Natalie Viglione's Backstory: Disruption Brings Freedom
By: Natalie Viglione
"A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky."
- An excerpt from Maya Angelou's poem, Caged Bird
This is a raw story that reveals my truths so that you can understand more about what my journey has been and how I believe I have uncovered my unique purpose. I can trace my life back to seven major disruption moments to get me to where I am today and how it is that I am here and expressing my purpose. It has been a series of fortunate disruption moments with some disguised as horrible setbacks; setbacks that occurred so that I could get to the point that I am at today and help people and businesses genuinely thrive!
My Initial Problem Was About Being Disconnected
Without going back too far, here's a little about my upbringing as I think that it's good to understand how a person has transitioned to get to a specific point in their life. I'm a small-town, country born girl from a place called Fallon which is in northern Nevada (not far from the Reno/Lake Tahoe). I grew up in a simple family environment in the country, so I had lots of animals around me (dogs, ducks, chickens, even had a pet sheep I called Naomi) and had one brother. My immediate family was (off and on) over-the-top religious people (they were Christians) and were the kind that wanted to make anyone else who believed otherwise feel bad and that they were wrong. I saw what that kind of belief system felt like and it has never jived for my soul. I could not understand how one's belief system is "wrong" and another is "right" so my inherent response to my environment began to separate me from "where I came from."
Interesting note, my father became "born again" again after a bitter end to my parent's thirty-five years of marriage about eleven years ago, and has been estranged to his own children since that time. He doesn't feel that we are "as good as him" if we don't believe what he believes. It is something pertinent to mention as sometimes things happen in our lives that makes us dig deep to figure out how we can make things better for the next generations and what to fix in ourselves so that we don't treat people the way we were treated. This has been ingrained into my soul for the past decade when my father stopped being a father, and he stopped being a loving, open human to his children, and I wanted to ensure I never treat anyone with that same disregard.
Throughout my youth I got really good grades, was captain of the cheerleading squad, played sports like softball, but even with all of that I still had a battle in high school with anorexia; I had a very poor image of myself (as a woman, in general, it is something we quickly learn from our upbringing). I find it so sad that as kids we combat our inner demons early on and it shows that children need a lot of emotional support and guidance as it is too easy to get lost at a very young age.
The reality was that I was chomping at the bit to go out and explore the world. I left Fallon the second I graduated high school at 17 to go to college, and that is when the disruptive events started (and my journey to self-discovery). I went to the University of Nevada, Reno (an hour away from my hometown), my family didn't have the funds to help me pay for college, so I struggled with having to work three jobs while going to school. It was incredibly tough, and it made me feel like I didn't fit in as most were on the "parent scholarship" as I called it. So I did what many people do, I started to tap into doing what everyone else was doing with hopes that I could "fit in" but the reality is that I was looking for an escape hatch. I didn't know how long I could fake being happy when I was trying to pay for school, go full-time to school, plus work three jobs. And, eventually, I found that "escape hatch" in a boyfriend I started seeing at 19-years old and ended up going with him to go to the San Francisco Bay Area, taking a leave from college after two years to go do that.
BIG Disrupt Moment #1: My parents told me they'd "disown" me for doing that, which didn't make any sense and decided that scare tactic was not OK and did it regardless of the outcome. I had to do it for me and I needed to start to spread my wings and realize that I was not a caged bird and could build my own life without the support of anyone but me.
While living with him in California (just outside of San Francisco), I started to become a person I didn't recognize. I realize now that I wasn't living the life I wanted. I got way too entangled in having "things" like the house, the car, the money, the job, etc. We lived together for a while and then we got married (I was about 23 or so at that time). Our marriage was unfortunately not healthy, and early on I knew I wanted out of it before it even really started (so much so that I had a dream we would get a divorce before we got married!) I was afraid and I didn't know what to do. The unhappiness in our existence together was apparent before we even got "started" as he was doing awful things to me and I was doing bad things to him. I will admit here that I cheated on him once and sometime later I got pregnant. He was extremely controlling and I didn't have much say, and he didn’t want us to have the baby, so I didn’t. That moment showed me everything I needed to know as actions speak louder than words. If there was true love in our relationship, that whole situation would have been avoided. Soon after that, we separated (we were married for only one year), and we went through a nasty divorce, and by the time that horrible divorce was over I was just turning 25.
The problem I had in this timeframe is that I was disconnected from me. I was just doing whatever other people did in their lives, the traditional things because I had zero purpose behind my actions and I didn't realize how to dig the "true me" out of my being.
