interview
Anne: Hi, Ayelet. I’m delighted to meet you. Your name came up when I was talking with someone about people who were publishing books with a purpose. In our short conversation before we started recording, it became clear that’s absolutely what you’re doing.
I want to talk a little about the transition you’ve made. Your first book, published a few years ago, is called Our Journey to Corporate Sanity. It was clearly a book for a business audience. Do you want to tell me about that book?
Ayelet: It was a book about conscious leadership. It has over 30 amazing stories of people who are conscious leaders in the world—not about their companies or their brands, but what they’re creating in the world in a conscious way, in a lot of different industries. Some of them that worked for big companies didn’t even want to mention their companies in what they were doing. It’s looking at the future of work and what’s possible.
I wrote it for the opportunity creators in the world who see business as a force for good and are able to re-imagine business. Business is only 200 years old, so we have an opportunity to think about how we want to work and who we want to work for, and what work really means. One of the things I found after leaving a very successful career in high tech, in the Silicon Valley—I tell people I fired myself from corporate America because nobody would fire me—I felt a responsibility. I saw what we did to cities like San Francisco. I saw that the metrics around productivity, efficiency, and shareholder value really were not aligned with the human spirit.
I wrote my first book looking at how we create conscious leaders in the world, where people understand that leadership is not outside ourselves, but that it is us who we have been waiting for. It’s not going to come from the top of the organization, because the metrics are there, and there’s a manual they’re following. I wrote it for anyone who wanted to make a difference and felt caught up in the machine. My dream was, I didn’t want more people to fire themselves. I wanted to create healthy organizations, so we wake every morning and loved what we do, and don’t suffer through endless calls and politics, and all that stuff no one tells you when you were a kid.
Anne: I love that. It’s a book about leadership, but leadership is not someone else—it’s you. It’s everybody. So, how did it land on the market?
Ayelet: I think it was way ahead of its time. After I left my tech company, I worked a lot as a futurist. I’ve been told I’m ahead of my time. If people pick up the book today, it will be relevant to a lot of what’s going on in the world. That’s what I hoped it would be. Book launches are things that come out of our hearts as authors, and a lot of hard work. If you’re not writing something that has a certain shelf life, people can pick it up at any point.
What really surprised me about the book is that it spoke to a lot of young people. We have an arrogant approach to work. We think everyone works in an office. We forget that some people work 3-4 jobs to put food on the table and support our families. I saw the book was not just for what we would traditionally say workers are—the ones that commute every day to work, before Covid-19. It was eye-opening to see people looking for their voice and power, especially young people, who really resonated. There was a young woman who brought me in to give a talk in Denver. I didn’t even care if anybody was there or not. It was the fact that she was creating something and it moved her to be more aligned in her life. That’s the impact that is important for me. I learned a lot from publishing that book.
Anne: Our Journey to Corporate Sanity—we’re still a long way from it. That’s an evergreen book—unfortunately! I wish it was outdated: Nope, we’re all sane! That’s not the case. It sounds like meaningful work, and rewarding.
Now, I understand you are working on a series of three books, because why write one when you can write three? These books have a different audience. Tell me what you’re trying to do with this series.
Ayelet: It’s a series, three books. I tell people I’m having triplets. I’ve been up since 4 this morning, and it’s 1:18 right now, just editing them. Pouring my heart and soul into it. That’s what it takes.
At the same time I published Our Journey to Corporate Sanity I also left San Francisco. I felt that whatever I was writing, I have to show up in the world in the same way. I couldn’t stay in San Francisco and live in that way. I went through massive transformation before then. I had this calling when I went to the Amazon rain forest on a trip I never imagined going, with Lynne Twist and 17 amazing women looking at maternal health. It totally changed my life. I had these visions—as you do in the rain forest. I was actually writing the books I’m writing now, but I heard a voice saying, “No, you need to write for business.” So I put these books on hold. I wrote a couple other books in between that will never see the light of day, but that’s a different story.
I came back to these books. It’s a series called F*** the Bucket List. It’s about not putting your life on hold. If you do have a bucket list, are the items on the list yours, or are you going to Paris because it’s cool to go to Paris? Really being authentic with who you are and understanding that there is no manual of success, and there is nothing to follow. To look at our sovereignty and our ability to lead a healthy life. I’m super excited and committed.
It’s really hard to do the marketing on this because when I look at it, I’m targeting maybe 5% (that’s a little high) of the 7.7 billion people on the planet that are ready to lead a healthy life, that are tired of the stories and tired of the way things are. The pioneers in our world that are going to create the healthy systems. Not criticize them, not discuss them, not blame and shame people, but really look at finding the curiosity and courage to do our own work so we can find each other and create the new healthcare systems, the new business systems, the new education systems. Even if somebody just reads one of the books and they lead a healthier life, my work is done.
