Go With Your Gut: Intuitive Career Planning with Sara Croft

1,000 Stories


Joe Mills: What shared experiences, motivate today’s business leaders to keep growing and how have their unique stories impacted the way they enable others to do the same. I’m Joe Mills and I’m Reid Morris, and we’re investigating what and who it takes to build companies that foster growth in people and business.

Then we’re sharing those stories with you. This is 1,000 Stories, an original show from Element Three. Talking Sara today. Yeah. So here’s my thoughts on Sara Croft. She’s uh, marketing partner at innovate map. Like when I think of Sara, I think of like the champion of Innovatemap just like loves it, preaches it, but she’s also very open to have I made all the impact I can make inside of these four walls.

And do I need to go extend somewhere else? So

Reid Morris: it’s similar, like you said to Lindsay in that she has a feeling of when it’s time to build the next thing. And maybe for her, it’s not necessarily I’m done doing this and now I am doing this. Some of it that is additive, right. I mean, even Tiffany has experienced some of that too, in terms of like adding the podcasting business and that sort of expansion, but that’s the thread that you’re looking to continue through with this conversation.

Joe Mills: Yeah. And also just realizing it’s from the sense of somebody who can’t shift her business’ strategy. Lindsay talked about building these live experiences with her business. It’s her business. She can wake up tomorrow and say, we’re doing this now. And while she needs to make sure the team is engaged and all the things we know about from an organizational perspective, she sets the direction.

Sara receives the direction of a business and needs to understand. What she’s building, how it links into that business. And there are probably times is one of the things I wanna explore is at what point do you realize the business strategy has shifted in a way that I am not the right person to plug into it, or I’ve made the impact again, I’ve made the impact I can make here and now I need to go build somewhere else.

Okay. So

Reid Morris: there’s that side of this conversation, which is that again, intuition, knowing when to do the next thing, build the next thing. There’s this other thread that we’ve talked about over the course of this podcast thus far, which is this environment that you came up through that. Made the way you are.

Some of that is like family life, growing up childhood experiences, past career experiences, right? Those different threads that we’ve had in these conversations. How much context do you have going into this conversation as to that aspect of why Sara

Joe Mills: is where she is today? I’m actually just realizing very little Sara and I have gotten really close over the last couple of years, Innovatemap and.

Company to us and plays in a lot of the same sandboxes. And she and I have just developed a good professional relationship in that way. And I consider her a friend, but I know shockingly little about all the things you just highlighted. So I think it’ll be a great way to genuinely uncover in the moment.

What are we seeing from her past as she talks about it? That’s now showing back up. in her professional life.

Reid Morris: Cause we essentially have these two paths that we’re following. Right? There’s the intuition and understanding of how to grow when to grow that side of things. There’s the environments that caused you to be that way.

And then how do we find the connective tissue between those

Joe Mills: two things? Yeah, totally. Mm-hmm I don’t know what we’ll find with her, but that is a great part of the conversation should be interesting. So welcome. Thanks for coming on. Thanks Joe. Appreciate. Obviously over the last like year or so, you and I have gotten to have a pretty good relationship.

So I’m pretty excited to learn more about your story and what drives you into the next thing. I am gonna ask you an off the wall question to start. I don’t really ask the same questions ever, and this one comes out in different ways, but with your personality type in the way that I’ve experienced you, I think this will hit

So what are you obsessing over? Right. Ooh,

Sara Croft: that’s a great question. I’m obsessing over what I call learning business. Right now. Okay. I, could you not, I have Google Chrome tabs of documents that just say learning business at the top of them. what does that mean? That’s like, what does that actually mean? So I didn’t go to school for anything related to business.

I went to school for art history. So unlike a lot of other people who I think like caught econ 101. An accounting 101 and finance 101 and all those things that like, for some reason, in my head, I hold those as like core foundational pieces of information that I simply did not get in college. And I wanna go get that information so that.

I can be smarter about what I do in business on a day to day basis. So a girlfriend of mine, actually, we’re kind of creating our own like fake MBA course to go learn business together. And we’re gonna have our own like Saturday school of learning business. I love that. And I’m obsessed with it right now.

I, I love

Joe Mills: that. That’s a great idea. Okay. I’m actually gonna ask you a different thing then if you were to describe, you just said the way that I use them in business, if you were to describe yourself professionally, What would you say you functionally do? Not from like a, here’s what my title is and here’s what I work on for my organization.

But I’m curious, like how you describe yourself. Think about like LinkedIn bio. Mm what’s. The little. Blurb that pops up underneath your name. Mm-hmm when people highlight you,

Sara Croft: I’m a builder hands down. Mm-hmm , I’m a builder. And I am obsessed about that too. Sometimes unconsciously, and I don’t even realize it until I’m in the middle of it.

And I’m like, oh shoot. I’m building again. I ended up here. For me, it doesn’t really have anything to do about marketing. It’s about, I have this ability to see a vision of where something should be headed and I like that. And then I get obsessed about seeing it come to life. And that requires usually a lot of building to be able to do that.

