Episode 291: Thoughtfully Fit with Darcy Luoma

Episode Summary

When US Senator Kohl decided he would not seek re-election, Darcy Luoma, who has been working with him for 12 years, had a huge decision to make. Her family, friends, and colleagues assumed she would stay working in the political field, but she had other plans. Darcy felt the need to start her own business, put herself out there, and create a legacy. Using her experience and knowledge, she started her own coaching and consulting company, becoming one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. 

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. And we have a fun guest with us today. Talk about becoming your best. Well, this guest is all over it. She’s the author of Thoughtfully Fit: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success. She’s a master-certified coach, a dynamic facilitator, and an inspiring motivational speaker. You’re going to love her. She’s worked as a Director for a US Senator for like a decade, plus Deputy Transition Director for a governor, and on the national advance team for two US presidential campaigns. Welcome, Darcy Luoma.  

Darcy Luoma: Thank you, Steve. It’s great to be here with you today.  

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this. So, here we go. Are you ready?  

Darcy Luoma: Yeah, sure, I’m ready.  

Steve Shallenberger: All right. And before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Darcy. As the owner and CEO of Darcy Luoma Coaching and Consulting, she’s worked in 48 Industries with more than 500 organizations to create high-performance people and teams. And the media has named Darcy the region’s favorite executive and life coach four times. She loves adventure travel and – get this – competing in triathlons. Go, girl! 

Darcy Luoma: Thank you.  

Steve Shallenberger: Well, you have quite a background. And I’m so excited to jump into what we’re going to talk about today. We’re so honored to have our listeners queuing in today. They’re dedicated to becoming their best. They’re dedicated to learning and growing and seeing new ways to do things and getting new ideas. One of the 12 principles of highly successful leaders is all about what we’re going to talk about, which is live in peace and balance and taking care of yourself. And that’s really what we’re going to talk about quite a bit today, and one of the things that Darcy has focused her life on. So, Darcy, if you don’t mind, tell us about your background; help us get a clue here of how you got to where you are today and things that may have had a significant impact on you.  

Darcy Luoma: Oh, I’d love to, Steve. Thank you so much. As you mentioned in the introduction, I did, I spent the first couple of decades of my career working in politics. So, when the US Senator that I was working on – I have to mention – he owned the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the champions after all. So, he was my boss for 12 years, and when he decided that he was not going to seek reelection, that meant that I was going to be seeking a new job after 12 years working in the US Senate. So, there was an assumption on my part – the part of my colleagues, my family, my friends – that I would stay in the political field. And I hired a coach, and she asked me a question — see, that was a huge turning point for me that nobody else asked — she asked me, “Darcy, if in 10 years you look back at this moment in time and this decision and you have no regrets, what would you do?” And it was this gift handed to me on a platter because I had never thought about what was next in that way. And so that gave me the opportunity to dream, and I immediately had an answer. I said, “I’d start my own company. I would do coaching and consulting, and training, and creating high-performing people and teams.” And she said, “Great! Do it.” And I’m like, “I can’t do that. I don’t have an MBA. I’m not a business major. And I don’t know how to run a business. My husband stays home full time with our two daughters – I need a salary, and a paycheck, and health insurance.” So, she helped me really address each of those obstacles. So, on January 2nd of 2013 was my last day in the Senate; January 3rd, I launched my business, and I have never looked back. I’m not quite yet at 10 years, but I have no regrets.  

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s great. One of the examples and things that you just mentioned — First of all, stepping back. I love the question by your coach and friend, the whole value of that is stepping back and really thinking about things. But when a person can capture an idea as they listen to themselves on what they may be capable of, and just listen to the inspiration within; once you capture an idea, it can have such a profound impact, can’t it?  

Darcy Luoma: It sure can. Absolutely. And capturing the idea is the first step. And then the second step is being able to — well, I call it inner trash talk.  As soon as I had that great idea, my inner trash talk started screaming and saying all the reasons I couldn’t do it. So, being able to tackle that – your book is phenomenal; love it – so you can become your best. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, okay. So, first, you had the vision. How did you set yourself up so that you could realize the vision? It had to be like you just said, you go through all the stories, all the trash talk in your head saying, “No, no, no.” But then you go forward. How did you set yourself up so that you could ultimately be successful? 

