Jan. 17, 2023

82 : Finding Purpose & Fulfillment in Work with Ashanti Branch

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In this podcast episode, Adam Coelho and Ashanti Branch talk about Ashanti's move from engineering to teaching. Ashanti explains the moment he made the decision to switch and how he had to keep himself from constantly thinking about the money he could have made if he had stayed in engineering. They also discuss the five F’s and strategizing for success and how it can help us achieve our goals.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ashanti Branch is an educator who left engineering to pursue teaching.
  • He saw a news report about a project he was working on in San Jose, California, catching fire, and this was a sign for him to leave engineering.
  • He had to make a financial sacrifice in order to pursue his passion.
  • He works hard not to compare himself to his friends who are still in engineering and have been promoted to VP roles.
  • He is satisfied with the passion and purpose of his work, even if the financial side of things does not always make sense.
  • He uses a system with his men's team called the five F's (fitness, family, fun, finances, and finish it) to set goals.
  • It would have been helpful to have someone to strategize with when he was making the transition to teaching.
  • Ashanti is thankful for the work he is able to do.
  • He encourages others to ask themselves what it would take to feel satisfied in every area of their life.
  • He encourages others to make decisions based on their passion and purpose, not just the numbers.

Guest Bio:

Ashanti Branch is an engineer-turned-teacher and founder of the Ever Forward Club, an organization that works to help young men of color reach their full potential. He has a passion for helping others find success and fulfillment through education and personal growth. 

Guest Contact Information: Get in touch with Ashanti and bring him to speak or lead the “Taking Off The Mask” workshop for your team.

🔥 Crafting a LIFE YOU LOVE starts with getting clear on the VISION of what you actually want.

🔥 Download my Free Envisioning Guide to get started right now!


[00:00:00] Intro

Welcome to the mindful fire podcast a show about crafting a life you love and making work optional, using the tools of mindfulness envisioning and financial independence. I'm your host, Adam Coelho and I'm so glad you're here. 

Each episode of the mindful fire podcast explores these three tools through teachings, guided meditations and inspiring interviews with people actually living them to craft a life they love. 

At its core, mindful fire is about creating more awareness and choice in your life. 

Mindfulness helps you develop self-awareness to know yourself better. And what's most important to you by practicing a kind curious awareness. 

Envisioning is all about choosing to think big about your life and putting the power of your predicting brain to work, to create the life you dream of. 

And financial independence brings awareness and choice to your financial life. Empowering you to make your vision a reality by getting your money sorted out and ultimately making work optional. 

 And here's the best part. 

You don't have to wait until you reach financial independence to live out your vision. 

Mindful FIRE is about using these tools to craft that life now on the path to financial independence and beyond. 

Adam Coelho: If you're ready to start your mindful fire journey, go to mindful fire.org/start and download my free envisioning guide. 

Adam Coelho: In just 10 minutes, this guide will help you craft a clear and inspiring vision for your life. 

Adam Coelho: Again. You cdownloadoad itfree at mindfulFIRE.org/start 

Let's jump into today's episode. .

[00:01:52] Introduction

Adam Coelho: Welcome to the mindful fire podcast. Ashanti. I'm so thrilled 

Ashanti Branch: to have you here. I mean, I'm glad to be here with you, mate. Good to see you again. 

Adam Coelho: been a awhile, but I'm always happy to spend time with you in person or virtually.

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. Thank you, man. I'm excited to be in this conversation. 

Adam Coelho: So I'd love to start by just sharing with the audience a little bit about how we know each other. And if you've been listening to the podcast for awhile, you probably have noticed a pattern that I tend to meet really awesome people randomly like the universe brings me in contact with amazing people and Ashanti is an incredible example of this.

Adam Coelho: what was it like five or six years ago now? We were both at a conference called wisdom 2.0, which I've talked about on the podcast a couple of times all about mindfulness meeting technology. And it happens every year in San Francisco and this was my first year going to the conference. And so I was like super excited and I ended up in a room that was absolutely packed, just standing, literally standing room, only everyone all around this room.

Adam Coelho: And it was a 45 minute workshop called taking off the mask. And I was like, this sounds interesting. What is this? And so I went in there and what transpired was just this incredible experience where I had some real. Insight into how I'm showing up in my life. And then there were some small groups I remember that were just really an amazing, connected experience between me and the other people there just sharing authentically, knowing that it was going to stay in that group.

Adam Coelho: And so seems like every year, I'm at a point around wisdom, 2.0 time where I'm just like the beginning, excitement of the year has worn off and I really need, I'm like, oh my God, what am I doing with my life? And I really needed some pick me up. And this was an amazing picture. And then, and so I didn't meet him.

Adam Coelho: Then uh, Shante was, if you, if it wasn't obvious Ashanti was running this session. And then I ended up, I'm thinking, man, I got to meet this guy. He's amazing. And later on in the day I went to the main stage and this was a room that probably had 3000 people in it. And as I walked into the room and Ashanti was already on stage, I just felt this energy, like, and I'm not one to talk about energy.

Adam Coelho: But I felt just this feeling when I walked into this room and you were sharing your story about the work that you do. And I remember. After your talk, there was a standing ovation, right? And I'm like, who is this guy who gotta meet this guy. Like you have like Harvard professors and like NFL athletes on stage.

Adam Coelho: No, one's getting a standing ovation. And this guy I've never heard of who just led this amazing session has got everyone in this room, just totally captivated. And so I'm like, oh my God, I gotta meet this guy. I don't know how it's going to happen. And that night at the after party, which is always one of my favorite parts of the conference, I am standing there talking with my boss who is into all this stuff as well.

Adam Coelho: My boss, Paul, and we're just chatting and stuff and hanging out and. All of a sudden walking towards me is a Ashanti. And I'm like, oh my God, there he is. I got to meet him. And so I was like, oh my God, Ashanti like that, your talk and your workshop. It was amazing. It was so great. It's so good to meet you.

Adam Coelho: And it was just from then it was like, we were friends that were like meeting each other again. I don't know if you felt that way, but I felt that way. 

Ashanti Branch: Yeah I can't stop grinning because I'm having the flashback of that entire scenario of experiences when we had the chance to do the workshop and some of my students were there.

Ashanti Branch: And then the talk on stage. that event was one of the, these pivotal moments of our work in connecting to more folks in the bay area. And yeah, and then, we're having, they were this small organization and your energy was inspiring me more.

Ashanti Branch: And I was like, should I invite him to be on our board. And I was really shy about inviting people to be on our board because I'm like our board needed a lot of work and it was like barely scrubbing it along, like the little train that could, and I'll. I was like, I can't ask him here, I'll ask him later.

Ashanti Branch: And you were like, there's everything I can do. And I'm like, oh, he said it, but it should. I do. I believe it. I was like, is he really mean it? Like I was in that. I said we should talk. Cause I, I need some help. And he was like, okay and then I think two days later you called me, like I was going to give it four days.

Ashanti Branch: I was like, let me give her four days for the reality to wear off whether this was real or not. And then you called me and I was like, oh my God, this is real. this is something that you think you're dreaming, you meet people. And you're oh, they don't really mean it. I got somebody. That's what I say to myself.

Ashanti Branch: That's the story I tell myself is that now they're just being nice. And when you reached out, I was going to give it two more days. And then I was like oh this is right. This is happening. And yeah. And it's been a connection ever since 

Adam Coelho: know we've, done a bunch of things together, and it 

Adam Coelho: just clicked for me, what you're working on. I was like, this makes so much sense. I want to be a part of this. And so I had you to Google it, but my first ever talk at Google that I hosted, we did the taking off the mask exercise for people in the room.

Adam Coelho: And you can find that I'll put a link to that in the show notes as well. That's on YouTube. and then we did Google server then I think three years in a row. That's right. So just so much good stuff came out of that. And I'll tell you, I like that presentation I did for the young men about like emotional intelligence and stuff.

Adam Coelho: And I was way too long and they lost interest halfway through, which I should have known and expected. But I use that all the time. Like I pull from that that's just like, everything I could use for all of the workshops I do at Google. Like I take from that all the time.Building block for what I'm doing now, which is pretty cool to see as well. Yeah. And so 

Ashanti Branch: it was amazing. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. So we've done a lot of cool stuff together, which is awesome. And I'm happy to have you on the, 

you didn't come to when I was at arise high school, like that word, like it was just, it's been a journey of the events and connections and I am so appreciating that.

