Ash Beckham, a celebrated author, corporate trainer, and captivating keynote speaker, brings a wealth of experience to the table, including powerful TEDx Talks like “Coming Out of Your Closet,” which have amassed over 15 million views. In this episode, Christina and Ash discuss her latest book, “Step Up,” which sheds light on the critical need for empathy, embracing discomfort as a catalyst for personal growth, and the vital role of understanding diverse viewpoints, even those that may challenge our beliefs.

Throughout the conversation, Ash shares profound insights that offer guidance in navigating life’s complex challenges. She emphasizes the true essence of courage, clarifying that it isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to confront it head-on. Delving into her personal journey as a new parent in her 50s, she candidly reveals the joys and unique hurdles of raising young children.

Ash’s wisdom and infectious optimism add depth to our exploration of empathy, courage, and personal development. Join us for an enlightening discussion that’s sure to resonate with you!

Becoming an Expert

Ash Beckham is an author and renowned speaker whose talks have reached millions on YouTube. Ash’s journey towards authenticity and success started from unexpected beginnings. As she was transitioning from a corporate job to embracing various side gigs in Boulder, Colorado, Ash attended an event called Ignite Boulder that sparked her desire to connect with people through impactful storytelling.

The event challenged speakers to condense their messages into five-minute slots with auto-advancing slides. This inspired Ash to step up and share her passionate stance against using the word “gay” negatively. Her initial traction online led her to pursue a TED talk, a significant milestone in her journey, supported by valuable coaching that refined her story. While grappling with the perception of being an “expert,” it took time for Ash to align with that label internally.

Her story includes unexpected turns that led to a career shaped by embracing authenticity and seizing opportunities that weren’t initially planned.

Unintentional Advocacy

As Ash learned to embrace the label of “expert,” another label was popping up—unintentional advocate. Although Ash felt generally safe living openly in Boulder, Colorado, a progressive community, she realized the importance of being a visible part of the LGBTQ+ community for her nieces, nephews, and close family friends.

Ash recognized that these kids might face questions about having two moms or aunts and wanted them to have answers before being put on the spot. Her objective was to normalize diverse family structures—things aren’t weird until someone makes them weird. Using her platform, Ash felt a responsibility to have these conversations. She acknowledged her privilege and the necessity to create dialogue and understanding, and she steered away from a preachy tone by using humor and self-deprecation to connect with others.

Thinking back to when discussing LGBTQ+ matters was considered taboo, younger generations come to the conversation with acceptance and openness. Ash’s talk, “Coming Out of Your Closet,” acts as a message—not just for a specific group but for everyone to understand and embrace differences.

The evolution of societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ issues is promising. To ensure that these perspectives continue evolving and improving, it is important that advocates understand the significance of personal stories and relatability in fostering understanding and acceptance.

Secrets: A Common Emotional Thread

Have you ever had a secret that you’ve had to carry alone? The longer you carry it, the heavier it gets. While societal attitudes have improved, there are still many folks who belong to the LGBTQ+ community who don’t have a great support system and are hiding their identities. 

The experience of hiding something significant is something most people understand—people hide all sorts of secrets, be it personal struggles, hidden illnesses, financial hardships, or undisclosed aspects of identity. Ash highlights the shared feeling of fear or discomfort when revealing these hidden aspects—it’s like being in a metaphorical “closet,” a relatable sensation for everyone.

The core message centers on empathy and understanding. Ash suggests that if people can relate to the emotional weight of hiding something significant, they can bridge the gap between experiences. It’s about recognizing that everyone has their struggles and challenges, regardless of their nature or scale. By focusing on the common emotional thread of difficulty in revealing oneself, people can foster compassion and empathy towards each other’s journeys.

The Essence of Authenticity

As people have the courage to share their authentic selves, the idea of true authenticity is explored. Christina and Ash unpack the often overused term “authenticity” and explore its true essence. 

Ash shares her journey into authenticity, notably through her TED Talk and the guidance of her speaker coach, Erin Wade. They redefine authenticity not as a fixed destination but as an ongoing practice and journey. Ash emphasizes that authenticity evolves with time, influenced by shifting emotions, desires, and experiences throughout life.

She breaks down authenticity into layers: verifiable aspects like age or marital status, ever-changing emotional facets, and understanding personal desires. Ash highlights the significance of internal introspection and knowing oneself deeply before presenting that authenticity externally.

