Today’s guest is Kim Cofino. Kim is an amazing person. She’s very familiar with change, having lived in the US, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan. Her job titles have included technology coordinator, entrepreneur and powerlifter.
I first learned about Kim when I was a technology coordinator at Khartoum American school in Sudan. I was in charge of designing the technology curriculum at that school, and came across Kim’s work at International School of Bangkok. She greatly inspired me in my work. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with her today and share her story with you.
This interview was conducted on Oct. 2, 2019.
Even the times when you think are times that are not important to helping you be the person you want to be, they might be more important than you think. – Kim Cofino, Changes Big and Small PodcastTweet
Timeline of the Chat
00:50 – Kim’s Bio
03:31 – From Teacher to Entrepreneur
05:16 – Loss and Opportunity
06:34 – Working as an Entrepreneur
08:39 – Time Management Strategies
12:04 – Health Transformation to Powerlifting
14:38 – Overcoming Fear
15:32 – Working from Home
17:57 – Lessons Learned About Change
21:15 – Big Changes and What Makes Change Effective
27:46 – Choosing What to Work On
29:21 – Learning and Developing skills
33:51 – Final Thoughts
It makes it so easy to make choices when you can describe yourself as something. That also sounds really simplistic but once I started saying I am a powerlifter, so many other choices were made for me. – Kim Cofino, Changes BIG and small podcastTweet
Kim’s Bio [0:50]
In this episode, I interview Kim Cofino. Kim Cofino is a technology consultant and educator with nearly two decades of experience living and working in diverse settings across Asia, North America, Europe and Africa.
At the micro level, Kim thrives at empowering teachers and other professionals to authentically embed new and emerging technologies in their classrooms and workplaces. She creates dynamic inquiry-based learner focused environments for everyone with whom she collaborates.
On the macro level, she guides schools, school districts, and businesses in implementing innovative tech- rich and community inclusive learning programs within their organizations in order to meet their varied goals. She prides herself in effective cross-cultural communication, which is evidenced by her business functioning smoothly across six time zones with employees in four different countries.
Kim currently lives in Bangkok with her husband, Alex, who’s also an educator. In her spare time, she enjoys geeking out about lifelong learning on her blog or training for and competing in powerlifting. She also has a blog for that.
Other interests of hers include plant-based cooking, yoga, Zen meditation, photography, reading, especially science fiction, traveling and leading an urban hiking meetup. She volunteers as the Secretary General of the Thai powerlifting Federation and is passionate about supporting women in their quest to reach their strengths goals.
Fun facts about Kim are that she collects Persian carpets, she views eating as a top priority, and she has a goal to visit 50 countries before turning 50. She did meet her goal of visiting 30 countries before turning 30. Kim is an extrovert and she loves connecting with people about any of the above topics so make sure you listen to this episode and reach out to her to start a conversation.
Listen to this episode to find out how she made the transition from teacher to entrepreneur and how she got into powerlifting. Our conversation also includes a reflection on the losses and gains that happen with change, how she manages the different parts of her varied life and her strategy for supporting changes and encouraging them in her life.
In this episode, you will learn the secret to making big changes with an approach that you can apply starting today.
Let’s get started.
From Teacher to Entrepreneur [03:31]
So you started off as a teacher and now you’re an entrepreneur, self-employed. What was that journey like?
Kim Cofino: [03:38] I grew up in a very structured household where my parents worked for IBM their entire careers from, you know, basically their first adult job, I would say, to retirement. So as a younger person, I never in a million years would have expected that I would not be working for someone else, like that just was not in my DNA at all. It just so happened that midway through my teaching career about, I guess, five years in, so not midway but kind of early, a colleague had asked me to present with her at a conference, and I really enjoyed the experience. And because I loved presenting so much, I started doing it more and more and more and more. And eventually, I got to the point where I really couldn’t keep up with the amount of presenting and consulting opportunities that I had that were really interesting and also continue my full-time work. So I took the risk of going part-time and just really loved that opportunity to still stay with my comfort zone, but also kind of branch out and try new things. And I did that in a school, Yokohama International School, that I just absolutely loved and could have stayed for the rest of my life. And it was so nice that they gave me that opportunity. And it was just that tiny little bit of a push that I needed to realize, Oh, I could actually fill up all of my time with this other kind of work and create a hodgepodge of jobs for myself and just kind of see how that goes. And so that was, I guess that was the process. And then the final tipping point was going part-time and realizing, Oh, there’s actually enough here for me to do and keep me engaged and interested that I would like to continue doing.