Ashanti Branch: And I think part of it is also, if you had not got inspired to say I'm going to reach out, you could have easily just like, oh, that was. Maybe I'll reach out, but like even, but taking that next step to like actually do it, there are lots of people with that little event, you could have just kept talking to Paul there and like just being like, oh, maybe I will. And I think sometimes it's that moment of like, Do I take a step? do I go say something to this person? and thank goodness you were able to like push yourself past the good idea and put the idea into action.

Ashanti Branch: And I think that's part of the work that I believe is so important, when we can take an idea that our heart calls us to do, and we put through all the negative, other voices out that says don't, why would you do that? But you go forward with your best intentions, and that's, I think that's amazing, yeah. I think you 

Adam Coelho: bring up a really good point there we often have these ideas, these Ealing call to say something or do something. Reach out to somebody or whatever, we all have these things we want to do in our life. And if we sit on them too long, we come up with a million reasons why we should in our, why it won't work.

Adam Coelho: And I think back to me wanting to do my first solo episode of the podcast, which I talked about for a long time, and I just come up with all these reasons why, you know, oh, now it's not the time. Oh, I'm tired or whatever. There's all these things that come up and get in the way.

Adam Coelho: So yeah, sometimes we just need to take that step and amazing things happen because of that. That's right. It's amazing how it happens. Right. You look back and be like, if I hadn't had done that one little thing, then maybe that other thing couldn't have happened in that other thing couldn't happen.

Ashanti Branch: And then all the things that kind of springboard and the ripples in the pond of all the things that would not have happened, if the one thing that. We kicked it off, And then there's beautiful life, right? That's right, man. That's right. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: That's awesome. I love reliving that story with you, man.

that was such an amazing time. And yeah,

[00:09:56] A little bit about yourself, your journey, and what you're up to in the world

Adam Coelho: So I'd love to have you share with the audience a little bit about yourself, your journey, and what you're up to in the world. I alluded to a lot there, we'd love to have you share in your own words, the impact you're making on.

Ashanti Branch: So I'm Ashanti brands from Oakland, California. I was raised by a single mother. My father died before I was born. I tell people that, no one asks me my opinion about it.

Ashanti Branch: I just showed up for it on the planet and life was a mess and I was supposed to know how to navigate and deal with it. My I'm reading this book called it didn't start with you, And it's about how childhood trauma starts. Sometimes we, even before we.

Ashanti Branch: In the womb. And one thing I've been learning recently is that while my mom was grieving and this is three months before I was born, so I, a lot of developments stuff is happening. Like I'm swimming in sadness. I'm swimming in her womb of sadness and grief. And wondering how is she going to survive raising this baby by herself?

Ashanti Branch: And one thing I realized was that I grew up a very emotional boy in a community of Oakland, California, very, somewhat dangerous, violent, somewhat activated by this man hyper-masculine narrative that says, boys don't cry. You can't show your feelings I feel everything. I feel a movie that has a sad ending.

Ashanti Branch: I feel a TV show that goes, , like I feel, and I'm totally in the community. Boys don't cry. Suck it up, man. Up at seven years old, I was supposed to be the man of the house. I was supposed to be the man of the house. My uncle say, I take care of your mom and your sister and your brother. I'm like I don't really want that job.

Ashanti Branch: Can you find the man was supposed to be here? But we were trying to figure it out. And I was responsible for my siblings. I was helping take care of them. I did a lot of raising and cooking and cleaning and navigating and house making. And I remember just a journey of like my own life of figuring out how do I be this man at seven years old?

Ashanti Branch: So imagine me in elementary school, when teachers are telling me what to do. Like you can't tell me what to do. And man, you know what I'm saying? Imagine that juxtaposition of your roles right? In my mom's house, I'm never in charge. She's always in charge. So I don't get to pool that with her, but anyone else who tried to tell me what to do?

Ashanti Branch: I'm like, you can't tell me what to do. I'm a man. They're like you a little boy. I'm like, you don't know me. I'm a man. Like, you know what I'm saying? Imagine me having a battle with an educator who thinks that they can, and it was a battle because my uncle had given me this role. He had given me this job and I was like, oh, that's how it works.

Ashanti Branch: I get to hold this idea that I'm a man in my head, but on the outside world, I'm still a little boy. So it was sometime complicated. I'm telling you the story because I didn't hear that's the beginnings or how it all started. So they imagine I find out there's a formula to live happy ever after they told me, they said, if I study hard, go to college, Get a good job, make a lot of money.

Ashanti Branch: I could live happily ever after as a five point plan. I'm like, Hey, say that again. They said, study hard, go to college, get a good job, make a lot of money. Live happily ever after I'm like sign me up. Cause I won't be happy ever after. I know my life is not happy often if ever, but definitely happy ever after is what I'm looking for.

Ashanti Branch: And so I basically started pushing hard for happy ever after. And then what ends up happening is I'm working hard at, trying to be a good kid, but also like on this strategy plan now in middle school, I was a mess. If you knew me in middle school, you'd be like, this kid is going to be in trouble.

Ashanti Branch: And if it wasn't for Ms. BP, a teacher changed my life and she told me one day in detention, she said, Ashanti life, doesn't give you what you want. Life gives you what you get. You gotta make the most out of it. And that sentence changed my life. I'm like, before that I was just sad and angry. I had no father.

Ashanti Branch: I was worried about that. And so that journey began get my act together. I was like, okay, fine. Instead of being sad that my father's not here and worried about the fact that I don't have a father, I'm gonna just try and make him proud. And when I changed the context, it all changed. from that point forward, I was an amazing student.

Ashanti Branch: I told myself, my name is Ashanti branch. I will get no grade lower than a B ever. I had this like thing in my head. I would never get lower than a B. And so I was like, I'm gonna make my father proud, even though he can't be here to watch me do it. And I was hustling. Teachers were confused, like, what's wrong.

Ashanti Branch: I'm Ashanti. What's going on. You're doing homework. You're doing work. Why you're paying attention so well, I'm like just working hard, but before I had no purpose. I had no purpose of why to work. Because I was holding this image of being sad and afraid and worried and missing out in my life, as opposed to like, I get to make a formula that changes the future.

Ashanti Branch: So then it was on high school college. I go to college to be an engineer. I wanted to make money. They told me, Hey, you're good at math, you can be an engineer. I'm like, what's that? They were like these are the type of engineers. What things do you, like I said, I like big buildings and bridges. They're like, you should be a civil engineer.

Ashanti Branch: I'm like, okay, let's go. I started working towards being a civil engineer, went to Cal poly San Luis Obispo majored in civil engineering. Graduated, started making big money. It was beautiful. Went home for a year to two to pay off my loans. Debt-free started living in fancy Walnut Creek, which is in the bay area.

Ashanti Branch: Just listen to the sound of that place. Walnut Creek. You can just imagine what it looks like. 

Adam Coelho: I've never been there. I lived in the bay area for 10 years. Never been to Walnut Creek, but you sound nice. You 

Ashanti Branch: missed it. You missed it. That was a wild place. And then while in this engineering, my first, five years, something started calling me this teaching thing.

Ashanti Branch: So calling me and I'm like, not me teaching. Why would I do that? Like who possess somebody? Who's making all this money to go and get a job where you're going to get paid very little, get blamed for all the real problems in education. Be responsible 30 people at a time who don't do their work and you get blamed, like what you tripping, not me.

Ashanti Branch: And I remember like hearing the call, but I got him out. That's somebody else's calling now. Imagine when you're hearing a calling on your life, there's one thing to be doing and saying, I hear something calling my life to do something different and being like Nope. Not me ever. You ever had a calling on your life and you tried to re it's almost like what Joseph Campbell talks about the hero's journey, right?

Ashanti Branch: There's a call to the adventure of your life. And then there's a resistance of the reason of the adventure. You imagine, think about all the hero stories. Think about, star wars, right? Like Luke was called. He was like, what are you talking about? I'm just a little kid over here doing this thing. I ain't got nothing special about me.

Ashanti Branch: And he had to resist it before he could get to the next place where he was like, maybe there's something into that. And I don't know all the sort of star wars, how maybe just getting it all wrong. But the call to adventure is in every, this idea that hero's journey is. And every story, every hero story.

