Confidence and Assertiveness, with Julia Landauer
Episode 14: Confidence and Assertiveness, with Julia Landauer
00:01 Rachel Griesinger: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Kristy Wallace.
00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello, everybody. This is Kristy Wallace and I'm here with a new member of the Ellevate team that many of you have not met but you will be hearing a lot from her 'cause she's amazing and she'll be joining me in some of the intros. Maricella, hello, welcome to the podcast.
00:27 Maricella Herrera: Hi, Kristy.
00:29 KW: And Maricella's the brains behind what we've been doing here every week. She's worked really hard on creating the podcast, working with our interviewees and creating some of the content, so thank you for all of your work 'cause we've been hearing great things about the podcast.
00:45 MH: Yeah, it's very exciting to see the great response that we've had with the podcast. I personally love it but I am biased, so... Well, there's that.
00:56 KW: I have to ask if you're listening and you love it as much as we do, please subscribe. Share it with your friends. Rate it, review it, give us your feedback. We love it but it also really helps to get the podcast noticed in the rankings and in the charts. It means a lot for a small business like ours with a small podcast to have your support. If you could do that we would appreciate it. And now, we're gonna do a quick intro to our next interviewee. Her name is Julia Landauer. If you don't know who she is, you will soon know who she is because this woman is a rockstar.
01:33 MH: I know.
01:34 KW: She's amazing.
01:35 MH: She's great. And she's like, what, 24?
01:38 KW: Yes. Stanford grad, race car driver, all around fantastic woman. Entrepreneur. Starting her business.
01:47 MH: Survivor.
01:47 KW: Yes.
01:48 RG: Like literally she was on Survivor. But she is a survivor. [laughter]
01:52 KW: Yes, yes she was. Great. So many fantastic things we didn't even know how to shrink it all down into this podcast so this will be jam-packed with some great information. And Julia talks a lot with us about how to be successful and how to use your voice. And I know we've polled the membership about that, right Maricella?
02:13 MH: We have and what I found interesting with your conversation with Julia is how she is in a very male dominated field. There are not that many female race car drivers that are, especially not that are successful. And she talked a little bit about being being assertive. We polled our membership and we ask if you think being loud and assertive is overrated in business. And 59% of our members said yes. Not everyone's an extrovert. 30% said not sure depends on your company's culture and 11% said no, you have to find a way to be heard. It seems like you do need to be confident and you do need to be strong. The other part we asked is if women have to be likable to be successful and 60% of people said yes.
03:06 KW: So, you have to be likable but not loud and assertive?
03:10 MH: Yeah.
03:11 KW: Okay, alright.
03:14 MH: I guess go say your piece but say it with a smile?
03:18 KW: Oh no, not with a smile. We hear that a lot from women, right?
03:25 MH: Yeah.
03:26 KW: You have to smile more often, which I don't understand. I think, that's a conversation for another time. But, alright, well thank you so much for that Maricella and we are now gonna get right into my interview with Julia.
03:55 KW: We're here with Julia Landauer and thank you so much for joining us today. We're excited to have you.
04:00 Julia Landauer: Thank you for having me. It's always great to come back to New York, hometown and see some powerful women.
04:04 KW: Yes, you grew up in New York?
04:06 JL: I did. I grew up on the upper west side by Central Park and went to high school at Stuyvesant High School for Math and Science and so raised here 'til I was 18 then moved out.
04:16 KW: I think, while I've lived in New York now for almost 20 years, but that begs the question growing up in New York, how did you get involved in racing? Because pretty much everyone I know who grew up in New York still does not have a license.
04:31 JL: It took a while to get my drivers license that's for sure but my parents who liked racing and watched it and we watched racing growing up, they really wanted to find an activity that their kids could do together. It's me, my sister and my brother but they also specifically wanted something where their girls could compete against boys. They wanted us to be tough, be able to hold our own and know how the other gender works. Right? That's gonna be important for real world experiences and they found this go-kart track about two hours away and so we'd travel up there on the weekends. Stored our karts there and just started racing and I loved it right away. Everything from being a scrawny 10-year-old to manhandling a machine and making it go really fast, that was cool. I also really liked the working with adults and really having to really refine my communication skills to say what the go-kart was doing and what I needed it to do so I could go fast. And then winning. It's a euphoric incredibly high feeling to win a race and once you catch it, it's like you need more and more of it.