Applying a Similar Lens in Different Ways
Anne: Clearly you have a strong sense of mission and purpose. It would seem to me, as we’re having this discussion during a time of global pandemic, that a lot of people are looking and reassessing. Also, with the racial unrest, we have to start reassessing systems that are fundamentally broken. In many ways, your timing is very good. A lot of people are ready to step back and take this kind of assessment of their personal lives, of their businesses, of societal systems.
Tell me, these three books offer a similar lens for looking at different aspects of things, right?
Ayelet: Yes. I couldn’t be so arrogant as to say this book is just by me. On the cover, the book is by the universe, with me. Because I tapped into a lot of universal knowledge and universal laws to ground us that we’re not separated from nature. Much of what you just mentioned that is happening in the world is the deep divisions that have been by design to keep us consuming. I think that when we start looking at things more holistically and understand that no one knows anything… If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that with all the technology and systems, what it comes down to is no one knows anything and everybody’s speculating. What a great time to say, “I don’t want to be part of these toxic systems. I don’t want to lead an unhealthy life. I want to reevaluate my life and say, what is it I really need?”
I was just editing the second book. I’ve written it as a journey. The first book is called F*** the Bucket List for the Soul: Discover the Wonder of You. It talks about doing the inner work and really understanding who you are, why you’re here, and what you want to do. It made me realize that I wasn’t here to be a worker. I was here to offer medicine for the soul. If the writing or speaking or guidance can help others, or if we can come together and co-create, that’s fantastic.
Once we discover the wonder in ourselves, and I don’t mean it in a hokey place but in an aligned way. We’ve been given tools, since we were children, of looking at the world from a lens of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s appropriate and inappropriate, what’s good and what’s bad. You’ll hear people in the New Age movement saying, “There’s no such thing as good and bad.” We have constructed belief systems for the lowest common denominator in society about what’s good and bad. I love to tell the story of a little girl who goes out with her parents, pre-Covid-19, and they’re at a food court. The little girl looks up as they eat their meal and yells out, at the top of her voice, “Look, Mom, that woman has a moustache.” Mom goes crazy, and Dad goes crazy, too. They try to shut her down and explain to her, “That’s not right, you can’t say that in public.” The little girl says, “You told me to tell the truth.”
When we start looking at what’s real and what’s fake, we need to look at different conversations. What I started to do in my own life, and what I’m guiding is to do, is to ask the question of what’s healthy and unhealthy.
Is the food that I’m eating healthy or unhealthy for me? The lotions and potions I’m putting all over my body—can I eat them? Because they’re going into my bloodstream, and if they’ve got chemicals in them, if the deodorant has chemicals, it’s likely I’ll get breast cancer at some point, whether I’m a man or a woman. It’s what we’ve seen. What am I consuming on my body?
When it comes to my mind, what beliefs am I consuming? Are they limiting beliefs? Do I keep telling myself I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough? Are the beliefs I’m adopting, are they mine? Are they healthy or toxic? The people I’m putting in my heart—are they healthy or toxic for me? Nobody can tell me, or you. I am not you, and you are not me. There is no universal guide. I don’t want to argue and fight with people any more. People start arguing, and I’m like, “You’re right.”
My first memory in life was war. I was three and a half years old when war broke out in my country. I remember every minute of it. If my side lost, I wouldn’t be here. I’m here for a deeper purpose, and for us to stop warring within ourselves. We need to put down our swords and see that we’re not our own enemies. We don’t have to compete and be the best. That was part of Our Journey to Corporate Sanity. Can we have healthy competition? Why do we need to constantly be number one? If you’re a plant, being in growth mode is crazy. Why as part of nature and being human do we need to grow all the time? It’s pretty insane.
That’s the first book. That was a mouthful.
How one book turned into three
Anne: Let me ask you. You told me before you did this, you’ve sent one off to the editors, and have another going off to the editors in a few weeks. You took one day off between. I have to ask you about the process of writing. There are three books—they’re related, but they’re still three books. How the heck are you doing all of this writing? Are you just total immersion in this? Tell me about your process!
Ayelet: It’s not typical.
Anne: They’re all different. Even between books, they’re different. But it seems like the three-book effort deserves a little looking at.
Ayelet: I tested it with early readers. I picked some people I didn’t think would like the book. One came back and said, “These are binoculars for my soul.” I said, “Wow, you’re hired as my marketing person.” I couldn’t have come up with that. The feedback that I got was that there’s a lot of information to ingest. So I decided to break it up into the three.
The first is for the soul, about us. The second is timely: F*ck the Bucket List for the Adventurer: Trekking Into the Unknown. The third one is F*ck The Bucket List for the Health Conscious: Trusting Your Heart.
