Dec. 9, 2021

Grow Your Business and Impact by Casting the Widest Net with Pamela Slim

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What are your most important values and beliefs?  Are you creating your work around your mission, values and beliefs so that you work generates as much impact and reach as possible?  My special guest Pamela Slim joins me on the show today to discuss these matters as well as her brand new book, The Widest Net.  We talk about many topics, including Pam’s background as a coach who helps people create small businesses and side hustles that really work, the pain and glory involved in writing a book, and her commitment to making sure the business landscape of the future is an inclusive and connected one.  

Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker and business coach who works with small business owners ready to scale their businesses and IP. She is the author of Escape from Cubicle Nation (Penguin Portfolio, 2009), Body of Work (Penguin Portfolio, 2014), and The Widest Net (McGraw Hill, November, 2021). Pam and her husband Darryl co-founded the K’é Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, where they host scores of diverse community leaders and regular small business programming.


• [4:08] Pam’s natural ability to connect people

• [7:41 ] The origin stories for each of Pam’s three books

• [18:55] Why Pam had to confront her fears in order to write The Widest Net and how she stood up to them

• [19:41] Pam’s commitment to creating space for community members of color and her understanding of how people of color face the assumptions of people who do not know what they have experienced

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Christine Li  0:01  
Welcome back to the Make Time for Success podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Christine Li and this is episode 52. What are your most important values and beliefs? Are you creating your work around those values and beliefs and your mission so that your work generates as much impact and reach as possible. My special guest Pamela Slim, joins me on the show today to discuss these matters, as well as her brand new book, The widest net. We've talked about many topics including Pam's background as a coach who helps people create small businesses and side hustles that really work. The pain and glory involved in writing a book and her commitment her deep commitment to making sure the business landscape of the future is an inclusive and connected one. Pam Slim is an award winning author, speaker and business coach, who works with small business owners ready to scale their businesses and intellectual property. She's the author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, body of work, and the newest book The Widest Net. Pam and her husband Darrell co founded the cat Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, where they host scores of diverse community leaders and host regular Small Business programming. I enjoyed reconnecting with my friend Pam, on this episode so much. She made me cry. You're going to hear that too. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Let's go listen to it now.

Hi, I'm Dr. Christine Li and I'm a psychologist and a procrastination coach. I've helped 1000s of people move past procrastination and overwhelm so they could begin working to their potential. In this podcast, you're going to learn a powerful strategies for getting your mind, body and energy to work together so that you can focus on what's really important and accomplish the goals you want to achieve. When you start living within your full power, you're going to see how being productive can be easy, and how you can create success on demand. 

Welcome to the make time for success podcast. Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for being here. Today. I am thrilled, pleased and happy to be reunited with my friend and mentor and colleague, Pamela Slim. On this show. she very kindly agreed to come on the podcast to help promote and celebrate her new book, The widest net she is an award winning author of several books, a speaker and a business coach who I have treasured, working with knowing reading her materials I've treasured, every word she's written and my connection with her. So welcome Pam to the show. I can't wait to get our conversation started.

Pamela Slim  3:05  
Me too. I'm so happy to be here.

Christine Li  3:08  
So congratulations on doing this book. This is your third book is Am I correct around that? Yep. Okay, terrific. Again, it's called the widest net. And we plan on speaking about the widest net and its creation in depth. But first I wanted to help our audience get to know you as a person. Could you let us know what you love to do? What makes you light up? And kind of your thoughts about business and creation? You know, all those things? 