Joe Mills: Mm. Okay. We’re gonna come back to that in a second. I figured. Um, but you mentioned something that’s very cool. And I knew this about you, but I wanted to give you the chance to talk about it and share the story. You went to school for art history. You did not end up in art history. You are not at the mom.

Nor are you at any other museum of art? The Louvre, perhaps . So what happened, why art history when you went to school and what happened during that, that point? Do you in a different direction? Yeah,

Sara Croft: I actually remember like, you know, how people talk about moments in time that you can like visually remember them.

Like a lot of people use really. Terrible moments in history. Like I remember where I was in that moment when a world event happened. I remember sitting down on the carpet, in my living room with my dad to fill out what courses I was gonna take for college because he taught at Indiana state in electronic technology.

And he kind of became my pseudo advisor honestly. And he knew the system. So he came in to. And he was like, what do you wanna study? And I said, I think I wanna study art history. Because I just like art. I didn’t wanna do it. I didn’t wanna go get a BFA, a bachelor’s in fine arts and produce art. I was just really interested and excited by it for some reason.

And I couldn’t quite articulate that. What I’ve come to learn is that I have a deep desire to appreciate things that people do in this world in a way that, you know, art is like the ultimate form of human express. Truly. So when you go to the MoMA or you’re at the loop, if you have a chance to ever get to that at some point in time in your life, you get to see this end outcome of something that somebody was putting together or thinking or feeling, or they had a vision for.

And they did it. And whatever you see, you can’t really argue with that’s that own artist’s interpretation of what they did. I appreciate the shit out of that. I appreciate the shit outta hard work that people do, the dedication that they have. And in some ways it’s like the way I appreciate people building something or how I appreciate that.

And so, as I reflected over time, that’s something that I can look at and say, I probably did that because I loved the fact that I got to spend all day long, just appreciating what other people have done in this world. Was it

Joe Mills: like a form of admiration? Just like, wow, this is amazing. And I love diving into how amazing came to life.

Sara Croft: Yes, but not like Adian, not like a celebrity obsession. Okay. Or a followership or that. And it wasn’t out of like, well, I can’t do this and they can, it wasn’t out of that either. It was just this like ability to say, like, some people have taken like the raw emotions and feelings that they have or something that they see in this world.

And they’ve created something out of that. And I just think that’s amazing that people can do

Joe Mills: that. Yeah. There’s something to that. Like be a contributor, not just a taker Uhhuh. , there’s something. Yeah. So you’re sitting on the floor with your dad and you’re picking out art history, Uhhuh classes, and then you go to school and what happens?

Well, I did

Sara Croft: it all really quickly. Okay. Which is a retract tracker that I had. Yeah, right. Yeah. The 21 credit hours, the semester, the summer school sounds like you. Yeah, that was me. I think I did it cuz I really liked it and I enjoyed it and I thrived in it and I did well in that. But at the same time, it meant I got out in three years instead of four because I moved through it so quickly.

I really loved college. I should have stuck around for another year, just for the sheer enjoyment I had and the connections I made out of it mm-hmm but I don’t regret it. Okay. I don’t regret that decision in any way. Okay. So I’m going through all of this. I’m taking 21 credit hours. I’m spinning like crazy.

I have no idea why I have no direction. I have no movement or anything to go into. And it was towards the end, you know? Senior. And if you’ve been through four year institution, they do not tell you what you’re gonna go do next. Like I actually remember in my capstone class, somebody was like, it’s not the role of a four year institution to really prep you for a job, believe it or not.

So think about that. That is a true statement on the

Joe Mills: surface, our university system on surface, my immediate reaction was, well, that’s not true, but I actually think there’s worth diving into that a little bit and exploring whether or not that is true. What was their reasoning behind?

Sara Croft: I think a lot of it is because BFAs tend to think that they’re gonna go into grad school.

They’re gonna be a graduate assistant. They’re gonna start teaching right away. And if you look at any of your teachers, none of them took that path, right? Like who’s the best person to learn from someone who’s actually had some experience and gone out and done something with their craft, not went through school to become a teacher necessarily of the same.

Thing. And so the point that they were trying to make is that’s probably not a path or an unrealistic one, if you think that is lucky for me, I had no path in mind, no expectations. So it didn’t really matter to hear that message. But I had an independent study my senior year, and I saw a stack of papers that was probably six inches, 10 inches, 12 inches or whatever.

So there’s a stack of papers on my professor’s desk. And he says, those are the vetted resumes for an art history position at, I. And I said, oh, the vetted resumes. And what I had known by this point in school was that to be in that stack of vetted resumes, I needed to go to grad school for two years. I needed to go overseas and study for at least two to four years and something.

Clicked in me that said, if I go through all of that, just to be back in that stack of papers and no offense to ISSU or Terre Haute, I grew up there. I love it. But to be right back here, there was a gut instinct in me, which I have also learned over time. I have. I think you do too. That just said that was not the right decision to go do that.

And I wasn’t inspired or motivated by it. It would’ve been like somebody pushing me if I actually did go do that. So that’s why I ended up in the workforce because I cut that part off and said, I’m not gonna go focus in that direction and moved on from there.

