The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

What Does Success Mean? ft. artist + entrepreneur Kyle Georgina Marsh

June 08, 2022 Carmela Season 2 Episode 27
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
What Does Success Mean? ft. artist + entrepreneur Kyle Georgina Marsh
Show Notes Transcript

What does it mean to be a "successful" academic? A "professional" dancer? A "deserving" consumer of fitness education?

Artist, entrepreneur, and former academic Kyle Georgina Marsh talks with Mela about breaking down and re-contextualizing our definitions of worthiness and success. A lifelong student of movement,  Kyle is the co-founder of True II Form Pilates and Wellness, an online Pilates-based fitness studio dedicated to delivering athletic strength forming moves for every(body) that empowers practitioners to feel fearless and free in the body that is theirs.  Prior to her life in Pilates-land Kyle enjoyed a brief career in academia and is proud to hold a Masters Degree in Dance Education from The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, as well as a B.F.A. in dance performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts.

 The outdated definition of "success" in academia as limited to getting a tenure-track Assistant Professorship is crumbling - and we are the ones tearing it down brick by brick and re-imagining creative visions going forward.

You can connect with Kyle on IG @kylegeorginapilates. And, connect with True ii Form pilate on IG @true_ii_form or at their website https://www.trueiiform.com/.

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Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams, even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram and to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page or@themillennialphd.com. I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

(01:15)
Welcome back to the millennial PhD where we've been talking about creative survival in academia and beyond. I'm your host me and today I'm talking with Kyle Georgina Marsh, who is the co-founder of True to form Pilates and wellness and online Pilates based fitness studio that empowers practitioners to feel fearless and free in the body that is theirs. Inspired by her background as a dancer and her interest and body mind science, Kyle pursued advanced education in Pilates instruction and holds two separate four 50 hour plus comprehensive course certificates in both contemporary and classical Pilates instruction. Prior to her life in Pilates lab, Kyle enjoyed a brief career in academia and is proud to hold a master's degree in dance education from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, as well as a BFA in dance performance performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Kyle, welcome to the millennial PhD. 

(02:13)
Thank you so much for being here. Yeah, hi me. Thanks for having me. <laugh>. Yeah, I'm, So, first of all, it's, it's always exciting to talk with the fellow dancer and also an artist academic hybrid. And, uh, second, you, you had emailed me after hearing, uh, some of the other episodes from the show and you brought up a couple of conversations in that email about things like re recontextualizing, what success looks like, creating your own possibilities, and also financial education that we're so resonant with the conversations we like to have here. And I'm really excited to get into some of that with you. This is, this is, this is very exciting. So I did the cliff notes of your bio, but we can start with just, can you tell us a little little bit about yourself? 

Speaker 2 (03:01):

Sure. Um, so yeah, I ultimately, my life has just been like an evolution from like most people I think that you've had on the podcast. Um, I started in arts, like I, visual art actually is like a young person, but then really seriously moved into dance and studied dance and then like had a little stop off point in my dance career, like I said, um, in academia and teaching. So I taught very briefly in the K through 12 setting as like a dance educator. Um, and then also very briefly in, um, the collegiate level, just like as a TA and then as like an adjunct professor all, um, centered around dance and Pilates. Um, and then, yeah, I kind of morphed, I I was basically like really scarred from my experiences in academia. Got really burnt out and then transitioned um, into like a full blown sort of Pilates dance career conjunction. 

(03:58)
Spent some time in the corporate world, um, working for Equinox and then also kind of like managed to take all of my skill sets in education and just thinking in that way and turn them, uh, by working for the Pilates teacher training program and helping them write curriculum. So it was like a cool way to kind of re-explore, um, that part of my training and like area of expertise. Um, and now I am just a Pilates instructor and I'm an entrepreneur cuz during the pandemic, like many people, I started a business, so that's fun. Right. Um, and basically where I'm at now, <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (04:37):

Yeah, right. Thank you for sharing. And absolutely, yes to that wavy, that wavy curly path. So many of us have been, have been making our way down for sure. And it's funny you just said you're an entrepreneur because my, one of my questions that I had was to ask you if you consider yourself a business owner or an entrepreneur because you've launched this Pilates online studio. So maybe you could, I want, I definitely wanna ask you about that and how that came to fruition and we'll, we'll dig into that a little bit for sure. And I also would love to know, and maybe these go hand in hand a little bit about your experience in academia. Before you left, if you could just give a contextualize that a little bit. I saw you did the mfa, but I didn't know if you also, did you go into a PhD program and step away or, Oh my God, if you don't mind cracking it up, the people need to know 

Speaker 2 (05:33):

<laugh>. I don't mind at all. So I actually, I didn't do an mfa, I completed an edm, so masters of Education. Oh my bad. I, no, it's okay. I just, I know for the academics out there, the letters matter, so <laugh>, whatever they sure do. Um, and uh, I did not pursue a PhD. I got very close to pursuing a PhD. Um, and ultimately for me, the way that that all worked out, I, I think I was always somebody who really loved learning. I'm also somebody who is dyslexic, so I'll also preface by that. And I think in my younger life, I, I felt that identity really heavily and was like, I guess, uh, I saw it in a negative light, like was kind of scarred by it. I felt like I was stupid. I had to overcome that. And then I had this like aha moment where I was like, Oh my God, I might not be able to spell, but I'm smart and I know things and I love learning. 

