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Gracious & Strong Podcast with Celia Swanson
The following is a transcription of a podcast and may contain grammatical errors.
Celia Swanson: Hi everyone. I’m Celia Swanson, and I want to welcome you to today’s Gracious and Strong podcast, where you can discover the authentic and resilient leader inside of you.
Hello listeners, and welcome to the Gracious and Strong podcast. You have tuned into such a special episode. The reason this episode is going to be one of my favorites is because I invited the most important person in my life to be my guest today. Her name is Kyndall Swanson, my daughter. I’m so proud to be able to introduce you to her, but I’m also very grateful to her for being willing to open up and be candid and share some stories and some lessons that we both experienced so far along our journey—feedback from what was it like to have a career minded mom to how have we influenced each other along the way. I hope you’ll hear some nuggets of lessons we’ve learned, feedback you can take and apply in your lives, and just a few special moments that we’ll be heartwarming as you listen to our conversation. I hope that you will enjoy this episode. And I thank you so much for joining us. Happy Mother’s Day.
I’m excited to introduce you all to Kyndall and for us to share a bit about what it was like to have such a career-minded mom. What were some of the influences that both she had on me and I had on her? And, last, some tips and nuggets on how to navigate different roles, being a parent, being in a career, being a daughter and then being a member of a strong family. So let’s start by a brief introduction to Kyndall Swanson. Kyndall is 27 years old. She was born in Denver, Colorado, but at eight months old moved to Bentonville, Arkansas. So she calls Bentonville, Arkansas home. She went to public school after completing a few years in the Montessori school system and then made the decision to go just slightly away for college, came back, started her career, and then got her master’s degree. So I’m very, very proud of my daughter. And I think this is a special opportunity, Kyndall, and I can’t thank you enough for saying yes to be part of this podcast today.
Kyndall Swanson: Well, thank you. I’m really excited to get to join you and answer a few questions.
Celia Swanson: Awesome. Well, let’s jump in and I’m going to start with my question, and we’re just going to go back and forth and dialogue with each other. So my first question is what was it like from your perspective to have a mom who was so career-focused and career-minded?
Kyndall Swanson: Growing up, it was tough at times because everyone had their moms around them getting them ready for dance recital, taking them to school, et cetera. And I had Dad doing those things. And at that time, it really wasn’t normal for dads to be the stay-at-home dad taking care of kids. So it really forced us as a family to find out what our normal was. Both you and dad were both very good at making sure I knew where you were. So if you wouldn’t be at certain things or if you were out traveling and you wouldn’t make it home for dinner, I really never wondered where you were or questioned why you weren’t there. I knew you were, you were working. But as I started getting older, I was really able to appreciate the things that you were doing and that you had done and became really impressed with your work ethic. I do remember a time where Dad and I were out for dinner, and you showed up with your hair completely shaved off. Half of it was blue and half of it was green. I was mortified at the time. I could not understand why in the world you would do that for your team, but now looking back, I’m honestly in awe of the lengths that you would go to, to help your team and push them and get them to reach their goals. So seeing you be such a champion and an advocate for your team really helped me learn from a young age, just how important people are and how you treat them as everything. So it may have been hard for me not having you around as much as I wanted, but I was really able to watch you and learn so many lessons that I’ve really continued to use my whole life.