Ashanti Branch: And what I realized in my life is that when he was calling me to come teach, I was like, I don't want to teach. I want to make money. And teachers don't make money, so it can't be for me. I worked all this way to become rich. You know what I'm saying? Like that was my goal. Cause I know I've already done my poor time on earth.

Ashanti Branch: I know a poor field's like, and I'll tell you it ain't fun. I don't think anybody ever choose to be poor, but I know the circumstances can cause financial instability in lives and I've lived it. And so I'm like, I don't want that. And so I'm telling you that part, but two, because the journey of me making a decision between staying in the money and leaving to become a teacher was a hard journey.

[00:16:43] What was the moment that you decided to like leave engineering and become a teacher? 

Ashanti Branch: When the person asked me the question, what was the moment that you decided to leave engineering and become a teacher? that must have been like a big decision.

 was there a moment? And I'm like, man, there was a lots of moments. But one of the moments in particular was I was on this big project in San Jose called Santana row. And that project was the biggest project of his time. $700 million multi-use residential, commercial, one of the buildings had a one acre, a floor print, one of the biggest buildings for print buildings like that I had ever heard of.

Ashanti Branch: And that many people had ever heard of. And I was in Mexico like that my project was on that biggest building. I was in charge of all the elevators for the whole project and some other interior pieces, but elevator, there was so many elevators that was pretty much a full time space. I was in Mexico.

Ashanti Branch: I was in this bar. I think it was in Wahaca at the time. there's a TV playing and it was usually playing wrestling, but it was playing like it was a commercial and it was like, Nuesi they knew was, news at eight. And it's, and you can't hear the words because it's a bar is music playing, but there's this playing.

Ashanti Branch: And I look up and it was like San Jose, California at OU, which is E U, which is United States. And I'm like, and I'm looking at the street and I'm like, looking at the fi this thing is on it's blazing. And I'm like, that's my project. wait, what's going on with. Pride is on fire and this is 2002.

Ashanti Branch: So 2001. So this is before Facebook. This is before Instagram. This is not no Twitter. I couldn't go and look online and it was like, it wasn't. I had to wait till I could get to a phone to call somebody. I had no self. I had no fancy cell phone back then. It was like my pride, my project is on fire.

Ashanti Branch: Do I didn't have a job when I go back. Now, when you're in construction, if something catches on fire, there's definitely a job. There's a lot more work to do when you get back. Cause you've got fire restoration and all that stuff. But nonetheless, it was one of those moments where I was like, is this a sign that I'm like I could stay it wasn't like that my job was gonna end my job was actually going to get harder.

Ashanti Branch: But it was almost maybe it was a moment of like wake up call to be you're it's time. It's time. It's time to. To let it go right. And to go and do the thing that I think was calling me, but I was running from. And yeah, it was one of those moments where I was like, okay. And so that's, that was the story. I was going to tell you that that making that journey of deciding that I'm going to leave engineering and become a teacher. And I think when I look back and I think it was pretty smart. I'm like, maybe I should have strategized a little bit.

Ashanti Branch: I maybe should've saved a little bit more. Maybe I should have, how much would I have saved? what's the number that would have been enough to be like, okay, now I can go make a job where I'm gonna make 66% less than I'm making now and be able to still have a decent lifestyle, right?

Ashanti Branch: Where, how fast the savings will subtract as the income doesn't matter. I don't think I ever would have left because it would never would have made sense numbers wise as a numbers game. It never would have made sense. It doesn't even make sense today. Sometimes I look back that was almost 19 years ago.

I'm still not making as much as I was making. it almost feels sometimes backwards. It almost feels sometimes emotionally I have to like really, like, I feel like coming up now, like sometimes emotionally I have to check myself because if I let the numbers guide me, I'll be sad because I worked hard in high school.

Ashanti Branch: I went to college, I worked hard in college. I worked hard in my career. And then my heart was like, Hey, yeah, that money's nice over there, but this is what you're supposed to be doing. And I'm like, no, find somebody else. You know what I'm saying? I'm totally satisfied in what I have done. but when I get a chance to be honest about it and talk about it, sometime.

Ashanti Branch: It's a dissonance. It's a, I think Paulo Freire, he talks about choking like a crash. It's almost like a conflict between what my heart says, brings me a lot of joy. And then what The other part of me says, but I also would like to be able to take a vacation and not worry about where I can stay, because I only have this much money to work with.

Ashanti Branch: Like where I have to be nickel and diamond and waiting for sales to go buy peanut butter. Cause I wouldn't want to, why I it's like small stuff that feel big to me because I grew up poor. I grew up deciding I was going to work hard, so I didn't have to ever be that worried about my wellbeing financially.

Ashanti Branch: And to go back there, self-inflicted like, it's not like somebody did it to me. So I did it. I own that. It was me. It was that moment of like, okay, Ashanti I often need to not let myself get locked into that cycle. I give myself sometimes a couple of minutes here and there to be like,

Ashanti Branch: that was everyone, my friends right now who are still in engineering or like telling me about their jobs and their new promotions.

Ashanti Branch: And they're like VPs and I'm just like, wow. And I know that my journey is not their journey. I'm working on doing a better job of not comparing. Cause I know that comparison is the thief of all happiness. And I know it's true. I was always true. And because I've done it, I've compared I've made up a story in my mind about where I could have been on my, like living in an alternative universe of where I could have been, should have been, would have been.

Ashanti Branch: And I'm like, stop doing that. And I have to like, come back to reality. Like I am thankful for the work I get to do. I don't feel forced to do it. But I wish that. In education. I wish we paid educators more. I wish the educators could live in the bay area and not be stressing about, do I need to go leave this district to go to a new district?

Ashanti Branch: Because they pay like $10,000 more. if you love this district you're in and you want to make more money, there's a district, probably five miles away, 10 miles away. They could probably pay you more. And then you have to decide, okay, I'll leave the district. I really like to go to a district because $10,000 for some families can make a big difference, 20,000, the big difference, and some pay even more. There's some disparities up to like 30, $40,000 difference for a first year teacher. That seems a little bit strange, but it's the reality. And so I don't think money's the only measure. And I think I'm talking about money a lot right now. Just, sometimes that is a season and definitely a season that I think about.

Ashanti Branch: ' cause I made that sacrifice. I have to constantly keep checking myself, like, are you happy? and I'm willing to be like, if I'm not, what do I need to do to be happier? I don't think, this idea of happiness is like, you should be happy every moment of every day, all the time.

Ashanti Branch: I think there's a rule there's room for all ranges of emotions. But, sometimes that decision I made long time ago, really comes in presents itself. and if I try and ignore it, I can ignore for a certain amount of time, but it's going to, it comes back and it's like name it.

Ashanti Branch: Are you happy where you are? Okay. Are you satisfied? I'm satisfied in this category. I'm satisfied in the passion and purpose work I get to do. I'm not necessarily satisfied in the financial, longevity of my, of what I've created. And so now, okay. So what do you need to do to increase this other side?

Ashanti Branch: How do you get to get balanced them out? And I think, oh, okay. So I can make some decisions. And those are really beautiful moments where I don't feel stuck. I'm not stuck in the thing, I'm not blaming anybody else that I made. I'm making choices to live the life that I dream of living, 

I appreciate you sharing that because there's a lot in what you said there, there's the comparison is the thief of all happiness, anyone ever felt better after comparing their lifestyle to someone else's or even the lifestyle we think we should have.

Adam Coelho: I was talking earlier, before we started recording about. Yeah, I've been feeling a little bit just like blah, and, look into feel a little bit re-invigorated and more aligned with passion and purpose and things like that. But another thing you said is that we have multiple aspects of our life.

Adam Coelho: And so the question you asked, like, am I satisfied? That's a question that a friend of mine, another guest on the podcast who I met randomly on the internet I think it was at wisdom 2.0, maybe even, the online version, was what would it take for you to feel satisfied and. That's something that I have not really answered.

Adam Coelho: I haven't really thought enough into it. And what you introduced here is, multiple areas of our life, we have our relationships, we have our financial life, we have the purpose and passion piece. We have our health, and our wellness and our fitness and things like that. And I, think I really need to look at that a little bit more on, what would that be take to feel satisfied in each of these areas?

