Category: Pick My Brain

Susan Mathison: Triple Board Certified Physician and Health and Wellness Columnist

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Susan Mathison: Triple Board Certified Physician and Health and Wellness Columnist

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do.

Enjoy this new installment featuring the extraordinary Dr. Susan Mathison, MD a triple board-certified physician, health and wellness columnist, founder of The Catalyst Medical Center and


Susan, you are not just a physician. You are also a blogger, a public speaker, a business mentor and an author. You have created a beautiful career for yourself and you are a role model for many women in medicine.

For young women who are considering a career in medicine, what are three questions you’d invite them to consider before enrolling in medical school?


[Susan]: Practicing medicine is so rewarding. I love this career, but at the same time, it’s not a career that I would “encourage” anyone to pursue unless they truly, deeply want to do it.

Total honesty: it is hard to be a doctor. Very hard. Many physicians feel isolated and lonely because it’s difficult to understand just how challenging the job can be, unless you’re a physician yourself.

So if this is a career you think you want, I say: be thoughtful and do some serious self-reflection before diving in.

Here are three questions to help you begin:

1. What is your motivation for choosing medicine as your career?

This question may seem overly simple (“I want to help people, of course!”) but it’s worth thinking about and examining with more depth.

If you want to help people, that’s great.


Do you want to become a dermatologist because you know, from personal experience, how agonizing and confidence-shattering it can be to deal with acne?

Do you want to become a heart specialist because you lost a beloved family member to heart disease and you want to help other families avoid that kind of tragedy?

Do you become a family practitioner because you had a wonderful role model who cared for your family and saw you through many stages of your life?

Do you want to become a sleep medicine expert because you feel heartbroken when you see people staggering around the world in a state of chronic exhaustion — operating at 50% of their full capacity — and you know they deserve better?

Try to get specific about what’s driving you to choose medicine.

If you can, try to identify a moment, a personal struggle, a story from your earlier life, or some kind of specific “pain” you see in the world that you want to alleviate. The more specific, the better.

During difficult and challenging times — like crazy midterm exams or exhausting shifts as an intern — you will need a powerful source of motivation to stop you from giving up.

Clarify your motivation, now, so that you can repeat it to yourself later.

It will help you to stay strong and keep marching.

2. Are you good at taking care of yourself — even in stressful times?

Choosing to work in medicine is a long haul career.

At minimum, you will have four years of school, three to nine years of residency and fellowship training, plus… your career!

You will have long days, long nights, erratic sleep patterns, angry patients, sad patients, highly stressful situations, big demands. There will be a LOT flying at you.

If you are the kind of person who struggles to eat well, rest deeply, plan ahead, exercise, or take care of yourself — even under low-stress situations — then a career in medicine is going to be really tough for you.

Before embarking on a career in medicine, try to solidify healthy habits for yourself, first. You are going to need all the strength you can get.

3. What does your dream practice look like?

We live in an era where many doctors work within traditional hospital systems or clinics. Most of us start out that way, and find it very gratifying.

Some choose temporary positions and travel as a locum tenens doctor, covering practices for other physicians who might be out for maternity leave, illness or even if they dared take a vacation!

And thanks to the Internet, you can do virtual consultations with patients around the world, start a blog, or release e-courses and guidebooks. You can create your own line of skincare products, develop a new healthcare app, or design a medical device. You can do a TEDx Talk, self-publish a book… the possibilities are endless and there are few restrictions.

Physicians have incredible opportunities to lead healthcare reform, to inspire audiences to take personal responsibility for their health, and so much more.

Spend some time considering what your “dream practice” or “fantasy career” in medicine might look like. Think big or small. Local or global. Traditional or unconventional.

It’s wonderful to have a vision that you can work towards. The sooner you have a clear vision, the sooner you can begin laying the groundwork to make it real! But remember, it is never too late to create a new vision and reinvent yourself.

These questions may have rattled you, and if so: that’s good. I encourage you to think carefully before committing yourself to a career with this level of stress and intensity.

But if you are certain, if you feel called, if your motivations are clear… then go for it!

The world needs skillful, loving healers. Desperately.

If you feel called to become one of those healers: Godspeed and infinite blessings. People need you. So very much.