My Reboot and Rebirth
After the divorce, I felt like I was a huge failure, and it's human nature for us to attack ourselves as we start to go through all the "wrongs" we did. But in reality, these are the moments when we need to focus on the ways we can grow and realize it is a glorious opportunity to make our lives even better. I wished for a life reboot (at only 25) and wanted to dig deep inside of me to try to figure out the Self and repair the way I thought about who I was. I needed to remember that I was not a caged bird trapped in this feeling of darkness forever. I started to become "reborn" in bringing the real me out, and as part of that cleansing, I got rid of everything I owned except my clothes and my car. I decided to sign off on the divorce and I ended up losing everything as I stopped caring about fighting for "things" like our house, etc. and just get over it and move on. I got into yoga and running, making my way up to run a marathon even later on (something I need to always celebrate), and realized that I didn’t have to be in a relationship to be someone. I also didn’t have to have “things” to be happy, and with this realization, I was ready for another significant transition, another big disruption moment. I became a bartender, got a nose ring, cut my hair, and started to raise some funds for my dream TBD!
BIG Disrupt Moment #2: After six months of raising some funds, I moved to San Francisco (proper) with nothing but my clothes/shoes, a new little "Natalie" car, my newly adopted cute dog named Maxine, and hit the ground running. I enrolled in college again to finish my final two years, this time in San Francisco at the University of Phoenix (they were very kind to those that had to work full-time gigs and had amazing professors that were active CEO's and I wanted to soak up all that I could). I finished and got my B.S. degree in Business, Marketing, and started living a life that I was (a lot more) proud of. (While I’m still paying off that college loan, it doesn't matter as I've never been so proud because I did it all by myself!)
After I finished college and had spent some time in San Francisco, I decided I wanted to expand even farther and make another huge dream come true. My next big goal was to get to New York City as I knew it'd be a way for me to take my career to the next level. I had a "why not" attitude which was directly related to the fact that I had become more spiritual, Buddhist in nature if I had to define it, and started deeply looking to myself and looking at the Universe in a different light. Deep inside I knew I'd make that 3,000-mile move work. And, honestly, even if it didn't work I didn't care because at least I could say that I tried. Though I had no real plans for how long I would stay, I knew that it was time to go. Oddly, once I put that out into the universe, the CEO of the company I worked for at the time said they wanted to try to open a Manhattan office so off I went. At this time I was doing marketing for a legal services firm. This job helped me realize I did not want to go to law school, at least not at that time (which was great as that saved me from another considerable loan!)
BIG Disrupt Moment #3: My dog, Maxine, and I hit the skies this time and I took just my clothes, sold my car, and made it to NYC! I had become accustomed to living a minimalist lifestyle because it is truly freeing and I highly recommend becoming unattached from material things as life gets a whole lot easier.
San Francisco to NYC was quite an intriguing move as it was shocking to live in the people-infested city, but the energy smacked me in the face, and I loved the crazy vibe. After about a year, my little dog and I started to feel like big city girls. My career escalated fast but it was not without a constant struggle as I kept getting bigger and bigger jobs, more responsibilities, and I was making a lot more money, but the struggle of climbing ladders in NYC is a pretty intense ride.
I wanted to get into the ad and marketing agency world in NYC, and after awhile I finally got a big offer and a big office working at an ad/marketing agency in Manhattan. That felt pretty damn great; however, I started fighting with the "boys club" mentality in and out of the conference room, and the working environment was one in which you weren't sure if tomorrow would be your last day or not due to major turnover. It was fickle, and turnover rates were massive. However, even in darkness, there is light. It was at that agency that I met my husband, Mark, and I knew that was incredible as that doesn't just happen in NYC for a transplant like me.
A couple of years later, that company laid off hundreds of people (me included), so I had to pick things back up career-wise and figure it all out again, but I had found the love of my life and felt it with every ounce of who I am.
After a few weeks, I ended up getting a Vice President role at another agency in NYC, it was smaller, but that didn't matter as I was more focused on climbing the career ladder, continuing to make lots of money, and obtaining the VP title was huge I thought. I was getting closer and closer to becoming a C-level executive and that was my goal. I was on that path; the work hard and play harder path, but I wasn't sure why I was striving to climb that ladder because inside of me I didn't really feel anything. I still felt like my purpose wasn't being fully expressed and knew I had to face that reality, and soon.
Take Bigger Risks and You Can Get Greater Rewards After a couple of years at that agency, I became very tired of my career feeling like I had to go onto the battlefield every day (the "boys club" and the layoff rounds that may or may not come, etc. etc.) so I started to seek answers to help guide me. I found a seminar called the Womanly Arts put on by a kickass NYC-based woman named Mama Gena, and, at that same time, found Kute Blackson, who is a transformational life guide. I was ready to get down to answering my long-time question of why I am here because I didn't feel like I was doing what I was meant to do. I needed to understand how to disrupt my life on an even BIGGER level and needed professional guidance to do it.
I went to that Womanly Arts event which brought together a few hundred women under one roof, and her focus is helping women understand female pleasures, how we can realize our feminine desires, and learn how to own our feminine energy. Through the conversations, I realized that I knew what I enjoyed to do; I loved strategizing and helping small, mid-sized to large businesses, I loved managing people and being a leader, and adored managing massive projects. However, I didn't know how to get to the next level. The people I worked for often did not listen to me or other executive's recommendations, and I started to unfold how I can develop a company that can help companies like theirs. So I wrote out my desire list and as I was writing I configured a plan for my own business!