Pamela Slim  3:44  
All those things? Absolutely. Well, I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine, Richard, as we were eating lunch yesterday in a delicious Venezuelan restaurant right down the street. I have a main street Learning Lab, which I co founded with my husband Darrell, which sits right in the middle of Main Street in Mesa, Arizona. And Richard and I were just talking about all kinds of things of our life stories. And I said, you know, if I could just do anything, I would just love to sit around somewhere in a public square and look at people and then get to know them and connect them with each other connect people to opportunities. I tease folks down here. We've been here for about five years, that I'm a unpaid professional busybody. So I just I know folks, I know my neighbors, I know people walking down the street. And because I love people so much. I really love getting to know like, what are they trying to do? And of course, in particular, because the main focus we have is really in highlighting the leadership that exists but it's not seen as often from black indigenous folks of color who are in our community. In particular, I get super super excited to find amazing business owners and say, Oh wow, we have an empty Space on Main Street, what do we need to do in order to get you in that space, or, Oh, you have a really cool service or you're an artist and you paint murals, there's a new building that's going up, let's get you connected with a developer so we can get a mural up. That's my joy. That's really the center of my heart. And it is actually what my degree in college was in his community development. It was economic development using non formal education as a tool for social and economic change. The focus initially was in Latin America, because I lived in Mexico and Colombia, for my sophomore in my senior years of college. And as I got into that structure, while I love living in both places, so much, and I love the people, it didn't make sense to me to be a white 19 year old expatriate aid worker, that whole model just felt completely wrong, which I still at 55 Completely agree is wrong, I always really saw there is leadership in the community, people generally know what it is that they want to do. But there can be systemic blocks to people getting access to resources, justice, economic, you know, empowerment, etc. So that kind of led me on a whole other journey through my professional career, to the world of training and development, professional development, and then through the years and decades more into the world of business coaching, and entrepreneurship. And now I've been in business 25 years, I celebrated 25 years this year. But I think it was when I really took a stand in 2005. That's when I created my blog Escape from Cubicle Nation. And I started to work specifically with people in launching businesses, that combined the best of everything for me. So I was helping, like dreams come true. There's nothing more intoxicating to me than talking to somebody that has an idea in their head for a big world changing idea. And to actually help them bring it to life. It's just, it feels very magical to me to be part of that experience. And so that part of the journey has been really so enjoyable. And then it's just taken a whole bunch of different forms throughout the years based on different projects that I'm doing.

Christine Li  7:13  
Thank you for explaining parts of your journey. I know there are many more details that I know from social media from knowing you and Pam just shares openly about her life and her ideas and her creativity and the people she brings along with her she's a busy body in the best way.

Pamela Slim  7:33  
Maybe there's a nicer to her busy body does sort of sound Karen ish or something. But you know, Hey, I am a white soccer mom. So you know, I have that identity to

Christine Li  7:45  
she's a connector. She's a connector. Okay, one thing that I know from having started your book, the widest net is the strong message that you carry in your heart, I think that community and the system of communities around you is where you're going to find your people is where you're going to be able to serve the best. And I know that's why you founded cat in Mesa, the main street Learning Lab, Main Street Learning Lab. Exactly. And I know years ago, I learned from you a technique that I just thought I would mention here the whole idea of the garden of seeds, that you just keep a little list of people that you've met people that you've worked with people that you're thinking of, and just keeping track of, you know, what kind of people what the interactions were? What could you help them with? What could they help you with kind of having it be just a store of memory, about your relationships. And I think that that's a beautiful thing, because I like you like to talk to people or like to be in other people's business, for curiosity sake, and because it's fun, but also you get past 10 people, you start forgetting, you know what you were doing when you met them, that whole thing. So I started doing this technique, and I just really felt like, Oh, I could see my own development in the process as well. So I want to thank you for that. Okay, so let's talk about your journey as an author, and why the widest net needed to be created.

