Rena Koesler, Achieving your Potential on The Writers Hour - Creative Conversations with Janine Bolon

Rena Koesler – Author, Achieving Your Potential25 min read

Janine Bolon: Hi, welcome to The Writers Hour Creative Conversations. I am Janine Bolon. And today I have with me, Professor Rena. Now, what I like to talk about when it comes to introducing Rena Koesler is the fact that she actually was a University Professor for years and years, and then she turned into an entrepreneur. Now, this is not an easy transition as anyone who has been in academia, now transitioning from being a professor to an entrepreneur, takes some serious courage and a whole lot of guts. Just gutting it out, day after day to make sure you conquer those fears. So some of the favorite parts that I enjoyed about Rena was the fact that she took what she had a passion for as a professor and then created a coaching and speaking practice. As she says, she has had forty-plus years of outdoor adventuring and climbing mountains.

So she speaks about that and she writes about that. So she is very good at coaching people, leadership training, team development, and personal development. She helps her clients like, “Oh my gosh, I am lost at sea. I have no idea what to do next,” she kind of walks you through with little baby steps on, what is the next step in your life as well as your business, she can help you with both. She barely wants to help people identify their core desires, help them move toward those core desires, and then have that feeling of aliveness. We all know what it means to feel like we are stuck and we are in a rot versus when we are on our path and we just totally are excited. We bounced out of that bed every day because we are just ready to get on with the next day. So that is what she likes to do. She likes to help you with all that. So today, we are going to talk about the very first book she wrote. Thank you for being with us today, Rena.

Rena Koesler: Thank you for having me, Janine. I appreciate it.

Janine: No problem. So, give us the title of your Itty Bitty little book. Why you chose that kind of Itty Bitty title that whole itty-bitty thing? I always think bit string bikinis at that point because of the silly song my dad used to listen to all the time when I was growing up, but that is not what you are about. So tell us a little bit more about that whole process.

Rena: Yeah, thank you. The title of the book is ‘Itty-Bitty” book Achieving Your Potential: 15 Empowering Steps To Reach Each Summit. It is an itty-bitty book. It is only, I think, thirty-seven pages, but I like getting right to the point. There are a whole lot of hidden gems in between the lines as you read through each one of the steps or each one of these chapters but essentially starts out with identifying your summit. And what I mean by the summit is what your goal is, what your desires are, what your ambitions are, where do you want to go. That is not an easy step for a lot of people. It takes some good hard alone time, I believe, and thinking about who you are, what you want to do in your life, where you want to go, and what kind of contributions you want to make to the larger world. It really is about giving back to other people. So what do you have? We all have something. We all have something that we want to share and give. We all have gifts and talents that are uniquely different to ourselves and uniquely different than anybody else around us. So it is a matter of really narrowing that down and then launching into adhering to what those gifts and talents and those passions are. And that is the first step.

Janine: I totally agree. The thing that I really am excited about is the fact that you said, “Yeah, it is an itty-bitty book. It is thirty-seven pages.” I think folks, especially authors think that “Oh, okay. I am going to write a book. It is got to be two hundred and seventy-five pages. So what am I going to fill it with? I do not have enough information.” One of the things you will see over and over when it comes to Dr. Koeler’s book is the testimonials. They talk about it, one of them is itty-bitty, but the wisdom and practical advice she lays out is broad and deep. This is a gem worth mining on every page. Now, the thing is I love these testimonials because I know some of these people who have read the testimonials so they are not just slathering this testimonial just so that she can say that she has testimonials. People really did say that not only hiking with Rena when they actually because she does those sorts of retreats, but the fact that her book is only thirty-seven pages is like a plan on reading it multiple times. It is going to take time to integrate some of these nuggets she has.

Also as an author, do not think your book has to be over a certain number of pages. Thirty-seven-page book and Rena’s getting a lot of traffic on that. So talk to us a little bit about how some of the writing processes like there is a little nervousness of, “Okay, I am basically writing this “pamphlet” and calling it a book which in my mind is a book because it is well thought out. It has structure. It is a book. I do not care what anybody else says.” But some people have that word in their head of, “Well, it is only a pamphlet.” So talk to us a little bit about working through that non-helpful criticism in your brain.

Rena: The distinction between a pamphlet and a book?

Janine: You bet. It is like there is this mindset that if it is too few pages, it is more of a pamphlet, not a book, and yours is technically a book. It really is a book.

Rena: Yes, it has an ISBN and everything.

Janine: There you go people.

Rena: [inaudible] publishing company. It has got the whole nine yards.

Janine: Yeah.