Ashanti Branch: No, 

Ashanti Branch: on my men's team, we have this thing, we do call the five F's and the five apps are, just a way of us as a team setting goals. And so the five S kinda come from there's fitness there's family. There's fun. There's finances. And F is. It's like a big goal. It's like a big thing you've been wanting to do that you just a go for a goal.

Ashanti Branch: And when I use it with the teenagers, I call it, finish it like a mortal Kombat? Finish the, finish it, go finish it. Like, do it, get it done. So those five F's are the ways. We'll just begin to set goals and say look, this is a goal. That's long-term, this is a goal short term, if it's a long-term goal that we'll begin working on bits and pieces.

Ashanti Branch: And I think those are the things that, When I was in that decision-making process of transition, no one ever sat with me and be like let's work on a strategy. If you're wanting to do this and you want to leave, what would be the strategy?

Ashanti Branch: I think it would be beautiful to have somebody that could sit with you. AndThere was not this coaching movement back in 2001 that I knew about definitely they weren't looking for me. But maybe there were a bunch of coaches back there. That's I think every time I look up this new coaches around, but I think the idea is that, what would it be like to have somebody to say.

Ashanti Branch: You want to make a transition? Let's strategize this. Okay. what would you need to have in the bank to be able to do, to feel comfortable? I think even just to be able to name the conversation, like without, even when I made the decision, it literally was, like I said to the graduate program I gave my two weeks and then I was like, what'd you just do what'd you just do, what are you doing?

Ashanti Branch: It was like a Mo are you crazy? Are you, have you lost your mind? He didn't plan this out. He was like, your last check was the last check. It was like, oh wait. And ever you have to live with a little regret, right? You're like, oh, I have regret. But that moment of like, oh, maybe I should have had some strategy along the way to be thinking about this.

Ashanti Branch: But I was really in in a fire point in my life. Like it was time to make a move and I made the move, but totally a journey of looking back, I think so as well as to answer those questions, I'm trying to write these stories and think about how it all happened is really beautiful.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. That's awesome, man. I I didn't know that and yeah a fire happening at your job site that you're already feeling like, maybe this isn't for me while you're sitting at a bar in Mexico, not like you saw it on social media or something, it's just on the TV, that's pretty funny.

Ashanti Branch: Once I decided that I was going to become a teacher, my heart was open and clear. And I was doing a horrible job. So went back to school, became a teacher now like the teaching first year, and I'm doing a horrible job. Like I'm at school every day on time prepared. I'm doing homework on weekends and make sure I'm ready for my class.

Ashanti Branch: And I got kids failing my class. And I think that my grade as a teacher is if my kids are passing, I rarely every once in a while I would tell a kid you're failing is your responsibility. My job is to teach. And I realized that as much as I believe that in some ways I have a deeper responsibility to figure out what am I doing wrong?

Ashanti Branch: That you kit number one, number two, number three, whoever is not receiving the material. Now, every kid is not going to do the work to pass, but I think every kid's capable. So I told kids in my class, look, if you're going to fail, it's going to be a hard fail because you're going to know that you got. You weren't, you didn't fail withoutclear knowledge, that failing was on the way, like you going to feel this fail.

Ashanti Branch: You know what I'm saying? Like I'm going to be on you every day. You know what I mean? And I think that what I began to learn about me was I wasn't going to be accepting kids giving less than their best. you don't have to get an a in this class, you don't even have to get a B, maybe you don't even get a C, but if you got a D and you gave your best, you're going to feel like it was a million bucks.

Ashanti Branch: That's how I want the students to recognize, because I don't think that math is challenging for poor people, but I believe everyone is capable, but you gotta be bold and put in the work. So all that to say, so became a teacher. But what was, what I knew that first year was that it had to be more and ever forward club started my first year teaching M I mind you.

Ashanti Branch: I'm running a non-profit. Now, if you told me as a first year teacher who had just got my salary dropped by 66%, I did the math. And so I knew what it was as a real percentage that it looks like Ashanti you're starting a nonprofit. I would have been like. You're out of your mind, who can get, how can you get more nonprofit and teaching?

Ashanti Branch: I didn't think it was possible, but now that I run a nonprofit, I tell you, it is possible every night. Not careful you may be you, right? Like the idea is that I realized that this journey of my education of me finding my purpose and passion in life has almost been the negative regression curve of my financial measure of success. If I was looking at the salary I was making based on what I felt like I was living my purpose and passion compared to where I am. Like from the beginning, I was making lots of money, but I was just doing engineering stuff. I could do it.

Ashanti Branch: I was smart at it. I could do it. But do I say I was passionate about it? yeah, it's a little bit, but it's a very different passion that I live right now fully passionate and purpose. And the financial is not, it went the other way around, and I say that I speak about money a lot in some of my talks with people, because I want them to be clear.

Ashanti Branch: Like I know the kind of life I really dreamed of living on a financial scale. To travel wherever I wanted to travel to see every continent in the world to, take a one-way trip one day around the world. Now when we trip. Yeah. One way, yeah, just go one direction east or west and just hit countries along the way.

Ashanti Branch: There's a ticket you can buy when you're poor. You don't know about these kinds of tickets. When you start making money, they're like, Hey, you can get around the world ticket and you get to stop in like six or seven places and go all the way around the world and one direction. I'm like, yeah, I'm going to do that now as a teacher that's going to be pretty hard to do just finance.

Ashanti Branch: As an engineer, it was totally possible. It was a little strategy. Save here, save there. But I say that to say, because I've been on a journey of trying to make sure that I balance those two out, I balance my purpose and passion and lifestyle financially. That feels really good that I feel good about.

Ashanti Branch: And I think I think I've worked hard to do that and that's what I'm working on this part now, but. Sorry to have a forklift. First year teaching 2004, it began to grow these students who were the young men in my class, or were hungry. They're hungry for a place where they could show how smart they were, but they weren't ridiculed.

Ashanti Branch: See my community smart. Wasn't cool. So if you want to be cool, you can't be like a nerd.

Ashanti Branch: You can't be smart. And I remember that feeling as a student. So when I created ever forward, I wanted to create a safe space for those young men to be brilliant, be amazing and know that they weren't going to be made fun of. And it was going to be accepted as actually expected. That in this room, not only are you going to be expected to do hard work, you're going to be respected for doing hard work and you're going to be insulted.

Ashanti Branch: Are you giving your best to do hard work and that space became ever forward club. So there were four clubs started. Students were like you're probably very forward. I want to be a part of ever forward. Our club grew faster. I didn't even know what I was doing. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know I had no curriculum.

Ashanti Branch: It was just a space where young people to be heard and seen. And our meetings always had lunch. I told the young men, when we first started looking, I'll buy you lunch once a week in exchange for lunch, you teach me how to be a better teacher and that's how it started. And so it makes me fast forward. I was teaching at this first school, San Lorenzo high school in the bay area.

Ashanti Branch: I then go on a Fulbright fellowship to India. I come back, I have a new principal who is not a big fan of me. There's a lot of chaos in education and you look as a teacher, I've taught for 10 years. I was an administrator and now I work on the outside of schools. I've seen when leaders are, make it hard for educators to do that.

Ashanti Branch: I've experienced it. So then I moved to a new school. I went to a school in a Miranda private school as a math specialist, and I saw what it looks like for a school who on a financial scale will pay teachers really well and create a learning environment that is almost second to none. And you're like, oh my goodness.

Ashanti Branch: Like the difference of public school at a private school and also an independent school, like independent schools are the top 2% of all schools in the country, 2%, which means there, these kids are paying top money for them to go to education for their school. I realized that my work was in the mix of that.

Ashanti Branch: Oh, wow. What do we need to do for our kids to get some of this skin and experience like this? I first started in India where kids were hungry for learning. I saw it in Marin county where kids were like thriving. So I'm like, okay, it can happen here. We've got to figure out how to like, make it work. And then all I know is that my work in through education was how I began to get connected to the deeper work of my own self.

 I did my first men's work. My work, doing some work on myself was 2010 joined the men's team. And it began to really blossom from there. Me first dealing with my own stuff, the lumen, my lack of emotional intelligence. I was intelligent, but I didn't navigate my emotions. I stuffed them still. I was still like stuffing them.

Ashanti Branch: Sadness, fear, worry stuff. Be cool. Be outside. Be in charge. Be the leader. And when I started doing my own healing work, it began to change everything. So 2014, 15, we were featured in a documentary called the mask you live in and that's when the million mass movement started. It was called taking off the workshop, it's called taking off the mask.