Joe Mills: Now, remind me where you started that. What was your first rollout

Sara Croft: actually at the Indianapolis museum of art as an internship.

Joe Mills: Okay. That you stayed in. The field

Sara Croft: for a brief moment. Okay. Yeah. So I’d already secured. This internship was like, yes, I wanna do this. And was in the works and paper department got to do some really cool things. They had a bunch of world war I, propaganda posters that were reacquisition to them and they needed to be sized and measured and look at the details of them and catalog them and put ’em in a system so people can find them later and maybe use them in an exhibit, extremely independent work a lot of time by myself.

And I think I learned through that. I thrive when I’m with other people. And that was something that was like, If I’m gonna do that and be totally independent, maybe I don’t enjoy that. Maybe that’s not something that I should continue doing. And this field is gonna require that for me. Mm-hmm but I had great mentors and they were like, Sarah, go off and go do something else for a little bit.

And you could come back to this if you wanted to. And I took that chance. Mm-hmm to go do that.

Joe Mills: Yeah. Okay. And so you made that leap and how’d you land where you landed.

Sara Croft: So I had two internships that summer. Okay. One was at the, I make, cause it was only two days a week. I get a measly $500 stipend from that two months working with them.

Don’t do the math on that. Holy holy moly. And I was living in Terre Haute. I didn’t have an apartment. My sister lived in indie. Okay. So I was like, well, I’ll drive back and forth and I’ll stay with her. I’ll get another internship in Indy to make use of the time. So I have two other days, three other days, a week that I could.

I found this platform at the time, this was 2009. It’s called smaller indiana.com. I put my profile out there and I said, I’m an indie. Anybody needs an intern for the summer. I have some rough writing skills research skills. I’m here. Let me know. And low and behold, someone reached out to me and they said, actually, we have like the perfect internship opportunity for you.

We want you to create a museum exhibit of old assistive technology for this conference. We’re putting on, they’d been this nonprofit had been collecting stuff for 30 years and had it in the storage room. And they were like, well, this is kind of interesting. They came across and our history student who has the ability to curate exhibits and they needed an exhibit for this conference.

Joe Mills: That’s amazing

Sara Croft: timing. It was perfect. It was perfect luck, honestly. I dunno. What else to call it of how we got together. I took the internship and then I worked at a deli in Ute on the weekends too. So I was just hustling. Yeah. I was like, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m a little tornado of fury. I don’t know where I’m going, but something’s going to land.

Something’s gonna work. That actually

Joe Mills: mirrors. the way you talked about entering into college a little bit where you were like, I just did it all. I had 21 credit hours. I did the summer school. I didn’t have a plan. I was just going, just going. And then you did it again. Another inflection point, like I changed, had to do this thing.

I’m just gonna tornado through it and just land somewhere. You also mentioned, the other thing I could be obsessed with is building, and sometimes I’ll do it by accident. And at the same time you recognize this intuitive sense of, I didn’t wanna wind up back in that stack of papers. If that’s all I did, I would’ve felt like I didn’t go anywhere.

So one of these feels like I have a ton of intentionality and one of these feels like. I just go with it until I land somewhere. That makes sense. I have thought

Sara Croft: about that a little bit. I’m 34 years old. I’ve been doing marketing for quite a while and believe it or not, there are still moments where, and this is a great example of that.

I’m trying to learn business and think that there are things in college that I didn’t know that are important, or I should know the reality is it’s probably not true. There’s concepts in there that I can apply that I need to know, but you’ll find that what I’m doing is searching or hunting for some missing puzzle piece that I think I might not have, but I don’t actually have a picture of the puzzle.

I don’t really know where I’m headed, where I’m going. And I’ve been really comfortable in that, even though I can come into a business and set a vision and direction, this is where we need to go. I can see it so clearly. I don’t have that desire necessarily to apply that same thinking to myself as a person where I need to say, you need to be here and it’s a CMO role and it’s by this age or stage, and this is what it should look like.

I don’t really. Have a desire to create that roadmap. And maybe there’s a reason because I’d like to keep some of those doors open and something about being that intentional means I might accidentally shut some doors that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. Okay. This is, this

Joe Mills: is super interesting because in getting ready for this, one of my hypotheses for our conversation was that you have this sense of when you’ve done what you’re supposed to do and you move.

You have an intense amount of loyalty. When I think about innovate map, I think about you it’s like pop and I feel like you rep that brand really hard. And then at the same time, I think you hold Sarah up right next to it. And you go, where is Sarah making an impact? And once it no longer matches the impact that you want to make, you’re happy to drop the part of the identity.

That is the role identity, and go find the next thing where you can go build it again. But it’s interesting because in my head I read that. She knows exactly what she wants to be doing and when the thing doesn’t match anymore, it’s like time to find that same thing over again. And I’m hearing you say the exact opposite , which is awesome.