05:28 KW: And so then how did you get into racing? Was it through that go-kart track or what does that path look like?
05:34 JL: Yeah, so when I was about 13, my dad had read about really young go-karters, 12, 13, 14 who were starting to make a move into cars and racing cars. And so the Skip Barber Racing Series is a racing school so you have to do a three-day driving school, a two-day advance school. There's other stuff you can do but they allow really young kids to get in cars if they show that they can handle it. And so I did and when I was 13, I ran my first car race and then when I was 14, I ran my first championship series, and then became Skip Barber Racing's first female champion in their 31-year history at the time. It was really cool to be 14 and to show that women can race too and win in the series. It was a big confidence boost for what I knew I wanted my career to be at that point.
06:22 KW: And how many hours a week, I just wanna get into more the training that went into this, and the skills that you cultivated during that time, what did it take to really succeed in this?
06:34 JL: Yeah, so in go-karts, we were racing every weekend and that was pretty much what it was. But as you move into cars, unlike other sports, you can't just pick up your equipment and go practice. You can't just shoot hoops, hit a baseball. With racing, practicing is very expensive. And you don't ever really practice the racing self, because racing can cause crashes. No one's going to spend their practice time getting really close to competitors and putting their equipment on the line. Practice is really a time to get your car set up perfectly, make sure you're driving perfectly. But then racing is the best practice you can do.
07:10 JL: While I'm moving into cars, it was racing typically 14 times a year for the first couple of years. And that was practice on Friday, race on Saturday, and then potentially Sunday as well, and that's kind of what the weekend looked like. And then later in college, and especially since I've graduated as the race cars have become more physically demanding, my training is really in the gym every day for six days a week, and doing the physical component, 'cause it gets so hot in the car. In a NASCAR or stock car, it can be 130 degrees in the cockpit, 'cause the motor's right up front, it's a hot day. You need to have incredible endurance. And part of what makes it a co-ed sport is that it's not brute strength, but you do need good core strength, you do need good upper body strength.
07:54 JL: But again, that's balanced with good endurance, which that means that, again, your size isn't really gonna be the determining factor. You've gotta train hard, and I do strength training three times a week and long distance endurance the other three days a week. One other component of the physical training is visualization. A lot of times we will go to a track that we've never raced on before, and this year there's majority tracks I've never raced on before. So watching as many videos as I can, and visualizing in very detailed ways, when will I hit the brakes, when will I turn in? And that's partially talking with other people who have raced there already and watching videos. The closer you can get visually, the better you'll be in person, it just helps you train in a different way. And also makes sure you stay focused. When races are an hour to three hours long, you have to stay focused. Being able to force that is really important.
08:45 KW: So what I think is really interesting about this is, obviously, you're practising the racing, then you're training your body and getting your body into great shape, and then you also are doing the business aspect of it. It's quite complex. And what goes into just the business side of this?
09:06 JL: The business side is fascinating, 'cause unlike most sports, it's just as much a business as it is a sport. And you need a lot of sponsorship dollars and partnerships, both financially and media and PR wise to be able to really climb the ranks, show that you are a valuable brand to other companies who may want to have you as a spokesperson. And then you need to figure out how to build a unique platform for every partner that comes on to be able to give them the value that they need. For some people, that might be exposure at the race tracks, for some people it might be something with employee engagement. Whatever the company's problem is, you need to figure out how to solve it.
09:44 JL: And that's something where going to Stanford was really helpful to be able to pick the brains of various business professors, and alumni who are very accomplished business people, to really just see how I could do that. And so it's a constant learning process, but my manager and I are working really hard to align with companies that share similar goals who we can provide value to, and that they can provide value to us. It's fascinating to learn, it's a lot of trial and error, it's an incredible number of hours that you put in. And I think the best way to describe it is that every racer is basically a startup, where they're the product and the same kind of fundraising you need, the same kind of PR, you need to have a good product. If you don't have the talent, you're not really gonna attract people. But it's so difficult and there's so many hours put in.