Writing for herself and others
Ayelet: I am actually on the same journey as the books. I was working on some projects the last couple of years. I moved to the sunshine coast of British Columbia. I had imagined going to a place like this maybe for a month. It showed up all of a sudden. I have the Pacific Ocean and the rain forest and the bears and the animals here. It’s the perfect setting for writing. I decided not to take on any other work apart from the writing for half a year to a year.
I decided that I have worked so hard my entire life for someone else—it’s time to put the same dedication into myself. I could do it right now. I’m not waiting for retirement, because I never want to retire. I rejigged certain things, that was part of my process. I asked “What’s my enough, what do I need, and how will I go about it?”
I was in lockdown way before the pandemic broke out because I live in this tiny little town that you can only get to by ferry. The planes even stopped. I used to go to the market once a week. I spend a lot of time on my own, but also with the animals and in nature. If the book wakes me up at three o’clock in the morning, I will start writing at 3am. The synchronicity of these books is mind-blowing. Today I thought I was really close to finishing the second manuscript, then somebody sent me something that was exactly what I was writing about 30 minutes earlier. I was searching for something on it, and it just came. Not being attached to it.
When I got the edits for the first book, one of the notes from the editor was, “You can’t say this because you’ll get lousy Amazon reviews.” I love having an editor because I can agree or disagree.
Anne: Right. It’s their role to surface this for you, and your role to make the decision.
Ayelet: It made me realize that while I would love to have great Amazon reviews, and more people interacting with the content so it could impact more people’s lives, that’s not why I’m writing the books. It was a good reminder.
The process is, I have deadlines and timelines to meet. I’m getting so many downloads right now that I’m sitting at my keyboard and it just comes through. Sometimes I stop and write articles, just to continue building my platform, or I tweet or whatever. It’s not writing all the time. I’m doing other things as well. But the process has been unbelievable.
Anne: So often, the act of writing a book is transformative because you go so deep into the subject. That sounds like it’s absolutely happening with you. As you’re writing, you are applying the book to yourself, to your life. The writing is feeding the transformation, which is feeding the writing. And you have this beautiful, virtuous cycle happening.
The platform beyond the book
Anne: But there’s always platform work to do as well. Let me ask you about the platform beyond the book. I know that right now, you’ve shut down other activities. When the new books are out, how do you plan to support the message, in addition to the books themselves.
Ayelet: I’m reaching out right now to people I don’t really know, because that’s what I learned from the first book. The people that have messages, we’re weaving them together. I had one of those conversations yesterday. She said, “When you’re ready, reach out and let’s have a podcast.” It’s people that I would never have access to with my background. I’ve gone through some of the manuals of how to work with influencers. But I’m reaching out to young people and having conversations with them
Years ago, I was on the launch team of one of Daniel Pink’s books. I looked at what he’s doing. Now it’s become kind of cookie cutter. I don’t want to do anything that’s cookie cutter. Cookie cutters only work when you’re baking in the kitchen. I want to find a way to reach the people who are ready for it.
It’s funny, I have bookstore distribution, but now all the bookstores are closed. I’m looking at having an audio out pretty fast, because a lot of people like listening right now. I didn’t have that with my first book.
Anne: Audio is very big. I would definitely give you two thumbs up for that.
Ayelet: I’m also building a platform that I have on the side that provides healthy information for people, as a source of what’s healthy and unhealthy. I’ve already curated a couple hundred articles—maybe 800.
I wish I had these books when I started my journey. I felt a responsibility, with all of the transformation I’ve gone through. It’s hard. People say, “What’s the category?” It’s not self-help, it’s not memoir. It’s not all these rigid. It’s about self-awareness and self-compassion.
It’s about healthy pioneers creating the world we need. I hope others join with their books and their messages. It’s not about competing. It’s about building something together in unity, not conformity. I’m hoping to launch this platform that right now is called HeartPickings.com. It’s not live yet.
I used to do a lot of public speaking. I had a slide that said, “If you build it, they will come only worked in a movie for Kevin Costner.” I have a market research platform, and would tell people to do the research.
I decided I’m going to build something I need myself. I hope other people will join this platform when it’s out. It’s not about me, it’s about providing healthy information. People are so busy right now, so overwhelmed and so stressed. I’d love to have other platforms join in. If the platform doesn’t add any value, it goes away.
I’m not a billion-dollar company that I used to work for that had this desire to grow all the time. I’m just this little plant in the soil, that needs water and sunshine.
Anne: You’re writing to serve. When that is your motivation, the healthy plan to growth usually makes itself known. It’s a wonderful model. Thank you for sharing what you’re doing.