Loss and Opportunity [05:16]
Damianne President: [05:16] One of the things that has come up a bit in my conversations with other people is the idea of loss and opportunity. What did you give up and what did you gain?
Kim Cofino: [05:28] As a teacher. I think the thing I gave up the most is the constant contact with students, and I think that’s the hardest thing that I lost because I love kids; that’s how I got into this career. I love the changing nature of schools. I love working with adults who work with kids. I love being in an environment where people are excited and passionate about what they do. Not saying they don’t have any of that in my current role, but I am working with a team that’s all around the world. So I don’t go anywhere. I stay here and we meet virtually like you and I are meeting now. And it’s just not the same as being in a space with people.
So there’s that human connection that I think that I’ve lost a little bit, that like physical human connection. And then there’s that constant connection with kids that I can only get now through my conversations with other people, my husband, for one, which is great every day. I can hear funny little stories about what happens at school, but then my friends and colleagues that I work with in more digital spaces is my opportunity to recognize what’s happening in classrooms. And I definitely feel that loss.
Working as an Entrepreneur [06:34]
Damianne President: [06:34] When you look at your day, how do you distribute your time? Do you have a typical day?
Kim Cofino: [06:39] I don’t know if I have a typical day. As you asked me that question, I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, what is my typical day? Like my role consists, I would say primarily of working with other educators either by mentoring them to be coaches because that’s kind of my area of specialty. So I meet with other coaches around the world multiple times a day to help them move along on their path towards becoming a coach. I also do private mentoring for educators. I mean, I could do it for anyone, but primarily for educators who are interested in reaching a goal. So a lot of my day revolves around meetings with those people to support them in their professional learning goals or their professional goals.
Then another big chunk of my day would be actually recording podcasts like you and I are doing now because I host a podcast and YouTube series called Coach Better. And so that ends up being a lot of conversations, like what we’re having now. And then I would say another chunk of my day would be creating content for coach, primarily for coaches, but for educators in general, to help them reach their goals, doing that via our YouTube channel and I write books and online courses and all that kind of stuff. So that’s like content creation. And then obviously meeting with my colleagues is another, like people on my team. That’s another part of my day. And then my favorite part of my day is when I get to go to the gym. You know I want to talk about power lifting. So I’ll just sneak it in right there. I do always make time every day to train.
Damianne President: [08:05] What do you like about what you do? What’s your favorite part of it?
Kim Cofino: [08:09] Is it everyday is completely different. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. And I have realized that I am able to separate myself from my company. So when things go wrong, it’s just a puzzle to solve. It’s not a personal attack on me or something drastic that happened to me. It’s like, okay, this happened, what can we do to figure it out?
And that daily puzzle is just so engaging for me because something happens every day. It doesn’t mean something goes wrong every day, but something happens every day. That’s that puzzle I get to figure out.
Time Management Strategies [08:39]
Damianne President: [08:39] How do you stay on top of it all? Because if you’ve got so many different things that you could be doing, and we’re going to get into your powerlifting as well, what are some of your strategies?
Kim Cofino: [08:50] I think one thing that has been very important is everyday, I know this is going to sound really cheesy and I don’t mean it to be super cheesy, but every day I look back at what was accomplished the day before, what I set out as my priorities, and then I set my priorities for the day. That it is. Um, and because I take, and it doesn’t take long, but I take a few minutes every day to do that, I feel like every day I’m doing the tasks that must be done, whether it must be done because they’re urgent or must be done because they’re important. I’m doing the task that must be done as opposed to sometimes when I was a full-time employee, I might have gotten myself trapped in little procrastination tasks or tasks I just would do right now because I had some time as opposed to this, because it’s all my work.
I know. Okay, I must do this today because X, Y, and Z is happening three weeks from now. This has to get done here. I’m getting it done; I’m taking it off my list. So I think that prioritizing on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day, has been the main, most important thing to stay on top of it, but that’s a little bit of a stretch too. What I generally feel is that I can kind of juggle the balls. I think that daily prioritization has really helped.
