Season 1
45 Minutes

Ep. 24 | Debra Olshan Cooper | What Liz Taylor Taught Me About Telling a Great Story

Debra Olshan Cooper, 64, has a storied life. Born in Beverly Hills, a Runway Model in Paris and Milan, Muse to Roberto Cavalli, PR Frontwoman for Elizabeth Taylor, groundbreaking AIDS Charity Promoter and the top Fashion Publicist in Manhattan.

Debra’s FOURTH ACT? She now takes her storytelling mojo and helps students craft their authentic stories – and lives – via her firm Your Career Design Lab. And she continues to tell GREAT stories.

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Debra Olshan Cooper  00:00

The newly formed AIDS project Los Angeles came to us, the firmm  to ask if Elizabeth would be a co chair with Betty Ford. For the first ever commitment to life aids benefit, and there I go to LA and Elizabeth comes up to me. I had never met her until that point. And she goes, Debra, would you come to visit Rock Hudson with me at UCLA?

Achim Nowak  00:23

No way!

Debra Olshan Cooper  00:24

Way. And so of course at 27, you don’t say no to Elizabeth Taylor. So there I am standing in the  hallway as she goes to visit Rock Hudson and it became my job as a PR person to tell the press and the world that this was not a homosexual disease that it was going to be the disease of every man, woman and child.

Achim Nowak  00:47

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a five act play, how will you spend your fourth act? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected FOURHT ACTS, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening on. Let’s get started.  I am thrilled to welcome Debra Olshan Cooper to the My fourth act podcast. Debra has lived a truly illustrious life. For the last 30 years Debra has been an entrepreneur, and CEO of two highly successful public relations and marketing firms. Now very much in her fourth act and absolutely not ready to stop. Debra founded Your Career Design Lab, a premier coach, career coaching firm for young people that helps them craft authentic personal stories, and more importantly, create authentic lives. Debra’s personal life includes New York City, South Florida and Los Angeles. I so look forward to having a rich exploration with you, Debra, about your fourth act of life choices. Welcome.

Debra Olshan Cooper  02:13

Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here.

Achim Nowak  02:18

Let’s jump in. And the confession is our listeners Debra and I met at a social event A few weeks ago, we connected immediately. And I immediately knew that we had to have this conversation. I want to get to your fourth act. But I just to introduce you to everybody when you were a young girl or a teenager. I remember you grew up in Beverly Hills, which evokes all sorts of things for people who are not from Beverly Hills. But who did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

Debra Olshan Cooper  02:51

Well, it’s really ironic. I wanted to be an actress. And the ironic thing is my mom used to watch movies with Elizabeth Taylor, as the universe would have it. I ended up going to USC and studying theater. And at the time, the director was the famed john Houseman. I think it was like sir john Houseman

Achim Nowak  03:13

Of course, a legend.

Debra Olshan Cooper  03:15

A legend! Well, that legend was our director. But as I was taking my classes, he was casting people in movies. It was kind of like I didn’t know what at the time, but he had cast Madeline Smith, who was was like a person in my class in Urban Cowboy with john travolta, he was like the pretty girl against Debra Winger. Then he cast this other kid, Kelly ward, who became one of the guys in Grease with john travolta. And I guess at that moment, you might just realize maybe I’m just not that talented. Like him, I was gonna be this very famed actress. And I just wanted to ask, because of course, growing up in Beverly Hills, LA, what else are you going to be doing with your life? But in that moment, reality kind of hit and I went, you know what, maybe this is not for me.

Achim Nowak  04:09

It’s wonderful to figure out early on what we’re good at and what we’re not, isn’t it? Yes, I was an actor for about five years, I got cast a lot in Washington, DC. But I never felt like I was really good at it. And I realized later in life, the other things I’m really good at. And I’m glad that I don’t have those acting ambitions anymore. So I applaud you for that realization. Now, one of the first I have to tackle because one of the things you told me completely not knowing my background. When I said Who are you you said, you know, you mentioned Beverly Hills, and you actually mentioned Elizabeth Taylor and doing some charity work for AIDS and that intrigued me because you and I have the same generation. What moved you to do that work?

