JACQUELINE SHAULIS, FOUNDER, AWESOME ENTERPRISES LLC & DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR INTERSECTIONAL STUDIES
Jacqueline Shaulis is the leading authority on communication-based personal leadership for intersectional introverts. As an introverted woman of colour, she's leveraged her challenging upbringing into becoming a transformational speaker, bestselling author, and executive coach & advisor to Fortune 500 executives…all while honouring her introversion.
"The Excitable Introvert", Jacqueline uses a fabulous mix of practical strategies, entertaining stories, and a dash of woo to give audiences and fellow introverted women of colour the confidence to create lives they love to live.
The founder of Awesome Enterprises LLC, Executive Director of the National Center for Intersectional Studies, and author of internationally bestselling books "Embrace Your Awesome" and "Yes Introverts Can". When not globetrotting with coffee in hand or loudly singing "tune-adjacent" at home, you can find Jacqueline lost in a good (audio)book or hugging her son, his nine cousins, or the nearest tree.
As you can imagine, I was thrilled, and beyond honoured to welcome Jacqueline to our Spotlight to share her journey and experiences. I know you will love her.
SO, JACQUELINE, WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
My story begins fairly early in childhood; being just a strange, fun, very visionary child, I had big dreams for what I wanted to do and what was possible that looked nothing like the environment around me.
I come from a working-class family in Texas, but we got by and did many things that many other families didn't do. But alongside that dichotomy of being able to do many things successfully, such as publishing books, speaking on different global stages and doing presentations and what I now know to be coaching adults (all of this was commonplace for me). There was the other side, with a lot of turmoil and chaos in our family. There was violence and dysfunction generationally. That didn't skip us; we had to find ways to embrace both being excellent at anything that you put your mind toward and keeping the peace at home to minimise the amount of chaos or damage being done.
That was my world. And so my story really begins there because that world of opposites shaped how I saw myself and how I later cultivated skills that helped my clients walk that line between the dysfunction and your destiny and what it means to live into your vision of yourself that began very early.
Growing up in an environment where you have success, applause and achievement while simultaneously dealing with suicide ideation, keeping the peace at home and protecting your siblings, in hindsight, was the most significant benefit to me later as a coach because having lived that experience it was a lot easier for me to spot the same in the people I worked with.
Speaking about that experience is particularly important to me because many women I worked with have never had anyone call that out. They thought they were the only ones living this sort of parallel life, but being able to put words to the experience and call it out frees up so much mental and emotional space previously reserved for keeping them safe that they can show up fully as the person they most want to become.
EMBRACING YOUR AWESOME IS AT THE HEART OF WHAT YOU DO AND ONE OF YOUR CORE VALUES. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
Yes, it is. It's one of my core values.
The word Awesome is a triad. It's an acronym for Amazing Works of Expression Serving Others with Maximum Enjoyment. For me, the ability to show up and serve in a way that benefits you and everyone that you impact relies on is awesome.
The first part of that is your Amazing Works of Expression - your A-W-E. These are all the ways or the identities that we are here for. For me, this looks like this; I'm a mother, wife, aunt, coffee lover, and introvert. I'm someone who likes colourful clothing. I like all of these things, and they're all a part of who I am. But if I'm trying to silo these ways that I show up or how I'm living into my truth, then the gifts that come with those identities are downplayed, and they don't benefit me, let alone other people.
So that's the AWE. S-O is serving others. It's essential to recognise that our lives are just lessons for ourselves and others. We can be an aspirational or cautionary tale, but we're a tale nonetheless. So our presence, our living, our thriving or not, all of that becomes a witness to what is possible and what could happen, depending on how we navigate the world.
This being the case, we want to operate intentionally. Especially as introverts, we must act intentionally so that our lives are an example of what's possible in a positive way, in a way that gives life. One of the most significant benefits and gifts of introversion is that it invites us to live deeply and impact greatly by leaning into how we are insightful, observant and connected. Part of the reason we drain so easily is because of how connected we are with our environment and those in it. We need to recognise that serving others is a critical component of embracing your awesome.
The last piece is the M-E, that's maximum enjoyment. Living a life that includes things for your delight and joy and having those moments where you incorporate solitude or things that revive your energy.