Celia Swanson: Oh, that’s sweet. But I’m going to fill in a little bit for the listeners about that haircut and color story. Because I remember that day just like it happened yesterday. And this was when I was working at Sam’s Club, and I had been out visiting clubs, and I visited a club that was in the process of moving from an old building to a brand new building across the street. But one of the critical components of success for that building, that they would expand their membership base by double at least. And they weren’t doing very well on that challenge. And so I got caught up in the moment. There were other challenges and things going on in the morning meeting and with the associates to get them motivated and excited about their new future. And so, I got into the moment and said, if you double your membership quantity and overall membership revenue, double the number of members I’ll shave my head, and you know, I’ll be extremely proud of you. And, sure enough, I didn’t think it was even possible. So I didn’t think I was actually creating an award, a prize, whatever you want to call it, that I was going to have to live up to. But the fact of the matter is they, they far exceeded doubling their membership base. And so I had to pay off and I had told you and Dad, I was possibly going to get my head shaved. So I thought the alternative was a lot better because they didn’t shave my head. They just cut it super short. And one half was dyed blue and one half was dyed green for the two colors of Sam’s Club. And you’re right, that was all about doing what I said I was going to do and integrity, because I had made that commitment. The team had exceeded the challenge goal they did by far and away and I had to pay off, and I felt it important to pay publicly. And so this happened after a fall managers’ meeting and actually my head was shaved and died on stage in front of all the store managers. So, that’s the backstory of that, but I remember how mortified you and Dad were.
Kyndall Swanson: Oh, I could not believe that you actually went through with it. But like I said, looking back now, it really shows just how important it was to you to keep true to your word and to make sure your people knew you’re gonna do exactly what you say. And if they could hit a goal, you would be there for them.
Celia Swanson: Yes. I love that. You’ve got the point of that.
Kyndall Swanson: So, let me ask you a question now: What would you consider as your purpose and mission as you were building your career and how did work in your family life intersect in that purpose?
Celia Swanson: That question has a lot of layers, Kyndall. So I’ll, I’ll dig in. When I was growing through the rank and file in my career, I was often the first woman in the boardroom or in a conversation, and I felt a sense of responsibility to represent all other women who didn’t have a seat at that table and to share my perspectives that were different from the other people sitting around the table or in the conversation or in the room. But that took me a while. In the beginning, that was hard to find my self-confidence from that perspective. But once I understood how important it was to bring a different perspective to conversations, and I was uniquely qualified to do that, I found it really important to find my voice and to use my voice in every opportunity that was available to me, to help share a perspective different from what others might’ve experienced or what others would understand. And I crafted my ability to share my voice and was able to work on the delivery of the message that I wanted to share, the succinctness, and the quality of what I was sharing so that it was value-added when I had the opportunity to speak. But, I’ll tell you, the intersection of work and family life was a tough one for me because when your dad and I got married, we said we were, you know, a DINK couple at that time: double income, no kids. And that was how we decided to approach life. We were both very career-minded with high aspirations—and we were married for 17 years—your dad was 45 years old and he turned to me and said, I think there’s more to life. And I looked at him and said, What? And he said, I think we’re missing out by not having children. And I’d like to change that if we could. Well, I was shocked because things were working out very well. Success seemed to be continuing in my career and in his career, but I took a pause and said, okay maybe we are, and we were very fortunate to get pregnant pretty quickly. And you came along into our lives. And I can’t imagine not having you as a central component to who your dad and I became, the role of being a parent, and just the ability to now be with you at this stage of life and a very healthy and wonderful relationship with my daughter.
I’ll also tell you the impact on work made me much more empathetic. I was a hard charger all the way through my career, and I didn’t have a lot of tolerance for leaders or people on my team who said, Hey, I’m late to work today because I needed to, my daughter was sick or I needed to take my child to school today and it was unexpected. And I really had no tolerance for that. And, in fact, the president of the company at the time when we were in Denver, Colorado, he said, boy, I think one of the best things you could ever do is to have a child because you really need to understand that not everything is about the job, that there’s a wholeness to who you are and should being, can be. And I’d suggest becoming a parent would be a really great thing to do. And he was absolutely right. And your dad was absolutely right.
Kyndall Swanson: Well, if you ask me, I think becoming a parent was the best thing you’ve done.
Celia Swanson: [laughing] I would agree with that Kyndall. You know, I would say even now, maybe even, especially now, I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I didn’t just see the world through the lens of a strong career-minded woman. I’m so glad that God gave me the opportunity to be a parent, that I have a healthy, wonderful career and family minded daughter. And that now, and I often say to folks in their careers, it’s your family that’s going to get you through all the ups and downs and the changes in life and what you leave as a legacy in your career you want to be proud of. But what you leave as a legacy with your family and your children is what you just should be driving to achieve every day.