Debra Olshan Cooper  05:00

Well, this is a great story, to be honest with you, again, crazy enough how the universe kind of sets the plan is that I went to NGOs, I was working for a direct mail catalog. So after the whole acting thing was happening, I moved to New York, I actually modeled for quite a bit of time. And then I went into being a direct mail catalog, it was at the time that they were putting like high fashion into direct mail catalogs. So you could buy things like, pre online, and I went to go see a psychic at Jeremy stock. Well, the third and I’ll explain. So I was there. And I said, I just want to know if I’m keeping this job, because I was like, 2425 years old, and I was making $50,000 a year. And I remember telling my Dad, I’m gonna stay in New York, because I’m going to be making 50,000. It goes 15,000, of course, for me, so I said, No, 50 He goes, Yeah, I think you should keep that job, because you could pay your rent. So I was, and when he said, No, you’re not going to be keeping that job, you’re actually going to be working with a celebrity. And you’re going to be working on a disease that’s going to affect people throughout the world. And I’m thinking to myself, this is the biggest waste of $50 I have ever spent, like, just tell me, I’m keeping my job. I didn’t know if it goes, Oh, you’re going to be in PR. I don’t even know what PR stood for. I thought it meant like Puerto Rico. I had. I didn’t ask I didn’t know. I am not lying to the next week. And you know, those days, you had the cassette tape on your Walkman?

Achim Nowak  06:27

I do know.

Debra Olshan Cooper  06:28

Right. So I’m walking, I’m listening to what the guy is saying it’s celebrity. I’m like, Oh, this is that was such a waste of time with the psychic. The next week, a designer that I was working with said, you know, you’d be really good in PR. And I went back to the cassette tape, I’m like, Oh, my God, PR. The next day, he goes, I have somebody I want you to meet. So I go and meet this woman, Shen Sam. And she’s like, Yeah, we do PR and marketing, whatever. And we work with et, of course, you know, I don’t know why didn’t ask questions in those days, but I did it. And and we’ve got this person, this person, and she hired me. The next day I go in and I get a stack of letters. And she goes, can you just answer these? This is how we answer it. It says, Dear Elizabeth Taylor, I don’t have any money. I’m almost on the street. Could you lend me $100,000. And we used to get letters like that all the time. And I’m like, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth, a. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up my whole acting thing. Now I’m working for a company that the psychic told me, I’d be working with a celebrity. A month after that newly formed aids project, Los Angeles, came to us the firm to ask if Elizabeth would be a co chair with Betty Ford, for the first ever commitment to life age benefit. And there I go to LA and Elizabeth comes up to me, I had never met her until that point. And she goes, Debra, would you come to visit Rock Hudson with me at UCLA? No way, way. And so of course, at 2627, you know, you don’t say no to Elizabeth Taylor. So there I am standing in the like hallway. And she goes to visit rock cutting. And it became my job as a PR person to tell the press and the world that this was not a homosexual disease, that it was going to be the disease of every man, woman and child. And to this day to have and then, you know, was huge. We had press from all over the world. And it became what it is. And then we created amfar for her because to be honest with you, each project Los Angeles and her kind of taking over, they didn’t really like that. So she hooked up with Matilda. krim Dr. Matilda krim, because she wanted that scientific kind of sensibility to her, and we created amfar

Achim Nowak  08:42

What a story. I love the story. But if I can zoom out for a moment, I’m just putting myself in your shoes. You’re Debra, you’re 2425 and you’re thrown in to this world that that presented itself to you? What was it like for you just inside to step into that world?

Debra Olshan Cooper  09:07

You know, it’s it’s, I keep going back to Universal Consciousness. I guess on some level, I knew I was destined for that because these signs of wanting to be Elizabeth Taylor. Now working for Elizabeth Taylor, the psychics telling me I’m working on a disease I got to be honest with you, if you listen to this cassette tape, exactly what he liked that it to me, not knowing anything about me and that my life unfolded like that. I have to believe God or whoever the universe put me in that position, because that’s what I was meant to do. And I knew in that moment, that I was creating history that I was creating. I was in the midst of a historical event that I will forever be grateful for, proud of. And to be honest with you, even though I’ve done amazing things after that. I really have to be able to say that look back on my press things that I did for that in the videos we had with the people and the people I’ve touched. It’s amazing.