Damianne President: [10:03] Do you have some processes or workflows that you use for that? Do you see it and think about it every day? Do you have a particular practice?
Kim Cofino: [10:13] I have a little notebook? I’m looking at my old ones on the counter over there. I have a little notebook I bought from Muji and it’s actually a combination. It’s a gratitude journal, something calm in the middle that’s like my thoughts and ideas, because you know, when you wake up in the morning, you’re always full of these ideas from when you were sleeping, and then my priority lists. Every day, I make those three columns and refer back to the day before.
In addition to that, I also have like todo lists on my phone and that also helps me because writing it by hand helps me process and think. Then I take it and I put it into my phone or may already have been in my phone and I can really easily adjust the times for the day. So like, Oh, Shoot, I have a new meeting at eight o’clock I wasn’t expecting; I thought I was going to do that at eight o’clock, I’m going to move it to nine o’clock instead. And so the digital version of my priority list helps me manage actually getting something done.
Damianne President: [11:02] How I actually know Kim is because we were both working in Japan, not at the same school, but in the same timeframe. And actually before that, I was already following a lot of Kim’s work at International School of Bangkok. One of the things that I really appreciate about you is that you are very systemic in your approach. Whenever I have been to a workshop, or if I’ve heard you talk, you look for the patterns that occur and you are very good at diluting things into the processes so that you can start to see some systems and you can start to maybe also make some of the processes. I’m using the word automate. I don’t know if that actually applies to you, does it?
Yes, because I do want to make the work that I spend my time doing relevant and useful in multiple contexts. That’s not necessarily automated, but in that systemic kind of thinking that you’re talking about, if I’m going to do one thing, I want to make it work in five or six different contexts, not just one, if that makes sense.
Health Transformation to Powerlifting [12:04]
Yes, that does. You have a lot of different interests. Tell me about powerlifting. What was that journey like?
Kim Cofino: [12:10] Oh okay,
I would love to. When I was living in Japan at that same school, Yokohama International school, I found out that I had gallstones because of a hereditary blood disease. So it wasn’t anything I did. I wasn’t gonna be able to avoid it and ended up having to have my gallbladder out. And at that time I would say I was unhealthy. I was easily 80 pounds more than I weigh now, but I’m a pretty small person. I’m five foot two. So to have an additional 80 pounds on my body that was not muscle is kind of a lot. And because I had to wait a little bit for that surgery, I couldn’t eat a very long list of foods that might agitate my gallbladder.
So I had to wait, I think, two months to have the surgery, but I had kind of a limited diet. And at the time of my life, I had always wondered if a doctor said to me, Kim, you need to eat like this, or you’re going to die, could I do it, because no doctor had ever said that to me. No one had ever put it in those terms, but this Japanese doctor who spoke a little bit of English, but not great English, basically, it was like, if you don’t do what I tell you, you’re going to go for emergency surgery and it’s not going to be fun.
And I was like, okay. So I learned I could do that. And because of that, I ended up just kind of altering my taste buds, I think a little bit or getting into good habits. And in the year following that surgery, I lost those 80 pounds and started realizing that I could make changes to my health that I didn’t realize I had control over previously, which I know sounds crazy, but I just really didn’t understand calories, didn’t understand muscle versus fat, didn’t understand daily movement. Like I just did not have a shocking amount of basic information about health and fitness. And once I started, like you say, I like to take things to a systemic level. I was like, okay, I’m going to do this. Well, I’m going to do these things every day.
I’m going to change this about my diet. It’s just going to become my new habit. And that took, I would say about a year to really just kind of get into a whole bunch of new habits. And then we moved to Thailand where it’s a lot easier to access a wider variety of fitness opportunities than it was in Japan. It was just a little bit more closed in that culture. And I happen to have a trainer who said, Hey, you’re pretty good at this, why don’t you try powerlifting? And I was like, what’s powerlifting? And so then I started looking about it and was like, Oh, that sounds cool. I could do that. And that’s basically how I got started.
Overcoming Fear [14:38]
Damianne President: [14:38] So does that mean you have no fears? Something comes up and you’re like all gung-ho and you go right for it?