Darcy Luoma: I really focused on the foundations. I started doing a whole bunch of information interviews from other business owners who were successful and asked them, “How did you structure this? What do I need to know?” I hired a social media firm, hired a coaching coordinator, told my husband at the time that all of the research that I have read and the business consultants and coaches I’ve hired have said that the majority of businesses fail within two years. So, I designed with him that I’m going to go gonzo, I’m going to really work hard to make this business a success for two years. And we agreed to that. He was a full-time stay-at-home dad, did all of the Girl Scout Cookies, and haircuts, and karate, and gym meets, cooking, cleaning so that I could focus on my business. And in the first two years, I was blessed and thrilled to create a successful business that was thriving that by 2015, I actually brought on six coaches onto my team and consultants to help me be able to deliver services, which was wonderful. It was just absolutely what my dream and vision was. 

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s great. And of course, you had a really terrific background and a lot of contacts. So, you were able to build upon some of the strengths and skills that you’ve developed. 

Darcy Luoma: Yes, thank you. I really did. I was blessed to have a number of mentors – Senator Cole being one of them – and working on a couple of presidential campaigns, I learned a lot. And let me tell you, Steve, I learned a lot by doing it the wrong way and then really realizing like, “Oh! That’s how I have to communicate better. That’s how I build trust. That’s how I build a team.” All of that, that I didn’t just inherently or intuitively know. But I have a passion for leadership, team building, emotional intelligence, human dynamics, systems theory, all of that, that I knew was really where my passion was – way more than in the political field. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s great. Well, that’s really fun for our listeners to hear part of that journey. But let’s talk about your new book, Thoughtfully Fit. Give us the background on it; how did you come to write it and what is it about? 

Darcy Luoma: So, it’s a book about how to handle yourself thoughtfully in any situation – whether if there’s a crisis, a hurdle, adversity, challenges, whatever big or small – so that you can get back to doing what you do best. And in your model, you talked about what matters most to you, instead of having to clean up the mess that happens when you don’t handle yourself thoughtfully in the moment. It’s a model that’s based on the principles of being physically fit. I’ve been an athlete my entire life. And what we know is if you train and practice your body, every movement will be easier and you will be higher performing. And in the same way with being thoughtfully fit if you train and practice your mind and your thoughts, your life and relationships will be easier and you will be higher performing. So, that’s where Thoughtfully Fit was created. And I took thousands of hours of coaching clients. I spent five years researching what are the themes that keep getting in the way of being high-performing? What do my clients bring to me? What are their challenges? And that became the model. There are six obstacles, six hurdles that Thoughtfully Fit is based on that get in the way of people being high performing. And three of those are internal, where we get in our own way. And then three of them are external, dealing with people problems and relationships with others. So, I spent a couple of years researching, developing it. And on a Saturday in March of 2016, I had my team together and we had all the flip charts on the walls and the post-it notes and it officially came to life. And we were like, “Yes!” It was just so exciting to have this model that we had been researching and creating for so long officially come to life. And then, five days later, my life exploded, really, Steve, in the most extreme way than I could ever have imagined.  

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, tell us about it, please.  

Darcy Luoma: Yeah, it was horrible. I was at an event, a training event, and got a phone call from my neighbors asking, “What’s going on at your house?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know. I’m not at home. Why?” And she said, “There’s 40 or 50 police cars, SWAT teams, guns surrounding your house, and they just took out your husband in handcuffs.” And I said, “Wait, what? John? What are you talking about?” My husband was arrested that day – I was completely blindsided – for sexual assault of a minor he had met online. And immediately, I had to go into crisis management mode for my daughters, and for my life, and for my business, for myself to try to work through this nightmare. And fast forward a day or two I called an attorney I had to hire. The charges were severe. My husband had an attorney, I had to hire my own attorney. And my attorney said, “Darcy, don’t talk to anybody about anything. This is severe. We don’t know what’s going on. We’ve got to figure this out.” And so, at the time when I was most desperate and most vulnerable and most challenged, I couldn’t go to any of my support systems. And I became Ground Zero to test drive all of those principles and practices of Thoughtfully Fit. And that’s what the book is about: how this model helped me navigate this extreme crisis. And then it’s got business case studies on how it can help others navigate the annoying coworker, the boss who is passive-aggressive, the spouse who frustrates you. Maybe you’re overwhelmed, you don’t know how to say no and so you’re over-functioning in your relationships and overworked, all of that. That’s what the book is based on is how these principles helped me with my story, and then translating it with strategies on how they can help others work through their own hurdles. 

