This month’s interview is with Linda Kay Klein. Linda is a writer, speaker, and spiritual strongwoman based in New York City. She directs the Work on Purpose program for Echoing Green, a global nonprofit that unleashes next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems. Work on Purpose inspires and equips people to create careers that are both right for them and good for the world. Linda sits on the advisory board of Our Inner Lives, a project of Feminist.com, for which she also writes the “Fierce, Faithful, and Free” column.
What are you passionate about?
Last week I led a workshop for a group of college students. I encouraged them to talk to strangers on the subway. To tell their whole truths to someone they will never see again for just 5 minutes and to see what happens. They looked at me like I was insane. But who else do they expect to tell their truths to! They’re not going to tell it to their bosses, not their best friends, everyone they’ve got to worry about what they think of them—and they better tell someone, and quick, or they might forget what their truth is altogether…so why not a stranger? Some of my favorite memories were made with people I never saw again.
I am passionate about authenticity, honesty, humility, showing up fully with all my flaws, my jokes that fall flat, my lack of answers, all of it. I am also passionate about other people coming along on this journey with me, because when we do, we see one another. And when we see one another, anything can happen. Injustices can be overturned, wounds healed, divides collapsed, wars ended, and revivals begun
Do you believe you know your purpose in life? If so, how did you come to this conclusion?
Ah, purpose. This is something I think a great deal about. In fact, I am the director of Echoing Green’s Work on Purpose program. So…“purpose” is literally in my job title.
It is fortunate then that, yes, I do believe I know my purpose in life! It is to inspire people to be honest with and good to themselves and one another, and to live life fully.
Today, I live my purpose out by helping people create careers that are both right for them and good for the world through the social entrepreneurship and social change organization Echoing Green. I also live my purpose out by writing about women, sex, and God—which I think of as my “soul-work”—for my Fierce, Faithful and Free column on Feminist.com, my Man-Made Girls blog, and the book that I am writing about eternal girlhood in the evangelical Christian church. And I live it out by singing with my gospel choir, by putting on my “Dancing Alone” mix and getting down in my apartment as often as possible, and talking to strangers on the subway.
Do you engage in setting goals? If so how do you hold yourself accountable?
I absolutely set goals! I believe that purpose is created, not found (though creating it does take a bit of finding), and creation of any kind takes work.
I have what I call my Life Strategic Plan, which includes my personal vision, mission, and objectives, as well as a series of goals and strategies for completing those goals for the upcoming year. This is a living document and is not meant to be adhered to strictly, but just to provide a bit of direction.
I also keep a weekly Action Report, which is basically a glorified to-do list, in which I document all of my long-term goals, short-term goals, and action steps I will take toward them each week. Action steps include everything from purchasing a book on sex and spirituality to reaching out to an editor I admire.
I try to wake up 40 minutes before work each day in order to update my Action Report, and to tackle a few things on it while I drink my coffee. But I am gentle with myself when I don’t do it. After all, life is for living, and sleep is a delicious thing.
When analyzing an opportunity in your life (professional or personal) what questions inform your choices?
The number one question I ask myself is “What does my gut have to say about it?” My gut is very smart, much smarter than either heart or my head. In fact, I think that our guts—that small voice we can all find in our innards, is the very same “still small voice” that Elijah heard, and that the church calls the Holy Spirit. Remember that story?
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.
- I Kings 19:11-13a
What self care habits do you engage in (yoga, time with a close friend, reading, etc).
Every Thursday is LKK Day. This is the untouchable day in which I can do anything I want, as long as I do it alone. It is the thing that keeps me sane in New York City. Often, I do yoga on Thursdays. I could use more self-care honestly, but this is one thing that has made a huge difference for me.
Why do you think it's so common that women in our society put themselves last and how can we begin to shift that cultural attitude?
It is deep in us—our history, and our collective understanding of ourselves—this notion that we are worth less than what we can offer to others, which in essence means that we are worth less…than others. That’s what happens when the patriarchy lasts as long as it has.
This will only change when we women begin to see themselves as equally valuable. There is some pretty stellar work going on to help get us there—work within education, religion, economic development, art, and more. It will take all of it. And more. Some of my favorite Echoing Green Fellows doing this work are Shining Hope for Communities, and the Op-Ed Project.
Best way to celebrate your own successes.
I tend to go with cupcakes. But I am open to other suggestions….
To stay in touch with Linda you can visit her blog at www.manmadegirls.com.