Rena: You know, I guess, I will take a step back and enlighten the audience about what it was about this book that got me to move to the next level. I think all of us have a book in us to write and many of us say, “Because I want to write a book. I have no idea what to write about.” I had some ideas but it never was narrowed down and it never came to fruition in sort of a theme or a thought that I could actually share and contribute to the readers who pick up this itty-bitty book. It was October of 2019 when I climbed the highest mountain and the toughest mountain I have ever climbed. At sixty-three and a half, it was tough because I do not have the same sort of [inaudible] as I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. I am in good shape. But what got me to the summit of this peak in Nepal, 20,300-foot peak, very technical, ice, helmets, harnesses, ropes, and the whole nine yards and I was in it. But the thing that got me to the top of that was first my intention. I wanted to do this.

I put one foot in front of the other. I was intentional about moving to that summit and up that summit to the top. That is really critical and whatever you pursue and if it is the book that you want to pursue, you have to be intentional about it by putting one foot in front of the other. And then the other thing is your will. What is your determination? What is your will? What is your potential? You do not know until you are tested. I believe no one really actually understands what they are capable of doing until they are tested in doing it. So if that is potential, your will, your determination, you got to get out there and do it. So it is the same sort of thing with a book. You do not know that you can do this until you start writing. I think that is the first thing that people need to do is start writing.

If you are a journaler and if you are someone who likes and can sit down and write. And if you are not that, maybe you take a tape recorder and just start talking about thoughts and musings that you have on a daily basis as you are walking or hiking or having that time by yourself. Then record those either on paper or in your tape recorder and before you know it, you have an idea. So after I made this climb, and I climb mountains for over forty years and I continue to do that. I have got one coming up. It is what inspires me to go to the next level and I am tested every time because it is about literally putting one foot from the other to get to the summit.

After I finish the climb, I came down and flew back to the United States and within two weeks, I went to a workshop in California. It was about all kinds of self-development and publishing books in those kinds of things and I met an author. She is the owner and publishing owner of the Itty Bitty book. And boom! I had the idea. I had the inspiration because I just got down from this climb and within a week, I had the book. I mean thirty-seven page you think, “Oh, I can write a book in one week.” You know, it was fresh. It was heartfelt. It was authentic. It was not made up. I did not have to do any outside research, it all came from my core and that became my book. It can happen. We all have things that inspire us. We all have things that move us to the next level. It has been to determine what those are or discern, I should say. Discern what those are and then go for it. Be intentional about it. Really, that is the inspiration behind getting a book out, people.

Janine: A lot of people say, “Well, I just do not know what to write about,” and that is one of the fun things for me is saying, “Well, you are not going to know until you start sitting at a computer and start typing.” And I said, “If you are one of those people who prefer to journal, just start writing.” I have this exercise I would always do beforehand if especially I was in a place where I felt lost at sea and had no idea what I was supposed to write next and that was I would sit down and I would type up, “This is stupid. I cannot believe I am sitting here again in the dark. It is 4:30 in the morning. Nobody is awake. I am sitting here with my hot cup of cocoa.” And I would just literally right out how stupid it was I was sitting there because that was what was in my heart at that time was like. Because I had not written my first book yet. I was in the process. Now, I have now written nine. I am working on number ten.

However, you know there still are those times like with you saying, it still has those times no matter what mountain I am climbing, no matter how easy or difficult it is I still have to look at where my feet are going. Otherwise, I am going to turn an ankle and I am going to go backwards down that hill and that is not really where I want to be. So, I totally agree with you on that. So when you achieved the mountain in Nepal, what do you do now? What are other peaks that you are interested in climbing as an adventurer that you are?

Rena: Well, since then, I have climbed lots of mountains here in Colorado. Last summer was nine 14ers.14ers means that these are all peaks that are over 14,000 feet in elevation. Here in Colorado, they referred to as 14ers. Yeah, for me, it is what I have carved out and what I know that keeps me strong not physically, but also spiritually strong and inspired is moving up these peaks in the views of the top are absolutely amazing. And for me, that is my inspiration. That gives me enough fuel to want to pursue new things in my life and how I can reach out to other people and inspire other people to do things that they want to do. So it does take some inspiration. It takes recognizing what your spirit is and what you can do to tap into that spear because that I believe is what gets you to sit down in front of that computer or in front of that tape recorder and start talking about what inspires you, what moves you, what spirit inside you is saying, “Go for this. Do this.” As we age, and I am now a senior officially, I recognize that my life is shorter than it was twenty years ago. So, I have no time to waste and I want to make sure that I am moving in the direction that my God-given talents have given me. I do not want to waste that time and also provide inspiration and value to other people.

Janine: It is fascinating to me just in you and I as a lifetime how much the process of aging and calling yourself a senior has changed. When I think of seniors back in my childhood, those sorts of people did not move around and they most definitely after the age of sixty were not climbing peaks in Nepal, right? I mean, this is just not something that they did. One of the things that a lot of people kind of bust on boomers as a whole about their mindsets and everything, well, we can thank boomers for totally altering what it means to age because they refused to accept their age. They call it, “It is only a number. It is only a number,” and then they continue to do amazing things with their life. So gone are the days of the grandma or grandpa sitting at home and never leaving the house and crocheting or touting or whatever. We are seeing grandma’s do incredible things, you know? So, that is one of the things I definitely enjoy.