For me, it's being outside walking barefoot in the grass or when I'm not able to get out, even just looking at the sky. We can incorporate these small and even much larger ways to recharge and revive simply because we enjoy them and want to do them instead of needing permission or justification. That maximum enjoyment allows us space for our joy to become of service; It becomes a light in and of itself. The joy and happiness we bring by doing things we love and appreciate bring us more of what we value most, which spills over into all we create and inspires others.
All of this creates a way for us to live deeply. As I mentioned, that's crucial for introverts.
YOU ARE A FABULOUS LEADER AND ALSO AN INTROVERT. TRADITIONALLY THE TWO DON'T ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE AUTHENTIC ENERGY OF YOU AND ALSO SHOW UP AND SERVE SO WELL?
This has been a long time, cultivating and doing. For me, part of it is just a complete awareness of what I'm meant to do and how I'm meant to show up, but the other piece of that is recognising again the importance of how I show up and how I serve someone else's, and joy and freedom.
A big part of that is recognising that I am also the product of those who have shown up and allowed their light to shine, who have shared their own ups and downs—understanding that I've been on the receiving end of this great gift and this grace propels me to be another conduit to be that for someone else from celebrities to just everyday folks and even family members.
When most people think of introverts, they think of someone reticent, shy or bashful. But that's not what makes someone introverted. Introversion is simply a descriptor of how someone processes their world. In this case, they are internal processors. They take in all of the stimulation around them and their own thoughts about the stimulus, and then they need time to process away from that. So, it doesn't necessarily mean that they need to be away from people; they just need to be away from the stimulation that they're intaking and that, as you know, has nothing to do with how you show up and serve. You can be a speaker and still need to process internally. You can be an actor or a business leader or any prominent personality; none of that has any bearing on how you sort through your world.
Because of this misperception, introverts are often dismissed or discounted from opportunities. The assumption is that if you are on the quiet side, or someone who needs an extra moment or an extra beat to process your world, somehow you're not able to contribute or handle the pressures of leadership, which is all nonsense.
Some of the most game-changing leaders in our world and impactful entertainers are introverts. People like Beyonce, Michael Dell, Elon Musk, Emma Watson, JK Rowling, Barack Obama and Rosa Parks are all people who have done amazing things that have changed the trajectory of humanity. And also, they are introverted.
They've been able to do that by, rather than pretending to be someone they are not or trying to dismiss it as counter introversion, they lean into its gifts. And so, as a leader, your first job is not to put on a show; it is to gather your people in a way that they want to follow you. In following you, you are all achieving an outcome that could not be done singularly.
So, in my studies, leadership and introversion go hand in hand. In fact, many studies have shown how introverts make for better managers and leaders because of their innate ability to see that all have these connections. They see people who have different skills and understand how this can bring about resources, notice blind spots in ideas and recognise opportunities for others - all of these things are part and parcel of what makes them great as leaders. It's about leaning into introversion and using those skills to everyone's advantage.
In addition, as far as your energy goes, because introverts are taking on so much (because they are thinking through what's happening in their world, not only externally, but their internal processing about what's going on externally), It requires that they set firm boundaries. They often need a moment to catch their thoughts and slow the inflow. Having activities that stimulate and re-energise are vital for introverts; this could look like anything from being in solitude to an engaging discussion about an exciting topic. I often joke that you don't get an introvert started because they will never stop! We have such a deep understanding and a deep desire to learn all aspects of a topic, and engaging with people with a similar passion is very energising.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE CRITICISM?
That depends on who's giving it; I'd say not too well. LOL
If it's someone important to me and whose opinion I value, criticism can be challenging. For so long, especially growing up with the need for perfection and the pressure to set a good example, it's taken a long time to change the narrative, and honestly, that's still a work in progress.
Most days, I'm pretty good at relinquishing that and allowing myself to make mistakes, laugh off the foolishness that goes along with this thing called life, but then there are other days when I'm duly offended by criticism.
As a recent example, I wrote a book with my son during the pandemic about different things you can do while Quarantined. We brainstorm ideas of things within your home, things with friends, fun games etc. Just a variety of things to do when you've got nothing but time. Doing this was a work of love that I got to do with my son, which is always amazing. We've done a couple of books together. So I was very proud of what we were able to put together. Then the reviews came. And they were mostly good. But there were a couple that just trashed my book. And I was upset, to be very polite. I was borderline irate that these suckers had criticised the book that my baby and I put together, and we put our whole blood, sweat, and tears into. We were up late at night! How dare they! and I just got into internal righteous indignation about it.