(06:28)
And that kind of took me through high school. And then I had this also very wandering like path through my higher ed experience because I started in college, but also like wanted to be a dancer, but also like didn't have a lot of people in my life who were giving me direction. So I kind of like stopped and started a couple of times, um, but ultimately landed on dance and pursuing that professionally and in the academic setting, which then led me sort of directly into, um, my masters in dance education, just because I was teaching so much. Um, and I think the whole question in the, in the back of my mind, the whole time I was pursuing dance as a career, um, was just like, how am I gonna make money? Like, <laugh>, what is job security? Like, no question. There was not a lot of guidance around that. 

(07:20)
Um, and I can also speak specifically to like having pursued a BFA in dance, which is like Bachelor of fine Arts, so like conservatory based program. Um, the context or the thought is that you're gonna be professional in the field, but then like now in my adult life, I'm like, well, what does that mean professional in the field? Like how are we defining that and how is the BFA program preparing you for that and the job market? And I, I could like go down a rabbit hole talking about that because I think it's pretty, um, archaic how a lot of BFA programs do that. It was very like, um, you'll, you'll get into a company and then you'll be an apprentice and then you're just magically gonna have this career. And as I'm sure you know, that's like 100% not how my dance career life went. 

(08:05)
Um, and so that led to the, uh, masters in dance education, which was like basically priming me to become a K through 12 educator, um, which I did do. And I, I did really love working with young people. Um, and I did, I do still really truly believe that like dance is something that everyone should have access to, whether or not, um, they're going to like be a professional because it's just also on one level about like teaching you about your body and understanding how you and your body can have a relationship and how, you know, just all of the things. Um, but I got really burnt out because I had a lot of, I had to take out a lot of student loans. I didn't have any financial support, um, in my academic career path. And, um, there's just a lot of bureaucracy as I feel like I've heard you and many of your guests talk about on the podcast. 

(09:02)
Um, in that can come with higher education and depending on how, um, a university or a college's administration is capable of managing or handling, um, that type of bureaucracy, it can be really exhausting. And I feel like, especially more so as a TA and an undergrad, um, you can, or sorry, not an undergrad, I was a graduate student when I was a ta, but you can get really burnt out really quickly. There's a lot of like basically working for not enough money with these like insane hours with this promise of like, oh, well once you have your master's degree, like then we'll hire you and then you can be an adjunct professor. And then when we hire you as an adjunct professor, <laugh>, like, you know, you can come in and we'll pay you a stipend, which is like, you know, name a number. But when you do the math, like when you count down, like the hours you're gonna plan the course, the hours you're gonna teach the course for me it was like also a commuting that you're like basically making $15, maybe less an hour and that doesn't include health insurance and like, you know, all the things. 

(10:07)
So that was rough. Um, and I had to navigate that. And then, but I also really loved the subject matter and I did a really, um, in my master's work, I did do not official thesis because I would've had to go through an internal review board to do the research that I wanted to do. And for a lot of reasons that don't matter. That was not, um, something that was possible. But my interest in my masters was around, um, using like oral history as a way for students to explore their own identity in dance. Um, and that was something that was like extremely fulfilling and something that I took with me into my very short teaching career and was something that I would've loved to, um, pursue in sort of like a PhD setting. And I went through all the phases of like applying meeting with it. 

(10:57)
And then I just had that moment where ultimately it came down to money. And like a PhD in dance education is such a specific <laugh> thing with not a very large field. Like it was that thing where you're like, Well, where would I work? Right? And who would hire me and how much money would I make? And how much is this PhD gonna cost? And then you work backwards. And I was like, Yeah, no, I can't do that. Meanwhile everyone in my academic setting was like, You should totally do this. This'll be amazing. Oh, of course. Yeah. And I was like, No, I literally can't. Cause I already have a lot of debt and I think if I did the numbers right, that's gonna be like hundreds of thousands of dollars more and I still won't have a job. So I did not short version, did not pursue PhD, but really wanted to. And if we lived in a country where education was free, I would totally do that. 

Speaker 1 (11:50):

Yeah. What, so what, one of the things I'm hearing from, from just listening to you talk right now is first of all some of the parallels between dance training and academia. And I thought about that a lot myself over the intervening the years that I was in academia and all these tools that I was learning through dance, not by choice necessarily, just more like lessons that I was learning in dance and then bringing them over to academia and looking up and saying, Oh my goodness, these <laugh>, these patterns are being repeated in these two otherwise very different areas. So I hear you talk about con the conservatory training for your dance program. That's not an experience that I have, but it resonates because it sounds just like the way we train PhDs, which is sort of in this archaic model geared toward one very specific, very narrow path that a tiny segment of the, the students studying will actually be able to take down there. And that's still the carrot that's dangled, like this is what you want. And it's also the only real gold standard for success. So it's, it the, and then of course your, your paths converged when you were thinking about the dance education PhD and they also both come with working for not enough money or no one or no money and just hold off until one day, uh, you achieve deservingness and then you can have a little bit of money, but not enough to live on, but a little bit 

Speaker 2 (13:19):

And probably not enough to pay off all the debt that you took on to get there. 