Sara Croft: very well said. I don’t know. I love innovate map so much. I hate to say there will never be a time where I see that I’m not, you know, on that path in building that vision anymore for them, but I’m totally cool with the fact that if that moment does come that. That’s an okay thing. And I did my part, I did what I was supposed to do while I was here.

And it probably means something else is waiting for me or is probably presented itself. And I just, haven’t opened up my eyes enough to look at that.

Joe Mills: I’m hearing a, this, like, trust that there’s something out there and there’s not just one thing out there. Where do you think that came from? It’s like, there’s tons of things.

There’s just like opportunity.

Sara Croft: I’ve been on a lovely self-awareness journey over the past about year and a half. Thankfully again, innovate map would be hard to not mention the chiros team that we brought in for some executive training. And a lot of times spent on the engram framework. I have learned that I am a gut and instinctual person.

I feel the world and move through. With my gut. And I was reading a post that you shared the other day, where you’re talking about something really similar, where you might just be really quick to make decisions, cuz you just, you might not be able to articulate why that decision needs to be made, but you’ve got probably some sort of a combination of feeling and thinking and experience.

That’s saying that that’s the direction you need to go in. And I. Throughout all of my time growing up and like prior to college, I was kind of left alone to figure that out. I love my parents, but they didn’t put a ton of expectations in front of me. And honestly, as I’ve learned over time, I’d rather have no expectations than some of what I see for people who have too many expectations on what they could do.

But the possibilities were endless. I know that on that carpet with my dad, that he was probably like, is this really what she should be doing? But he let me do it anyway. And I got to make that decision and learn from it. So I like to tie in the fact that I think the lack of expectations set on me as a kid meant I really had this open mind to think like, I can probably do whatever I wanna do.

As long as I’m making the choice to do that, it’s gonna sound super egotistical, but I could really say like, I could go out and do whatever I want. I could go try to be the freaking president of the. Dates if I want to, I don’t want to that’s my joy is that I don’t want that. And I don’t know. It’s a very freeing feeling to live that way.

Honestly, when you don’t have any expectations on you, how do you set them for yourselves? Like question that comes up all the time, especially with our marketing team is like, what is a measure of success? Yeah. And someone on my team shared this, he heard it from Ashley C actually. So she’s listening. I’ll give her credit for this.

A shirt for marketers. It says no metrics, just vibes. I like. There’s a part of that, that I really resonate with. Yeah. Because the metrics alone are not really telling the story of where you need to go. Right. Mm-hmm . And so it didn’t just apply that to your life, whatever those check boxes are, you had to make them up or somebody put them in front of you, but do they really matter to you?

Yeah. You know, spending time with, are you an intrinsic person or an extrinsic person, and I’m just almost a hundred percent an intrinsic person at the end of the day. Yeah. You

Joe Mills: don’t strike me as someone who needs a. Exterior motivation to do things. Mm-hmm . Have you ever been like that or has it always been just, Sarah’s gonna do what Sarah thinks needs to be done?

I’ve always been like that. Yeah. Very cool. Yeah. We’ll we’ll diverge to the Agram real quick. Cause I can’t help myself. do you know what number you identify

Sara Croft: with? Yes. I’m an eight. You are an eight, a hundred percent. Oh, interesting. Yeah. So I’m in the gut triad. Yep. And anger is my favorite emotion. I like to believe I don’t have any others, but anger.

that’s my most powerful emotion, the deep set thought process or whatever it is that’s behind that. Whatever is most rooted in that for me, is this extreme feeling and need for independence? I am my own person. And in some ways I can be seen as a challenge for other people, I can be labeled as bossy or bitchy or a little too overbearing or powerful in those moments.

And really honestly, I’m giving you the self-expression that I have at the moment it’s coming out that way. Yeah. It’s not intended to be thrown at you, but the situation at hand, right. Other people. take that personally, sometimes mm-hmm and I’ve learned, I have to pay attention to that. Yes. Even if I don’t want to cuz I do my own thing cuz there’s


Joe Mills: Yeah. okay. So what I’m interested in like pulling into here is there is something really freeing to, you talked about losing the expectation. Like I just don’t put expectations on things. How did you find direction originally when you sort of went down this tech path, brought you all the way to innovate map, did you start to find direction in there in real time?

Or did you have expectation when you. Into that field. What motivated you to get where you are

Sara Croft: now? The reality is so many of the opportunities that I’ve had in my career have truly been something like put in front of me. That I got the opportunity to walk into. So after the Ima Easter seals was a nonprofit that I did that summer internship for, they offered me a full-time job, stayed there for six years.

I left for a brief nine month stint in the middle of it to go work for a PR firm for a little bit and get some more skills did not enjoy that experience. Went back to the nonprofit in a different capacity. They were excited and happy to have me back took on more responsibilities, kind of took that PR experience, brought it in, gave it to them.

Learn grow as a marketer, a fundraiser, those sorts of things. And then my good friend, Jen came to me and she said, Hey, there’s this nonprofit called tech point. They’re looking for someone who’s basically you, you should go do this. You should go talk to them about, so I put your name out there for that.