Steve Shallenberger: So, what you’re saying, Darcy, is that Thoughtfully Fit is a process – both internal and external related – that helps you work through challenges and things that would be a real problem. Is that what you’re saying?  

Darcy Luoma: Absolutely, that’s exactly what it is. When those challenges happen, something happens; we have an immediate thought, that’s our human nature. And that thought, if you can recognize and ask yourself, “Is this thought serving me or sabotaging me?” Now, most people don’t pause to think about that question. They just have a thought, “What a jerk.” And then they yell, they react, they shut down, they cry. So, when you’re thoughtfully fit, you can pause first in that moment and think, “Okay, is this thought serving me or sabotaging me?” It’s not that you don’t have thoughts. We’re human, that’s natural. But it’s that you’re aware of those thoughts in the moment and you don’t have that sabotaging thought lead to a sabotaging action. So, instead, you can then act thoughtfully because you are not on autopilot having knee-jerk reactions.  

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, and this Thoughtfully Fit, that sounds good. In other words, you’re able to do it. You’ve got this down. So, can you give us an example of using it? And some of the examples from your book? What’s a good case study? Give us a good one. 

Darcy Luoma: Yes. Would you like, Steve, an example, personally, from my life with John? Or do you want something like a business case study from one of my clients?  

Steve Shallenberger: Whichever one you would like to share, but it’d be a one teaching moment for us and teach us to reflect on some of the things that you do to be thoughtfully fit. 

Darcy Luoma: So, if we could stay on for three hours, I would love to give you all the examples but I’ll simplify and just give you one. When I found out that my husband was being arrested, and all of a sudden – it was one phone call, I’m now a single mom – I now have to figure out – my daughters were eight and nine at the time – what to do and how to navigate this. He was arrested on a Thursday. And on Monday morning, I had to lead a full-day leadership training for an executive leadership team at a company here in Madison. And I realized that I needed to be on-site at that headquarters before my daughters would get on the bus. So, on Sunday, I asked my daughters, I said, “Hey, is there any chance that you would be willing to stay at a friend’s house tonight so you could go on the bus in school because mom has to go to this event early?” And they both said yes, and I said, “Whose house would you like to go to?” And they shared the name of a friend whose parents had not reached out to me. So, when this hit the news, and it was all over at the newspaper, The News, the social media. I had a lot of texts, emails, calls from other parents and friends, offering support. This was a parent that hadn’t reached out, so I was a little nervous. But I thought, “You know what? That’s who they feel safe with, that’s where they want to go.” So, I texted the mom and said, “I’ve got a favor. Is there any chance that the girls could stay over tonight?” About two minutes later, I get a phone call from her and she said, “Darcy, I just got your text.” And I said, “Yeah.” “I need to know, did you have anything to do with this?” Now, see, in that moment – I mean, talk about sabotaging thoughts – my first thought was like, “What? Are you kidding me?” Never in a million years did I think that anybody would think that I had anything to do with this. And I wanted to lash out. I wanted to get angry. At the core of being thoughtfully fit are the three steps: pause, think, and act. Because I had been practicing for a long time and training, really, just like athletes train so that when something goes wrong in the game, there’s a curveball; you’re tackled, do you know how to handle it? Well, that was a huge curveball. That moment, I had to pause and think; “Okay, this thought is not serving me right now. What an idiot. I can’t believe she would say that.” That’s certainly going to make things worse. And so that’s where I think, “Okay, what do I need right now?” She’s scared. Her daughter has spent time at our house under my husband’s guidance. She’s scared. I need to offer compassion and empathy at this moment. And so that pause, think, act, I said, “Oh, my goodness. I did not have anything to do with this. I didn’t know about it. I had no idea.” And she said, “Well if I find that there’s any pictures or videos of my daughter, I’m going to send the mafia to your house. And Darcy, I have ties to the mafia.” I was like, “This is my life?” I don’t know if you’ve ever seen To Catch a Predator, the show that they used to have where they go and do a sting. But that show, they never showed what happened to the family. They arrest the predator but there’s a family at home. All of a sudden, I’m that family, I’m having this conversation. I live in this really small town nice family, and I’m being told that they’re sending the mafia. So, that was an example where because of the training and practice I had done and learning hard way, the lessons on how to handle myself thoughtfully when blindsided, I was able to stay calm in that moment and not escalate the problem. 