Speaker 1 (13:23):

Definitely not that <laugh>. So let's talk about, this probably leads right in, but what led you to starting your Pilates business? And as you're talking about it, just what's intriguing about it is I think a lot of people are looking for alternative paths forward right now through creating their own businesses and or through tapping into movement and wellness as mechanisms for, for working through ourselves. So if you could just talk a little bit about your life as a business owner now, that'd be wonderful. 

Speaker 2 (13:54):

Yeah, sure. I'd love you. So, um, I think like many things in my life, the transition into like becoming a business owner and starting true to form was just like really organic. And I tend to make, um, what I would consider to be these sort of, they're not impulsive, but this like intuition that kind of guides me where I can, like if I slow myself down and I like listen in my body, I can feel when something is a good choice and when it's maybe not the best choice, very similar to sort of what I was describing in my like, Oh, I really wanna pursue this PhD, but like sit down and breathe and like the anxiety about <laugh> making that choice was like not the right thing for me. Um, and I do have a business partner, um, which actually is maybe an important thing to mention. 

(14:39)
So a friend of mine, uh, and I worked for Equinox for a really long time, and for people who are maybe familiar or not familiar, Equinox is this like really interesting setting. It's a luxury gym basically, and it sells, in my opinion, um, these feelings of exclusivity and sort of like sex as a value or being sexy as a value set. Um, and it uses that to market its fitness. And unfortunately, or fortunately, however you wanna think about it, um, they do have like incredibly qualified people working in their gyms because that's half of what you're paying for with your luxury fitness is like highly qualified individuals to help you become hot. Um, but it was also, I got to a point with that where it felt, um, very misaligned with like my values as a human because I really believe, and this definitely is a part of having come from a dance background and just having this innate sense of how like our bodies are our vessels for entire lives and like everyone has a right to feel empowered and confident and like connected to the vessel that is theirs, um, which is a very different messaging than what Equinox was selling. 

(15:54)
Um, and so this idea of exclusivity, like was really bothering me. And so, uh, my co-founder, Val and I, when we first thought of true to form, it was during the peak of the pandemic. And it was partially because we had all these people reaching out to us being like, Hey, are you guys doing anything? Like, do you <laugh>, do you have any movement that you could offer? I'm trapped in my house with my children and I would really like to do something. And we were like, Yeah, sure. So we kind of like threw something together. But then it evolved into this bigger idea and this bigger concept that we kind of rallied around, which has really started to become more of like our motto, I guess for our lack of a better term, which is like, we really wanna help people feel free and fearless in their bodies. 

(16:35)
Like I think there's so much, um, both from the fitness industry but then also for me from like the dance industry that can make us feel so negatively about our bodies. There's all these value sets and like cultural, um, what's the right word? Like there all these cultural implications of like what is a good body and what is a bad body? And it's like why does there have to be a good body and a bad body? And why is skinny more valuable than fat and why? Cause like there are all types of bodies that exist in the world and every single right, one of them has, you know, a right to enjoy its life on this planet and be strong and feel good. Um, which is also something that I think for me personally maybe was subconsciously influenced by my time in the dance education world. 

(17:26)
Because when I was teaching K through 12 dance, it wasn't always in a pre-professional program setting. It was just like regular movement. Like sometimes the classes I was teaching were part of PE and the point of the class is like to help this population of kids just like improv experience space, make shapes and interact with each other. And it's like, I know that's like a really distilled version in a dance setting, but that was always in my subconscious of something that I want us to have more of, um, in the fitness and wellness industry. And so short version of the long answer, um, that's kind of where true to form came from and like how we've continued forward. And then also, um, having started the business, it's another aspect of it is just having it become, be more accessible by being online. So like the price point, it's only $25 a month to be a member, which is a very affordable, like you can, you pay more money to go take a boutique fitness Pilates class that you do to subscribe to our platform for one month. 

(18:31)
Um, but we're still offering you the same level of quality and information that you would get if you came and saw Val or myself individually. And it feels as, uh, an educator and somebody who's like very much in the wellness industry and has helped people, um, learn things about their bodies but also get out of pain and all of the different reasons that you might wanna pursue Pilates. It feels so good to offer that in that way as opposed to, I think one of the conflicts I felt, um, in my work before was just the fact that I was primarily working with like rich white ladies on the Upper East side and I was like, this feels not 

Speaker 1 (19:13):

<laugh>, 

Speaker 2 (19:14):

This feels not aligned with my like purpose in the world. 

Speaker 1 (19:20):

I love what you're saying, uh, about the values of, of your company and organization. And it makes me think about, I hear you offering up that critique of what the dancer's body quote unquote, the dancer's body was supposed to look like. For sure. And it makes me think also even about that question of what is it, what is defi? What defines success as a dancer? What does it mean to be able to be a professional dancer or to be a dancer in any way? And that definition for me, I grew up with the tiny little narrow definition of it that I definitely didn't fit into, didn't have the skills, the body or the technique or the, the feet or the, or like the shape or <laugh>, any of that. And I found a dance community that really worked for me later in life, which is the, the salsa New York salsa community. 

(20:16)
But it also, over the years, my vision of what a dancer could be, not just the person, but the different paths that have become available has expanded exponentially. And it's so exciting and there's still a lot of limitations on that, but it's partly changing because we're thinking about it differently and it's partly changing because there, there's more and different opportunities available as we create these new paths, which is, which is really cool. And the same thing I think is is going on in academia right now. There's this mo this moment and this movement for people who there haven't been enough jobs for years and years and the conditions have been really bad and really abusive and exploitative for years and years, and now people are forced into a situation where they need to create new paths. So let's talk about a little bit that question of redefining success. What does that, what does that mean for you, I guess in your field? What, are there experiences that you haven't mentioned yet that made you focus on that idea? Or is there, there's something that, is there a vision that you have for what it can look like to recontextualize quote unquote success? 