Achim Nowak  10:08

What I love about what you just said is sometimes when the middle of cool stuff, and we don’t recognize it until much later in what I’m hearing from you is that you were ended and you realized, like, shoot, we’re doing something that’s really important for the world. And I get to be here looking back at as Debra in your 64. Now you told me I can mention your age, or age? What if anything, did you learn about yourself in that period, as you were doing this amazing, socially? So important work with famous people? What did you learn?

Debra Olshan Cooper  10:46

You know what I learned? That’s a great question. I think what I came to learn is storytelling. Funny, it didn’t, right? No, it went away. But being able to craft and tell a story that changes the way people think believing existed where something didn’t exist before, I love the idea of telling people about something that didn’t exist before. And creating real change, like being a change agent, and getting people to buy things or recognize things or understand things based on the story that you craft. So I think I knew then, because it’s it, we’ll get into this about, you know, doing my own PR firm is that storytelling is his power, you know, his power to change the way people think. And I tell you, I’m very proud of the fact that I was able to change the misnomers and the misinformation, that what age was at the time, because there was so much misinformation going out, you know, you could talk to somebody I remember going out with on cameras, and they’re like, we can’t stand it’s almost like, you know, COVID, we couldn’t stand next to them. I go, guess we can’t, you know, because they’re gonna spit on us or talk to us. And it’s not going to give us eight, get real. Let’s get straight here. Let’s Let’s we’re here to tell the facts. And that was just and that really changed the way people started interacting with people with AIDS.

Achim Nowak  12:15

I want to get to your PR firms in a moment. But But let me let me do a little bit of stargazing because Elizabeth Taylor is a legend. In my own personal life, I have a life partner who has worked with a lot of legends in the music industry. So I, I know that can be great stories and dark stories. I’m not asking to share a dark story. But if you if you want to share with us something that you appreciated, adored, about the chance to be with Elizabeth Taylor, what comes to mind?

Debra Olshan Cooper  12:47

Well, there was one story that we were saying she was staying at the Regency. And I guess she had stayed there with, you know, her former husband twice over. And she said Debra, she was very childlike. I also recognized that a lot of these celebrities, right, that the persona is that they they’re really insecure. Yeah. And that was also a little difficult with the AIDS thing is that there was a lot of wannabes or people who said that they weren’t. And so I was able to kind of go through that clutter of who people learning and in the 20s, who people really are. So one day she goes, have you had the ice cream here? tapra. You know, like in that very small little voice? And I go, No, and I’m thinking myself, and I really don’t want any ice cream. I’m good right now. You really have to have it. So with that, the guy comes up with like five scoops of black scream. I guess it was handmade at the Regency I don’t know. And you know, with the little silver things that like pick up so I had to have a scoop on peach biscuit, pistachio, chocolate chip, whatever. And yeah, it really is, you know, like, so that was she was just very childlike. She just really wanted people to enjoy her. But then conversely, I go to friends at the time, it was on the corner of Fifth Avenue to pick up her diamond, because she were doing some Gala. And I realized things opened up for her where it didn’t open up for other people. And I like Fred’s opening up on a Sunday when it was closed, because it was Elizabeth Taylor. So I kind of in my mind, my young mind go, why is that? Why do things open up for other people and not for other people? And so the disparaging of that persona, and what it gets you Yeah, and other people that may be neat things that don’t.

Achim Nowak  14:40

Yeah, that’s a wonder wonderful observations. It’s clear to me that you’ve been successful in public relations because your energy is irresistible. But I know that that can be great highlights, but it can also be a real grind. I like to give our listeners a sense of if you Think of moments where you go, gosh, this is why I did this work. This was just amazing. But also moments where you went. This is friggin hard. Take us to those places, if you would.

