“Business owners and entrepreneurs like me tend to put ourselves last on our to do list,” affirms Carson Finkle, acting CEO of e-commerce site Tenth Street Hats and Founder & Chief Guide Officer of Create Meditation. What if business leaders challenged their instinct and put themselves first?
“Think of it this way,” explains Finkle. “If you think of yourself as the top glass in a Champagne tower, and you choose to fill up your own cup first, good things are going to overflow into the cups of those closest to you. It’s a positive cascading effect in society because you have chosen to fill up your own cup first.”
Finkle has a palpable passion for his businesses, but a bout with severe burnout prompted him to confront the mental health cost of his ambition. He was failing to put himself first and he knew other entrepreneurs could relate.
Finkle’s burnout culminated in a terrifying panic attack. While sweating through the launch of a new business, Finkle had a jarring nightmare and couldn’t wake up. When he finally came to, he was crying uncontrollably. He thought he had lost his mind.
The experience ultimately led Finkle to engage in a multitude of mindfulness practices to prioritize himself. He attended personal growth conferences, worked with a shaman, hired a business coach and read countless books. As part of his healing journey, Finkle experienced a form of breathwork that inspired him to get certified from Revelation Breathwork so he could help others. He developed his own modality and started offering free sessions at the beginning of the pandemic.
His friends referred their friends and soon, Finkle launched Create Meditation as a service to provide customizable guidance to entrepreneurs, business owners, and companies. The “transformational breathwork-meditation sessions,” in turn, help clients activate their power from within and become the idealized versions of themselves, according to Finkle.
Millennium: Tell us about the moment you recognized you needed to reconcile your professional career and your mental well-being.
Carson Finkle: A little over four years ago, I was in the start-up grind, winding down one business and starting another. After months of burning the midnight oil, I had a severe panic in my sleep that came out of nowhere–a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I found myself crying uncontrollably. It was the scariest moment of my life, as I realized that the universe was sending me a message that I need to make some changes and look inward. I went on my own personal pilgrimage to get back to me being me. To achieve this, I tried everything under the sun, from attending conferences and reading books on the subject to working with a shaman and getting every kind of Western medicine test done. After all of this trial and error, I found a form breath work that had a very profound impact on me.
MM: How did you translate this personal experience with this modality to something you could share with others?
CF: As I mentioned, along my healing journey I experienced a form of breathwork that had a profound impact on me. I received training and got certified from Revelation Breathwork. From there, I combined this training with other healing modalities that I had experienced through my own growth process, along with other personal development tools, to develop sessions I could personalize for a given client. I then started facilitating free sessions for friends and family during the early days of COVID-19. Those early subjectsstarted referring other people to me, and the concept took root. That is when I realized this could be a service business that could help many people. Most of the people I work with have not experienced breathwork before and are relatively new to the mindfulness space. Through my marketing and branding background in e-commerce, I wanted to be able to create something to give back to the world.
MM: How has Create Meditation benefitted Tenth Street Hats and your other businesses?
CF: People are still going to wear hats, and I am still the CEO of Tenth Street Hats, and an employee of its parent company, Dorfman Milano, which is celebrating its 101st year in business. My work with Create Meditation and the work I’ve done on myself has allowed me to be a better leader on behalf of my team and the company. I personally lead by example with the champagne tower analogy and try to show up with a full cup that can help fill up the cups of my direct reports, which then cascade down the organization all the way to the ending touchpoint of our customers and has a positive impact on the bottom line.
MM: How can people who are not big into meditation or familiar with the practice grasp the ideas and make it work for them?
CF: (Meditating) can be intimidating for some people, and the sessions allow me to break the process down really simply. Basically, everyone breathes all day long. And I am a big believer in that to achieve mindfulness that allows somebody to see life differently, focusing on the breath is ultimately something everyone can grasp. It’s not some out there spiritual thing. Just being able to focus on our breath can have a very profound effect on the mind, providing a gateway to the present moment. It’s about getting to the realization that one can live more in the present, rather than be worried about the future, creating to-do lists that are too ongoing or dwelling on the past.
MM: What is the general process a client goes through in a session?
CF: First there is a short questionnaire that every individual or company fills out before the session. These answers help me customize the session to their specific goals and intentions. A Create Meditation session is comprised of three pillars. The first pillar is the “Connect” pillar. During this section we use a variety of mindfulness techniques to connect the mind and body, aligning the heart’s intuition with the mind’s intention. The second pillar is the “Breathe” pillar. This section includes an active form of breathing to a custom music playlist of your choosing. As part of the pre-session questionnaire, I ask for 4-5 songs that bring you joy and 4-5 songs that “move” you. This is a lot of our Creators’ (clients) favorite part because they get to breathe to music that personally resonates with them on an emotional level. The third pillar is the “Create” pillar. After the music with the active breathing, we transition into a guided visualization practice where our Creators visualize the life they want to create. This last part is why the brand is called Create Meditation. We all have the power inside us to create the life we desire.