Ashanti Branch: But we have been doing this work ever since, and it has been growing. And as the workshop you experienced in 2016 at wisdom 2.0, and it's been a journey ever since, and it's been really beautiful to watch more people experience making these masks. And when I talk about the mask, imagine today, if I tell someone to take off the mask sounds very different than it did five years ago, because now mass, somehow or political, 

Adam Coelho: that's a good point. You want to keep that mask on people because that's what I noticed. I never thought about that. That's yeah. That's a very different thing. I'm sure that. 

Ashanti Branch: It's very top of mind for you. Oh, it is because, we go to a place and we say, what's the name of your workshop? I said, taking off the mask, they're like, huh.

Ashanti Branch: And they're like I said, oh, we're talking about emotional masks, not your personal protection mask, but you have to explain it now more than ever, because people are, make it easily try and pigeonhole you into, are you an anti masker? Emotional masks. We're talking about if we can get clear about the context that we've been doing this work since, before the pandemic.

Ashanti Branch: So as you imagine, what used to be totally easy to just describe in 2014, 15, 16, 17, 18 then began really hard to describe in 2020 to tell people to take off the mask because they were. what do you mean by that? Anyway, those are all the pieces that we learned through and we're still organizing through, but that movement we've collected over 50,000 masks and these masks or a picture plus six words.

Ashanti Branch: We asked people to draw a picture, representing a mask of their own self. And then we asked them to write six words, three words for the front things that we let people see about us, three things on the back, things we don't let people see. And that's the mask. And when you think about the things that you don't let people see, I think you're imagined that people begin to really see the realness in each other because they realized they're not the only ones who are carrying around stuff that they're not talking about.

Ashanti Branch: It. They don't let people see. So I was supposed to be a 10 minute story. That was a little longer, but that's the gist of where I've been over the last periods of my life. But thank you for letting me share the story. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. I love that story and I see how it, grew out of your desire to be a good teacher and, having trouble failing at that.

Adam Coelho: And, then you created this space for the young men to come and be real right. To take off the mask and to show up authentically. I'd love to have you talk a little bit more about the taking off the mask exercise, as people are listening to this, right? Yeah. People that are listening to this, the mindful fire podcast, they want to live true to themselves.

[00:36:08] How does doing this exercise of taking off the mask, enable people to learn more about themselves and live more authentic? 

Adam Coelho: They want to live in alignment with their values and their purpose. How does doing this exercise of taking off the mask, enable people to learn more about themselves and live more authentic. 

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. When we think about the mask, we think about how do I have a space to talk about what's going on behind what everyone can see.

Ashanti Branch: So depending on what you do on a daily basis, you can imagine what is on the outside? what are the qualities of yourself that you let people see gladly? You just named those for yourself. Okay. I let people see that I'm hardworking and dedicated. I'm smart. I'm talented. I'm athletic. I'm handsome.

Ashanti Branch: I got six pack. I'm gonna have, I'm curious. Whatever those words are, the things you let people see, and we've seen lots of words. I have some mass in front of me. Creative, happy, tall, nice, kind funny. Like these are the things that people on the outside, let people see. Active.

Ashanti Branch: And then if you think about the other, what are the things that parts of yourself, you don't let people see you don't talk about now, if you think about those right now for yourself, anyone listening, just what are the things that you don't talk about much that you don't let people see?

Ashanti Branch: You really maybe hold back a little bit. Maybe you hold no holding back because you want to hide it. Maybe it's just because no one ever asks and you don't think anyone really cares. So it doesn't really come up in any conversations. What does, because no one else talks about it.

Ashanti Branch: So therefore you don't think you should talk about it. What about all those things? I think those are the places in ways that we begin to find ourselves getting stuck in a conversation that is not complete, right? Because if you're with one group and you're this way and you're with another group and you were this way and who really fully knows you here, here's the.

Ashanti Branch: One of my mentors asked me this question and I'll ask it to you. Where in your life are you fully known? Where in your life are you fully known? And when he asked me, I was like, nowhere, I was cleared by that answer. Nowhere he's like, what do you mean you don't as men's team? You know what it means you for 10 years, they don't fully know you.

Ashanti Branch: I said they know a lot about your siblings and your family. I said, yeah, they know a lot too, but who fully knows me, nobody. And he asked me this next question, which was the part that was difficult to answer, but it was really telling, he said, Shante, is it possible to be fully loved?

Ashanti Branch: If you're not fully known, I'll ask it again. Is it possible to be fully loved? If you're not fully known, man, a question hit me like a load of bricks. Because it's hard to answer. It's like, what do they love? They love what you let them know. They love what you let them see. And I think that's true for most people right now.

 So anyway, in that question, it's just, you think about it for yourself. That's what I'm hoping people will recognize. Like where am I like, can I be more fully known? And I think that's a question we all have to grapple with. Like if ever if, imagine if our minds, if all our thoughts in our minds was like projected on our forehead.

Ashanti Branch: Like if all the thoughts that were passing through our mind were projected, like that may not be the best way to make a lot of friends. Like, you'd be like I got some really wild dogs that are passed through this mind of mind. And some of them are totally, maybe inappropriate or made up or silly or dumb or create a wild out of this world.

Ashanti Branch: Like whatever they are. we create around ourselves, the aura of how we want to show up and how I want to show up in the world. And how do I begin to find people who I can be able to be more authentic with? So that's the question. So the people who are listening, where are the places where you can be more your full self?

Adam Coelho: Yeah. that's some deep questions right there. Those are some deep questions. My man. And that is really hard, I think it's one of those things where yeah, I would say, where am I fully known nowhere, even within my own mind, I feel like I don't even fully know myself.

Adam Coelho: And I think that this exercise is. Path to finding that as is mindfulness. And really just watching what's going on in my head and my body and starting to listen a little bit more closely. those are really big questions. And, I think the reason why the workshop hit me so much when you did it at that first wisdom 2.0 conference that I was at was that it gave a space, created a space for that reflection.

Adam Coelho: And then I think that the sharing within a group of people who don't know you, never going to see again, and have agreed to keep things confidential, gives you a space where you can. try to be a little bit more real than you might otherwise. 

Ashanti Branch: maybe take a couple of layers of the mask off.

Ashanti Branch: Maybe you can't take it all off. Maybe like I'm gonna test a few layers. What if I just tell them about this? Like I think when we think about mass, I have lots of different ones. But I think when you think about what we can take off and what we can let people see, like everyone doesn't get to see everything, but maybe in certain places, I let them see more of me.

Ashanti Branch: This let this group over here, they get to see more and more of me. And I think that's it. That's what ends up happening, so I think it's so beautiful the way you said it,have a space where they can see, I can let myself be seen a little bit more and realize that what other people are going through is equally, or even maybe more painful than what I'm going through.

Ashanti Branch: And not as a comparison, but as an idea of like, I'm not alone, it's not a comparison, but it is a, like a way other people are going through stuff. How's that possible. Everyone looks so perfect on the outside. And I think that when we did the thing about our social media world today, some people get caught up in comparing their behind the scenes life to other people's highlight reel.

Ashanti Branch:  yeah. 

Adam Coelho: That's what it is. Right? Social media is the highlight reel and we have the full story of our lives. and we're also get so caught up in our own story and our own life and perspective that it's really easy to look at others on the surface and say, oh man, everyone else has got to figure it out.

Adam Coelho: But I think what, this really shows people, this exercise of taking off the mask, it shows people that everyone's got the backside of the mask. Everyone's got things That they're working on that they're grappling with that they don't fully accept. And that is powerful. It's powerful.

Adam Coelho: It's helpful. And it allows us to start loosening the grip on those things that we think are so important to keep behind the mask, 

Ashanti Branch: that's right. That's right. 

Ashanti Branch: And we see when we do workshops with schools, we see that right now, we got, we done workshops more in schools right now.

Ashanti Branch: And students say like 12th graders, they will do the workshop. and they hear words from the mass. They realize, wait, somebody in here is going through that. Like what, like, I think I know all of you and how is this possible? And they don't know who's mask is who cause they're all anonymous.

Ashanti Branch: But to recognize that people are going through similar stuff, it is absolutely. Beautiful for them to begin, coming to awareness is more than intellectual. Of course people are going through real stuff, but when you can hear what people have shared on these cards, and then you say, oh, maybe we should be a little kinder to each other mean that maybe we should be a little bit more aware of what we say to people, because we never know people are going through behind the smile and the grins and the bright eyes.