Kim Cofino: [14:44] Not at all. Definitely not at all. I think what lifting has changed in my mind is I know I can do it. I was always a competent person. I’m not saying I wasn’t competent before, but I have much more confidence now than I did before, because you can go in on your worst training day and the barbell is still there and you still have to lift that weight and that is going to get you towards your goal.
And if you can do it in that moment, when you are feeling like you’re going to throw up or, you know, whatever it is that you feel so exhausted or so stressed out because of something that happened. I’ve got that bar on my back and I’m still making it happen. Then you come home and something weird has happened with your business and you’re like, well, at least I’m not being crushed by 110 kilos on my back. This is not so bad; I can handle this.
Working from Home [15:32]
Damianne President: [15:32] How do you manage the task switching for all of the things that you do. So to give some context, some people have a meditation practice or they run and running is their meditation. Do you find that your powerlifting or any of the other activities that you do, because I know that’s not the only thing that you do, provide you some balance, or even just allows you to have a break, some time off?
Kim Cofino: [16:02] Definitely. I definitely agree with that mental break idea. And I try to put my training in the middle of the day, because what I notice is I wake up in the morning super energized with tons of ideas and I’m super productive until like around lunchtime or a little after lunchtime. And then I start to just. I don’t know, my brain just is not on fire the way it was when I woke up in the morning. So then I’ll go train. And when I come back in the middle afternoon, I’m reinvigorated and ready to work again until the middle evening.
And it works really well because my husband also trains in the afternoon. So he usually comes back from work about the time that I’m starting to feel like, okay, I could take a break now. And I think having my day chunk like that not only helps me stay more focused when I’m working, because I’m very conscious of the fact that, okay, I’m going to go to the gym at such and such time. I’m getting X, Y, and Z done before I go and I need to get X, Y, and Z done by the time I get back. So I can slot things into my day. But it also makes me have an opportunity to leave the apartment where when you own your own business or you’re self employed, you might not leave the apartment all day. And I think if I didn’t have a purpose for leaving the apartment on a daily basis, it’s possible I could stay in here all day and I don’t think that would be great for my mental health.
Damianne President: [17:20] That’s a good point. As more and more people are beginning to do remote work and able to work at home, that’s one of the things that’s also coming up in terms of how do you…
Kim Cofino: [17:31] It’s a great advantage. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to work from home. I will never complain about it, but I really do appreciate interacting with other human beings in a physical space. Like, yes, we’re interacting now, which is wonderful, and I appreciate that. But like being able to see a human at the gym, even if I don’t know them very well, and say hello and have a five minute conversation, that’s a nice transition away from work-related things. And then I can transition back when I get home.
Lessons Learned About Change [17:57]
Damianne President: [17:57] You’ve gone through many different changes in terms of what you do, in terms of where you live; we could go on. What have you learned about change?
Kim Cofino: [18:06] It might sound strange, but I love change. I love change in the way that it makes me rethink everything that I used to think. I think that being an international school teacher gives you a little bit of forced change within a constant system, if that makes sense. Moving from school to school, I know when I get to the new school, there’s going to be a lot of similarities to the old school. I get to still speak in English. I’m going to teach the classes I already understand and know how to teach, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired me, or do the job I know how to do, whatever the case may be. I’m just going to be doing that in a new place. So I’m going to get to meet so many friends and try new things and eat new food and travel around.
And so I think that having a little bit of consistency amongst all the change helps it not be so scary and helps you be able to see what is fun and exciting versus just an overwhelming unknown. So I think I had a nice I guess introduction into a lot of lifestyle changes by being in the international school world. Of course there’s change, moved from Germany to Malaysia. Yes, it’s going to be different, but your day to day life is almost identical, you know? And so there’s that constant that happens. So I think to me, I had an easy, easy transition into a life that changes a lot. And now I can see primarily the advantages and I don’t really focus on the negative.
Damianne President: [19:34] If somebody has not had so much exposure to change, and they’re a bit worried about making a change in their life, what advice might you give for a way that they could find some similarities that they could overcome this concern.