Kyndall Swanson: I agree with that. And you definitely instilled that in me from a young age.
Celia Swanson: I’m glad to hear that, sweetheart. Okay. I think it’s my turn to ask you a question. So is there anything you’d wish you’d said to me, or, or anything you would’ve changed while you were growing up?
Kyndall Swanson: Yeah. So this is one that I don’t think I’ve even talked to you much about. But I really do wish I would have thanked you more. I think you had to make a lot of really tough decisions between work and family. And sometimes I wasn’t always the nicest about it. And sometimes I did take it personally, but now that I’m in this stage of my life and having my own career, I really understand the weight of the decisions that you had to make and I’m absolutely sure that my attitude that came along with your decisions really only made things harder for you. So going back and thanking you for those hard decisions. Yes, there were times that you couldn’t be there when I wanted you to be there, but I understand now how much that did weigh on you. Whereas at the time I took it personally. But I being in this situation now, I don’t think I could have handled those situations with the grace that you did. So I really, I do just want to say thank you for all the times that you just put up with my attitude and went about your business and said, okay, it’s okay. You never took it personally. And I think that was, that was huge for me, that you never took that personally. And you understood from my perspective as well. So again, I just, I do. I just want to thank you for all those times.
Kyndall Swanson: I love you, sweetheart. That’s very sweet. I don’t know if you’ve ever really looked behind me in my office. It’s directly behind my office chair, but it’s a piece of art that you created for me. And I think it was for Mother’s Day. And it’s a beautiful picture of a rose and your message in there is thank you, mom, for everything you’ve done for me. So you thanked me a whole lot, but it’s especially meaningful all through life. But now as a 27 year old young woman, who’s figuring out what her next phase of life is going to be like in a relationship, as a parent, it warms my heart that we can have these kinds of conversations and talk through situations of, and decisions of life that are really important. But I appreciate that thanking me. You really did it much more than you might’ve thought you did have quite an attitude though, I’ll tell you that.
Kyndall Swanson: Yeah, I did, and I apologize for that.
Celia Swanson: You got a double dose from your dad and for me, so that’s all right. Okay. Your turn.
Kyndall Swanson: Yep. So the next question that I have for you, is there anything that you would change about how you approached work and motherhood?
Celia Swanson: Yes. The first thing is I wish I would have had you at, you know, much earlier years. I think Dad and I had to have a sense of solid footing, and we didn’t want to bring a child into an environment where we weren’t already established and successful. So having you in a little later stage in life was clearly a conscious choice, but I think I would had more children at least one more, maybe two, if we had started earlier. By the time you came along into our lives, we were both exhausted from a small child with a baby, I guess. And it took us a while before we even thought about whether or not there’d be any more kids. And that just wasn’t possible according to the biological clock, by that point in time. I think the other thing that I would say is I do feel responsible for the fact, and I am responsible for the fact that you don’t have a brother or a sister. And while I think that there are wonderful benefits of being an only child, there are some substantial limitations from that as well, not having a brother or a sister. And, and so that would be the other thing is just, you know, making sure that you’re surrounded by family, by friends so that you feel you’ve got this sense of brothers and sisters all around you that’d be the other thing.
Okay. Let me ask you the next question. So Kyndall, how has my career shaped your own thinking and influence on your career and how you envision your future work and family?
Kyndall Swanson: Yeah, so I really am fortunate that I was able to learn from you being such a successful woman in my life. I really did take your passion for people and now have my own career in HR, and I absolutely love it. I couldn’t imagine being in any other space in business. So really watching everything that you did and you were able to do throughout your career, pushes me to do more and to do my best and to go after every opportunity that I’m presented with. You really instilled a confidence in me that I take with me in both my career and my personal life. While I don’t have any kids yet, one of my dreams is to be a mom. I want to take that same confidence and instill that in my children. And I want them to know that they can be and do anything if they work hard, and I want to show them what a hard working woman is. However, growing up, I did wish you were around more. So I’ll take that and use that lesson with my own family. Family is going to be my first priority while I know that will be very difficult in making decisions between work and family. I think for me, I will make sure that I’m present with my family a little more. I was extremely lucky that I had you and Dad who taught me so many lessons growing up. And I still continue to learn from you every single day with both my career and my personal life. And I, I just feel extremely lucky that I get to take all those lessons from my childhood and live them out now in my career and in the process of getting ready to start a family.