Pamela Slim  9:41  
Yeah. As I've been talking with people so much about this book, and when I was really probably midway through writing it, I did realize that it pretty much is the third in a trilogy. I am an author practitioner, so I really write about the things that I noticed from the work that I'm doing with clients. And so my first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation came out in 2009. And that was based on work that I had been doing. Since I started my blog in 2005. I started it as actually an assignment for a class with a woman named Suzanne falter, who had a class called get no now. And remember, this was pre social media. So it was just the early days of her really teaching me about how is it that you build an online presence, the whole world of online connection, online marketing was completely new to me, I had been a management consultant for 10 years, based in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley, traveled all around the country. And so I did do marketing and more relationship marketing, but I had not done anything formal or official online. So in that process, I ended up connecting with so many wonderful people really working with hundreds of people in that early stage startup of helping them move from corporate to entrepreneur. And my objective always in that work, was really to make sure that people if they decided to quit their job had a solid, viable, financially stable alternative, I would always say in escape, hating your job intensely is not a business plan. And so while I completely understand how people can feel fed up right now, at this point of history, we're all living through the Great resignation, I try not to be smug and say, I told you, so I've been telling you so since 2005, but a lot of the factors that create situations for some people that make corporate life not enjoyable, it's not everybody, a lot of folks like it. And there's nothing wrong with working in a corporate job. But for those who really want to leave, you have to have a viable business idea. I always advocate for side hustles testing and trying on the side, and having a plan so that it doesn't just become a crash and burn, especially for folks that have been in corporate a long time. When you work up to a certain salary and quality of life, you don't just immediately get that back in your first six months of being in business. Occasionally, it happens, it happened with me, but because my first move was as a consultant in a similar field, at a time in history in a place in Silicon Valley, when there was huge growth, but that's actually quite unique to have that happen. So that was really the first part of just helping people to make a viable leap, or to decide that it really wasn't for them, and to just be happier working inside a company from that work. And then being out in the field of entrepreneurship. For a couple of years, more and more people began to talk about it, it became a bit more of Vogue to talk about quitting your job, side hustles. And so I wrote body of work in 2014. With the intention of actually quelling a little bit, the thought that you're only cool and creative, if you work for yourself, it feels disrespectful. It is actually not true. Plenty of people do fantastic work in universities and nonprofits and corporations. To me, what I wanted is to create a framework for how people could think about their journey with their life and work as a body of work much like an artist would like an artist, you can have different phases of your body of work. So you might work for a company for a while, when you're building something, then you can get excited to do other work, you might go out on your own, it doesn't really matter what work mode that you're in, it matters what it is that you're building with some consciousness. So that really was the purpose of body of work. And that really more addresses what like what do you want to create? What are you passionate about? The natural thing that came out from that with clients that I worked with is okay, now I know my thing, I have my big, world changing idea or product or service or program? Where are my clients or customers, peers, partners, colleagues? And that just was the question that every single person would ask whenever they had either a new business, or if they were growing in a new area and into a new market. So that got me interested in paying attention to what were a lot of the things that I had actually learned over about 30 years of I think being a natural community builder. And I did a lot of reflection. This book is about six years in development, starting with a 23 city tour where I traveled around the country, shopping some of the early stage ideas. Then we ended up starting the Main Street learning lab here. We use the model in the book to build community here and we're so proud of the work that we've done. We have huge engagement within our local community. And then I really use it also in working with my clients to help build their businesses and their communities. So it is necessary looking back to have each of the different pieces, because you know if somebody is still in corporate and they say have a business idea, and they just want to immediately jump to what the audience is, you don't quite have enough of the pieces done, you kind of have to do what you need to to get on your own, then you really need to focus on making sure there's a, there's a viable area that you're really passionate about building. And then with that, you can take it and put it in the widest net method.

Christine Li  15:29  
That is beautiful. I love the journey of the three bucks. And I think I want to back up what Pam says. And attest that her book, the widest net, really gives you the structure of all the components that you need to have in place before you can really communicate what your mission is, and have it land with your audience and have it attract the people who are perfect for you and your mission. I am so impressed with how you put all this together your life's work in a book. And I find myself wondering, Where do you get the courage? I know you're a natural connector, but you have done things over these many years that have required a lot of vulnerability and courage at the same time. Could you talk about that? For our new entrepreneurs or people who are thinking about leaving a certain job or people who are thinking of just expanding their network for their own reasons?