Kim Cofino: [19:51] I think the most important part is to start with one thing, whatever that one thing is, the smallest possible thing you can think of because the difference between doing nothing and doing something is so much greater. I’m doing a little bit and now I’m doing a little bit more and now I’m doing a little bit more and suddenly this is just who I am. So just take whatever that first step might be, whether it’s fitness related, you know, going to buy some dumbbells at the store and trying to lift weights in your house. What’s that one small thing that seems achievable.
That’s going to get you towards the next step in your goal, because I think we look at big changes like that and they’re overwhelming. You look at starting a business and you’re like, where do I, where do I even begin? And so what’s the one thing that you feel like is manageable. Do that one thing, and then you’re going to see something else. That’s the next one thing. Okay, do that next one thing and let’s see. You don’t have to have a three-year plan the first day you try something.
Damianne President: [20:47] I really appreciate that because. I’ve had this goal at work for a couple of cycles to volunteer, to do this activity. And I kept noticing that, okay, again, this is the third cycle that I’m going to put this back. Something is clearly wrong. Stepping back and thinking, what are the incremental changes I could make along the way before I get to what looks like an impossible task has really helped me remove some of the barriers.
Big Changes and What Makes Change Effective [21:15]
What would you say has been the biggest change you’ve decided to make in your life
Kim Cofino: [21:19] It has to be between two? It has to be either owning my own business or like changing everything about, I guess that’s a bigger one, changing everything about myself, going from a person who’s like not super healthy, not really caring about anything to do with health, lifestyle fitness, like just kind of living a college lifestyle as an adult, to being a person who prioritizes and pays attention to those things. I guess that would be the biggest change, the most important change. And I think that I was able to start my business because I made that change. So I guess they go hand in hand a little bit.
Damianne President: [21:54] One of the things that I’m interested in is how changes connect to each other. And so do you need to have made a small change before you can make a big change. We’ve kind of talked about that in terms of incremental changes, helping you get to what looks like an impossible goal. So do you see a throughline with the changes that you’ve made?
Kim Cofino: [22:17] I guess when I look back, I can see how it was a lot of very small changes accumulated over time. I don’t know if that’s really answering your question about a through line, but I think the through line was okay, I’m going to do this. And when I get used to doing this, I’m going to do something else. And so it was just always that thought of one step forward, one step forward, one step forward, one step forward.
And even today I think about the next, I’m going to get super cheesy and I’m really trying not to, the next step for me in terms of improving. My skill and my sport has been over the last couple of months I would say, my coach has been having me visualize really heavy lifts, and that sounds kind of crazy because like, Oh, what is imagining something in your mind going to help you when you actually have the barbell in your hands or on your back or over your face or whatever. But what a difference. And that teeny, tiny, small thing every day before I’m going to sleep, or if I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t go back to sleep again, instead of counting sheep, I visualize the very small tweaks I want to make in my form. And I visualize myself doing it successfully. And then the next time I have the opportunity to do that at the gym, it’s like I’ve already done it. And just that. That is amazing because I’m visualizing it when I’m lying in bed, you know? And so I guess even the times when you think are times that are not important to helping you be the person you want to be, they might be more important than you think.
Damianne President: [23:44] Some people talk about visualization as helping them and other people do mantras. Part of this may relate to you fake it till you make it or you kind of come up with a way of convincing yourself that, yes, this is who I am.
One of the things that’s helped people with habits is to say, this is who I am now. This is who I was, and this is who I am now. What was one of those greatest changes in the way that you talk to yourself?
Kim Cofino: [24:15] Oh gosh, I could talk about this all day. I definitely agree that before and after kind of dichotomy. It makes it so easy to make choices when you can describe yourself as something. And that also sounds really simplistic but once I started saying I am a powerlifter, so many other choices were made for me. I’m going to prioritize protein at every meal. I’m going to make sure that I meet my calorie needs every day. I’m going to make sure I sleep enough so I can be rested to go to the gym. I’m going to make sure I do some sort of mobility work so I move in the planes of motion I need to move. Just that one word, huge change. And then for a while there, I was vegan. I still now prioritize plants, but that’s another one. Super easy. Decisions are made for you.