Celia Swanson: Oh, that’s good. I would tell you as a young girl, you were so shy and this is, you know, I think age five or six. And I remember Ms. Heather telling us a story about Dad had, she was picking up some older kids from school and Ms. Heather was a teacher at your school. And so he asked if she wouldn’t mind bringing you home. And he said, I don’t know if it’ll be just dead silence, drive home, or if Kyndall will feel comfortable and open up and have a conversation with you. And when Heather dropped you off at home, David asked, how did she do? Heather laughs today and still says, she just talked and talked, and talked and talked. She never shut up. She was just so adult in our conversation, but very talkative. And I think that was the day your Dad, and I knew, okay, she’s not going to be a shy person for the rest of her life. We just needed to get her into an environment where she felt like she could be herself and your confidence came through. And I’m so proud of you for being as confident as you are right now. We’ll talk about that in a little bit, but I remember that story. Well, you probably remember that story too.
So Kyndall, tell me a little bit, I call it a tornado story, but what’s one of the things you remember most about me as I, as you were growing up and as I was going off to work?
Kyndall Swanson: Yeah. So I remember telling you this, and you didn’t even know that this was something Dad and I used to talk about all the time. And one day I told you, yeah, we used to call you a tornado in the mornings. And you said, what, why, why would you call me that? And I said, well, you were kind of my alarm clock every day, around five 30 in the morning, I would hear you just click, click, click, click, click, click your heels, going down the hardwood. And I would know, oh, okay, stay a little bit away because she is out the door. It was when you were ready to go, you were leaving. Do not get in her way. She is out the door and going to work. And Dad and I used to laugh about that and just say, okay, the tornado is going through.
Celia Swanson: Well, I was mortified when you told me that, and this was something you just recently told me—mortified, that that would be the memory of your mom heading to work. I do say I have to own that. That’s exactly how it was, although it was closer to 7:00 AM than 5:30. But you know, that I had a purpose and a mission, and I was focused and you just really learn that you didn’t get in my way. I’m not proud of that story because, gosh, I wish I had been more compassionate maybe and sensitive, but I wasn’t, and I have to own every part of that story, but it was because I was focused and driven and I had things, places to go and things to do. So I thought it was actually mortifying, but it didn’t scar you for life. Did it?
Kyndall Swanson: It did not. No, I never, I never saw it as a bad thing. We just knew. All right. It’s time for her to go. You just stay out of the way for a little bit. And then we would start our routine. The second you walk out the door, it was okay, Dad and Kyndall’s routine. Get up, get ready, go to school.
Celia Swanson: Which I’m thrilled you guys had such a strong bond and routine. So my next question for you is how much do you lean on me today for career advice? Do you lean on me heavily or not hardly at all?
Kyndall Swanson: When I first started my career, I really tried not to lean on you. I had that mindset of, I need to do this on my own, and I need to figure it out my own way. But one lesson that you taught me growing up is that you really do need to use the tools provided for you. And I remember thinking to myself one day being in a hard situation, why in the world would I not ask advice for someone who’s been through far more, and has some of the best advice I could possibly ask for? So now I do go to you frequently for advice—probably more frequently than you would love, but I do. I’ll call you just randomly and say, Hey, here’s something that’s going on. How do I navigate this? There’s been some advice you’ve given me that I did not like. And I thought to myself, well, of course you would say that you’re my mom. And really having to take a step back and remember, okay, you are my mom, but you’re also extremely successful. And you’ve accomplished so much as a woman in business and or personal life that I need to remember. I’m very lucky that I get this advice. And there are a lot of people who would be just absolutely grateful to get this. So it’s taken a little bit to kind of navigate through my mom being such a successful business woman and really making sure that I take all of your advice with a grain of salt. I remember, well, she is my mom, but she’s also been through this and she has some of the best advice that I could possibly ask for. So I do appreciate all the advice you give me whether I act like it or not at the time.