Ashanti Branch: I think that as we hear more, famous and popular culture, people say I've been, I was going through this thing and I didn't talk about it. I think it hopefully makes it more relevant for people, and just recently we were listening to, I was in the car listening to some musical artists who was talking about.

Ashanti Branch: Guy who wrapped a lot about his battle with drugs. And when he eventually passed, she died anxiety tragically. But if you go back and I had never listened to his music, but recently somebody placement his music to me. And I'm like, is every one of his songs? Is he talking about him being addicted to drugs?

Ashanti Branch: Like the, no one like reach out to him and say, Hey brother, like every song I was, we were listening to, I can listen to a little bit of it. And I'm like, it starts off with like, I can't stop doing, like, I'm like, wait, I don't remember his name right now. I was like, it's the name of some of my mind. But th the jest of it is he died.

Ashanti Branch: But the thing he rapped about all the time, and you wonder, did anybody hear it? Did anybody hear his calling out for help? It's easy to hear it. Now you look back and be like, don't. I never listened to him, so I don't listen to him the, in the aftermath of what had happened to him, but.

Ashanti Branch: You like that no one ever noticed what he was saying and all these songs, like He was asking for help. He was like, did anybody see me? Can anybody hear me? Does anybody notice that I'm going through this? And that's where we realized that we could totally be ignoring what people, because maybe we don't think they're really being clear.

 I don't know what it is. I don't have an answer for that, but I just, I felt that just recently when I was like, wow, like his songs are saying, I need help. I'm stuck in this. I don't want to be doing this, but unfortunately that's what took him out. So when we go to schools and they do these math, we help them say, Hey, do you see what your kids are dealing with?

Ashanti Branch: Do you see what's on their masks? Like these are the words your students are saying. They're fear and sadness and worry and doubt and anxiety and depression. And can we make sure we know. Let that keep going without doing something about it, bringing awareness to it. That's the work that we, I believe we have to do.

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. 

[00:44:55] Can you talk about the work that ever forward does in schools? Tell the audience a little bit about what that programming is.

can you talk a little bit more about the work that ever Ford does in schools? you bring young men together, buttell the audience a little bit about what that looks like, know what that programming is. 

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. Air force started with just a club for young men called ever forward club.

Ashanti Branch: That's our signature work, and it has evolved. The clubs with young men meets once a week and it was just a space for young men to talk, to be held in a really special place where they are creating this little academic family, like a brotherhood. But it was about giving them a space where they could talk about whatever they were going through.

Ashanti Branch: That's the ever Ford club as a program. Then when you think about ever forward club as a movement or as a, organizational structure right now, we have ever four club, which is the club for young men. We have ever forward peer mentoring club. That's a club that's could be co-ed or multiple. Anyone is welcomed in the peer mentoring club.

Ashanti Branch: That club allows them to have deeper conversations around with all students. And it's not just young men, they ever for clubs specifically for young men, peer mentoring clubs, open to all students. Then we have the professional development work we do. So what we realized early on is that we could do a lot of good work with the students, the young men in our program.

Ashanti Branch: But if we send them back into classes where teachers. Operating from the I'm in charge. I have no faults. I am the all-knowing all knowledgeable adults of Oz. Then we ended up having kids who can read through that because kids are smart. The students get in trouble a lot. If they call teachers out on their own misbehavior, because teachers have a lot of power and they can ignore the fact that they have to face some of those things.

Ashanti Branch: We started doing professional development educators to really give them tools of how to build healthy relationships. So learning from we learn never forward over 17 years of work, how to help educators be better and more mindful. And I just realized that now it's just, you know what? I just, when I said 17 years, I just realized that like, we've been my man, that's 17 years of knowledge that we have I've learned from students because we ask a lot of questions, so professional development, and now we do a lot of professional development in corporate spaces, team building, community, building healthy environments, healthy relationships.

Ashanti Branch: And then our third program is experiences. So we have the ever forward million mass movement. That's the movement with these cars that people make around the world. We have taken off the mass workshops that we do with teachers, students, adults, community, and we have a couple of events we do every year.

Ashanti Branch: The 24 hour relay challenge is our annual community event. And and we just created it. We just create two new products. We have created a game called the adventure and the adventure is about taking these questions, these challenges and saving a character from some destination. So he may, we gamified his idea of how do you build connection with people and those are where I our, the layers of our work.

Ashanti Branch: So when schools invite us in, it really depends on the resources the school has. It depends on the person who we're working with. Like. Desire to really do some deep change. We recommend that they have a club at their school, whether it's a peer mentoring club or ever forward club, because we feel that there's a need.

Ashanti Branch: So those are the big, the layers of how people can engage with, for, at their schools or in their communities or their businesses, 

[00:48:07] If people want to connect with you on any of those to bring you into their company or their school, or donate to the cause, how do they do that?

Adam Coelho: yeah, very cool. And if people want to connect with you on any of those to bring you into their company or their school, or donate to the cause, how do they do that?

Ashanti Branch: Yeah, the easiest would be go to ever forward club.org. That's our website ever forward club, all together.org. And they can also see a lot, they can find us on social media. They can DM us on all platforms at ever forward club, ever forward club altogether. And yeah that's the best way, they we're now backing out of schools are opening back up and they're finding no protocols of how to do things safely.

Ashanti Branch: We're doing a lot more assemblies now and a lot more workshops in schools, which are only being beautiful. So yeah, that'd be the best way for them to find us. 

Adam Coelho: Very cool. 

[00:48:52] How have you adapted as a leader and what are you learning as you continued to grow the organization? 

Adam Coelho: So Ashanti, I know that the ever Ford club has been growing quite a bit and that obviously this work is needed now more than ever before. And I imagine that contributes to the growth.

Adam Coelho: How have you adapted as a leader and what are you learning as you continued to grow the organization? 

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. As ever four grows and as I'm still adapting as a leader. I think one of the things I'm adapting to the most is how hard it is for a founder to kind of start letting go a pieces.

Ashanti Branch: I think depending on how deeply connected that you are to the thing you're creating. And I've been working on this since 2004, so almost 17 years more than 17 years now we're moving into our 18th year it's letting go of pieces, letting go of parts that, that feel really like, I want to hold on to it, but it's almost Like, I, I grew up plants, I like plants and I had a garden before. I don't have one right now this season, but I think about like plants, if you put up plant in a pot, it's only going to grow as much as that pot can hold the roots of that plant. And at some point the plant is going to start toppling over or is this going to get stagnant and started fighting out?

Ashanti Branch: And I think that I use that analogy in the sense of organization, because as we need to grow as an organization, if I'm holding on to it, trying to keep it. Within the grass of what I can control. It's only going to grow so big. And I think letting go, we have our first full-time hire, he's a director of sales and development, right?

Ashanti Branch: Like how are we going to grow? We're going to sell, we've got to connect more. We're a nonprofit, but we operate a lot of earned revenue work. Our workshops in games and things like that are ways of us bringing in money. We're not at the mercy of donations, right? We want to be an organization that, that builds it and help sustain ourselves, so that we can support more people than we can grow.

Ashanti Branch: And we can pay our people really equitable and fair salaries even working in this service industry. So I think that for me, what feels the most important in terms of was growing, what I'm growing through right now is the new team member, he's taken off some things off of my plate.

I didn't realize until we met the, for his first day, That I was managing 10 people. there are contractors employees and like, I never really counted them. I just knew that I had people doing different stuff and I'm trying to keep all these tops spinning at the same time.

Ashanti Branch: And I realized, wait, I'm managing 10 people. And I realized why I feel like I told him I'm not getting a lot done because I'm actually, I'm doing a lot of delegating, but I'm also doing a lot of chicken in with a lot of people. I'm like, why do I feel like I'm not getting a lot done while I'm on the phone all the time.

Ashanti Branch: Calling conversations all the time. Because I'm managing 10 people by myself and I didn't even realize it. And so it was almost like this realization that, oh, wow. Shanti, you are. Doing something bigger than you even thought yourself. And until I started on the board in front of me, it wasn't really real.

Ashanti Branch: And I think I've gotten to a clearer place. And now that he's taken on some of those roles and those managing spots, I have to get used to not trying to be in the weeds all the time. Cause I'm used to being on all the weeds. So like I know every weed, I know every roots I'm like, okay, where's that?