Debra Olshan Cooper  15:10

Oh, absolutely. Well, again, it’s really crazy. So after I realized I wasn’t going to be in a john travolta movie, or no huge star, I actually dropped out of USC and I went to Europe to model for a little bit. I got asked to go there. So I went there, and I modeled in Paris and Milan and Florence and I was actually a muse for the designer Roberto Cavalli, so I was helicoptered all over and I did all the shows. And it was super fun. And I lived in Paris for like three years. And I would go into an a Scottish store, I would go into a Kenzo store and look around because of course I couldn’t afford anything that they were presenting, but it kind of observed fashion and of Europe. Sure enough, again, gotta keep referring to the university came because seriously, when I look back, now I have that vision of looking backward. Is it was at the time, it was called the bridge where market so European fashion that maybe a jacket cost $5,000 was now 1500. So they were bridging the gap between designer and like more of the masses. And I happen to have had that experience even though I could not buy one freakin thing. But I was the only PR firm that could say that. So again, in my storytelling way, when these people would come in and looking for PR firms, I could say I know about your fashions. I know what they look like I lived in Europe, I bought your store bullshit, but you know, I bought in your store, and they bought it. So I became the first big public relations firm to have Pucci. I did the first ladonia Pucci because her dad had just died Emilio Pucci. I did her fashion show, createa Kenzo skata, Hugh blow watches valley of Switzerland at 98, all the big fashion names at the time, and I became the biggest fashion luxury and PR company in New York. And it was astonishing. But I think what I came to realize is, so I had, you know, designers, it was like holding hands, you know, I mean, it was they needed so much attention. You know, when I knew that, and I was able I had that energy to give it to them. But then there were other people like doctors or lawyers, or whatever. And when it came to find out what I get them in the style section, let’s say of the New York Times, they were they were nothing the week before, you’d never heard about these three bolts. Now I get them in the New York style section. It was like, Debra, When am I going to be in time? When am I going to be in Newsweek and I wanted to say, Excuse me, you were like a nothing last week, let’s get like a beer, that now you’re famous, you know, because they’re getting calls from like the in laws. And I’m like, so it became that ego thing. And I realized in that moment, what I loved is my connection to the press, I loved their understanding of the story I was trying to sell. But then I realized that people I was trying to sell was very obviously ego driven, anybody’s hiring a PR marketing firm is because they want recognition. So I got that. But what I loved is, again, the storytelling aspect of it, are you going to buy in my story when when CNN or the Good Morning America or would buy my story, like buy into my story that could call on my client, that was the biggest rush for me for so many years, until that even changed because the press were jumping ship, you know, there weren’t as many stories to tell magazines were closing. So I was really starting to lose that relationship with the people I loved in the press.

Achim Nowak  18:41

One thing that strikes me as you’re talking, besides the fact that I’m just loving your infectious energy, and you are an embodiment of good storytelling, obviously, this is what you do for a living. You mentioned Liz Taylor, you mentioned other people in the comment thread, I hear potentially fragile personalities that I’m thinking and this is the executive coach and me that you you are good at being different things for different people as they need it. Am I reading that correctly?

Debra Olshan Cooper  19:10

100%, you know, as we’re talking to, I’m a picture telling person. So let’s say I meet you I go, you know, I could really see for you that your podcast is gonna be like, equal to Jay Shetty. And this is how we could do it. And I’m like a visionary. I’m not trying to tell myself visionary in that I see pictures for different people, this is the way we should do it. And to that point, when I would set that picture up, of course, I’d get the account because who wouldn’t want to give me the account based on that picture? But then I get in and they go, you know, I really can’t do that. I really don’t have the money for that. I’m thinking, oh my god, I got the vision. You’re telling me now you don’t see the vision you bought into? And then I would just go Oh, okay. You know, I’ll get you a couple things. But that’s it. So it’s very frustrating.