Speaker 2 (21:25):

Yeah. Um, that's such, I love that question. So I think there's, there's two, um, pathways that my brain kind of like has for this. And one is like, which I think was kind of what I had emailed you about originally, just someone listening to the podcast, like the concept of success had always been a very specific thing in my mind just from like years of dance training and this like very rigid environment that makes you feel this extreme between like what it means to be successful and what it means to be a failure. Um, and then I also think that got translated into my academic career <laugh>, which is maybe why I burnt out. But, um, I think success is such a, we, I think we distill it or we simplify that concept too much when we talk about it, especially to young people, but then also I guess to adults, like we're success has to do with goals or an end, an end outcome, right? 

(22:24)
Like that's usually what we're talking about, like something that we can measure, like how do we, And so my question always ends up being like, okay, well what is, how do we measure success? And I think that if we could speak about it more openly or maybe challenge the authorities who give us this concept of success, whether it's coming from, I don't know, a dance programming perspective or an academia programming perspective, um, I think that we, the people who are engaged in the process of pursuing whatever it is, be it a career in academia or a career in the arts, or even for me now, like as a young budding business owner, um, you, I think it has a lot to do with goal setting and being really transparent about with yourself or whoever it is that you have holding you accountable, um, about what it is that you wanna achieve in this environment. 

(23:14)
And then being able to set like small measurable goals, <laugh> that will get you to that place. And then, you know, in theory if you achieve those goals, you're actually really successful. Um, and I think we all get confused, or at least I'll speak for myself and say that I got confused because I was never invited into that conversation. Like I never got, when I was working in academia for example, no one was like, Kyle, what is your end goal? Like, where would you like your academic career to be? Ultimately, no one ever said that question, I was just like, on the hamster wheel of being like, how do I, how do I figure out how to be successful at this thing? And success to me looks like all of my, like professors and advisors because they've been doing this for a really long time, which must mean that they're successful at it. 

(23:58)
And that's all I had to go on <laugh>. Um, and so to tie that back, I think to part of your original question, for me now, like success, uh, I've started to rewire my brain and think about what it means to be successful differently. So, um, part of that has been starting a business because one of the things that starting a business has really helped me think differently about is the fact that you can think, um, in terms of like quarters, so quarterly within the year, and then you can set these projections like, you know, in the first quarter of this year, I would like to gain three more members for my studio and like if I hit that goal, I'm really successful. And then build, build from there. Um, and that, that makes things feel much more flexible is not the right word, but much more, um, satisfying. 

(24:54)
And also like anything is possible, which I think is not an experience that I was having before. My brain was very limited by what I had been preconditioned to believe. Um, and I've also had like in this time of my life and starting a business and then reflecting back on my dance career, having this moment where I was like, Oh wait, I always felt like I was so unsuccessful as a dancer, but actually like I had a dance company and like I fundraised and I produced all this work and like, I have all these skills and like, that's really amazing. But because I wasn't getting the accolades at the time from the people that I felt like I needed them from, I never felt successful. Um, but I think it's also just because I was thinking very narrowly around what success is. 

Speaker 1 (25:46):

Yeah, definitely. And I feel that that piece about the ceiling in academia felt like it was just very close <laugh>. Yeah. Even that, that that thing that you're striving for the golden, uh, you know, path or whatever still has this very concrete definitions and dimensions and ceiling. And I've recently launched a business with consulting and coaching that's attached to, to all of this. And one of the feelings I've been experiencing is, is like opening up of what the ceiling can be and it's really kind of a transformative feeling. Uh, I hope you don't mind, I'm gonna read out just a short line from the email that you sent me that you said quote, No one ever told me to ask for more because of my initial training as a dancer and but a young academic, I always thought that I had to quote earn it versus creating the possibility and that once I earned it, the reward would naturally come. As it turns out, you also need to be bold enough to stake your claim and ask for the things you want. So I felt those in my soul. <laugh> 

Speaker 2 (26:56):

<laugh>, same <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (26:59):

Um, how has that, how has that idea, I guess, informed your, your new path forward right now? 

Speaker 2 (27:06):

Um, I think it has emboldened me in a good way. And I think that, um, so I'm in my mid thirties now and I spent like, you know, my whole twenties trying to figure out what I was doing with my life, which was the whole academic dance career all mixed together into Pilates. And, um, like what you just read out, I was waiting for somebody to be like, Kyle, you did it. You like got the golden ticket, Like you did it the right way. You checked all the boxes and like, good, good job, like you're worthy now. Like I was waiting for somebody to tell me that. And I think that a lot of that we could go back and unpack it psychologically, but a lot of that does come from having trained as a dancer and just like being so good at following directions. And then also, you know, I feel, um, my experience in academia was very much like that too, where they were like, Great, you like got the award, Okay, now next step, like 

Speaker 1 (27:59):

Gatekeeper approval and also, and then that just, 

Speaker 2 (28:03):