Part of the process of writing is very much like that. You are having to sit down at the computer and literally get past any of the stereotypes you have. My favorite that I like to boast is you have to get out away from everybody and you have to be in a cabin in the woods since we are in Colorado, that is a big thing. The cabin in the woods and that is the only way you can write. I am like, “No, it is hard to do that every day. Oh, and I guarantee you if you get the cabin in the woods and you have a week to write a book, the first several days are going to be just hell on Earth because you are staring at the blank page.” It is literally something you are going to have to move through. So talk to us a little bit if you do not mind about some of your tips, some of the techniques that you have done when you sat down at that blank page and went clang and did not feel like anything was coming. What did you do?

Rena: Yeah, I love the cabin in the woods. It is definitely carving out time by
yourself behind closed doors or out in the woods, wherever you get your greatest inspiration. But it is the focus, it is really paying attention to what you are about to put on paper. You have to have that focus time. The book that I am– just about my second book that I am just about finished, I have had to do that, but when I put a week between writing, it takes me that much more time, energy, and thought to bring m thoughts and my energies back to where I left off from the book. To some degree that can be okay for me. I do not really like it. I like to stay in the flow of what I am thinking, where the story’s going to go, what contributions that I am making, and make sure that they all lineup and that takes concentrated effort. For those people who have a hard time concentrating and focusing that is going to be a bit of a challenge but it can be done as long as you recognize how much time that you can provide for focus. If it is only an hour then by all means take that hour and focus it on that hour and then set the pen down, run around the house a couple of times, and then come back and maybe you need that extra break and those kinds of things. That is a tip.

The other tip is when you get to a point where you think, ” Oh! This is not any good. What do I have to say that is any different than what anybody else has to say and like really Rena?” Those are called limiting beliefs and I called them impostor thoughts where there is a thought that you have that is telling you this is what you think and feel. You have to take those impostor thoughts and those limiting beliefs and shove them to the side. Do not invite them into
your brain because that is limiting. It will keep you from moving forward and keep your intentions at bay. So it is really about focus and just knowing in your core that you have something to give and share and because it is coming from you, it is going to be. It is just going to be uniquely different and inspirational to somebody out there in the world.

Janine: I totally agree with you. That is one of the things that I like to share with folks in my writing group is that “Look, if you have the desire and if you have the passion to write about this, you have a reader that is waiting on you to finish.” It is not meant to put pressure on people. It is just saying that is just how the universe works. We, as authors, would not be asked to write if there were not readers who are wanting the story that we have to write. Our inspiration will either help them write their own story, will solve a problem for themselves, this is more for the nonfiction writers. But even fictional writers, some of your characters are going through things that somebody else is actually living through, and the way you solve that for your character will give them an opportunity to, “Oh, wow. I could do that.” So, what you put your characters through as a fictional author, same sort of thing. So, talk to us a little bit about that second book. Oh, you have something else you want to say.

Rena: Few more things that I think are really valuable for people to hear and I had wished that someone had told me this too when I was starting. One is if you have a perfectionist attitude, that book will never get published. There is nothing wrong with being to try to get as perfect as you possibly can but it is never going to be perfect and it will never get published. So, really consider that what you have shared and what you have put on paper is good, and recognizing it is good enough, it will be good enough because it comes from you and it comes from your thoughts and your inspirations. Secondly is– I forgot the second part. Oh, my gosh! Yeah, so I will come back to it but [inaudible].

Janine: Yeah, let us talk about the perfectionist attitude and impostor syndrome because there is a lot of YouTube videos about this in any time you are in any kind of a creative discipline of any kind. People will talk about that. Go for it, Rena.

Rena: Okay. The other piece is that do not and [inaudible] compare your book and your ideas to anybody else. Talk about imposter action and impostor beliefs, that is a real danger. Just comparing yourself and your abilities and your talents and your skills and your thoughts to anybody else, it just gets us into trouble. Again, it is about narrowing your focus and what you have to share and put the blinders on to the rest of the world. It does not matter because it is about you. If you want to make a million bucks from your book, then maybe you have to start comparing yourself to everybody else. But if your intention is to give or if you want to share something that you think is valuable for the rest of the world to read, then perfection does not come into play and comparison does not come into because there is no one else to compare it with but yourself. It comes from you. So, those two things are really helpful as well.