10:26 KW: Just hearing you talk about all the different components, and in my head I'm like, "Wow, when do you sleep?" Do you sleep?
10:32 JL: Sleep is definitely a priority, I make sure that happens. But I made the decision that at this point, being incredibly narrowly focused on racing is what I wanna do. I'm gonna have a window where I'm either gonna make it or I'm not. And the worst thing in the world would be looking back and thinking, "Oh, I could have done more," if I don't make it. But I'm pretty confident we'll get somewhere with it, so it's good.
10:55 KW: Take a step back and talking about your early days as you were really getting into racing. How did that work? You have to be really aggressive, you have to just really tap into certain emotions, certain reactions. And how do you cultivate that, was that something that was natural to you, that you had to work on?
11:21 JL: Yeah, so the emotional and mental component was really huge in the building blocks of my racing career. Especially age 12, 13, 14. And I worked with my parents and they were very hands-on, and very active in the coaching sphere. But we were really trying to figure out girls and boys are different, men and women are different, how do we bridge that gap to make me just as competitive as my testosterone driven male counterparts? And so really trying to figure out how to really amp up that fire in my belly to really go after it, 'cause I always feel like I've taken a fairly intellectual approach to racing, like I'm gonna hit all my marks and it's gonna make me fast, and I'm gonna get by the obstacles.
11:58 JL: Not so much I need to go kill the other racers who are out there and get in front of them. So just try and figure out where the biological differences were and where we could work with it, but the other really important thing that I heard from my coach when I was 14, I think. He was a World Karting champion himself and he came on and was one of the few people who want to work with a female racer. I got turned down by plenty of go-kart teams 'cause I was a 12-year-old girl. I didn't realize it at the time. My parents just figured, "Okay, how do we tell her that she's winning but no one wants to work with her?" My coach came on...
12:29 KW: That's a tough lesson. At a very young age...
12:30 JL: Oh, it is a tough lesson which I didn't really learn until hindsight, in hindsight, but my coach, who did work with us, he said, "I see her raw talent. We just need to, you know, fix it up a little bit and she'll be ready to go." He told me when I was 14, like, "Julia, your behavior on the racetrack would put you in jail in real life, and you need to drive like that every time you're on the racetrack and then shut it off as soon as you pull off the racetrack." That was such a clear visual as to how I was gonna have to behave differently than how society was telling me to behave. And I certainly wasn't hearing from my teachers or the movies I was watching, the books I was reading, that I need to kick ass and obliterate my competition. And so I think, especially given that to hear something like that from someone I trusted was really powerful and I appreciate him, and that [13:18] ____ my parents to be a little more aggressive with saying that it was okay to be aggressive.
13:24 JL: It was okay to want to beat everybody and it was okay to fight for what you really need. No one else is gonna get the win for you. That's all on you. Whatever you have to do to get there you have to do. But again, being able to turn it off is really important too. Being able to balance that, it was something that took practice, just like anything else. But I think, right now I've found a great balance of being able to really amp myself up. I do sprints before every race or qualifying session just to expel the negative energy and get my heart rate up and get all excited, and I found what works. And then you calm down as soon as you get in the car and as soon as the visor goes down you're in the zone, and you just go out and do your thing.
14:02 JL: That's such a cool feeling. A different kind of high from winning but you're... Just like if you're writing an essay, I felt it with essays in college. That you'll be in the zone, you'll be typing out, all of a sudden you have four or five pages and you're like, "Yeah! I just knocked that out." It's the same feeling, just at really high speeds.
14:19 KW: We were talking a little bit before this about how it's interesting for me as a parent of two young girls that I want them to be... And even my son as well, want them to be kind and good, generous people, but I also want them to kick ass. I want them to be, to win, and to stick up for themselves and to fight for what they want, and it's somewhat in opposition... How do you tell a child, "Be kind, be good, be considerate, be generous, but kick ass when you need to kick ass?" How did you learn that? It's really hard.