And I was like, oh, well, thanks, Jen. That’s great. Appreciate that. I was not looking, but Jen is smart and aware and she could tell that I would’ve been looking soon when I’m in building mode. I get frustrated a lot. Am I gonna be able to make this happen? Is this vision gonna come true? And I don’t have to call it out when you’re at a nonprofit, you’re just going to hit certain hurdles like that, that are gonna be hard to get through and you’ve gotta decide, am I gonna commit to that or not?

Is the frustration

Joe Mills: a thing that you like, oh, I need to find that. And if I don’t find it, I’m not in the right position or is it like a negative for.

Sara Croft: In this moment, it was not a negative yet, but if I let it roll on for too long, it would’ve been a negative. And that would’ve been well past the point when I knew that I needed to maybe go find something else for myself.

I think what I’m

Joe Mills: curious about there is you mentioned when you’re building, you’re gonna go through frustration points and you mentioned that you’re like loved build mm-hmm . So I’m curious if you actually seek out frustration intent. Ever. Hmm. Is that a thing that you’ve found like, oh, if I’m not hitting any frustration, I’m not trying hard enough or I’m not in a spot that’s challenging me

Sara Croft: enough in the big grand picture of things.

Yes. Whatever we’re building must be for a damn good reason. Otherwise, why the hell am I working this hard? I’ve always said, like, that’s just been my motto,

Joe Mills: such eight energy. true. Oh, it’s huge. Eight energy.

Sara Croft: So true. I could have taken a lot easier rolls out there and I could be right and high right now if it was just about winning, honestly.

Joe Mills: Okay. Okay. This is great because you are hitting on the like premise for the show. What I’m trying to uncover, because the premise for the show is we’ve got a bunch of people at element three who choose to do a really hard thing. You understand you’re in a super similar position, similar sized firm. In the marketing space, building the future every day at a time.

And when we were setting out, like, what are we trying to learn? We’re trying to figure out why is it that people who have incredible skill sets and could go a lot of different places, probably make more money and much more chill existence, continue to choose to do the much harder thing. So I wanna dive right.

It’s a

Sara Croft: heavy question to ask, but yeah, that is exactly what I’ve been doing in my career this whole time. The frustration you talk about, I had to tweet, I don’t remember how long ago it was not that long ago where I said that, I think I’m about made up of like 60% irritation and the rest of it is taco bell.


Joe Mills: I question, which thing of taco bell is it made up of

Sara Croft: Mexican pizza. So now that it’s back. Oh, okay. Or

Joe Mills: when it’s not back, what was the choice? Beef

Sara Croft: Chalupa, no sour cream. Got it. . Thanks for

Joe Mills: asking. I, no, it’s important stuff. My wife’s a country trap girl. I, I gotta know these

Sara Croft: things about people that’s college.

So I am motivated to fix things. I also think that’s an eight characteristic and if I’m in a space and there’s nothing to fix, I might accidentally misname something as something that needs to be fixed in my eyes. That actually shouldn’t. But in the lack thereof, I’m gonna dig my nails into something.

And so it might have been that, that I dug my nails into, but that’s why, like that whole overall vision where we’re going, that thing better be something that is hard to figure out. I know. That I’m an intelligent person and I can figure out some really complicated things. So if I’m going to work, if I’m literally going to leave my house and my two dogs every day and not watch Harry Potter endlessly, which is something I could just do for the rest of my life, then what the heck am I doing?

And it can’t be to push. Cloud AI computing stuff that I don’t buy into, somebody else can do that. That wants that path. And that has motivation and desire for that. You gotta give me the nitty gritty hard stuff. We gotta come out on the other side of something. If we’re gonna do this, going back to art, art, being that like ultimate form of expression, you may, may really think about this in your questions.

I think startup founders. Are very similar to artists in that way. If whatever they’re building is like the ultimate form of an expression of themselves in this world. And I might not have. Vision to create a thing like that, but I can certainly get on the coattails of somebody else who has that vision.

And I can be right down there with you to help you build that and make that happen. And that’s where, like, I’ve never been a founder in that way, but I see that and relate to that with founders. I

Joe Mills: love that parallel. It’s so interesting. How many things come up throughout our lives? And they’re actually us repeating the same patterns over again, just in different forms and in different environments.

And the analogy that’s in my head right now is you might not be the artist. You might not be at Michael Angelo, but you. You might be his chisel and without the chisel Michelangelo doesn’t become Michelangelo, you know? And I think there might be something to that idea. That business is an expression of art, just in a different way.

I’ve never thought about that before.

Sara Croft: I like the analogy of the chisel, the chisel doesn’t ask for promotion, the chisel doesn’t ask to be seen in any way, but it knows its purpose. And so does the artist knows its purpose, but I don’t go out and seek that as some form of like validation or success metric for myself.

I just simply know if I am on that right path or not, and am motivated by what I’m doing or.

Joe Mills: I have some envy of the self-awareness and the self knowledge that it takes to know that and to not need the external validation for it. I personally have a very high eye on the disc profile, which typically correlates to a high need for approval as somebody who has such a high need for approval, you don’t need the external validation, but you probably need internal validation.