I don’t feel comfortable saying I’m vegan now because I’m not, but I definitely prioritize plant-based eating. So I’m going to look at the menu and I’m going to look for my protein options that are plant-based. Having some of those words helps. I think we can get overwhelmed, especially in the West with the amount of choices that we have. I go home and I go to the grocery store and it’s like, Oh, my gosh, there’s an entire aisle and it’s just cereal. How could I possibly choose cereal from this literally hundreds of choices of cereal? Well, now I have two words in my head. I’m thinking about powerlifting and I’m thinking about making healthy choices primarily plant-based. Well that narrows down my choices significantly. So now I have four cereals to choose from, let’s just say. And now I’m going to look at the ingredients. I’m going to look at the macros. I’m going to look at the cost, whatever else is important to me, and be able to choose so much more easily than I would when anything is a possibility.
Damianne President: [25:52] Some people might listen and say, this sounds like a lot of work. It sounds like you always have to be on, that you can’t just be spontaneous. How would you respond to that?
Kim Cofino: [26:04] I think it feels like a lot of work when you haven’t made those small steps. I think when I first started, I was like, I can’t do this; there’s too much. But over the last, I guess, four years or so, I’ve tweaked very small things for good chunks of time until it was habit. So all these things I’m talking about, sound like I’m thinking about them and making decisions about them on a daily basis. But I’m not. It was the first time I started thinking about macros and prioritizing protein and all these kinds of things. Yes, that was like, Oh my God, I didn’t realize there’s not enough protein in X, Y, and Z that I eat every day.
Yes for that month or two months or three months, whatever it was figuring that out, it was work. But as soon as it becomes habit and part of your routine, it’s not work anymore. It’s just the way you do things. And I think we don’t often reflect on our habits and how they actually impact our lives because we’re just so used to them.
So once you make a new habit, you don’t think about it. You just do it. And now look at the impact that’s having three, four, five years later because of this habit you just do.
Damianne President: [27:08] I really like what you just said, because that brings up the idea of automaticity and a lot of people talk about having decision fatigue. But if you’re just making one change, then you’re only making one small decision and then once it becomes automatic, then you no longer have that decision. So you can really start to see how it opens up a lot of space for you.
Kim Cofino: [27:32] Yes. And if those decisions are leading you towards a larger goal, you can see how making the first decision got you a little closer to that goal. So it’s even more motivating to take whatever the second decision is. And then the third and the fourth.
Choosing What to Work On [27:46]
Damianne President: [27:46] Now when you have new opportunities, whether or not it’s in your business or in powerlifting, what questions do you ask yourself before you decide if you will take on that opportunity?
Kim Cofino: [27:59] That is a good question. I probably don’t do a very good job of that because I probably always just say yes. I try…
Damianne President: [28:05] I meant I benefit from that because you said yes to me, so thank you.
Kim Cofino: [28:09] But of course. Exactly. I guess my mindset is you never know what could come of whatever it might be. So I try to do as much as possible. I would say when I say no, it’s because of time limitations. So I would say my, my main thing I filter through is like looking at my calendar and saying, can I do that? If there is something that I could fit, but it feels like it’s not, and I don’t want to say in my wheelhouse but that’s the only phrase I can think of, but if it’s not in my wheelhouse, like recently, someone asked me, could I do some consulting work with the school around technology, infrastructure, devices, hardware.
Straight up the answer to that is not really, but I know some great people that I know I can send you to; let me do that. So I guess I try to filter through, do I have the time for that? And is that something I could really help or support the other person with? And if I can’t, I don’t want to do a bad job at something; I’d rather direct them to someone who’s going to make a positive influence in whatever way they can.
Damianne President: [29:10] Definitely one thread that I’ve noticed come up with other entrepreneurs that I have had conversations with is the idea of integrity. And to me, that really sounds like what you’re talking about.
Learning and Developing skills [29:21]
How did you develop your skills? Because some people may use the excuse that I don’t know how to do this so how can I possibly take it on. You’ve learned how to do many things. What kind of process do you follow to develop skills or what are some of your strategies?
Kim Cofino: [29:38] I guess I’m thinking about two things. And the first thing I’m thinking about is I always see myself as a learner first and everything that happens to me is an opportunity for me to learn more. And for good or for bad, that means that I’m not coming from a perspective of I know everything about this thing. I’m coming from this perspective of there’s always an opportunity to learn. What’s my opportunity here? Maybe this opportunity is smaller than that one, but that’s okay; there’s always an opportunity to learn. So I think that’s the first piece.