Pamela Slim  16:37  
Yeah, I, I think there in understanding myself in my, in my journey, there is one part of me, where I have a huge tolerance for risk. I'm the only extrovert in my entire family of birth, my dad, mom, bonus mom, bonus dad, sister and brother are all introverts. And then my husband, and our three kids are also all introverts. So I am really the lone extrovert and I have always been the person from the time I was really little, who was interested in other people, I would sit I remember sitting and listening to my parents have conversations with their friends, I was always very comfortable like being around other adults and kind of interested in curious. And then I also just inherently had a sense of a high tolerance for risk. I wasn't afraid to be up in front of a room talking with people. And then my probably first big major courageous thing was when I decided to become an exchange student in high school, and I left I was in in no shutdown Switzerland for a year. And I had been in, you know, not a good way of really smoking a lot of pot and kind of being in a in a not good stage in my high school years. And I was noticing that things were really going a bad direction. So I had this feeling that like I have to really strongly I have to get myself out of here and be in a different situation. But I was helped by this feeling of not being afraid of making a big leap in many ways being drawn to it being drawn to do the thing that might have felt more scary. So there's one side of me that I have a big tolerance for risk. And then that followed me as I as I had experiences traveling and then you know living in other countries and college and so forth. What that's paired with, which is interesting on the kneading courage side. And you and I have had deep conversations about this, of talking about procrastination, creative patterns. And boy did this show up during the writing of this book. I was so clear of what I wanted to share was so excited to be sharing the stories that are in this book.

Because I feel so passionately about the ideas. It was so challenging to get them out of my head. And I found this like paralyzing fear sometimes of just being able to get the words out. I was very judgmental, even though I really am quite thoughtful with myself, I really try not to get in a pattern of of judging myself or beating myself up. But I just felt this very raw vulnerability when writing this book, and maybe it's because it was so deeply important to me. The other thing about it was I had a whole bunch of rejections from publishers, including my publisher who had published my first two books, and you know, those people have been around especially big New York publishing houses. It's just the name of the game. Like if you happen to be Brene Brown, who I love so dearly. That is fantastic. It is a tiny, tiny microcosm of authors who just have who sell instantly, hundreds of 1000s or millions of books and get huge deals where everybody wants them. What happened something times and this was the third, you know, book that I had, I actually had somebody who worked in the publishing company who was a dear friend, I was a very big advocate of my work. But he talked to me said, You know what, like, you probably want to be looking at some other publishers, this is actually after he had left. But he said, you know, you probably want to be looking at some other publishers, they're often looking for, like the new fresh, shiny person, you know, and like, there's an age component to that I'm 55. And, you know, I've been around, I'm a known entity, but I'm not that fresh, new, sharp kind of cutting edge. And we can see sometimes how problematic that is, especially when we look at it through the lens, as I always say, Does your stuff actually work? Like my stuff works with real people in the real world, we're doing actually really innovative, inclusive, intersectional community building here that I will argue is really unique and different than what a lot of folks are doing. But we know that some of those elements, you know, exist. So I think, because of that experience, because of just holding on during the selling of the proposal period, I faced so much rejection, and I had to really stand up and say, this is an idea worth writing about, I'm a person worth investing in. This is something that's going to make a difference, then I felt that pressure of like will a better f&b Good Pam, you know, and somehow that started to play on me. And so it was a trip to get it out. But the the thing that always keeps me going, that I always go back to, is actually the first chapter of the mission at your route. I am 100%, absolutely positively committed to doing whatever I can, in my lifetime, to increase the visibility of black indigenous folks of color leaders, my own kids are included in that my nieces and nephews, my dearest friends, peers, colleagues, neighbors, and until I lay my body down for the last time, I am willing to do that work, because there is such tremendous value, and voices and experts and so many amazing people who need to build our society of the future. And so we're, I can do something about that, I am going to do it. And that always kept me going. And so when I would be, you know, trying to just peel myself out of the table, my kids would come down, and they would rub my shoulders and I would weep. And they would say you can do it mom. And I've just looked at them and like how can I not do this work to advocate on their behalf for their future and my nieces and nephews? It's, it's so important. So that that's the thing. And I'm like, hey, my stress, like I'm well fed, well clothed, have a loving family, you know, able bodied, like, I'm good. I can handle some discomfort. So I'm glad that I did.