After I got over that, I finished having my emotional tantrum and went back to the book to see if there was any validity. And you know what, I can't even fault them for the criticism. A couple of them were about the overall formatting of the book and how it wasn't put together beneficially. And you know what? It wasn't! I had to pull the book! Fortunately, as a self-publisher, I could do that. I pulled the book and reformated it.
It started pretty bad because I was agitated, hurt, angry, frustrated, annoyed and indignant. But then I took a step back to say, okay, you know what, let me see if there's anything to this. Let me just see. Maybe they're right.
This is the type of approach that I take with many things in my life. It has helped me not just deal with the criticism but also recognise that these people who I trash-talked in my mind were right and repent because they were correct in their criticism.
Sometimes it's not about the criticism, and it's not that someone's out to get you or has any grudges against you. Sometimes the criticism is duly placed, and you need to check yourself. But then there are other times I receive criticism, and it has nothing to do with anything that I'm doing; it's just somebody's grudge. It's someone in their feelings because I'm winning, and they're not. And I have to make space for that, too, a "forgive them, father, they know not what they do" approach.
It's not easy, but it's crucial, especially for us introverts, because we will ruminate and think about this exact thing for like 20 years and how we should have responded, what they should have done and how we would have been down if they have said it to my face, then they would have gone a different way. We are the masters at weakness, but there's a tremendous benefit and boy, when you're able to look at criticism and recognise that there may be some validity to what someone is saying or that someone is just dealing with their own stuff and to not take it on or take it personally. That's a win.
YOU WORK WITH INTROVERTED WOMEN IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE AND WHY?
I enjoy having a conversation in person, a virtual meeting, or chit chat but
the part that I love most is being the mirror reflecting back to the woman or group of women I'm speaking to. Shining new light on their different aspects of introversion and helping them to see themselves authentically. One of the biggest disservices that's done with a lot of the misperceptions around introversion is this notion that somehow your experience is isolated and you are faulty because you are introverted. In fact, the qualities that come with introversion are not only most needed in the world as a whole, but people in your world need you to show up in those ways.
One of my recent favourites was while I was doing a podcast. The woman I talked to wasn't a client, but it was a great conversation. After we finished recording, she thanked me and told me that she had recently retired at the age of 63 and is now trying to figure out what she wants to do in life because she's always had her job as her identity. After listening to me, she said it made sense to her for the first time why she thinks the way she does, feels the way she does and experiences the way she does. I was in tears because this was such a pivotal moment to witness in someone's life.
This woman went more than half a century not knowing herself in this deep and meaningful way. There's so much of herself that she had made wrong just because she didn't know better, and here she was learning that
- there's nothing wrong with introversion and
- by suppressing those qualities of hers that are introverted, she had been denying herself the joy and, and peace of mind that comes from leaning into it.
She was so encouraged that this was something that she could do something about. She could make a different choice to accept and love herself the way that she is.
That's how I like working with women; I love being able to shine the light to clear the mirror and reflect to them the truth of who they are. For so many, they've learned to wrong themselves in everything from how they think to how they feel and show up when this is part and parcel of why they are needed.
So, my favourite way is to give that clarity in that light and a sense of recognition. Actual recognition that this is who I am. I hid behind being someone else for too long. I forgot who I was, and now I remember. I feel who I am again.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
My most outstanding achievement to date has been being a mom and kiddo. He is amazing, and I'm very happy to have him at the top of the list. Everything else comes after being a mom to my sweet kiddo.
YOU HAVE ALMOST TWO DOZEN BOOKS UNDER YOUR BELT AND HAVE BEEN A GLOBAL AMAZON BESTSELLER SIX TIMES WITH SIX DIFFERENT WORKS. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OUR READERS LOOKING FOR LITERARY SUCCESS?
There are a lot of lessons that I've learned, but the most important is there's the emotional/ spiritual side, and then there's the technical side.
Let's address the technical side first, as this is usually what most people want to know about. Particularly important if you're self-publishing on a platform like Amazon is choosing categories reflective of your writing. Don't write a book about self-help and then publish under the puzzle category hoping to hit number one. This is disingenuous and not working with integrity; even if you hit bestseller status, it will not feel like a good win.