And then I think the second piece is referencing back to something I said a little bit earlier. If you can separate yourself and your meaning and your passion and your being from this new thing you’re trying to figure out and look at it as a puzzle, at least for me in this mindset of a learner that makes everything accessible. Because if it’s a puzzle, there’s a solution. The solution might be awful. I might have to work at it for a really long time. And I might be kind of mad that I started it, but I know I’m going to get there.
And I think for me, the separation of myself as a human being from that puzzle, that was the most important part for me to be able to look at all these random things that were going on and saying, okay, I can figure that one out. Okay, I can figure that one out because it’s not saying anything about me, what I know, what I can do, who I am, what kind of person I am. It’s this thing. And I’m going to look at this thing and figure out all the pieces and see, is there something for me there or not?
Damianne President: [31:00] You’ve discussed how it might take a while and you might actually be upset with yourself that you took on a particular challenge. So that means that not everything is a success the first time. We might even say some things are failures.
Kim Cofino: [31:13] Absolutely.
Damianne President: [31:14] How do you look at the process of working out a puzzle or solving something? And how do you decide whether to continue with it or if to give it up?
Kim Cofino: [31:26] I think it’s different a little bit in different situations, but overall, I think I, it’s going to sound weird again. I feel like everything I’m saying sounds weird before I’m about to say it, but I almost appreciate the opportunity to fail because I think I learn a lot more from when I make mistakes than when I do something correctly. Correctly… If I do something successfully, then I haven’t always had a lot of opportunity for learning there, but if something goes wrong, I realize, Oh, if I had done this, the outcome would have been this way. So the next time I have an experience like that, let’s try a different path; we’ll try the path I thought about the last time I made a mistake. So I think, again, that comes back to looking at everything as a learner and that even failures, they say at NIST all the time, fail is first attempt in learning, which I’m sure you’ve heard from many places, but looking at failures as an opportunity for learning.
Obviously you don’t want to fail in a way that you physically hurt yourself or you cost yourself a huge amount of money, but those kinds of failures that help you grow in the direction you want to grow are actually really, probably even more useful than always being successful.
Damianne President: [32:36] When do you let something go? At what point do you decide that’s it, I’ve put in enough effort or I’ve put in enough energy?
Kim Cofino: [32:45] I think that’s very, very hard for me because I always think, well, I could just work harder. I could work harder and I could make this work. I think in business, the easier part is if people aren’t responding to this, they’re not purchasing it, they’re not commenting on it, they’re not asking for it, they’re not saying it’s interesting. That is an easy way to say, okay, this is not working. We’ve done this for this number of weeks, nothing has happened, we’re not doing that anymore. That’s a cut and dry done. I think maybe more in the, like managing of the business and working with people and recognizing when either someone’s not working in the organization or your relationship with someone isn’t working or an aspect of the organization isn’t working to me, that’s much harder. I almost need to be slapped in the face with it. Like something really, really obvious needs to happen. And then I’m like, Oh, Oh, and then it will take me months after that before I’m like, Oh my gosh, I was doing this because of that, that I finally stopped. I was doing this because of that, that I finally stopped, you know? And then it’s like, gosh, how come I didn’t see that sooner.
Final Thoughts [33:51]
Damianne President: [33:51] We’re coming up on time. So to finish up, is there anything else that you’d like to add before we end this conversation? Any advice that you have or something that I’ve missed?
Kim Cofino: [34:01] I think I’ve already said it, but I would say one more time again, if you have a goal and you feel like it’s insurmountable, the most important thing is to take that first step, no matter how small it is. The smallest possible step you can take is infinitely more powerful than not doing anything at all.
Damianne President: [34:19] Thank you so much, Kim. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today.
Kim Cofino: [34:22] It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
I think we don’t often reflect on our habits and how they actually impact our lives because we’re just so used to them. So once you make a new habit, you don’t think about it. You just do it. And now look at the impact that’s having three, four, five years later because of this habit you just do. – Kim Cofino, Changes BIG and small podcastTweet
I’ve tweaked very small things for good chunks of time until it was habit. – Kim Cofino, Changes BIG and small podcastTweet