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good example. That’s a very good example. So, I want to just have our listeners listen in and be thinking about being Thoughtfully Fit. In other words, getting your thoughts in the right frame of mind so that you can have the best response. One of our sayings, Darcy, is “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Till the good is better and the better is best.” And that’s really what you’re saying here is pause and say, “Hold it. I’m going to do better, I’m going to be my best here. So, how do I do that?” So, you collect yourself and you think about it, empathize, and then you act with good, better, best type options. That’s kind of it, right? 

Darcy Luoma: That’s exactly right, Steve, so that you’re being intentional, you’re being thoughtful in how you’re responding instead of reacting in the moment, having that autopilot reaction. Again, it’s normal, it’s human, it’s our evolution. You hear something in the woods and you think it’s a bear; you’ve got to get ready for the flight or fight. But that no longer serves us in the world we live in today. 

Steve Shallenberger: I’m just laughing. It’s not a laughing matter by any means. But to have the lady say, “Are you involved?” That would cause your blood to boil just wipe off. And of course, this pause, think, and act is wonderful. It gives you a template, a pathway of how to be responsible and get to good outcomes. So, I’m just interested, did the girls stay overnight with them? 

Darcy Luoma: No, as a matter of fact — What happened, so this was a Sunday. I was talking to her, trying to figure out what to do with the girls on Monday. Right after we hung up the phone, I get a call from a different friend who said, “Darcy, the pastor just made an announcement at church about John’s arrest and they’re having a meeting.” And I was like, “Wait, what?” So, I called my attorney and I said, “I need help, what’s going on here?” And he said, “Darcy, you’ve got to get the girls out of dodge.” And I said, “Well, what does that even mean?” He said, “This is bad. You can’t have the girls here listening to all these media.” So I, actually, that day, called my sister and drove them five hours away to another state. And they finished out the school year, I gave her guardianship of them. And while I dealt with this legal nightmare and filing for a divorce and going through a criminal proceeding, they were safe with her in Minnesota for several months. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, as you pause and think, really, and you hear people’s comments, there’s a lot of different possible outcomes and you are looking for the best outcome. And that takes a lot of maturity. And like you said, you really have to have a process set up so that you don’t fly off the handle. And when you think about it, you may say, “Well, that’s not the best place to have my kids stay overnight,” that allows you to think of other options. So, this “think” part is a big deal. Can you elaborate a little bit more on ways to be a really good thinker, especially if you’re in a crisis?  

Darcy Luoma: Absolutely. So, the pause is critical. The pause is what sets you up to be able to think. Most of us don’t pause; we react; we’re on autopilot. So, that’s essential. Once you get to the part where you’re thinking, I want you to ask yourself these three questions. The first one I already gave you; is this thought serving me or sabotaging me? Because you have to create awareness and don’t act. If it’s a sabotaging thought, no judgment, but you don’t want to act on that, it’ll just add fuel to the fire. Then you want to look out and explore what are my choices here? And what do I control? And when you can do that, you can focus on exploring your choices in that moment, and you can think about “What do I control?” You can then act thoughtfully. That’s what’s key. And you talked about training. You can train and practice. So, right now, we’ve got the Olympics going on. And if you may remember Michael Phelps, he was obviously the most decorated Olympian. In one of his races, he dove in off the blocks, his goggles fell off. He had trained and practice so much that he knew exactly how many strokes to get to the wall to do a flip turn and he still won the race. So, the key is, practice and train on the small stuff. When you’re cut off in traffic, instead of flipping somebody off in that moment, train, practice, pause, think “Do I really want to choose to possibly have road rage and have this person angry at me?” This thought, “What an idiot? What a jerk?” Is that thought serving me? Probably not. What do I control? I control right now whether I give any energy to that person or not. What are my choices? I’m going to just choose to turn the radio up and let them in and pass on and not give any of my negative energy to this situation. When you practice on the small stuff, it’s easier with the big stuff. 