Celia Swanson: That’s true. You know, I love it when you ask me career advice. I do know that the generation differences between you going through your, your career today versus what it was like when I was going through my career are very different. And so sometimes my approach recommendation is one that you you’re like, no, I’m not going to try that. That would be disaster if I tried that, but I love it when you call and you ask advice and any piece of it that you use just always makes me proud. But the fact that you even wanted to ask is the thing that’s most important to me. So thank you for that. Okay.
Kyndall Swanson: My next question for you what are three words that you would use to describe me?
Celia Swanson: Fearless, confident and grounded would be the three words I would use to describe you. Fearless in the fact that you just never seem to shy away from big decisions that you have to make in your life. And you approach them with extreme expectation that you’re going to navigate those very successfully. And one was when you came to me and said, Hey, it’s crazy for me to be paying rent. I actually should be purchasing a home and building some equity. And I’ll tell you, sweetheart, that was one day when I went, oh my gosh, my daughter’s growing up. And I was so very proud of you. Confident, you talked about it earlier in this discussion, but you do have just a strong sense of confidence about you and for women, especially, that’s a hard thing to learn and develop, but you were being groomed to be confident from the early stages of the horse stables and learning how to care for horses. And your dad was adamant that he was going to raise a confident woman. And I’ll say I was a role model of confidence. Most of the time you saw me when I wasn’t confident in certain situations, but the importance of confidence is I’m so proud of you being a confident woman today. And then grounded; you’re very logical. You can debate really, really well. You can defend your decisions really well based on logic. And you’re just really grounded in who you are and who you are not. And you don’t try to pretend to be anything that you’re not. That’s why I picked those three words.
Kyndall Swanson: Oh, well, I do want to touch on. You said I saw you at times when you weren’t as confident. And I think that’s just as important as seeing you when you are your most confident. I think a lot of times people portray this perfect that they’ve got it all together all the time. And, I think it was really important for me to see the times where you didn’t, you weren’t confident you were shaken and you had to lean on myself and Dad to help you through that time. And that’s helped me a lot knowing, okay, there are going to be times in my life where I don’t have it all together, and that’s okay. That’s when it’s most important to lean on you and family and just say, hey, I need help. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. And seeing you do that really it, that gave me confidence in that as well that, hey, this is okay. It’s okay. Not to be okay. Sometimes lean on others and keep pushing through.
Celia Swanson: So I appreciate that as well. Yeah. It’s interesting to hear you say that. First of all, nobody has a perfect life and while it might look like that from the exterior—far from, it was me or you, or, you know, our conditions growing up and our situations, they were fraught with moments of lack of confidence and fearful situations. But I’m glad to hear you say that you appreciated seeing those opportunities or those moments, I guess, as well, because they were as formative for you as were the most confident situations. So I appreciate that perspective, but the lesson is not everybody’s perfect. And so learn from learn from those times when you’re not so perfect as well.
So Kyndall I’m going to turn the tables on you and say, what three words would you use to describe me?
Celia Swanson: Confident would be one. Graceful and strong, which I know that that, you know, comes straight from your book, but I think it truly is the best way to describe you. We’ve talked about confidence throughout this. And like I said, you had a lot of it and it, you instilled it in me. But gracious and strong in the fact that no matter what was thrown your way, whether you were freaking out inside or whether you didn’t want it to be the way that it was, you never let anyone see that. You always handled it with grace. I still remember after Dad passed away looking at you and saying, what do we do? What do we do now? And just the way that you approached it, you were strong for me when I needed it. I was strong for you when you needed it, but you showed me how to get through it with grace. Yeah. It was a really bad situation that neither one of us asked for, but we needed to navigate it in a way that we would be proud of when it was all said and done. And you’ve done that so many times with everything in our life, everything that’s been thrown at us, you’ve handled it with grace and you show me exactly how to do that and how to be strong for others when they need it, how to be strong for yourself, but also how to have those weaker moments and how to lean on others as well.