Yeah, there's never the moment where they're like, you made it, you're here. Like even when someone's applying for tenure, like you've probably had this experience. Um, I've never applied for tenure, but I've helped people prepare their tenure, um, packages. I like when you present, like even that in itself as an exercise is like, Okay, did I do it yet? You're like reading through this person's lifetime of accomplishments and it's just so long and you're like, Okay, but at this point, like surely they're gonna be tenured and they're like, Nope, no, no, you need to do one more thing, one more research paper, one more, whatever it is, Right? So I think, um, when I honestly started one of the best things that I've ever done for myself, um, in studying this business, I started listening to a lot of business podcasts. Um, and I had this like aha moment I early on in the pandemic where I was like, Oh wait, like no one gets to tell you that you're qualified. People just decide that they're qualified all the time, <laugh>. And then once you decide that you can do whatever you want, and there's actually a lot of people out there who are way less qualified than you that are already doing whatever they want. So you just have to like go, go build, go build it, build it, and they will come like <laugh>, It's okay. 

Speaker 1 (29:17):

Absolutely, absolutely. Yes. And it does. I'm, I'm, I'm also, I'm 33 and it does, it does feel like sometimes, um, other people were like in on this <laugh> were in on this knowledge 

Speaker 2 (29:31):

Yes. 

Speaker 1 (29:32):

Or much earlier in life. Uh, but that's okay because, you know, we had, we had our windy pads and, and I'm, you know, uh, I'm happy with all that. But yeah, this is this fascinating thing that, that I've been talking about on a couple of the episodes as well. Just like we are so conditioned in academia and to a certain extent in dance, I think depending on the environment that you need, the most important thing is the approval of whoever the gatekeepers are in your field. 

Speaker 2 (29:58):

But permission. 

Speaker 1 (30:00):

Permission, absolutely. And then at the end of the day, I didn't experience particularly powerful mentorship in any of the, those spaces, especially in academia, maybe a little bit in, in dance later on in life, but in academia it's not like if you do get the approval, then somebody's waiting to, to support and ask you those questions. You mentioned like, where, what is, where, where would you like to see yourself? How are we gonna chart your way there? There might be a little of that and, but there's not enough to go around for sure. And so it, it, it does come back to that question of taking ownership and being able to, to base to have the kind of radical imagination to see what the path forward can be for you within whatever the combines of one situation are. For 

Speaker 2 (30:48):

Sure. Yeah. And I feel like sort of to that point I had spent, right, leading up to the pandemic, I would say like two years prior to the pandemic, I spent a lot of time like doing that thing that I think a lot of us in this category too, where you're like on Instagram or the internet and you're like looking at all these people who you're like, Wow, how did they, how did they start this business? You're like, how did they get this teaching position or this residency? And there's like a lot of like jealousy and envy and then scheming where you're like, How do I get that? And like, they must know something that I don't know, and I could be totally wrong, but the thing that I feel like I've discovered in the last two years is that I feel like those people, whatever category you wanna make that into are people who have actually just like let go of the fear of like, what other people are going to think about them. 

(31:35)
And they're not really asking for permission, they're just stating the things that they want, naming them and then pursuing them. Um, and it's not to say that I, I feel like in my dance and academic career, like I was always auditioning, I was always working on something al you know, it wasn't for lack of working hard, but there was just never, for whatever reason, a sense of like, you can do anything. Because I was still working within this box. Like I wasn't being very imaginative about how different my life could be. Um, like I wasn't thinking about the things that I wanted. I was thinking about the steps of how to become successful, but I still wasn't sure if what I was thinking of as successful was the right version for myself, which was the aha moment with creating true to form. Because like now I'm happier than I've ever been and I feel like I have so much purpose and it's so meaningful. And like I had to give myself permission to create the community, create the environment, create the business that I, I actually wanted to be engaged in. 

Speaker 1 (32:41):

I love that. So let's get into the nitty gritty a little bit. I always like to ask guests some nuts and bolts questions about what they're doing so that people who are interested in similar fields can hear, can hear a little bit about that info. So one question I always have is now what does a typical day look like for you? 

Speaker 2 (33:05):

Um, okay. I actually did try to brainstorm about this before I came on the podcast because I was like, wow, this is the first time I get to say every day looks totally different, which is true. Um, so for me right now, my, um, I still, um, have a handful of private clients, Pilates clients that I see both in person and online depending on where they are and who they are. Um, and I feel really grateful that I currently only work with people that I absolutely adore, which was not always the case. Um, depending on the day, I will be either seeing a handful of clients in person or online. Um, and then I also am doing admin work for my business. Sometimes I'm, um, meeting with my co-founder Val, and we're like planning for the future or I'm filming content or, um, doing things like this <laugh> being on a podcast, um, or, uh, you know, coordinating. 

(34:08)
Right now we're in the process of revamping our website. Um, and I, in my bag of tricks from years of being a freelancer, um, know how to build a website but don't know how to integrate everything. So I'm currently in the process of building the face of our new website, but like also working with our web developer to make sure that what I'm building and what our streaming platform is doing speaks well to each other. Um, I have a dog that I'm obsessed with, so I take little breaks and I walk my dog in between all of these activities. Um, yeah, but that's really, so depending on the day, like it's a mix of seeing clients, doing admins, sending all the emails, having meetings, creating classes, um, and just all of the small, which I feel like is the same from academic life into business ownership life. 