Additionally, make sure that the categories you choose are as specific as possible. For example, if you are writing a self-help book about parenting toddlers, or your perspective as a woman in business, go to as specific of a category as you can because it's easier with your specific related category to be able to get some traction and to make that bestsellers list. Also, don't lose sight that after you've earned your bestseller status, you want people to be able to continue to find your work in the months and years to come. Having the correct category as specific as possible will help tremendously.
The emotional side is about making sure that your work is something that you can be proud of and is of value. Even with the book I did with my son (the one with the reviews), I was so proud of my work, but I recognised that there were tweaks required, so I just made them. If I had been doing it just to tick off the Global bestsellers, I wouldn't have done that; I wouldn't have cared enough. It's not a feel-good win when it's the wrong energy, or the focus is off. When I'm looking for a book to help me to escape, deal with an issue or learn something new, I want that need to be met. I don't just want something taking up my space and money. Focusing on creating a specific benefit for the reader that I feel good about has helped my writing process tremendously.
This week my seventh global bestseller came out, Invisible No More. It was part of a collaborative project and reached the top twenty plus number one in several categories in five countries, YAY! Of course, it's great to know that you can hit those markers, but what's more important for me is knowing that my message, vision, and what I have to contribute are spreading around the world. Knowing my impact has the potential to reach other countries and change lives in all of these countries worldwide.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFICULT ON YOUR JOURNEY, AND WHAT WOULD YOU AVOID IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL AGAIN?
This is always a tricky question—this notion of being able to avoid or change the past. There are so many things I wish I never had to deal with - poverty, abuse, an eating disorder, being hit by a car while holding my toddler - so many things in my life that I would not want to experience again. But the caveat for me is that even with these terrible experiences, they laid the groundwork that eventually led to something unique. I often joke, "it's not the method I would have taken."
I wouldn't advise anyone to put themselves in an unsafe situation to get an outcome. But I'm grateful that there was beauty in my ashes. So I don't think there's anything that I would change. But simultaneously, I wouldn't recommend going through those hardships, even though the gifts that I got from them and the opportunities that eventually came from that manure made for beautiful flowers.
WHAT’S YOUR TOP TIP FOR ENTREPRENEURS READING THIS ARTICLE?
My top tip is similar to what I mentioned before - that there is not only power in what you do and how you're showing up, but also that people are waiting for you to show up with whatever you're here to do.
Somebody's waiting here for an accountant like you, a cleaning service like yours, and a coach like you. Whatever it is that you are here to do, someone's waiting for that. And we all have been the recipients of people who had doubts and hesitations and continued on their path, honouring the ways and what they had to share, and we are better for it.
So my top thing is recognising the power and the value of you showing up as you as opposed to trying to show up as someone else. Bring your highs, lows, and middles, wins, losses, draws, what you've learned, what you intuitively know, and even your failures and the lessons you got from those because we are waiting to benefit from that.
Even if it's someone who is not your immediate client or who will not be your primary customer, show up powerfully and in your authentic way. Because still, the ability to impact and change lives is there. I've had people who have contacted me years after I had any relationship or contact with them, who wanted me to come and speak for them or be on their advisory board. People tell me years and even decades later that they've followed my progress, watched what I was doing or listened to what I had to say and how it changed their lives, and now they're showing up in a better way. They are doing better things because of how I showed up, and that, for me, is an essential component of the work I do. I get to be a conduit of positive change. Make sure you honour yourself in your work and never discount the value of your authority, wisdom and expertise.
WHICH MOTIVATIONAL SONG WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO ADD TO THE FEMALE CEO'S #GIRLBOSS PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY FOR YOU?
It's not an up-tempo song. But one of my favourites. It's called The New Generation by Robin Thicke. I love it because the song talks about all of the promises of change and transformation when people take their destiny into their own hands and how, with the few that have the courage and the audacity to demand more from themselves and their world, how we all benefit from that, and he does it with like a dope beat. "I Am Not My Hair" by India Arie is a VERY close second.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE?
I know for sure that I am loved and that the work I do is in its purest form, a way for people to see themselves as God sees them.
DO YOU HAVE A BOOK OR FAVOURITE PODCAST RECOMMENDATION FOR OUR FEMALE CEO MEMBERS?
I don't think that I have a favourite. I read or at least listen to many books - on average, about three a week, and there are a lot of amazing ones I've enjoyed.