I imagine what’s the thing that you’re like hunting. Man

Sara Croft: we’re gonna go there. I mean, in some, oh, I can’t believe I’m gonna say this in some ways. It’s like, what are we doing on this planet? Why are we here? What is the meaning of all of this? Why are we doing this? When you talk about the validation, you know, the pendulum can swing on the far other side too.

So there can be the Joe who says like, why do you need everybody to like you? But then there’s also the, why don’t you need anybody to like you, which is what you’re asking. And it unfortunately comes from. A lot of pain in loneliness, which I think if there are any eights out there, I’d love to know what they think about this.

Cause I haven’t really said this broadly yet the extreme independentness that I had as a kid just gave me lesson after lesson, after lesson of what it meant to be independent. I have a sister she’s six years older than me. We were never in school together. So we just really weren’t that close. I had parents that worked a lot.

I was by myself a lot. I can tell you. Every Nickelodean after school show, because that was my babysitter. When I got off the bus as a kid, I had to spend a lot of time by myself, which means you kind of gotta figure out what do you wanna do when you’re by yourself? You wanna read a book, you wanna watch TV?

Like, what do you wanna do? So you’re constantly asking yourself that question and you’re doing it as a kid and you don’t even know it. So then later on now in the working world, in the professional world, it’s even taken some time for me to unpack that and understand, oh, I’m still maybe doing that. What does Sarah wanna do?

What does Sarah wanna build? And that irritation can get really negative, really fast in a, I can shut everybody out. I can just close all the doors. I can keep you all. I don’t need anybody. I just need myself. So even though it can feel like you can admire it from afar, maybe not being in that mode, it’s not necessarily like great either sometimes.

Like you’ve gotta learn to balance that, but I truly think that’s where it comes

Joe Mills: from. It’s a really interesting reminder of like grass not being greener. Yeah. Yes. There’s that you said something earlier too, which is really interesting. And you talked about almost always asking the question of like, what do you want, what do you want, what do you.

How does that show up in your life right now? How do you investigate that question? Is it intentional? Is it just always in the background? And then when that feeling of like, this is what I wanna be doing, goes away, then you notice it or is it more intentional than that?

Sara Croft: It’s always there every minute of every day, almost like obsessively.

Here’s where I run into challenges with it is when I have too much free time. Let’s take a Saturday. My husband works on Saturday and gets Saturday to myself. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes I wake up and I’m like, uh, I have eight hours. What on earth am I doing today? Do I wanna do nothing at all? Do I wanna make something, build something, do something.

And I can get stuck in that thought pattern sometimes and get really frustrated. And then I’m wasting time. And now I’m not doing something even if doing is resting, I have to make that choice. So the question’s constantly coming. All the time in my brain, is this what I wanna do now? I might not always have an answer for that.

And even a couple years ago, when I got into tech and I entered a very different working environment than nonprofits, there were times where I was asking myself, am I on the right path? Like, oh, that’s not a question I’ve ever asked before. Why am I asking myself that now? Which is really me saying I’m, I’m maybe not on that path.

Open yourself up to some more opportunities, Don. Shut doors. Don’t put up guardrails and tell people you don’t need them. We might actually need them. They might help you with this. And like being open to that more often is something that I’m learning that I need to do. How do

Joe Mills: you juxtapose the desire to do what you want and the sort of constant question of what do you want with the lack of having like that career path in your head?

Because it sounds like you don’t know what you want in five. I’ve

Sara Croft: been in the working world for almost 15 years. At this point, I’ve been pretty successful without having to figure that out. So why do I need to pull the car over the side of the road to try to stop everything and figure that out? Which I don’t know why, but it seems like I would have to do that.

Like, hold up, let’s take a sabbatical. Let’s come out on the other side as like a different person, something in my gut. tells me that I’m not gonna come out on the other side as another person from that experience. So I don’t know. I’ve gotten pretty far without having to necessarily figure that out. Now there will be moments where I can have a bit of an existential crisis.

If that’s something you can have a little of where it is like, oh, shot and glass of existential crisis. It’s a good reflection moment. It’s good journaling. It’s good therapy conversations. It’s good. You and I have had some of these conversations, right? Like find somebody who talked to it, let it out.

Honestly, I think what I’m doing is just going through the process of thinking and talking, not making a decision in those moments. So I still get that feeling of like, I don’t know what I’m doing and what should I be doing? It’s so weird. I get a physical feeling like from the gut, I call it my claw. I have this like claw that if I feel like I’m not.

Focused on the right things where I’m not doing what for whatever reason I should be doing, even though nobody can answer that question. Even myself, I physically feel like in my chest, in my throat, like there is something that comes from my gut that is about to come outta my mouth. And just kick ass at something that is gonna just like tear is gonna murder something something’s gonna happen.

Like this claw is gonna come out and I can literally feel it mm-hmm . And then I have to create those moments where you’re like, whoa, Sarah, like, what’s going on? Like, why are you feeling this way? Sit with that. Think about it. Process those emotions. There’s more than anger there. I’m like, my body is literally telling me, mm.