MM: Is the Create Meditation approach also effective for groups working at the same firm?
CF: Yes. I’ve done many group sessions with companies through Zoom, some where employees have been together in the same place, and others where they engage separately in their own home or office. I’ve also done in-person group sessions where I incorporate silent disco headphones. The biggest difference with a group session is that it is not personalized down to the individual level. Whether I’m doing a group session for a company or individual, I always start with teaching the Champagne Tower Analogy. And when it comes to business, it’s easier to explain how “showing up” for your company and colleagues allows you to bring a proverbial full cup to work, which will trickle down to those you work with, from colleagues, to clients and down to the customers with better customer service. This ultimately benefits the bottom line.
MM: Does Create Meditation replace the need for a traditional job coach or professional consultant, or can it enhance whatever consulting services a person or group undertakes?
CF: I like to think of Create Meditation as a wellness program for individuals and teams to achieve a healthier mindset. The practice is most focused on the well-being of individuals, leading to the improved well-being of the company. I don’t see it as a competing form of consulting as there’s a wide range of consulting methods. For businesses, I think my focus is primarily on the overall wellness of a company, communicating with the heads of HR and the business’ leaders to better understand the wellbeing of their employees.
MM: Is there anything that you’ve learned that you wish you had known, like way back when you did your first startup?
CF: Definitely! I wish I would have grasped the power of what a personal mindfulness practice can bring to the table for yourself as a business leader. I think a big part of our job is making the right decisions, being adaptive, and most importantly, being a very good communicator with your team. Based on feedback I have gotten from my clients, the most important benefit they received from the mindfulness process is clarity in how they approach growing or improving their businesses as well as with things in their personal life.
MM: What advice would your older self give your younger self…and by extension…today’s generation of entrepreneurs?
CF: I think we get easily caught up in the rat race of doing things and checking them off an ongoing to-do list. While I like to think that entrepreneurs are great at “doing,” they’re not very good at “being.” And “being” is the skill that takes time to develop. This is why it is important that when you leave work and you’re at home, we don’t want your mind to still be at work. Instead, you need to be present with family and friends when you’re away from the office. This is something I wish I had taken on earlier in my career, to slow down a little bit more.
MM: Why do you believe entrepreneurship is going to be a growing sector of the U.S. economy?
CF: Entrepreneurship is here to stay. In my opinion, it will probably continue to grow for a couple of reasons. First, one of the best things about the world we live in is that even with many great schools and educational opportunities out there, you can learn anything you want online. Even if you have a solid degree, the internet allows you to learn new things, develop new skills and change the course of your career. Second, if you have a business idea, it’s very easy to test your idea with little to no marketing spend to see if you have a product market fit. Through social media and other channels, you have many ways to easily reach the end consumer. Third, if you do have a product or idea that is gaining some traction or attention, there are a lot of ways to go about raising capital.
That said, mental health and burnout is so prevalent amongst entrepreneurs that the most important thing they can do for themselves is prioritize being well just as much as doing well in the present and the long term.
MM: How does technology play a role in your business?
In regard to technology, 99% of the work I do with Create Meditation is through Zoom. This is a beautiful thing. I also use Spotify as a tool to help the client curate the most inspiring music for them. Having a nice camera and microphone is also important so they will truly feel that I am with them by their side, almost in their room because they can do it from the comfort of their own home.
MM: With changes in the economy, how do you see your business making progress and helping entrepreneurs get through any downturns and challenges.?
CF: The pandemic hit us all in a multitude of ways between inventory constraints and cash flow, and I think the dust is still settling from all that. I think the economy is always going to ebb and flow. The businesses that can stick to their principles and make clear-minded decisions (without being swayed by fear) are going to succeed. Create Meditation can help because it gives business leaders the space to return to that clear state of mind and leave behind the fears that cause them to lose belief in themselves. When you’re confident, you trust in yourself and you’re clear-headed, you can make smart decisions with conviction.
Finkle wants to challenge his clients to become more aware of their breath. We all breathe, unconsciously, 22,000 times a day. With focused attention and the right mindfulness techniques, Finkle believes anyone can utilize the profound power of the breath to better handle the ups, downs and stresses of daily life and business.