Achim Nowak  20:04

A word from your sponsor. That’s me. I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast fourth act calm, you will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups where cool people figure out how to chart their own fourth acts. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. Since we’re talking about storytelling, let’s look at the story that you’re creating for yourself. Right if I were to encapsulate a story that an outsider might put on you based on what we know so far, you grew up in Beverly Hills, fuck you wanted to be an actress ended up being told that maybe you’re going to work with a famous person, you’re going to have a PR agency, you’re a manifester. It manifested instantly. And we can talk about manifesting later because I’m a believer in manifesting. You’ve had this wonderful career, and then you decided to move into something that’s in my mind, not totally different, but a different iteration in a different kind of service based on your love of storytelling. Is that correct? 100% 100%. Talk to us talk about your career Design Lab. Talk about who you serve, because it’s a different audience and talk about why as a woman in her 60s, that’s the audience you want to serve.

Debra Olshan Cooper  21:39

It’s, it’s crazy, right? Well, also, okay, I know I got to keep going back to this and your lips are slightly going, oh, here she goes again. But when my daughter was born, again, I saw a psychic I listen, I had an interview or you know, talk with a psychic and the psychic said, you’re going to be working with children. And you’re going to be writing a book. So again, I was like a biggest waste. But I’m sorry, I said that. But the point. I guess what it’s happened for me is that I felt a purpose. You know, when I did my PR and marketing firm and of course my purpose for AIDS and purpose for that. And also just a little Interjection. There was another time that I had cut something out of Time magazine that said, somebody was going to start like a big television show with like, fashion and pop culture and entertainment. I’m thinking, Oh, I am so perfect for this. But I didn’t know who it was. It didn’t mention who it was. So I folded it up in my Filofax book at the time. And I had an interview with Time Warner, and I go to Time Warner, and the guy starts to say, well, this job is about a new company that’s being formed. And it’s about entertainment. And I’m thinking, is he going there with this, like, Oh my god, I said, Excuse me, I go on my purse, pull up my Filofax, and I go, are you talking about this job? He goes, you’re hired. I ended up working for Bob Pittman, who created MTV, we did the Morton Downey Jr. Show, which was the first of its time kind of reality talk show and created cops. So there I am, again, listening to a psychic kind of told me where you know what’s going to be. And there I am, again, the universe. But going back to your career Design Lab. What happened was serendipitously. It was a summer about two summers ago, friends called me and said, Debra, you know, Abby has this internship in Chicago, and she’s doing nothing. She’s watching Netflix all day. And I go, Well, what does she go talk to the boss? And she goes, Oh, she can’t do that. And I’m thinking, you know, the way you and I grew up, what do you mean, you can’t go talk to the boss, like, I couldn’t even comprehend that. I go, Okay, why didn’t you write an email and just say, Look, she came all the way to Chicago. She really wants this job. She wants to participate and be part of a team. She’s not feeling utilized. She can’t do that. And then I was talking to another friend, finding her daughter couldn’t do whatever it is she needed to catapult herself. Like what is going on here. And boom, your career design lab was formed to help kids in college, find their purpose, find what they love to do, you know, kids, that and my daughter included, and we’ll go into that. been raised. coddled, we’ve been raised. Unfortunately, our parenting skills will go down probably as the worst ever, because we went completely opposite of our parents letting us figure it out. Instead, we figured out everything for our kids. We did not let our kids fail. We didn’t let our kids go down their own journey. We painted in gold because we wanted them to get to us. But here’s the deal. They need to go down their own journey. So I’m just a facilitator to let kids know what they’ve been fed, what they believe that their GPA, what college they go to what things matter. Doesn’t matter. They matter. So it’s It’s rewiring, reframing how they were brought up so that they can own themselves, find out what their passions are and pursue that. And that’s the reward. That’s the purpose that I feel now that if somebody told me, you’re going to be doing this with a purpose and feel so good at 64 years old, yeah. Unbelievable.

Achim Nowak  25:25

So what just comes to me, I’m seeing you as this, this fairy godmother who is an earthing, the soul stuff, and these young people that mom and dad couldn’t work for them, or maybe shut down for them, right?

Debra Olshan Cooper  25:40

100% Yeah. And you know, it’s changed, it came to for me over because before I kind of was using my PR skills, okay, here’s a strategy. Here’s the action plan, this is what we’re gonna do, you got to follow it to the tee. But I want to say something these kids have taught me, they’ve taught me that it’s in the moment, finding their purpose. It’s not an action plan. It’s not a, you know, a thing like this. It is, let’s on earth that let it organically come to you.