Something in that moment. Do you ever carry stress in like your jaw where you like clench your jaw? Yep. It’s like that times a thousand. Mm it’s like a physical feeling that comes. And I think that has to do with the gut center, honestly. Yeah. Where that comes out. Yeah.

Joe Mills: Really interesting. You have like a system, whether you realize it or not.

Yes. For how you into it, something. Oh, a feeling. And then I need to go unpack all of that feeling, whether that be with a therapist, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s journaling, probably sometimes many times all of those things. And you’ve honed that skill of reflecting over essentially 34 years of self discovery through alone time, a hundred percent.

Do you create intentional alone time?

Sara Croft: Yes. It’s my favorite thing in the world. Okay. Is my alone


Joe Mills: Interesting. So it gives you energy to have your

Sara Croft: alone time. Absolutely. The interesting thing about becoming a leader is that when you spend less time individually contributing you think to yourself, well, I don’t need the work time.

We even call it WT on our calendars at innovate map. Like you can schedule like your work time. I don’t need that work time, but I need thinking time. Mm-hmm I need processing time. I need to just sit with some things as a leader. So the work time looks different and I am really bullish about making sure that I get that time.

Mm. Yeah. In a way that sometimes I question it because I don’t see. Many other people do that with their time and it can feel very self-centered to do that. I know Sarah it’s four o’clock she’s gotta go. She’s gotta go spend time thinking. Well, everybody else is doing a bunch of other stuff. Like why does she get to carve that out?

Why does she get to say no to that meeting? But. I think, I just know myself really well. Mm-hmm and that I need that. And if I don’t get that, that claw I talked about it might come out. It might not be a good thing. and I know this now, so I need to pay attention to that. I’ve been

Joe Mills: visioning the angry, like zombie hand, rising outta the dirt.

This is, this is the angry Sarah claw. This is pretty much what I love about this conversation that we’ve had. Is that you are like giving people permission to not have all the answers. I think there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of media around make your decisions, specialize, get there quickly commit to it, know where you want to go map your career path, make all these decisions at once.

And if you haven’t, you’re lost. You’re never gonna get there. You’re not gonna amount to anything you’ll ever make an impact. Oh. And also you should be working all the time. So culture, the way that you’re talking about it is like giving people permission to you need your own thinking time. You need time to self reflect.

You must carve out alone time. You don’t have to have the answers to five years from now. You don’t even have to the answers for tomorrow. Just be open and like find out what the situation is giving to you. Do you feel like there’s that pressure on people in general

Sara Croft: to have all that plan? 150%? Yeah.

Especially this gen Z. Coming in really, um, more with them. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. How are you seeing it with them? A lot of, what is the expectation? What am I supposed to do? And, you know, we’re in an innovation industry. I don’t always know what the next thing is to do, and I’m pretty sure that innovate map doesn’t want all of the innovation to come from a handful of people.

Everybody’s. Everybody can innovate. You just need to figure out how and what it’s gonna take to get there. And I think that the gen Z group in particular has had all of the hurdles placed in front of them. Clearly lined out that, say, this is what it’s gonna look like. This is the next 18 years now they’re getting into the workforce and they’re like, Crap.

Like, I don’t know what to do. Nobody’s putting these hurdles in front of me and maybe some workplaces are mm-hmm ours just is not one of those where that makes sense. Right. So I see that a lot there. And I guess I just reflect on my life path. Didn’t look like that. There is no point trying to spin some story to make it sound or look like that.

It just wasn’t that. And I know that and I can own it. Mm-hmm and I’m fine with that. If not. Especially after this conversation feel really good about it. and some of the things that you’re sharing, right? Like, like, yes, this is me and I like me and it’s cool to be like that. And this is what it is supposed to look like for me, it is pretty liberating to not have to sit with that and say, this is what that path is.

Mm-hmm, , it’s hard for even some of my junior employees who maybe are going to expect me to deliver that sort of path to them. Mm-hmm and I’m like, you gotta leave those doors open. We don’t know where you’re gonna go. Yeah. And to your. Like, we’re kidding ourselves. If we actually think we know the answer in five years or even tomorrow.

Yeah. Especially in this world. We don’t. So why put such an expectation on us that you might get frustrated or upset about if it doesn’t come true, if you also just lessen some of those expectations, you don’t have to have that emotion around it to begin

Joe Mills: with. I had no idea where our conversation would go today, but I loved the direction that I went in.

I absolutely loved this. Thank you very much for coming on and sharing with us. It’s some awesome takeaways. So thank you. Appreciate

Sara Croft: it. Thank you, Joe.

Reid Morris: All right, Joe, another episode in the book, Sara Croft really interesting individual. What did you take away from that conversation? What was unique about her story that showed up and also some of those commonalities from the other conversations we’ve had?


Joe Mills: The unique thing about Sara is the winding road she takes to get where she’s at. And she went to school for art history and worked in a museum and curated experiences for people. And it’s interesting to see some of the parallels at innovate map. She leads the marketing arm and she is very into, and they are as a group in person events.