BIG Disrupt Moment #4: After talking to Mark when that event ended, the next day (a Monday) while shaking in my boots on the subway, I went into the office and quit that Vice President role and said bye-bye to that big, fat paycheck. I decided that I was going to go out on my own. BOOM, just like that! I was so scared I was sick. I knew this was a huge, huge, huge risk but it was something I had to do, I had to try! Living in New York City proper (not outside of it, but in it) as an entrepreneur is insane because the cost of living is unconscionable. But, I knew I had to be more focused on focusing my energies and realized that Mark and I could together build something amazing together. That is when Team Gu was born! After over 15 years running to get to the top of my industry, I disrupted that path because my purpose was literally screaming at me!
I started to build out Team Gu LLC and made it come to life around 2015, but at that time it was just me taking on the world. In about a year or so, I had already hit six figures, and while that was beautiful, I started to uncover that I didn't want to be just a freelancer; my soul was saying to me that Team Gu could be more significant than just me. Also, my work continuously pushed me more into a leadership guide and coach, and I was helping businesses and their teams work out major kinks and started to see a path opening up to me without me really even realizing it.
In April 2016, Mark and I had our gorgeous Manhattan wedding after dating for 5 years (that was BIG Disrupt Moment #5), and we honeymooned in Italy, and it was after this that I decided the summer of 2016 would be time to bring on more people into the firm which meant that I'd have to be responsible for a lot more lives and had to make a lot more revenue to keep them happy and an integral part to all that we were doing. It was a daunting task but, again, knew I had to be willing to take the risk as it just felt right. I also decided to go to the World Coach Institute to get certified in coaching as I wanted to be fully prepared to be a guide as it relates to life, professional and business coaching, and to understand how I can adequately facilitate culture changes in workplaces to add to the other work my team can do. It was during this program at WCI that I learned I’m an Empath and an Indigo adult which was a profound realization for me (more on that another time).
BIG Disrupt Moment #6: In April of this year (2017), Mark and I went to Charlotte for our first-year anniversary as we were hunting around to make a move out of NYC. After nine years of pounding NYC pavement, I was more than ready to escape, and Mark was also prepared to disrupt his life since New Jersey is where he had grown up (it was time for his first HUGE major life disruption moment - a great story for another time). That first night on our short trip to Charlotte, I had the dream that I had been hoping for; insight as to how to make what Team Gu does more prominent and profound.
This dream laid out an entire plan as to how I can shift my pure consulting and service-based business to build out a program to DISRUPT the way people do business and live their lives. It is at that moment the Disrupt Now program and podcast were born! I got to work on this the next week as I knew it was a gift. I had been open enough to receive this plan from the universe that gave me the name and the way to break out the entire program ( this was my purpose coming through me and I was finally not in the way!), and now all I had to do was take action and get to work, and I did!
While I could’ve ignored that dream, I knew that would've been a huge mistake because when the universe speaks to you, when your purpose comes through you, you cannot miss the opportunity to listen. There is no “finding” our purpose, but instead uncovering it, rediscovering it, and getting out of its way so that it can come through our being. We have to allow it to shine through our being like the sun shines on our planet.
Now it is with great pride that Team Gu operates from a "disrupt now" ethos. And while we built our business in New York City, we have moved our HQ to Charlotte, NC in July of 2017 (that was BIG Disrupt Moment #7) and Mark and I adore being in Charlotte. Our business has won awards, and we are on a mission to disrupt!
All humans across the globe deal with light and dark in life as it's a roller coaster that goes up and down, and up and down. It happens in business and it happens in life. Overall, our life should never be linear. It should be up and down moving with the beautiful chaos just as nature does. Let's look at an EKG monitor. It monitors your heart line which is pulsing up and down with energy, and it is only linear when one thing happens - death. Death is the flat line. So it is essential to understand that life should never be linear. A simple, dull point A to point B kind of life is not living. Sure you're breathing, and you might be alive in all the physiological ways, but are you thriving?!
This is my story and how I am vibrating with my purpose, I believe, because I feel it in the fabric of my being. It has been a long journey, and it has not been without its dark points as I mentioned, but I know that I am here to help others understand how to do what I did. As humans, we have a short time on this planet, some shorter than others, and all of us should be able to live our lives through love, joy and with our innate purpose shining through us. We each leave our purpose imprinted on this planet which becomes our unique legacy to those that love and surround us.
Everyone is meant to do something unique, and I know without an inkling of doubt that this is why I am here -- to help humans wake up! My Disrupt Now program will teach you how to deal with life’s major transitions, how to move within the disruptive moments that happen and prepare you for what that moment will require from you. We can help you get out your way, how to dig deep to get to the "why" so that everyone (and every business) can express their profound purpose and leave a legacy on this planet.
IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AND DISRUPT NOW! WE'VE GOT SOME WORK TO DO!
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