One of my all-time favourite books is "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein, and the companion to that "A Light in the Attic". I have loved that book since I was in grade school. Decades later, I still read it, and I get new lessons, insights, and jokes, and it's still every bit as fresh now as it was then. So I think that would be my favourite book - probably an unconventional choice.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I don't know. I mentioned my kiddo is my most outstanding achievement. And I absolutely love being an aunt to my nine nieces and nephews. I like being a wife, and I like being a sister. I like being all the other things I am and have done, but I absolutely love mothering.
Perhaps, my ability to stick to my values. I'm proud of holding on to the divine vision and calling that I've had since childhood. I'm very proud of maintaining that sense of commission from the earliest years and even now and allowing that to guide my way to help guide the choices that I make. There are many points where I could have gone to the wayside, and honestly, I have. But I always can come back to that recognition from my single digits of who I am, whose I am, and what I'm here to do.
YOU MENTIONED IN OUR CHAT THAT ALTHOUGH RESEARCH PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN YOUR BOOK WRITING FOR INTERSECTIONAL INTROVERTS, ESPECIALLY FOR INTROVERTED WOMEN OF COLOUR, YOU WERE DISMAYED TO FIND THAT ESSENTIALLY NOTHING EXISTS FROM A DATA COLLECTION STANDPOINT. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? AND HOW DO WE BEGIN TO CHANGE IT?
There are a few reasons why I think that is and what we can do to change that.
One of the main reasons I believe that there is it comes with the nature of intersectionality, which is the concept of acknowledging the different layers or facets of humanity and their ramifications. Every identity has its benefits and liabilities, but as you add more and more layers of identity, the more complex one's life experiences become, whether they are being enriched or diminished. That's, in a nutshell, paraphrasing intersectionality.
For introverted women of colour, this becomes an even more potent point, particularly for Black women and Latinas. Many stereotypes paint them as being loud, brash, aggressive, highly sexualised, and just the life of the party. For introverted Black women and Latinas, the challenge is managing your introversion in a society that far prefers extroverts—being a woman in a world that often prefers men and navigating the social consequence of contending with stereotypes and misperceptions of one's race and ethnicity and notions questioning one's suitability as representative of your demographic.
This is the challenge and the potential opportunity for introverted women of colour. There are tens of thousands of women who have shared their stories online and in interviews. Each tells almost the same story of having to walk the line of intersectionality as their introversion is weaponised against them, what that means for them, and what that means for how people react to their introversion with startling commonality. The absence of any data that reflects this reality in academia is dismaying and disappointing.
The creation of the National Center for Intersectional Studies, a research organisation committed to exploring the nuanced lived experiences of intersectional introverts. We're quantifying the experiences of this population to initiate discussion and begin to make real change in shifting perceptions and how as individuals, as well as collectively, we operate in regards to introversion and the experiences of intersectional introverts.
The opportunity is that the pandemic has revived conversations around introversion and intersectionality in the last few years. My role is to illuminate how these two coexist to create unique life experiences that add value to the environments where intersectional introverts find themselves. Even superstars demonstrate the truth that you can be both introverted and influential - you don't have to choose between the two. Beyonce is one of those people, as are Shakira, Stacey Abrams, Viola Davis, Chrissy Teigen, and Naomi Osaka. These women are vocal about their introverted nature and how aspects of their introversion have served them in owning their place in the world.
WHICH FILM, TV, OR BOOK CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH AND WHY?
I'm not sure if I have just one. There are aspects of different characters that I identify with, but just as a whole, I don't think I have a singular one.
I love Meg in the book "A Wrinkle in Time". Her persistence, intelligence, and determination to see where this path leads, I identify with that very much. Also, the show "Insecure" is another one that there are aspects I identify with, especially the main character Issa Dee. She's just trying to figure out her way in the world and trying to do good, but the more good she tries to do, the more it backfires. She has the persistence to continue anyway and wants to stumble forward into these different areas of interest and not be completely ashamed of that. I identify with that portion too.
WHAT MAKES YOU TRULY HAPPY?
Walking barefoot in lush grass on a sunny spring day when the breeze blows and the sun shines just right. THAT is the pinnacle of joy for me. Maybe, the only thing that could make it better is having a dark chocolate espresso to go with it. That's like the pinnacle of joy for me - having that exact, specific scenario.
If you would like to know more about Jacqueline and her incredible work, you can read on here. You can also catch up with her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter and Clubhouse You can also pick up a copy of her brilliant books here.