(34:58)
There's all of these, um, all of these small tasks that you have to do, like make sure that you, your credit card is still paying the bill for whatever service you're using. <laugh>, like just, I don't know, small things like that. Your, your newsletter has to go out every week that your Instagram posts are scheduled. I don't know, there's like many small things that I can't list off the top of my head right now, but they come up and you're like, Oh, that'll be a quick 15 minute activity. And then like one hour later you're like, Okay, now my schedule for the day is behind by one hour <laugh>, so let me reorganize. Um, yeah. 

Speaker 1 (35:37):

Yeah. Thank you. And I, I always ask that question because I just think it demystifies these different paths that people, people take a little bit so people listening can really think about, okay, what does that, what does that look like? What does that feel like? Um, and it's always interesting cuz a lot of times people say, Well, every day is a little bit different, especially with, uh, a business or freelancing or anything like that. 

Speaker 2 (35:59):

Oh yeah. And sorry, one other thing I guess that's important to add into that, which feels important to me, but it's, there's a lot of commuting time in there too, just like, ah, yes. Riding of the train. So I actually had this conversation with my co-founder, Val the other day where we were laughing because she was like, I don't think anybody really understands what we do, who's not in our industry. And I was like, they 100% don't. Um, like I had a client this morning actually, uh, who I saw and she was like, Oh, what are you doing for the rest of the day? Like implying, but after I'm done with her, like, I'm done for the day. And I was like, Well, you're the third person I've seen. I'm gonna teach one more, then I'm gonna go home and I'm gonna eat some lunch. You know, and it's just this like constant, um, yeah, there's always something going on. And the commuting time is a thing too, like, cuz I live in Brooklyn and a lot of what I end up doing is in Manhattan, so there's like 30 minutes on each end of my going somewhere that's just listening to millennial PhD podcasts or things like that. <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (37:04):

Yeah, definitely. Um, what you mentioned earlier that I, I wanted to follow up on, you mentioned that a lot of the skills that you worked on and developed in your master's were things that you've been able to pull from and channel into your new business. Can you mention maybe one or two skills that you feel like you were able to gain through that and redirect in this path? 

Speaker 2 (37:29):

Yeah. Um, that's a great question. And there are things that actually I, I've only learned that they were skills that I was reusing and like having a business partner who could reflect back to me the fact that I was using those skills. Um, so some <laugh>, one of the things, um, especially coming from academia was timelining. So like, I love spreadsheets and I, I like can't function without a calendar and I need to think in chunks of time. Um, and if you're somebody out there who's like teaching a course or writing a course, you know exactly what I'm talking about and like time blocks and even like, even when I look in my day to day calendar, like I need to chunk it out the same way that I would chunk out a school day. Um, and that's something that has really helped with productivity. 

(38:15)
And then also, um, just being realistic about setting deadlines for things so that we can actually push and move projects forward. Because I think a lot of what happens in, um, entrepreneurship, or at least something that's happened for us has been, you know, you have this rush of inspiration and there's so many ideas and you can't do them all at once. Once. And me also, coming from like a performance background, I tend to be a really like big, like I can spend really big imaginative ideas and I'm like, great, we're gonna like have this website and we're gonna do all these things. But then you have to also be able to distill it down and actually create a plan for executing all of that and have like check-ins and um, that, that form of organization is some, I was taught that by working in academia because I was not always good at that. 

(39:04)
And it's something that has really helped me stay really organized. And it also, as somebody who has always been a juggler or a multitasker sometimes in bad ways, like taking on too much cuz you're just a yes person and I also feel like academia can precondition you to be that type of person. Um, it has helped. Well, that has become a skill set that has helped in business, um, ownership because it helps you understand what is possible. Like <laugh>, you're like, Okay, great, we're gonna roll out this program in two weeks, and you're like, No, that's not possible. We really need to, you need like a month because of all these little steps. And just being someone who loves to think about the, the details of things and how we get there, um, like timelining I guess is one thing, but then also some tech skills that I didn't realize came <laugh> from working in academia. 

(40:00)
Um, like one of them being, this is gonna sound so silly, but it is actually really helpful. Um, like Google Drive, I Google Drive is my special place. Like I can use all of the Google Sheets and the Google Docs and share them and like, that seems very silly, but what I've learned is that people who haven't worked in an ac in an academic setting that uses Google Drive like that or maybe a tech setting where you're using some other type of platform like that, it's not, not everyone knows that. Um, and so that has been really helpful and let me think. I think those are the primary, those are the primary ones. Um, and also like, I guess for us being able to build what I call programs, but like class series, um, and the structure, like structuring things in a way that makes sense. So being able, because our platform is a Pilates platform, like being able to organize information. So we have beginner, intermediate, advanced like Pilates for runners and just these, um, I don't know, programs that are scaffolded in a way that makes sense for programming, which is also something for me that comes from Dance land <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (41:13):

I'd love to focus in on something you said, which was that somebody communicated to you that this skill that you had was in fact a skill or, or a particular skill set that you've developed. And that's a process I've been going through as well, just realizing that the strategic planning or timelining or organizing information as one would for a course are these things that either people don't necessarily have those skills just because they haven't been working in that type of environment where they don't have the time to do those things and they can become really, really valuable if you've done major research or if you've taught a course or been responsible for discussion group as a ta you've done probably project management at a pretty pretty dense level. And it's, it's interesting because we're taught to devalue so many of the skills that we build that it can come as a surprise that we have these skills. Um, so for folks who are looking to transition into another field, looking for another job, being able to leverage and utilize those skills and articulate them to other people is really helpful. And of course in entrepreneurship where it's sort of like that you figure it out or <laugh>, you know, you YouTube it maybe 

Speaker 2 (42:28):

<laugh>. Yeah, 

Speaker 1 (42:30):

<laugh>, it's really helpful as well. What would you say is a rose and a thorn for you right now? So something you love about what you're doing and then something that's a little challenging? 