Christine Li  22:53  
And now ladies and gentlemen, you know why I love Pam Slim. And I feel like I have no more questions. I'm done. I'm pretty much crying because I'm not a crier. So I'm, I'm tearing up. And I love you so much. So before I go on to the next thought, I want to just reflect on what Pam just said. And that one beautiful thing that she said is when we feel pressure. And when we feel fear, it often is connected to the fact that we care about what is going on and the project we are involved in matters to us. So we need to keep standing. When we feel those feelings when we feel like we have no ground to stand on or that people aren't respecting the beauty that we're trying to offer the the offer that we're trying to offer, even even if it's just a raw idea, and that we are the parents were the owners, we're the we are the creative universe of our ideas, we need to stand up, we need to say this is what else am I here for, but to represent my ideas and make sure they get to the people who need to hear them. So this is a very general summary of what Pam was saying, I'm trying to make this a value to you, even if you're not a business owner, just because we all feel that there's something to share. We all have value. I know that's something that Pam very much lives by and believes in. And the two of us really connect on these principles and values. So thank you for sharing your experience of writing the book. Thank you for writing the book from from me to you. I'm I'm grateful for having this book in my toolbox now because it's so valuable. Can we talk about underrepresented communities in business and Your thoughts about recent events, the feedback you've gotten from people about the book, and making more space and room and connectability for people who are from underrepresented groups, people who might not have the resources and the experience of getting up on stage marketing and speaking about everything on social media, consistently things like that, what have you learned through the process of supporting these groups, making space and giving, giving focus to these groups, and also creating this book?

Pamela Slim  25:47  
Yeah, I mean, my my own point of view about racial equity, social change, and it's really informed my my best friend of 37 years Deseret. Attaway is a racial equity consultant, and a black woman. And we have had so many conversations throughout the years, I've had the benefit of so many deep conversations with an analysis, really a historical analysis and academic analysis about systems of power. And there is a very specific point of view that I bring to this work that is interesting in how it played out is we're actually starting the Main Street Learning Lab and really talking about the work and understanding what the work is, which is my point of view, that's based on my set of values and beliefs. And so everybody, as we walk through the world, we're all going to be looking at it from different perspectives. From my perspective and my point of view, there have been very specific systemic issues and structures that at the origin of the design, really were designed specifically to keep certain people out of opportunity. And we can go all the way back to the, you know, founding of the country in terms of how it is that land was taken, you know, from native folks that were here in this country to the way that enslaved people, right, we're used as free labor. So many of the ways in which these structures were built, impact how it is that our system and our structure is today. And understanding that historically understanding that in particular, when it comes to a lot of the native communities and entrepreneurs that we work with, where there has been a specific policy of invisibility, like a specific policy, starting from early on to not have people speak their language to you know, cut their hair, to forbid people from doing their traditional ceremonies to move people away from their traditional lands. And then to not talk about the history, literally, like not talk about it is if it didn't exist, I remember I was watching some kind of PBS show one day, and it was, it was in the Pacific Northwest, and it was talking about they were somewhere and they were talking about they were like in a canoe or something like that. And they were saying, Oh, yes, you know, the people here used to be like this and used to do this. And before I met my husband, before I was deeply engaged in native communities, I probably wouldn't have even noticed something like that. But it jumped out at me as if it was coming through a megaphone where I was like, What do you mean, he used to be? Folks are still 100%. Here, people are here. And so that is such an important part of the point of view that I have brought to the work here, what we say, for the mission of what we're doing here at the Main Street learning lab is to highlight the leadership that exists, but is rarely seen in our local community. And what's interesting about that dynamic is when for example, people would come in, you know, to hear about what we were doing, because of my position as a white woman, as somebody who was known as being a small business expert. Always just about 100% of the time, people would say, Well, what programs are you teaching? Pam? How are you using the words like how are you empowering these folks? What are you teaching them in order for them to be successful? And over and over and over? I would say, the problem is not that they need to be taught. The problem is there has been systemic, lack of opportunity, lack of visibility. And so our only objective here is to provide space in order for them to dream, create new things, connect and built. That's it. And that's a really, really important thing. I think just to reflect on deeply with my background in instructional design and performance improvement. You always want to look at what is the root cause for something without doing that analysis, I don't think people were intentionally trying to be, you know, negative or, or racist or anything like that. But you realize that you jump automatically to the idea that the reason why there isn't more success or visibility is because people don't have the skills or the training. And that to me like to really lay that out clearly. And then to build programs that basically just removed any barrier, like we have, almost every single program here is led by folks from the community, for the community, where we have which we often have like collaborations, it's because it's coming within the different community leaders who are saying, Hey, this is what we want to do here. And from that, where then we myself and my husband can kind of follow right what's happening and say, Hey, would this structure be useful, or now after five years, we're beginning to work on, hey, maybe we could go for some grant funding, you know, what would be useful as ways to support your program. This is something I feel so passionately that we need to be reframing the conversation in so many places, because I've heard hundreds of times now, throughout the five years, where our community members of color will say, this is how I was treated, you know, when I came into this space, and it's everything from just being treated rudely, to having assumptions made about who they were, what their skills were, to being accused of stealing if something went wrong. And that's just not acceptable in order to really be building, you know, an ecosystem. So you can tell from my enthusiasm, and verve, I am very passionate about it. But I really would love for more people to reflect and including myself every day, what are these assumptions that we're making, about why it is that somebody can't do something? Or why they may not have an opportunity? And the answer is very often not what we think.

