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Ruth Soukup on Knowing When to Quit


TEDxMileHigh Imagine speaker Ruth Soukup is the host of the popular Do It Scared Podcast. She is helps people overcome fear and follow their dreams. Learn more about Ruth’s experiences, inspirations, and beliefs. 

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As a Kid, What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up? 

My entire childhood, I was completely convinced that I was going to be a lawyer. I talked about it all the time and was always a lawyer in my pretend games. In high school, I wrote a report on it, interviewed local attorneys, and started requesting applications to Ivy League schools. I majored in Political Science for the sole purpose of preparing for law school. Then my senior year of college, I had a complete breakdown. I was diagnosed with major depression and PTSD, attempted suicide more than once, and spent two and a half years in and out of psychiatric hospitals. 

I had to drop out of school, but I never gave up the dream of going to law school. In fact, in the hospital, I’d watch Legally Blonde almost every single day. Eventually, I did put my life back together, then finished my degree and got accepted to law school at Washington University in St. Louis. 

I thought I had finally figured out my life until, about six months in, I realized that I hated law school. 

I hated everything about it. The classes, the other students, the rules. It was sheer misery. But, I turned it around, as you can see below.

What Was the Biggest Turning Point in Your Life?

While I hated every minute of law school and was completely miserable, I don’t think I would have ever had the courage to quit, had it not been for my (now) husband, Chuck. He had quit his job and uprooted his entire life to move to St. Louis with me so that I could follow my dream. I had even convinced him to buy a house there. I knew I needed to stick it out, even if I hated it.

But one Sunday we went for a walk in the park.

After listening to me complain for at least 30 minutes, he finally stopped walking, turned to me, and said, “You know you don’t have to do this, right? You have a choice, and you can quit. It’s okay.”

Until that minute, I don’t think I actually realized that I always have a choice, but I do. I walked into the Dean’s office the next morning to withdraw, and I’ve never once regretted that decision.

What Are Three Facts About You That Are Completely Unrelated to the Subject of Your Talk?

  1. I’m obsessed with Harry Potter
  2. I love “travel hacking” and my favorite thing in the world is flying first class for free
  3. I’m 6’2”, which I never realized was freakishly tall until I moved out of my hometown, which is full of tall Dutch people like me

Who Are Three People, Living or Dead, That Inspire You the Most? 

  1. Sara Blakely because I legitimately think we could be BFFs, which probably makes me a borderline stalker
  2. Kat Cole. When I interviewed her for my podcast I was blown away!
  3. Michael Hyatt because he’s definitely been a mentor to me

What’s Your Favorite TED or TEDx Talk?

I loved Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power poses. It made me so much more conscious of the way I hold my body and take up space.

What’s a Piece of Advice That You Live By or That You Give Other People Constantly?

There are no mistakes, only lessons. The fear of making a mistake or getting it wrong holds so many people back. 

When you can reframe the way you think about mistakes to realize that they’re actually the best way to learn, it changes everything.

What’s the Biggest Challenge You Face in Your Day-To-Day Work? 

That’s a hard one. I’d say for me, it’s probably trusting my team and learning to be a better leader and mentor, rather than just trying to do it all myself. I work on it a lot, read a ton. I am constantly trying new approaches and also try to get as much feedback as I can even when it hurts.

Name One Thing We Aren’t Spending Enough Time Thinking About as a Society. What Would Be a Good First Step?

Personal responsibility and critical thinking skills. Too many people don’t take the time to question the status quo or to formulate their own opinions. There’s a lot of groupthink going on. A lot of people just accept the hand they’ve been dealt, rather than realizing that they can actually make their own choices.

I think the first step is simply choosing to own it, to start taking full responsibility for how you respond to everything that happens to you.

If You Could Achieve One Goal in the Next Year What Would It Be?

You mean besides giving a TEDx Talk? Right now, one of the biggest goals that I’m focused on is simplifying and streamlining the behind-the-scenes operations of my company to be more profitable and sustainable. And, to require less of my own hands-on involvement. We’ve grown fast over the past 8 years, but I’m taking a step back to make sure our infrastructure is ready to scale. It’s not a super sexy goal, but its one that I know will mean a lot more freedom for me, both financially and timewise which gets me very excited!

What Action Can the TedxMileHigh Community Take to Support Your Big Idea? 

Since I’ll be talking specifically about the archetypes of fear, the best way the community could support my big idea is to take and promote the Do It Scared Fear Assessment™.


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