Speaker 2 (42:40):

Yeah. Um, great cue. I I always love listening to people's answers about this on the podcast. Um, so I, my rose is that I just love and find so much value, uh, value in doing what I'm doing now. And like I feel inspired every day by the people who are taking our classes, who tag us, who reach out to us and are just like trying to fit movement into their lives because it helps them feel good and make whatever they're already doing better. Like, that just feels very inspiring to me and I'm proud of all of them <laugh>. Um, and like it gives me a lot of inspiration to keep doing what we're doing. Um, a thorn, which is not exactly, I don't think this is specifically related to my business, it's like a personal thorn, which is maybe like a overarching is honestly student loan debt, um, massive thorn, um, uh, it can go down this rabbit hole and talk about it forever <laugh>. But I personally have been on this journey where I've been like aggressively trying to pay down my student loans and um, at this point I've actually, I feel like I should have paid them all the way off. Like I've paid more money in like interest than I actually currently owe on the loan. Like the loan itself is a smaller amount than the amount of of interest I have paid over time. It's, 

(44:02)
Yeah. Um, and it just, it feels really frustrating and also like, again, not to like, you know, be too heavy on academia, but it's like I love everything I, I learned and I loved being in school so much and I loved being a student and I still to this day like love being an educator even though the way that I educate now is totally different than being in the classroom the way that I used to. But student loan debt just like makes it feel, um, it makes you feel really unseen. It makes you feel really frustrated, especially for someone like me who's always, you know, been more of a freelancer and come from this arts background. It also makes you feel when you're in your mid thirties and there are all these other people around you like buying houses or apartments or doing all those things, you're like, Whoa, wait, did I miss the boat? Nobody <laugh> nobody won time. Talk to me about this. Like no one in academia was ever like, Hey, this is the maximum amount of student loan debt you should take out if you wanna pay it off by the time you're this age. Or just like, you know, no one ever was like, you can study dance and take out student loans to study dance, but then like, what are, how much money and when will you make it back and all that stuff. So that is my thorn <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (45:15):

Yeah. And I mean first of all, our generation and around around that time period of folks who went to undergrad maybe in the early to mid two thousands and a little bit before that and a little bit after that and then into the, the grad school debt that people took on, which I think gets less of a focus is, is obviously as, as you know, astronomical and also hit us over the head I think without really understanding what it would mean to pay it back in terms of the types of interest rates and the way that student debt interest works is so predatory. Unbelievable. But I also appreciate that you brought that up because it, it does come back to the fact that our, our economic constraints continue to exist, right? And so that's part, like acknowledging that and speaking to it as we go on these journeys to build these different pathways is an important part of the conversation. Otherwise it's just this silent piece that doesn't get articulated and, and feels like it can totally weigh you down and it, and it can, you know, these are our conditions that we're working within. So I appreciate you you bringing that up and speaking to it as well. Cuz it's a big part of many of our experiences, right? Whether it be student loan debt or other economic and social constraints for sure. 

Speaker 2 (46:33):

Which I would also say in academia as well, like specifically in that realm that like I wish for my, I wish that more people could be transparent about the debt that they've taken on to achieve what they have. Cuz I feel like it was a couple podcasts ago that you had two of your fellow PhDs on and you, everyone was talking about, um, their fellowships and just like what they were doing and it's like how there's this finite number of opportunities to get whatever it is if you have the degree with the right letters. Um, but then the person who does get that like one position that's being offered, it's like I wish that that person could be more honest or maybe they are being honest, but like be transparent about what it took to get there because it does feel sometimes, I know I had this experience too, um, when you're at the bottom looking up, you're like, oh my gosh, like how did that person achieve all of that? They're like the director, director of the department of dance and like that, like how do I do that? And it's like, well in reality that person also potentially has like $200,000 worth of debt that they still haven't paid off and they don't own a house. You know, just like, 

Speaker 1 (47:42):

It would be 

Speaker 2 (47:43):

Nice to know that. 

Speaker 1 (47:44):

Yeah, for for sure. And especially heading into PhD programs, um, are typically fu funded for most PhDs that enter, except when they're not. Um, but for anyone listening who's like thinking about the PhD, it's something that if you have, if no one has told you you should, you should be funded for that. Um, meaning 

Speaker 2 (48:08):

Unless it's really niche and it's dance education, it's not unless it's niche 

Speaker 1 (48:11):

That dance education. And unfortunately a lot of what programs do is they, they, they get a lot of money from master students to fund their PhDs, but what happens is folks that don't have access to the resources or the knowledge about different fellowships or just like didn't get one when they applied but still jumped into it, wind up taking on even more of a lion share of debt. Um, for sure if some, So if pivoting a little bit, um, that I have, I don't have an eloquent transition, but if somebody turned to you today and ask how to get to do what you're doing, uh, maybe not exactly, but if somebody wanted to launch an online wellness business of their own, what are some first steps that you would recommend to them? 