The word “doctor” comes from a Latin word meaning “teacher.”

As a doctor, that is ultimately what your job is all about:

Being a teacher.

Teaching people how to lead happier, healthier, more beautiful lives.

A deep thank you to Susan for sharing her words of wisdom to all of you aspiring to practice medicine. Take her advice to heart as you move forward.  

And remember to always:

Find great work. Do great work. Unlock every door in your way.


Laurie Wagner: Author, Writing Instructor and Founder of 27 Powers

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Laurie Wagner

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do.

Enjoy this new installment featuring my dear friend Laurie Wagner — author, writing instructor, creator of the Telling True Stories e-course, and founder of the 27 Powers writing center in California.


Lots of people stop themselves from writing because they think, “So many other people are much better writers than me! What could I possibly have to say that anyone would want to read?” 

Any words of advice for those people?

What would you like them to know?

[Laurie]: You know, the person who answered this question best was the dancer Martha Graham when she said:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

I like this: “It’s not your business to determine how good it is.”

Your business, as someone who wants to write, is to get busy getting interested in the world around you.

Get curious. What do you think about? What are your obsessions? What do you find yourself talking about to friends? That’s what you might want to consider writing about because that’s what’s moving through you.

It’s really that simple. There’s nothing better to write about. And those writers who are “way more experienced,” they started with nothing but an idea for a story once too.

My writer friend Becky Ruiz Jenab is all about food. She’s an attentive chef and can mesmerize you with the details of sorting lentils or squeezing lemons for pie. When I asked Becky why she writes about food, she said, “By writing about your obsession, whatever it may be, that is where you ultimately discover where your sources of vitality come from.”

I love that: “sources of vitality.”

That means Becky doesn’t write about food because she thinks other people want to hear about food or because she might win a prize for it, but because sorting lentils or picking lemons from a tree fascinates her. She loses herself a little when she’s doing those things. She gets curious and she comes alive.

Becky went on:

“Anything you’re obsessed with or preoccupied by is worth writing about. No one will pay the same sort of devoted attention to it that you will; no one will bring it to life the way you can, because of that devotion; no one will see it the way you do, or live it or love it or feel it as you do. If it occupies that much space in your heart, it’s best to get it out, tell its story. It will resonate with others and have a life of its own.”

So what’s important here is not to ask yourself why others would care, but ask yourself why you care, and trust that.

Excellence comes in time after much practice. You might have to sort a lot of lentils to realize that, my goodness, they’re all different in size and color.

We live in a culture where everyone is supposed to rise to some superstar level immediately. We’re supposed to make a big splash if we’re any good. And we may, but it doesn’t happen because we’re special or have something more important than someone else to say: it happens because we get deeply interested in something so much that it wants to burst out of us. We want to share what we love.

So get busy loving.

I love racquetball. My friend Joel loves tennis, and my friend Lisa loves being a mother. That’s some of what we write about.

What do you want to write about? What do you love?

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Laurie Wagner

Find great work. Do great work. Unlock every door in your way.


Gala Darling: Lifestyle Blogger and Co-founder of The Blogcademy

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Gala Darling

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do.

Enjoy this week’s installment featuring a professional blogger whose unique spin on style and self-confidence has been featured in publications like The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan, and who has been called “the oracle of all things mystically glam.” Allow me to introduce… Gala Darling!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Gala Darling


You’ve built a formidable online empire with close to 1 million blog visitors each month. Being a “professional blogger” is a delicious dream for many people, but there’s a lot of mystery about how it’s actually done. As a pro-blogger, what are the top 3 ways that you actually make money?

[Gala]: I love that you asked this question, because there’s a lot of “mystery” about how professional bloggers actually make money… and I love having a chance to lift back the veil and explain how it’s done!

(This is one of the reasons why I co-founded a program called The Blogcademy, where — along with my friends Kat and Shauna — I teach bloggers how to start blogging at a “pro” level, and generating an income!)

If we’re talking about “the top 3 ways” that you can make money as a blogger, I would have to say:


In other words: selling advertising spots on your blog.

Product sales.

In other words: selling digital or handheld products through a “shop” on your blog.