Ashanti Branch: What's that with that. And I think we're having to re train our own team, that here's what you're responsible for. And here's how the check-in process is going to work. And I think I'm learning. I think I'm just learning how to be a better leader. I think I'm learning how to be a more effective leader or different lead in different ways.

Ashanti Branch: I think that's been really beautiful for me. So I think that's where I'm at right now and the growth of myself I'm having to level up my game as a leader and that's beautiful and I'm excited about that and it's hard and it's hard. 

Adam Coelho: . Yeah. That makes sense. can imagine that is difficult.

Adam Coelho: Having done it for so long, 17 years you've been doing this. And you've been holding it all together and keeping it growing and keeping it moving. And there's a lot of moving parts. You're dealing with a lot of stakeholders. You got your employees, you got your community, you got the schools, the principals, the teachers, the parents, the kids, like the donors, the companies, you're doing things for like, yeah.

Ashanti Branch: It's a lot. to start. Loosen the grasp on all of those and start to trust others to execute your vision.that's the magic word you just said right there. I was going to show you and say that trust, it requires trust, right? Like we don't have a credit card. But people have to make purchases and they have to get my card.

Ashanti Branch: And you're like, you have to trust. like all these little things, you have to give people account numbers and have to give people like access to stuff. And I'm like, you want my password for that? Why? even when you and I were working together, when we had to do this stuff around Salesforce, like we were trying to get Salesforce I'm running.

Ashanti Branch: And I think the guy was like, I need your password to the donor, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, huh? Like I gotta give you the password. Is there any other way? Cause in my mind, I'm like, I'm responsible for all those people in that database. And it's, and I think he's just his fear. And I'm working on this idea of where the healthy fear is and where the fear that holds us back that keeps us stuck in the pot.

Ashanti Branch: That's not allowing us to grow. So that's been the part of like, oh, cachaca, this is okay. This is my fear. And it's fear. And it's fear. It is fear. I think that I'm easy to name it. And now I'm like working on working through it. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, that's a interesting that you mentioned the fear and cause when you're talking about, think about what's on the back of the mask, I'm realizing more and more that it's afraid, right?

Adam Coelho: That there's some part of me that's afraid to really show up in my life. Like it matters. And things are good. I'm very fortunate to have a good job, make decent money and have a great boss and like things are good. And, but sometimes I let myself. Stay small or hold myself back because I'm afraid of, I don't know.

Adam Coelho: I don't know what it is showing up fully. Like it really matters. And I allow myself to say, oh things are good, as a way to not step into who I know I could be. Yeah. Yeah. And or even just to do the work of figuring out who I want to be, I have an idea. The podcast helps me explore that, but I've really started to realize there's a lot of fear and doing this solo episode that I mentioned earlier really helped me face that fear.

Adam Coelho: And yeah, it's an ongoing process. So I appreciate you calling that out for yourself, but also called it out for me as well. 

[00:55:18] Mindful Fire Final Four[00:55:18] what you've learned in doing the podcast

let's shift now into what I call the mindful fire. Final four. Okay. So the first question is we haven't really talked about it, but you also have a podcast and you've done a whole bunch of episodes.

Adam Coelho: And I'm curious as to what you've learned in doing the podcast, either its impact on the organization, getting the message out, like really, what have you learned from doing the podcast? 

Ashanti Branch: Thank you. That's a beautiful question. I think that's a powerful question. The podcast is called taking off the mask.

Ashanti Branch: And it's literally an opportunity for me to talk to other men. And we, men of all ages, our youngest participant has been 12. I think he's 12. Wednesday is amazing eighth grader, but he's 13 and he's turned 13. conversation with men about our masks, and so we make a mask and we share it with each other.

Ashanti Branch: And I think one of the things I've learned is that so many men are going through similar things that you would never know. I think so far the, in the episodes that I've recorded, you know, I have some childhood trauma around abuse and, and I think that I've met through the podcast things, I didn't know before, I'd probably so far four or five men who also experienced childhood abuse in the same way.

Ashanti Branch: And I think. There's so many people who you would never know by looking at them on the outside, but there's so much stuff we carry. And I think I know that intellectually and I know it real, and it's always really a beautiful opportunity when people are willing to share some of those deep stories. And I think the more we can give people permission and more freedom to share some of those deep, painful stories, the more we can not let men or boys have to carry it by themselves.

Ashanti Branch: And so part of my journey, and I've also learned that that these conversations as I get to a place of continuing and growing on myself is that they helped me. They helped me as much as, maybe they help the people who listen that they recognize that I recognize I'm not alone. And that even, I make a mask and the person there makes a mask and we show it.

Ashanti Branch: And they're like words that are exactly the same. We're like, whoa, how has that happened? Who knows? But it's really beautiful in that way. So that's the work that I'm learning from the pocket. 

Adam Coelho: Awesome. Yeah, I I really enjoyed the episode with chip Conley. had another person I had, seen at wisdom to him, point out the university didn't bring him and I together yet, one of these days, but, it was just really cool.

Adam Coelho: Cause I know he does a lot of this type of work with the modern elder academy and helping people think about like, what am I here to do? What is next for me? I've done XYZ for so long what's next. And it was interesting to hear Both sides of his mask, and to hear you doing it along with him.

Adam Coelho: And it was just really cool. And I'm going to be on your podcast at some point. If I ever write up my, bio and send it to Vanessa, so I'm going to do it, but that's another one of those things, that's that fear, right? It's like, who am I? What, what do I say in this bio?

so I've like half filled out your form twice. And then I get to the bio and I'm like, 

Ashanti Branch: Well,

Ashanti Branch: How about this? I'll tell you right now. You don't have to uh, the bio. How about that? How about that? Just write one sentence that you just write one sentence. No, no pressure on the calendar. On the calendar I was doing like it. 

Adam Coelho: I like it. Yeah. That's funny. I really have filled it out half, twice and just like ran 

Ashanti Branch: away.

Ashanti Branch: Oh man. It's just describing myself from now on. I'm going to put it in parentheses. Just one sentence. Don't worry. Whatever you got. One sentence. That's what I would do. I'm probably 

Adam Coelho: not the only one that is holding back because of 

Ashanti Branch: that. I can imagine. We can imagine that would be the case, so glad you named it.

Ashanti Branch: So now that I'm like, oh, maybe that is it. Yeah. I think about that too. I'm like, oh wait. Yeah. So thank you. You actually gave me a tip that may be holding people back and I didn't even know it. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: Sure. Yeah, no, it's I like the process. You're collecting everything you need upfront, I still haven't scheduled, so maybe it's holding me, 

Ashanti Branch: holding people back.

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. True statement. You it Tuesday. That's interesting. Yeah. We interviewed a man. Justin Baldoni who's was in Hollywood actor and he was like, you gave me homework. I can't believe he gave me homework. And I'm like, oh, you're right. It could seem like that. Like, I'm not trying to actually, I was thinking that is making it easier, but actually it feels so a person, everyone's busy.

Ashanti Branch: So it was like, oh, I need to, okay. I'm going to, we're going to eliminate. Scale back some pieces. So we don't make it feel like, cause it goes out to make people feel pressurized to go is to hopefully lighten the load. But when you said that right there, you gave me a good tip and I'm going to tell the team and meet with them.

[00:59:47] what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence? 

Adam Coelho: The second question is what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence? 

 Oh, okay. I can give you lots of advices one piece of advice, if you're going to change your career, that takes you from abundance and just that paycheck to like, I'm going to give back to the planet, which doesn't always pay financially.

Ashanti Branch: Like I would just say, sit down with a financial advisor, sit down with a coach, sit down with a friend and just make a plan. I think anyone was asking me recently about, leaving their career to become an educator. I always say, do you have you have a number in mind on how much you need to have stored up.

Ashanti Branch: I didn't have a number, literally. it wasn't not planned. It was not planned. So I did not well plan. So I know the feeling of like getting into the teaching job and realizing I'll get them back in grad school. I just didn't strategize well, so I would say, and I don't know if financial freedom yet.