14:56 JL: It's really tough and I think it is a balance. I think the... And there are lots of discussions about this, the "be nice" phrase. That, I don't think needs to be explicitly said. Just from my experience with my parents and what I got from school and from pop culture and everything, I was told plenty of times to be nice. I was getting that message pretty clearly. But then you still wanna be fair and I think focusing on being fair, being hardworking, and I believe in striving to be great. I think you have one life to live and it's your time to really shine and challenge yourself. You grow once you've stepped out of your comfort zone and so I think really pushing the positives of being a go-getter, in whatever capacity it is, that is.
15:39 JL: It doesn't have to be being a CEO, being famous, being super rich, but doing something that you're passionate about, that you believe in, and that you're going to work hard for it, 'cause that's where the real interesting stuff happens, I think. I was really appreciative that my parents never want to tell me to be nice, but they wanted me to be hardworking, be fair, and by nature of how I saw them acting and saw how they interacted with people, that was the best example of how you can be a good person but still be the aggressive, for lack of a better word, but aggressive person who's going after their goals.
16:18 KW: How did all this translate into Survivor? 'Cause I know you were on Survivor, I feel like I'm with a celebrity right now. Obviously, your race-car status puts you as a celebrity, but Survivor is like, "That's exiting too." Tell me about that. That's, that was really crazy.
16:33 JL: Yeah. I went on Survivor. We filmed it in my sophomore year of college, and so I left spring quarter a little bit early to go on Survivor. But what was really cool for me was that I was really focusing on how I could incorporate my racing skills to help me on Survivor, so how to lead a team. As a driver, I lead my crew guys and my crew chief, and my team to wanna push really hard, so how do we do that in challenges when everyone's dehydrated and sunburned and miserable. There's that component. How to give enough information to get people to trust you but not give too much, which I'll admit, I struggled with. It was really hard to be the youngest person out there. But then the challenges were so much fun, though they were hard. They were, not dangerous, but you knew you were pushing the limits and it was a similar kind of rush that I got to some parts of racing.
17:23 JL: I was really trying to incorporate everything I had learned. It's super easy to get distracted though, again it's like, "I'm really hungry, haven't eaten in two days. How am I gonna keep going?" But it was another mental test of endurance and I made it half way, which is pretty good, would have liked to have done better, win obviously, but it was quite the experience, quite the experience.
17:46 KW: What's the scariest thing that happened?
17:48 JL: I've always been a little afraid of the dark, which I'm finally starting to get over, but being in the shelter in the dark with... You could hear the animals and everything, that was tough. I got a second-degree sunburn on my face that turned into like a liquid filled bubble that the medical team had to come check out. That was pretty awful, but the hardest part was still the social game. I had never been in a situation where I couldn't trust anybody and even people who were in my alliance, everyone's out there for themselves. It was like being in racing but without having the team you can trust. It was really hard. I think it would have gone a little differently if I was a little older, but I'm so glad I got to do it.
18:28 KW: Yeah. You went to Stanford. That must have been quite a crazy four years 'cause you're building your career, you're on Survivor. You're still training obviously while you're in California. How did you go from East Coast to West Coast and move everything over there?
18:47 JL: Stanford was a great experience and I knew when I was doing the college application process that I wanted to go fairly far away from home. I wanted to be on my own. I'm very close with my family which is great, but wanted some time. I really liked their innovation in green technologies and I'm always been interested in how we can make the automotive industry more environmentally friendly. And so it was a great spot for that and it was a hotbed of creativity, which I knew was gonna be helpful for me and I wanted to be a part of. And obviously it's a great school and I wanted to push myself academically, but at the same time as you said, build up my brand. Learn about marketing and branding and being a public figure 'cause that was the goal. But it was hard, but I've always been really disciplined. There's a lot I wanna do and I know I have to be disciplined if I'm gonna get to it all and I've had to take... Like in high school I wrote essays on planes and I had to have parents moderate quizzes. I got very good at being very efficient in my work which definitely helped throughout the four years and now.