Events & services.

In other words: using your blog as a platform to promote other things that you do, whether it’s copywriting, graphic design, personal styling, pet training, life coaching, leading writing workshops… whatever you do!

It took me several years to find the combination of “income streams” that was going to work for me and my business.

It’s definitely been an interesting road, with lots of experimentation along the way!

I started my blog in 2006, back when there weren’t a lot of blogs around.

After a few months in game, I started to sell ads, and subsisted on those for a while…

But soon, the economy crashed and businesses had to tighten their belts. No one wanted to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a month advertising on a blog, which left me in a sticky situation!

So, I tried something new. I started to write a book about style, self-confidence, travel and manifesting the magical life of your dreams… and I released the book in a digital format on my blog: one chapter per month.

Investing hundreds of hours of my time into a book project was a big risk for me… but it was also one of the most successful projects I’ve ever done. It taught me that when you take big risks, you can get big pay-offs.

Today, I still make the majority of my income through selling digital products — primarily online courses that help women to grow their self-esteem, increase their confidence, and destroy their perfectionistic tendencies.

I also make a good portion of my living from live events, whether it’s The Blogcademy, a two-day course where we teach women the ins & outs of professional blogging, or my radical self love events.

The rest of my income comes from little bits and pieces: advertising, sponsored posts, sales of my jewelry line, and special collaborations that come up from time to time.

So, to sum it up:

There are definitely a few “classic” ways to make money as a blogger:

1. Advertising.
2. Product sales.
3. Events & services.

But everyone’s blog is unique and different.

You never know what’s going to work for you unless you try something… so start anywhere and just get going!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Gala Darling

Find great work. Do great work. Unlock every door in your way.


Images: Made U Look and Corey Sleap.

Kat Williams: Founder of RockN’Roll Bride and Co-founder of The Blogcademy

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Kat Williams

Enjoy this week’s installment featuring a British blogger who spends every day of her life writing about…weddings, romance and true, everlasting love! Introducing…Kat Williams!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Kat Williams


You took a topic that you’re obsessed with — weddings! — and you turned your obsession into a blog & profitable online business. What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone who is saying, “I know what I love to do… but I have no idea how to make money, doing it?”

[Kat]: My biggest piece of advice would be… to just start!

Stop procrastinating and waiting until everything is “perfect.”

The big secret is that nothing is ever perfect, and that nobody knows what they are doing, at first. All of those bloggers and business owners who seem to “have it all together” are probably fumbling and experimenting just as much as you!

So, if you’re trying to make a living doing something that you love, just have fun with it in the beginning and see where things take you.

Don’t quit your day job (yet!). Just start playing around. Put things out there. Release products. Throw parties. Hold events. Write. Blog. Share photos.

See what resonates with people and keep experimenting. In time, you will slowly attract an audience of people who are curious about what you’re doing. Things will naturally evolve.

With one of my projects, The Blogcademy — a training program for bloggers who want to “go pro” — my business partners and I never could have imagined that it would take the direction it’s currently taking.

Today, The Blogcademy is a live workshop series with events in cities all over the world. We’ve trained over 700 students and we’ve created an online “home school” version, too.

But this didn’t just explode out of nowhere.

First? We had to just START.

We had to put that first workshop out there and see if people bought tickets…once the first one went well, we added another, and then another.

We started small… and simple.

So, if you’ve got a big passion, and want to make money doing it…just get going.

Don’t be irresponsible and invest your life savings — or go into debt — to get it off the ground.

Start, but start small.

Put things out there that are easy and inexpensive for you to make, and that make you happy, and see what happens!

If you start, you’ll have a shot at turning your passion into a business or career.

If you don’t start, you won’t have any shot at all.

That may sound blunt, but it’s the truth!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Kat Williams

Images: Shell de Mar.

Heidi Rose Robbins: Poet & Astrologer

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Heidi Rose Robbins

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do.

Enjoy this week’s installment featuring my dear friend Heidi Rose Robbins… a woman who makes her living through the mystical & creative arts, as an astrologer & poet.

Heidi is a true inspiration to me, and she is living proof that you can make a living doing what you love… no matter how “wild” or “out there” your passion may be.