Steve Shallenberger: That’s great advice. And Darcy, what’s one thing you want people to take away from your book? And I’m listening carefully, I’m learning, I’m loving all this. It helps us live in peace and balance and see different ways to do it. So, thank you. 

Darcy Luoma: Steve, you are so wonderful. You’ve written all the books. You’ve done all the training. You have it all and for you to say you’re learning just is the kindest thing ever. Thank you. If there’s one thing that I want the listeners to leave with is that core, those three steps. So, when you engage, just like when you’re physically fit, if you have a strong core, every movement is easier and you’re less likely to get injured. I don’t care if you’re doing basketball or just putting your suitcase up on the overhead bin in the airplane. Same way, thoughtfully fit, I want you to remember always to engage your core – three steps: pause, think, act. If there’s one thing I want people to take away, it would be that. Because that gives you then access to be able to handle yourself thoughtfully, to be able to explore “What do I control here? What are my choices that are?” 

Steve Shallenberger: Darcy, who do you think can benefit most from reading Thoughtfully Fit? Now that you’re into it, it’s been out for a month, you’ve been working on it for years. So, you’ve probably have been teaching it for years. What’s your experience in that? 

Darcy Luoma: Anyone who wants to train to have more success personally and professionally. And what I mean by that, just like… I’m not in the business of trying to convince a couch potato to go do a 5K. So, I’m not trying to tell people who don’t want to have success, who don’t want to be high performing that they need to do this. This is really for those people who want to have a better, easier, more successful life. Because this book and this model, Thoughtfully Fit, is about training and practicing. It’s not easy. Just like it’s not easy to run a marathon or to do a 5K; you’ve got to get off the couch. It’s filled with strategies, case studies, core workouts to help overcome those hurdles. But I’d say, really, the goal for the reader or the listener is somebody who wants their life to be better.  

Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful. Well, I’m always amazed at how fast things go. And we’re at the end of the show.  

Darcy Luoma: Yes, I can talk to you forever.  

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, it’s been so fun. So, any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today? 

Darcy Luoma: Well, I would love to just share if anybody’s interested, I’ve got a quiz. If they go to, those six biggest obstacles that I said my executives, my clients’ experience, they can take a free quiz that will spit out what’s your biggest obstacle. And then what are some strategies to help you immediately overcome that. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great. That’ll be worthwhile. That’d be fun to take. I bet people enjoy that. 

Darcy Luoma: Yes, it helps to create that self-awareness. And everything I do has a coaching background. In coaching, it’s all about creating new awareness, and then creating new actions based on that awareness. 

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, share with our listeners, one more time, how people can find out about what you’re doing; one more time, how can they have access to that assessment or survey and how can they get information on the book? 

Darcy Luoma: So, The book is on any of the online retailers, it’s on Audible. The quiz, you can take on And if you want to learn more about how our other services – coaching, consulting, keynote speaking – 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, fabulous. Well, Darcy, thanks for being with us, being part of this show today. It’s been a delight.  

Darcy Luoma: Thank you so much, Steve. Thanks for all that you do.  

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, you bet. And what a great productive visit this has been. I’ve got some new ideas. I’m looking forward to reading the book. And we wish you all the best as you’re working to leave the world a better place. 

Darcy Luoma: Thank you so much, Steve. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to connect with your wonderful audience. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, you bet. And to all of our listeners, we’re so grateful for you. We’re inspired by you. We know that every day, as you work on becoming your best, you’re also making a difference, and you’re touching lives every single day. So, this has been a delight to be together with you. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.

Darcy Luoma

Founder and CEO at Darcy Luoma Coaching & Consulting

Creator of the Thoughtfully Fit method that specializes in solving organizations’ people problems.

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