19:46 KW: Do you have any tips to share on efficiency, how to be efficient? I'm always looking for advice.
19:51 JL: Yeah, there are definitely tips. Really try and cut out distractions is important, but I also just really believe if you have the drive to do something, you'll be focused on it and so if it's something that you're not really passionate about, it's gonna be much harder to focus in. And so I think if you can find any way to reframe what you're doing to show how it's directly benefiting you, that can help in productivity, but then also taking time off. I'm a big advocate for taking breaks for doing things I enjoy, doing things that are fun, going outside, just need to recenter yourself to be able to get going. I think this idea of being productive 24/7 is just so harmful and if people take some time off which I understand is not our culture's idea of what you had to do to be successful, but I really think you just have to give your brain a break and then you come back so much stronger.
20:45 KW: I agree.
20:46 JL: And exercise is really important. On any level, whether that's walking, yoga, running, doing some 20 minutes of strength training. The New York Times came out with an article [20:57] ____ could do like seven minutes of fairly rigorous activity and it gave you all the benefits of a longer workout. I just think it's, "endorphins make you happy", to quote Legally Blonde and that keeps you going. I'm a big advocate for staying active to help with your brain and body functions.
21:15 KW: I know that you are very passionate also about using your platform to advocate for STEM education, for women's empowerment. You're quite a role model for girls, which is inspiring.
21:30 JL: Thank you.
21:32 KW: Meeting you in person, you're really, really fascinating, but a great person.
21:36 JL: Thank you.
21:38 KW: What are you doing there? How are you fitting that into and what are the things that you're working to achieve around STEM education and girls empowerment?
21:46 JL: For sure, and STEM education is important regardless of gender. There are many studies that show the US is gonna have to fill some five million tech jobs by 2020 that we currently don't have the people for. It's just really important to show early on how some kind of technical literacy can be very powerful in you, whether that's taking control of your own website for whatever business you have or being able to just understand how some of the behind the scenes technology work, just to be more... Knowledge is power. And I think showing early on that tech doesn't have to be sitting behind a computer in a dark basement. Rather it's applicable to many different fields. I think that's really important. That kind of education is what I focus on primarily through various talks and camps that I've been involved with. But then also trying to, again, just take a more proactive approach of getting into schools and to camps, creating opportunities. That's what I'm really working on now and whether that's through partners, I don't think right now I have the capacity to do it on my own, but through partners to really use racing as a pure example of a technical sport that can illustrate basic science concepts to show students.
22:58 JL: And then with women's empowerment, it's a lot of just wanting to try to root for the underdog. There are a lot of obstacles that we face and I really hope to show that you can be authentic to yourself. Not necessarily fitting the mold that society says you have to. Competent and confident woman and go after whatever you want. And obviously there are hurdles along the way, there are gonna be setbacks, but understanding that you're capable and if you do the work to train your skills and get there, you should be able to do it too. It's just, I really believe that society functions better when every member is an active participant, and so empowering women who typically have taken more of a step back at times in their careers to really help them show, it's better for everyone if everyone's involved. Diversity is good. That's what I hope to do and just continue to be creative in ways that I can spread that message and help as much as I can.
23:56 KW: That's great.
23:57 JL: Thank you.
23:57 KW: Thank you.
23:57 JL: It's exciting.
23:58 KW: It's exciting, yeah.
24:00 JL: And there's so many interesting people in the world, who had very different backgrounds, who may or may not think they have the potential to showcase those skills and backgrounds. The more you can open that up, and make things inviting, the better. While still keeping a healthy level of competition, but they have to get in there first before they can compete.
24:17 KW: Well, thanks for joining us today. It was great to meet you.
24:20 JL: Thank you. Thank you, I really appreciate it. Thank you for having me on. I'm excited to see where we all go from here. It's a lot of unknowns, but just gotta keep digging. As they say in NASCAR, "Keep digging, keep digging."
24:30 KW: I like it. I like it, we'll keep digging.
24:33 JL: Thank you so much for having me.
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