Janine: That was what I have learned as a creative because I am an illustrator and, of course, creator and author. I have all these creative outlets. One of the things that I found fascinating is it did not matter what YouTube channel I was listening to, what podcaster, what artists, all the creative suffer from the same thing and that is that perfectionist mindset and impostor syndrome. So, if you are challenged by that, well, join the club. Everybody that you have ever seen do anything is right there with you. One of the things that I thought was wonderful was when I had a particular client who was stuck with their book and they needed to write this book. It was a book that was, I will be honest, I wanted to see written. I was waiting on her because I wanted to buy it as soon as she published it. What was fascinating to me is when I said to her, “Look, just get it seventy percent there and move on. That is close enough. Good enough. Your editors will take care of anything that is glaring.” As soon as she heard that, she kept saying that it was almost all [inaudible] or seventy percent is close enough. Seventy percent is close enough and she finished the book literally nineteen days later.

So this is amazing. This woman was running a clinic, a practice. Anyway, so definitely, listen to what Rena has to say on this because she is really correct on that and do not compare yourself to other people. One of the things that–Let us go back to your mountains again. The person who is guiding you is not comparing his ability to climb with you, right? The person who is in the lead is making sure that people behind him do or her, do not die, right? They are making sure that they do everything according to the safety protocols in place. And one of the things I thought was amazing with some of the mountain climbing stuff that I have seen as far as documentaries and stuff is how a climber if they feel like they are getting ready to endanger., the rest of the group will climb back down, will stop rather than cause the safety of the group to not be able to make it to the top of Mount Everest. That was the documentary I was watching. So talk to us a little bit about being an author, it is a single sport. It is a single solitary sport. But at the same time, when do you let go of an idea because it is dragging the rest of the book down. Do you have any examples of that especially now, that you are writing book number two?

Rena: Well, I think there is an intuitive sense that often people authors feel. When they realize this piece does not belong, it does not fit, it does not coordinate with the theme of the book or the direction of your book, it takes a number of times of reading through it. And this is probably the best time to take a break is to put the book aside after you have nearly completed it and then pick it up a week later and read it and say, “Ah, this piece does not fit. What was I thinking?” You put this out, you take this out, you add something else to it, you alter the pattern of ideas and comments and those kinds of things. So that is the time where you can just say, “Okay, I need a break and go back to the book and take a look at it.”

Yeah, in my second book, it is about the example that you use. It is really about leadership in this second book. It is much longer. It is probably closer to two hundred pages or more and it about leadership. The title of that book is Unflappable Leadership: Character Lessons Learned From Guess What Climbing Mountains. The listeners could tell I have done a lot of climbing up mountains. When I first climbed my first mountain in 1977, all sorts of things happened from that epic experience and that has driven me since that day not just the climbing of the mountain but what actually transpired and what transformed in my life from that experience. It came really just internally, my internal spirit and thought, “Aha, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Yes, climbing mountains, yes, but it is what transpired from the symbol of the metaphorical experience of climbing a mountain because I have used that symbol in that metaphor in everything that I have done in my life. Putting one foot in front of the other. The challenges that come along. The storm that might keep me from getting to the top of the mountain.

But the second book is about– I have taken ten stories of my mountaineering and climbing experiences and pulled out the leadership gems and nuggets that I have learned from that particular climb or what I observed from other leaders in a climbing expedition. I am pretty vulnerable in the book because I talked about the mistakes as well and that take, for me, took a lot of courage. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and say, “You know what? I have messed up.” I was not the leader I thought I was and I articulate that in the book because I have kept journals since I was in elementary school. So I have memories in journal writings of all these climbs. I have just taken the journal writings and shared those experiences and pulled out those leadership lessons, the character leadership lessons from that book.

Janine: So with Unflappable Leadership, what is the projected publication date for that? Do we have an idea or do we still just working on chapters here?

Rena: No. It is pretty close. I am now looking at the book cover. I got some ideas for a book cover and probably the last phase of editing. I am hopeful that it will be in early June. Maybe, let us say, mid-May is in a month. Maybe closer to early June.

Janine: Okay, so we can look forward to that. Anything else you would care to share with folks? Is there a website people can go to learn more about you?

Rena: Sure, yeah. My name is Rena Koesler. It looks like Rena Koesler but my website is Just for the listeners out there, I am a really good cheerleader. I was not a cheerleader in high school or college but I do love to cheer people on and if you are stuck and you need cheering on for writing your first book or the second book or tenth book, I can do a lot of rah-rah-sis-boom-bah and pull out the pom-poms because I encouraged people to go to what drives them and not to end by saying, “Should have, could have, would have.” And moving them forward to that level.

Janine: That is Dr. Rena Koesler who went from being a college professor to now running her own coaching business and still climbing those mountains. Thank you so much for your time today. And this is The Writers Hour Creative Conversations with Janine Bolon. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground as you reach for those stars and do not ever give up. Have a great day today.