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Heidi Rose Robbins


So many people write poetry in secret, never sharing their words with others.
But you’ve found the courage to share your poems in front of huge audiences, as a public speaker. You’ve also self-published a collection of poetry. You even have videos of you reciting poems on your website. What’s your biggest piece of advice for a “shy poet” who wants to start sharing poems in public?

[Heidi]: Start with you and the page.

Scribble in your favorite notebook. Don’t stop.

Tell yourself you can scratch it all out.

Be playful.

Give yourself time and space to play with the words.

And then….

When you begin to feel happy with what is forming on the page,
read it out loud to YOURSELF.

Lock yourself in a room and read it in your closet, but read it out loud.

That which is in you must be expressed outside of you.

Listen to how the words land. You’ll hear what wants to stay, what needs to change.

Change it up.

Be willing to cross out everything but one stanza and dive in again.

Read it out loud again.

Then, invite your best friend over.

Or get her on the phone.

Read it.

Out loud.

Don’t start talking when it’s done.

Let her talk.

Let him talk.

Tell your friend you want to hear what they liked.

Leave it at that.

Then, have a poetry night.

Invite 4 or 5 people.

Make a cheese plate.

Pour some wine.

Let everyone bring a poem they love or have written themselves.

Then, read YOUR poem.

Let this night be about celebration — not criticism.

Do this again and again.

Practice it.

Practice sharing.

Then, one day,

Share your poetry with the world.

Put it on Facebook, Pinterest or Google+.

Send it to your whole mailing list. (Even if that mailing list is your parents and your two friends from college).

Make a video of yourself reading it.

Post that.

Just share your gift.

Let your heart lead the way.

Be crazy bold.

Offer it up.

Press the send, submit, publish now button.

One by one, send your babies into the world.

Breathe deeply as you do so.

Then, collect them all and put them under one roof.

Self-publish a book.

That’s the easy part.

The hard part is just taking all the first baby steps to share your light

Images: Heidi Rose Robbins.

Myra Goodman: Co-Founder of Earthbound Farm Organic

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you? And when you’re looking to hire someone, what does it take to impress you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do. Enjoy this week’s installment featuring organic food producer and advisor Myra Goodman.


You’re the co-founder of a highly successful food company called Earthbound Farm Organic, with products sold in stores, worldwide. But it all started on a small farm… right in your backyard! What made you decide to go bigger? And how did it all happen?

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

[Myra]: My husband Drew and I knew virtually nothing about producing food when we moved onto our little raspberry farm in Carmel Valley, thirty years ago.

I was just twenty years old and Drew was twenty-four, and we had both grown up in New York City. Our time on the farm was just supposed to be a short stopover while I prepared to apply to graduate school for international relations.

Pretty soon, though, we both fell in love with living on the farm and we started growing greens and baby lettuces for local chefs — as well as for ourselves!

To save time, we started washing and bagging salad in individual zip-lock bags, so that making dinner each night could happen much faster.

Pre-washed salad in a bag…what a concept!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

It may seem hard to believe, but back then, when you walked into a grocery store, grabbing a quick “salad in a bag” simply wasn’t an option. You could buy a big head of iceberg lettuce, and… that’s about it.

We were convinced that “salad in a bag” could be a revolutionary product, so off we went — innocently confident that we could tackle the huge challenges of bringing a whole new product to the marketplace. We never, ever guessed that packaged organic salads would eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry.

So, what made us decide to “go bigger?” Well, basically, we didn’t have a choice! We quickly outgrew our little backyard garden. The demand for packaged salads was bigger than we could handle all by ourselves, so we started to buy lettuces from nearby farmers to get the supply that we needed.

We took out no loans for a very long time and grew slowly, by investing our earnings.

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

Many years — and many salads — later, we grew to the next level by selling Earthbound Farm to an amazing organic food company called WhiteWave Foods, which also owns Silk (best known for their non-dairy milks) and Horizon Organic (a full line of organic dairy).

Drew and I are currently advisors to WhiteWave, and it feels like the company we started in our backyard has the perfect home to grow, while preserving its original values — beautiful food, grown by people who care.

Images: Myra Goodman.