Celia Swanson: Well, thank you, Kyndall. This is where I’m getting touched now by your messaging. So then your words, thank you.
Kyndall Swanson: My last question for you is what about me makes you feel most proud? Kyndall? I could go on for a long, long time, but I would start by saying you are your authentic self day in and day out. You know, you are, you don’t pretend to be somebody that you aren’t, and I can count on that. And having somebody who you can count on really matters in life. The second thing that I’m most proud of is that you tackle anything that’s in front of you with urgency. I don’t see you procrastinate. I see you tackle things, and you’ve gotten very good at asking for assistance, if it’s really needed, and shaping your perspective about how you’re going to show up in a situation, what you really want the outcome to be. But you’re much, you’re, you’re so clear about how you navigate through really difficult situations and, and you make sure that you’re going to be equipped with all the tools necessary to accomplish your goals. And last, I would say I’m most proud of the woman you have become. You didn’t get distracted in life by shiny objects, meaning you didn’t get derailed and not navigate through life in an unhealthy way. While you were a kid—nd sometimes a disobedient kid—coming up in life, you used those lessons and skills to just stretch the boundaries of what’s possible for you now. And so I appreciate so much how you are shaping up to be, I think, a great mom, a great wife, and a wonderful, wonderful daughter.
Kyndall Swasnon: Oh, well, thank you, mom. Those words really mean a lot to me. So thank you.
Celia Swanson: My gift to you today. So now I’m going to ask you the same thing, Kyndall, what makes you most proud of me?
Kyndall Swanson: If I could narrow it down to one thing, it would be how you treat people around you. You truly have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, and you take time to get to know the people around you growing up. I remember always being so annoyed; we could not go to a restaurant or anywhere without somebody recognizing you to the point that we went on two separate trips, one to Chicago and one to New York, and in both places, we had people come up to you and say, are you Celia Swanson? And I’m like, you have got to be kidding me. We cannot go anywhere. But the reason that is, is because you touch a lot of people. You care about them. You take time to really understand your people in your audience, and you use that to make sure that you’re investing in them and you’re connecting with them. And it shows because people around the United States know who you are. And thank you for what you’ve done for them, for some of the messages that you’ve said or things that you’ve done for your people in business or so many different things. And, I really am so proud of how you take time to do that and how you connect with so many people, because people truly do mean the world to you. And, I take that as a lesson for myself, and really, truly try to make sure that I’m doing the same thing, to put my best into others and connect and be the best for people around me. So I’m very proud on how much you care for people and how much you invest in them.
Celia Swanson: I am thrilled with that answer, Kyndall. It makes me very happy to hear that’s how you would describe me and what you are most proud of.
Kyndall Swanson: One final thing to close this. I would like to just say that, you know, although it was tough at times, having a mom who was working so hard, I would not change a single thing. I know you and I have had this conversation before, that at the time it was tough. And I won’t lie about that. And looking back, you know that, too. And there are things that both of us would change, but being in my own career and in a relationship and getting to the point where I do want to have children in the near future, I just feel so lucky that I had someone who could show me what hard work does for women. Because I didn’t at the time, there, there really were not a lot of women who were doing what you were doing. So having a mom that was able to go to work and able to lead so many people and have so many people look up to you, but then come home and you were just my mom. It wasn’t anything, you know, and everyone always comes up and says, do you know how great your mom is? And I said, I do, but I know it from a different perspective. I’m very lucky that I got to know a completely different side to you. And I’m very lucky that I had a dad who was there and who would take the slack and say, I’ve got it. If you need to go, I’ve got it. So I appreciate everything that you and Dad did for me and what you continue to do for me. And I’m very, very blessed and lucky to call you my mom.
Celia Swanson: I can’t, you have a better way to close out other than to say, I’m very blessed and proud to have you as my daughter.