I think definitely in a better place and without the way I grew up. The struggle that we had growing up. So I feel thankful. I feel thankful that I don't have to miss any meals. I think that those kind of things weren't really fun growing up, but I I would say

Ashanti Branch: it's one thing to have lots of money and not a lot of joy. So I think you have toput a price on your. And I think that, when I was in engineering to, to make that move, I was clear that I was going in a way, and maybe I was thinking I was going to eventually come back to engineering one day.

Ashanti Branch: And then, after I got this teaching out of my system and as that's 20 that's, 17, 18 years ago. So I think that I would just say I invite people to really if you're going to make a career move to check out the numbers and make sure not the numbers, whether you should do it, just, what do you need to do to strategize.

Ashanti Branch: Because we make the move, it could be a shock to your system. It was a shock to my system. It was a shock to my system, my apartment, my car insurance. It was a shock to my weekend plans. It was shocked. Everything was shocking. It was in between flying Emirates and flying spirit. You know what I mean?

Ashanti Branch: Like, I think there's a difference. There's a big difference. That's a difference. That's a big difference, but I would just say, just strategize well and think about that, and thinking about, okay, what do I need to do? Do I need to make a five month plan or six month plans?

Ashanti Branch: I can at least store up some, it was like storing up your nest so that when you make that move, it makes it a little easier to land. And that's the best way I can describe it, yeah. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. I really, I resonate a lot with that and that's really. How I think about my pursuit of financial independence, right?

Adam Coelho: Like it's not like I want to retire and do nothing. I want to move towards more meaningful and impactful and purposeful work, like the work that you're doing or entrepreneurship related stuff. And, but I want to do it where I don't have to worry about putting food on the table about supporting my family.

Adam Coelho: So I trying to think about that. But then on the other side, something we talked about earlier, you just jumped in, you had a sign and you follow the sign and you jumped in and maybe you could have done some more planning, thing we talked about is, what is enough?

Adam Coelho: How do you figure out yeah. If you're planning and building your nest, your nest egg, that's going to support you to go do this work. Yeah. When's the nest enough, when can you make that jump? And I think everyone's got to ask that question and keep asking that question. And I know for sure I'm in that 

Ashanti Branch: spot.

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's so beautiful. Even to be in a place where people are willing to have the conversation. Cause I imagine, if somebody has talked to me before. Like, I don't think that even up until I was making the decision that I knew I was going to be making the decision. So it wasn't like for some of us, some of the decisions we make, they're going to need to be fast and abrupt and quick.

Ashanti Branch: Because otherwise we'll overthink them and then we'll never make a move. Like we talked about also. So I think like looking and saying, when somebody is already in the place of moving to a new strategy, I think that I want to be doing something different. It's like, okay, look, what's the timeline looking like for you?

Ashanti Branch: I think it's just like having somebody who can ask you some good questions and helpful questions, not like, why would you do. That's not the kind of questions you need somebody to ask. It's more of like, okay, this is the plan. What do you envision it looking like, when is the timeline, what do you envision needing to have already stored up going back to grad school?

Ashanti Branch: Do I need to pay for grad school printing to save up for that? Or am I going to have my financial aid? I think just having somebody help think through, and now that I've experienced it, when people come to me and think about these moves, I asked just those questions that were somebody had asked me.

Ashanti Branch: So I think it was just really just learning as we learn. I don't think sometimes I could have known it while it was happening, but I only knew it in hindsight, of 

Adam Coelho: course. Yeah, no, that's really good point. Having some trusted friends, that aren't going to just. Poo your plans.

Adam Coelho: And just say, what are you doing? Like that's friend you call for something else. 

Ashanti Branch: That's right, exactly 

Adam Coelho: All right. 

[01:04:27] what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness? 

Adam Coelho: Question number three. Is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness?

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. Thank you. So that breath I took right there is how I operate on a regular basis is my practice is like a living practice for me. I've done lots of different training classes and, the invitation has been the sit in the morning for maybe half an hour every morning and try it that.

Ashanti Branch: My, my sleeping schedule is a little too erratic for that. I've tried to do it at night before I go to bed. And my sleeping schedule is a little too chaotic for that. And I've always been beating myself up because I made some commitments that I would do it and then I didn't do it. And then you get the email from the workshop and they're like, Hey, are you doing your practice?

Ashanti Branch: And you're like, no, I'm not doing it. And I've learned that instead of me trying to do something that is, it's harder for me at the moment. It's not that I'm not willing to do hard. How come in that fits a little bit better in the way I operate. And sometimes I just stop in the middle I'm in my office.

Ashanti Branch: I just stop. And I'm just like, take like five breaths sometime. I was just like right there, I take a one breath. I was like, let me think about this sometime. I just use a mindful moment throughout the day. So I'm constantly taking breaths. I'm constantly, I know it's very different than. Studies have shown up a regular practice can do, but I do.

Ashanti Branch: What's really working for me and how I just stay grounded when something happens. That is frustrating me. That's getting me activated

Ashanti Branch: and I just take a moment I'll stop. I'll stop. Let me know. I don't do it while I'm driving. But I do it when I have a moment to catch my breath. And so my practice is that's where anyone who's starting a practice, find a practice that works for you and build up, I've had practice where I was sitting for 30 minutes a day, and then I just those don't work currently in my present day.

Ashanti Branch: Could I make it happen? Yes, I can make it happen, but I think I've just found that my daily, regular practices constantly staying really mindful and content. And when I can sit, I sit when I can say, you know what, I'm going to take this next 10, 20 minutes and just, I, so I think.

Ashanti Branch: That's my work. And I think that I invite people to not overwhelm themselves with trying to follow a practice that then is just going to fall off and sit in the notebook. But that is a living practice through them. So yeah, that's how I operate. And that's how I support the young people.

Ashanti Branch: I work with. Some of our young men are not going to sit for 20 minutes a day, 10 minutes a day. People have even buys that are even smaller, but I've learned that if I can like incorporate it in my daily cooperated, when I'm brushing my teeth, I can incorporate it when I'm getting ready to eat. If I can incorporate it into like, just ways of being, then it's part of my life as opposed to like separate from my life starts after I finished that thing, so that's the best way I can answer it. 

Adam Coelho: No, that's great advice. That's really great advice because. There's formal practice, which is the sitting. And then there's the informal practice, which is the, in the moment, mindfulness and both are incredibly important. And if you're not able to connect with the present moment when you need it, then doesn't matter.

Adam Coelho: If you meditate for three hours a day, if you don't have it, when you need it, then you really don't have much. So think that's really powerful and it's something that hasn't been shared too much here. Happy to have that perspective. 

[01:07:34] how can people connect with you online

And so the final question is Shante is how can people connect with you online, learn more about the work that you're doing with the ever forward club and show support by either having you come to do workshops at their companies or schools, or to donate, to support the work that you do with.

Ashanti Branch: Yeah. We invite people to go to our website@everforwardclub.org that org ever forward club that orgy, you can follow us on social media, all channels at ever forward club. And if you want to bring us into your schools, please, there's a form flat on our website that just says about workshops. You can always email us@everforwardclubatgmail.com.

Ashanti Branch: But those are the ways that we invite people to connect. See what we're doing, check out what we've been up to in the world. And if you don't have the resources or your community, doesn't have the support there's ways and tools that you can use on your own. You can get the game. Begin to play in the game with your students or your community.

Ashanti Branch: You can make a mask. You can go online@onehundredkmasks.com and make a mask anonymously. We would love you to be a part of this movement. We have a goal of collecting a million masks from around the world. So if nothing else, if you tell one person to go and make a mask, you help us get closer to that million.

Ashanti Branch: And then when we reached that goal and we started celebrate, you'll be like, I was a part of that movement. And I really hope that you'll be able to say that. So thank you so much for offering. Appreciate your. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. Thank you so much, Ashanti. Thank you for the work that you're doing and your friendship, and for joining me today on the show, and I really enjoyed our conversation.

Ashanti Branch: Me too, man. Thank you so much. Bye everybody. All right. 

Thanks for joining me on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast.

If you enjoy today's episode, I invite you to hit subscribe wherever you're listening to this, this just lets the platforms know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here when I release additional content. 

Adam Coelho: If you're ready to start your mindful fire journey, go to mindful fire.org/start and download my free envisioning guide. 

Adam Coelho: In just 10 minutes, this guide will help you craft a clear and inspiring vision for your life. 

Adam Coelho: Again. You cdownloadoad itfree at mindfulFIRE.org/start 

Thanks again. And I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire podcast.