Experiential marketing. And so it’s interesting to see sort of the parallels that have shown up even without necessarily saying, oh, I’m going to use my art history background as just natural. I would say that that is a really interesting piece about her. And also she brings a level of self-direction.

That is reminiscent of the Lindsay Baccardo episode, but this internal direction, follow your curiosity, follow what lights you up. Don’t worry about what people expect message that mm-hmm, started with Lindsay as being extended through Sara. And it’s interesting to hear that. And

Reid Morris: I love that in, I feel like more of the episodes as we’ve progressed through this season, we’re hearing from people who have very different backgrounds.

Mm-hmm right. There are some who are either marketing backgrounds, business backgrounds, and have progressed through that ladder. But people who are athletes, people who studied art, all these different things, but landing in the same business sandbox with all these different backgrounds and perspectives that brought them to the same place.

Mm-hmm and how those different backgrounds pair with the intuition that we’ve talked about in the conversation with Sara and Kevin and Lindsay, all these people. It’s just really interesting how. We’re in the context of business for this podcast. Mm-hmm , but these people have such different

Joe Mills: experiences to get to where they are today.

Well, it’s interesting too. Sara is really great at just solving problems and not worrying about having the perfect situation to do so. At the beginning of our recording, she talks about like setting up her own MBA of sorts with a friend, instead of saying, well, I never took. She’s like, I never took that.

How am I gonna solve that problem? Am I gonna go get an MBA? I could deals a little bit like a big step, expensive a lot of time, or I could design my own for things that I know I want to learn and I could find a friend and we can make it a fun thing that I look forward to. And she’s really good at sort of boots, strapping it all together and making it work, which might come from her time with non-profits where she has to, or had to.

It’s just creative problem solving. Yeah. It’s a good way to put it. Mm. I love the scrappiness and the discovery she’s on this like discovery journey. That’s really inspirational for me. Just as somebody who loves a plan, she’s almost the antithesis of that. Mm-hmm, , it’s like the guardrails between having a plan and not having anything that points you in a direction.

She is awesome. In my opinion, at like, finding that balance mm-hmm yeah. And her

Reid Morris: world requires. Just self-direction and ability to thrive in ambiguity and all those things just because of her day to day, but also because of the background that led to that. It’s

Joe Mills: interesting. Yeah. And you bring up a good point there.

It even continues the Tiffany’s story around. There’s not a playbook for where I’m going next. So I have to go discover it on my own. Oh, there’s an area I wanna learn into. Let me go discover to that on my own. Be comfortable in the messiness. Be comfortable in building your own playbook and exploring and finding what works for you and where you need to grow in and all those pieces.

She’s like an earlier version of Tiffany in that sense. Who instead of founding a company and then building it, Sara joins groups that she feels a sense of belonging in and a sense of alignment with the mission more than belonging. Yeah. Mm-hmm and then she builds her own path, but she’s comfortable in the unknown.

And it’s this

Reid Morris: thing as well. Speaking of Tiffany, Tiffany talks about in this world of Anne, there’s a layer of intentionality and discipline around the things that you add into your ecosystem. And as we talk about Sara, leveraging her gut and experimenting with all these different things, you can also tell that she’s super disciplined in how she goes about the process and intentionality.

Behind the groups that she gets into. And even, you know, we talk about creative problem solving and just creating your own MBA type of situation, but also the discipline to then follow through with it and make sure that she got everything she needed to out of that process when it was so self-directed that level of discipline.

And that thread throughout that is also an interesting aspect of this that I feel like has come up in a lot of our conversations.

Joe Mills: Yeah, it certainly has. I think the biggest piece as I took away, as I was looking back is, you know, we interviewed Tiffany, Darren, John, Danielle. Lindsay Baccardo and now Sara, and they all have some different backgrounds.

Two of those people have founded businesses, actually three, cuz John also ran a business for 10 years, but everybody’s sort of been a leader in an org. And when I say leader, I mean like a C-suite leader in the org mm-hmm and, and Sara’s a VP, but. She’s not like in the founding group, if you will. And one of the things I was curious about walking in was is she gonna have that same intuition thing?

Is that gonna come back up? And it 100% did just as, as big as everybody else. And so that makes me want to go talk to Kevin. So Kevin Bailey is the founder and one of the coaches at Dreamfuel. Dreamfuel is a performance mental fitness coaching program. Teaches largely sales teams and executive leaders, how to develop world class mindsets that allow them to perform with reliability and consistency.

And I was fortunate enough to go through his program last year in 2021. And it absolutely left a huge impact on my life, learned an incredible amount. And one of the sections was all about, I. It was great, really excited to talk to Kevin and just learn a bit more and really exposed to everybody who listens, how we do that and how we can build our intuition intentionally.


Reid Morris: Taking the leap, cuz all these people are taking these big leaps, these risks, all these things. Mm-hmm , Sara is no different. She’s a big piece of that as well. So I think that’ll be good to lean into. Cool.

Joe Mills: That’s the next one?

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