Christine Li  31:59  
Yes, and talk about a relevant and current frame. To look at the current problems through ears, you're talking about your, you know, pitching the book proposal, and getting the feeling that you might not be current based on how people were treating you, when really, your thought is actually innovative and cutting edge, and respectful of the communities of people that you serve, and you work with and you help. And when I was thinking, just creatively before getting on line with you for this recording, I was thinking about how having a big sense of deep sense of community and the people around you. And the space around you is something that is so much a part of different cultures, that may not be something that fits in maybe a corporate culture, or a startup culture, depending on who's guiding it and structuring the vibe of that culture. And I love personally love you and love the fact that you're just naturally wired life at your wire to see who's around you and to respect them, and to support them and lift them up and have them thrive and have them be economically safe and strong and valued by other people for what they bring. So thank you for being you, thank you for coming on to the podcast. Thank you for being brave enough to put together something as beautiful as the widest net. And I want you to please share with our listeners, how our listeners can stay in touch with you, and also get the book.

Pamela Slim  33:52  
Absolutely. So you can always find me at That's where I have everything related to what I'm doing, including the book. I am excited in 2022, I'll be doing a whole number of cohort based classes around the method we'll be doing, hopefully, if everything is safe, and the CDC says it's okay, we'll be doing some in person events as well and retreats around the method to bring people here I'm really excited, as I've been talking about the book to find a lot of people around the country and even around the world who are really interested to hear about what not just me, but scores of different partners are doing together as we're really looking to build an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. And we're just super excited to welcome people from different places where we can share what we have done to connect with each other and to support the broader community. And then to also see what we can do to be supporting similar things for people in other places. So these are some of the exciting ways that that I'm really excited to be working with more folks. But everything will just be at Pamela Slim, calm and And you can find the book anywhere books are sold. So, online Amazon, your small business, you know, if you'd like to support local bookstores, which is great, you can just have them go ahead and order it.

Christine Li  35:10  
Thank you, Pam. I'm excited to join in next year in your creation and ecosystem of opportunities that will arise from the book. So proud of you so grateful for you and your work. Thank you so much again for being on the show. 

Pamela Slim  35:25  
Thanks for having me. 

Christine Li  35:27  
Okay, everyone, we will see you next week. Take care. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Make Time for Success podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard, you can subscribe to make sure you get notified of upcoming episodes. You can also visit our website for past episodes, show notes and all the resources we mentioned on the show. Feel free to connect with me over on Instagram too. You can find me there under the name procrastination coach. Send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about the episodes you've been listening to. And let me know any topics that you might like me to talk about on the show. I'd love to hear all about how you're making time for success. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by

Pamela SlimProfile Photo

Pamela Slim

Author/Speaker/Business Coach

Pamela Slim is an award-winner author, speaker and business coach who works with small business owners ready to scale their businesses and IP. She is the author of Escape from Cubicle Nation (Penguin Portfolio, 2009) and Body of Work (Penguin Portfolio, 2014) and the upcoming The Widest Net (McGraw Hill, November, 2021). Pam and her husband Darryl co-founded the K’é Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, where they host scores of diverse community leaders and regular small business programming.