Speaker 2 (49:03):

Great question. So good news is much easier than getting a PhD. Um, <laugh>, there's that. Um, I think, you know, if you wanna be in the Pilates, uh, sphere, you first need to go like get a Pilate certification. Um, so that would be step number one. Um, but if you're somebody who's just interested in the wellness sphere in general, um, you know, there's a lot of, well, we live in a time right now where it's starting to get very saturated, but that is not a reason not to do it. Um, there's so much you could become a wellness coach. There's a lot of really great online, um, training programs for intuitive, um, or sorry, not intuitive integrative nutrition, um, or personal training or yoga. Like you have to find the avenue of wellness that you would like to use. Um, and then it's really just a matter of, but I would say that the majority of things that will be useful to you if you wanna start a business online is honestly like taking some kind of business course. 

(50:08)
And, or I know me, you've talked about this a lot and I'm in the boat right now where I'm like, yeah, coaching is amazing. Like if you can go work with a coach, um, and be it, I I would recommend a business coach. Like that was the thing that was the most useful to me because that helped put, uh, structure around like how, what I wanted the business to look like, you know, and then how we would build it out from there. Um, and I would also say that something that was advice that was given to me that I would like to spread out into the world is that whatever your specialty is, so like if you're working in academia or for me, I was a dancer, um, try to pursue continuing education that is not related to the field that you are actually in, if that makes sense. 

(50:58)
So I think what tends to happen is we get pigeonholed because a lot of us, I fell into this boat as well, um, we get so interested in one very specific thing and then it's like you're taking all of the like dance, like cont like gaga classes or ballet or whatever it is. But actually the thing that has been the most useful to me was like paying the money to go through like a business and marketing coaching program because those are all skill sets that I didn't have and I needed them in order to launch the business that we currently have. So, um, broaden yourself and I, and I would say that's true for me too now in my Pilates career as while I've been teaching Pilates for like 10 plus years and while I have like a lot of training in anatomy and Pilates and dance and all of that stuff, um, I now try to always do continuing ed. That's actually kind of out related to the sphere of what I'm doing, but not exactly what I'm currently doing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So for example, not taking more like Pilates continuing ed courses, but going and taking like, I don't know, a weight training course or something that is gonna add more information to what I'm already doing, but isn't exactly what I'm doing. So it opens up the possibilities. 

Speaker 1 (52:13):

Yes. I love that. Thank you for sharing those pieces of advice. I'm, I'm also on the build your skill set train for sure, especially for folks who are maybe in a master's or PhD program and are planning to complete it, but are not sure that they're gonna follow a quote unquote traditional or typical academic or educator path. Some of the things that are helping me most right now are outside skills like, like video editing and things like that that just, I did a little course on here and there. Um, that, that have helped a lot. 

Speaker 2 (52:47):

Yeah. Like take a coding course, learn how to like code a website. That is the most valuable thing you 

Speaker 1 (52:53):

Could do that I tried it and I that, that, that, that defeated me. But but you should, you should do it for sure. Yeah. <laugh> 

Speaker 2 (53:02):

Or like a or a smaller like take a square space like building, I don't know, webinar or like a male webinar or something like that 

Speaker 1 (53:11):

When you said you have the, the capacity to build at least most of a website or the bare bones of a website. Super helpful I'm sure. Um, do you have any other general parting advice that you would like to give? Um, 

Speaker 2 (53:28):

I think it's kind of honestly what we already talked about cuz I feel like we can't overemphasize it enough. But like you have permission to be whoever you want to be. You have permission to create whatever it is that you want to create. And if you're somebody, be it in academia or the arts that's listening to this and you're, you have an idea, but you feel like somebody else has already done it and you're having fomo, like it's never too late. There's, there's space for everybody. That's why the internet is amazing, um, <laugh> and it's just, just do it all you have to do. The hardest part is gonna be starting. 

Speaker 1 (54:05):

That's a beautiful note to, to wrap up on. Where can people connect with you and find info about your studio? 

Speaker 2 (54:13):

Um, so we are on Instagram and Facebook. Um, I have, uh, personal Instagram as well, which I think you're gonna probably link in the show notes, but I'm Kyle George, Gina Pilates on Instagram. Um, but then if you wanna connect with us on True Formm, which I highly recommend that you do, it's spelled true. And then underscore roman numeral two, which is i I underscore form. Um, and it's the same for our website. It's true to form.com. Um, which I think all of that will be in the show notes. But yeah, direct message me, say hi, like, complain to me about your student loans. Uh, talk to me about your body. I'm here for all of it. 

Speaker 1 (54:54):

<laugh> we don't, we don't just do p out exams. 

Speaker 2 (54:56):

<laugh>. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (54:59):

All right. That's great. Uh, and definitely those links will be in the show notes and on the Instagram post, um, so that you can, you can connect and follow and, and check out true to form Pilates. Um, thank you so much Kyle for taking the time to, to come on and talk with us. It's been great. 

Speaker 2 (55:18):

Yeah, Thank you for having me. This is such a joy. 

Speaker 3 (55:23):

That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD and@themillennialphd.com in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial PhD gmail.com with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time.