Additionally, Ash distinguishes between transparency and authenticity—being fully authentic doesn’t necessitate divulging everything but sharing enough to create genuine connections. Deep authenticity is nuanced, contrary to the simplistic portrayals often seen in mainstream media or self-help narratives.

The fluidity of authenticity is shaped by personal growth, experiences, and self-reflection. It’s not a one-size-fits-all concept but an ongoing process of recalibration as individuals navigate life’s diverse situations and changes.

Raising Kids Later in Life

An important role of Ash’s is her role as a parent in her 50s. In her unique perspective as an older parent, Ash discovered the wisdom that comes with age that aids in parenting, but also the additional challenges raising young children in your 50s can bring. Ash jokes that while her mind may be embracing parenthood, her knees seem to be over it.

There is a different mindset that comes with being an older parent. There is constant consideration of the future, and a desire to witness and be part of her children’s lives for as long as possible is something she considers differently than a younger parent would. 

Raising children in your 50s forces more mindfulness around health—taking care of yourself is even more important now. Ash also touches on the experience of having a child born prematurely and how her age informed her approach to handling such a situation.

Parenting demands adaptability and resilience regardless of one’s age, but the distinct perspectives and considerations that come with being an older parent resonate with those in similar situations and offer a glimpse into the varied experiences within parenthood.

Fostering Genuine Curiosity Leads to Empathy

The conversation turns to Ash’s powerful book, “Step Up.” The first crucial pillar she shares is empathy. 

Practicing empathy helps us understand others, especially those with contrasting beliefs or opinions. In today’s society, there is a polarization that impedes recognizing shared humanity despite differing ideologies. Ash advocates for a curiosity-driven approach—seek to simply understand others without trying to change their minds. Learning how to foster genuine curiosity about others’ experiences can improve empathy, and let’s face it, make this a kinder world.

The essence of authenticity intertwines with empathy—empathy is not a task one performs but a trait embedded in one’s way of life. It influences interactions in both personal and professional settings.

Ash believes it requires a fundamental willingness and curiosity in individuals to learn from others. Genuine connections and shared interests can serve as entry points to understanding others on a deeper level, beyond how they relate to us.

While empathy comes more naturally to some, everyone can benefit from fostering curiosity and a willingness to understand others—it’s essential and can help anyone learn to develop and maintain empathy in an increasingly divided society.

The Power of Embracing Failure

The second pillar from her book, “Step Up,” is courage. It’s important to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace discomfort as a catalyst for growth. Using the analogy of a kid on a high dive, Ash illustrates that fear is subjective and can be felt regardless of the height. Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to proceed despite it.

She encourages incremental steps into discomfort, urging individuals to push their limits slightly to expand their comfort zones. Courage plays a pivotal role for women entering new life phases, whether reinventing themselves after being stay-at-home parents, facing an empty nest, or venturing into new career paths. In these life transitions, it’s important to embrace the idea of failing forward—that is, learning from failures and not being afraid of setbacks.

There is power in embracing failure. Experiencing setbacks doesn’t mean falling back to square one; instead, it’s an opportunity to gain ground by learning and growing. Christina shares a practice encouraged by an author who published her “CV of failure,” showcasing how failures led her to discover her true strengths and redirected her career path.

Navigating life’s challenges requires courage—courage to step into discomfort, and courage to embrace failures as stepping stones toward personal and professional development.

Navigating Challenges with Grace

The three pillars in Ash’s book, “Step Up,” are empathy, courage . . . and grace. Ash emphasizes the importance of being gentle with oneself, especially when navigating life’s challenges or embarking on personal growth journeys. Individuals need internal grace, because self-compassion and self-love help equip us for all that life throws our way.

Having a broader perspective and not getting entangled in minor setbacks or self-judgment is helpful during the process of self-improvement. Focus on personal growth rather than solely fixating on outcomes. Life is unpredictable, filled with a mix of tragedy and success. Ash encourages individuals to allow themselves the space and grace to embrace their humanity.

Embracing change, practicing empathy, having the courage to pursue different paths as life unfolds, and giving yourself grace are critical components to living a fulfilling and satisfying life.

Happiness, Health, and Family

As Ash continues to live the principles she shares in her book, over the next 10 years Ash hopes to continue finding passion in the work she does—speaking engagements and coaching opportunities. She also plans to embrace the changes in her body with a positive outlook, and maybe mastering a handstand in yoga. Ash envisions a future with more knowledge and a few more scars, maintaining a life focused on happiness, health, and a strong family bond.