My Transformation from Fear and Unhappiness to Becoming Mentally Tough (Interview with Amanda Kaufman)

(Scroll to the bottom to view the video.)

I am so excited to share a recent discussion I had with Amanda Kaufman (former senior consultant, Accenture).

Amanda shares what it's like to be a woman in corporate America ... some of the successes she had (which there were many) and then quite candidly opens up about some of the challenges and struggles she had.

Amanda speaks to how being Mentally Tough would have made her journey a little bit easier.

Here's a transcript of our discussion (or you can view the video below).


Sheryl Kline:
So, we're going to ask Amanda a couple of questions first. Can you tell us your position at Accenture and all of the amazing things you did, as well as some of the challenges that you had?


Amanda Kaufman:                      
I was Senior Manager in our strategy practice, and I focused on procurement, operating model strategy, with different organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and government work.


Sheryl:
What were some of the successes and challenges that you faced when you were at Accenture?


Amanda:                                 
I joined out of college and it was, I really love Accenture as a company. I think it has an amazing culture and I learned so much through that process. I grew as a person, as a leader, and obviously my content knowledge really grew as I went. A lot of the wins were the ability to work with leaders that were in organizations that it just blew my mind, sometimes.

I'd be walking into the client building and be sitting down, have meetings with these leaders, and I'm like, "How is this my life?" Right? Especially at my age, getting those kinds of opportunities, and Accenture did a really good job as an organization, making sure that we were ready for those kinds of interactions.

The quality, the people that they hired was just so high, so I learned so much about consulting, about my clients' industries, about the subject of procurement, and about myself, in that process.


Sheryl:
But there were a couple of bumps along the road. If you could speak to one or two of those, and also if you had had the knowledge and the ability to be mentally tough, how that might have helped you.


Amanda:                                 
Absolutely. So, I like to say to my mentees that the consulting career can have peaks and valleys. Some of the valleys in my own career, one of them was around just my attitude towards work, and my attitude towards how much work.

I succumbed, and this is not unique to Accenture, but in the consulting industry and in many professional industries, this expectation that you're always on, and you're always working, and you're always responsive.


Sheryl:
I don't mean to interrupt, but isn't that exhausting?


Amanda:                                 
It was so exhausting. I clocked in at about 100 hours, 120 hours some weeks.


Sheryl:
Wow.


Amanda:                                 
Very, very, very regularly. Early in my career, I even experienced some all nighters that were pretty devastating, on a pretty regular basis. I think that that level of engagement, there was nobody in the company that was saying, "Amanda, you have to work that hard," but I felt pressured to work that hard because of the cultural norms around that.

Yeah, so that led to depression, that led to extreme weight gain, that led to relationship difficulties. That had a lot of ramifications in my total life.


Sheryl:
It sounds like, and I don't mean to interrupt.


Amanda:                                 
No, go for it.


Sheryl:
But it sounds like you had an amazing experience there, and you had a lot of success very early, but there were some challenges that not only affected you at work but it spilled over into your personal wellness.


Amanda:                                 
Totally.


Sheryl:
As well as into the relationships that mattered most. So, if you had the ability to refine your clarity as to what you wanted, not just at work, but in your personal relationships and in your wellness, and you could have the mental toughness to make clear and measurable progress, what would you have done differently?


Amanda:                                 
You know, I think about some incidents that I had in the latter years when I was working as a consultant. I've since moved on into entrepreneurship, but there were a few really tough client relationships that I had, and they were tough because it was one of those situations where I ... There wasn't really a lot that I personally could do, so my old habits of working all night, or my old habits of just being hyper available, they weren't serving me.

I think having the clarity and more skills around mental toughness to be able to discern where my responsibilities started and stopped, in that particular situation, and where the clients' responsibilities were in that situation, that would have empowered me to not slip into old behaviors, right?

So, for me, that was getting into overeating again, getting into overwork again, and those things that I'd actually done a lot of work to keep at bay. I slipped back into it, and I think it was because I was lacking some of the mental toughness skills and I was taking onboard probably more than was fair for my responsibility in that.


Sheryl:
Okay. So, mental toughness, it would have helped you at work define some boundaries, and maybe be just as successful, but in a manageable way, and help you to strengthen and be really happy or happier with your habits and your personal wellness, as well as your relationships as well.


Amanda:                                 
Right, and I think that it's great to go for success, but sometimes success is surviving through something to move onto the next thing. I think about that particular story and I think maybe the outcome from the client perspective, the project perspective, might not have been different, but boy wouldn't I have been different if I was keeping up with my health routines and my relationship routines? Maybe I might have engaged more help from my leadership, or maybe I would have been more creative on addressing the situation that there could have been more success in the outcome. But even if there wasn't, I would have had success in other areas.


Sheryl:
Yeah, and so we were talking about ... It really boils down to happiness. It's a matter of having the mental toughness to figure out, again, refine your clarity on what you want at work, but also incorporate what you want at home, in your relationships, what you want for your personal relationships, and then have the mental toughness to create what you want and to make progress towards that end goal for all three of those buckets.


Amanda:                                 
Yeah, exactly.


Sheryl:
Okay, so I appreciate you being transparent and your honesty there, and sometimes it is difficult to do that, because a lot of times what we hear is people's sizzle real. We don't hear what's real, so I appreciate you sharing those things. But now you're in a different place.


Amanda:                                 
Totally.


Sheryl:
So why don't you explain to me a little bit about how mental toughness has helped you and where you are now?


Amanda (smiling):                                 
That's a great question. So, the clarity of what I actually wanted led me into actually a different career path, right? I chose to leave Accenture last year and pursue my own business, focusing on productivity and high performance, working with individuals one on one on their transformations. Number one, having the mental toughness to be able to create the space, to actually see what I wanted. 'Cause when you're in the fight, you don't get that space, you know what I mean?


Sheryl:
Oh, definitely.


Amanda:                                 
Yeah, so then having the toughness to go, "Okay, I'm going to leave the reliable corporate paycheck thing to pursue the entrepreneurship thing," I think that that's taken some grit, right? And some mental toughness, because I've got four kids, I've got a husband, and I was doing okay at Accenture, financially, so the idea of going into tiny apartment and a backpack, and minimal means wasn't really going to work for me.

To be brave enough to get out there, to not worry too much about being overly self-conscious about it allowed me to take massive action, and it's working out.


Sheryl:
Yeah, and it's affected not just you, but it's affected those who matter most to you, as well.


Amanda:                                 
Absolutely. I still travel quite a bit with my entrepreneurship endeavors, but I am home a lot more. I'm spending a lot more time, and it's more designed time. I really do feel a lot more in control of my life.


Sheryl:
Great. Well, thanks so much for sharing, Amanda. The transformation you have and continue to experience is incredible and I look forward to keeping up with you.


Amanda:                                 
Absolutely. Thanks, Sheryl.


Mental Toughness is the tool belt or catalyst which helps you to make consistent progress and to be happy along the way. Please check out the library of (free) resources on my website (www.SherylKline.com) or schedule an appointment with me if you’d like to learn more!

Here's to you being amazing!
- Sheryl -


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View Sheryl's discussion with Amanda Kaufman, former senior consultant with Accenture on "My Transformation from Fear and Unhappiness to Becoming Mentally Tough."

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