Achim Nowak  26:10

I love how they’re teaching you. Because in your own story that you’re just telling us today, it is marked by these, I’m gonna say messages from the divine that you were able to listen to. And sure enough, saw them side manifested. I have that same belief system, not every young person you support does. But how do you? How do you walk that fine line between intentional action and paying attention to the unexpected? How do you help young people navigate that?

Debra Olshan Cooper  26:45

You know what I do? I have a thing I start with now called the to do list. And the doll list is that moment,

Achim Nowak  26:53

spell that spell that for me, ta da, da da list God like

Debra Olshan Cooper  26:58

to not like, your mind just goes up. Got it. And I do the to do lists with them. And I say, find the thing that brought us passion in life. Find the thing that brought in joy, because to be honest with these kids are so freakin far away from joy and happiness, especially this last year, but throughout their lives series, they get high school, they gotta get their GPA you got to do this whole thing is so freakin screwed up. It’s ridiculous. So I start with a to do list and I gotta tell you something. I know this a little quick story. There was a girl I was working with and she wanted to be in sales. And she worked at like the Ritz Carlton down in Miami. But it just felt something about her. I said, I got to tell you some Sophia, there’s something in your background. She goes well, when I was five, my mom opened up my door a backpack my door explore backpack one day, and $20 bills fell out of it. I go really why? And she goes, Well, my mom would make me salami sandwiches, five pieces of salami and bread. And I always wanted to buy food at the cafeteria, but she would never let me. So I would say to everybody, oh my god, too bad. You’re eating pizza and hot dogs at the cafeteria. I’m having this delicious salami from Italy. It’s incredible. She would have kids in kindergarten lined up to buy her salami, not the sandwich, she would sell each piece for $5. I went done. That became her story. She got five job offers, because that told volumes. It’s in her DNA sales. It’s not something she studied in school. She all her little internships and jobs. No, this girl, at five years old had the DNA to be a salesperson. And that came from the to do list.

Achim Nowak  28:45

So many thoughts as I hear that because we we all have our own versions of that story that we haven’t paid attention to. We’ve discarded it. If you were to give any guidance to our fourth act listeners or thinking, gosh, yeah, that Debra has this incredible energy and everything makes sense. But how does this relate to me and the choices I’m making in my life? Or how do I discover my own Tondar moments? Like what would you say?

Debra Olshan Cooper  29:15

I would say that it takes a lot of reframing, to go deep in yourself. And really think you know, I call it excavation, to really excavate yourself in a way and what are the things that don’t work anymore? And what is work in your life? Or what are the things again, it really comes back in our childhood, to be honest with the kid that did get pushed down. But that in your bedroom alone at night you went that felt really good that I sold five baseball cards or whatever. That’s where your essence lies. And it’s to go back and really start to then hone in on those things that did bring you joy and then work on moving that forward. Word, it’s excavating yourself, losing the thoughts of what life should look like what it needs to look like, and find. That’s where you find your purpose.

Achim Nowak  30:11

Give us a sense of the kind of places where you’re currently doing your career design lab work, like Who do you work with, but be very specific with us.

Debra Olshan Cooper  30:22

Okay, so I’ve worked with kids in high school, going into college, for instance, a girl whose brothers both went to Cornell in engineering, because you know, when they were five, they’re building Legos. And when that’s what I got to do in life, she didn’t have a clue. So again, it was excavating What is her passion, she loved to do pastry. So you know, what was it about going to university of maryland to get your degree it’s Do they have a club in pastry or vegan cooking or whatever, cuz that’s where you’re going to find your peeps. That’s where you’re going to be happy. That’s what you’re going to be loving. That’s how you going to be loving school. I just finished working with a girl and I’m very proud of this. In last two weeks, she was going for ophthalmology. Her dad had an eye cancer. So at five years old, she said, I want to cure cancer, I cancer, ophthalmology, ophthalmology sciences. That’s all she did. She’s in the process of taking the ophthalmology test and go, no candu. Zero, done, cannot do this have no interest, she realized she wanted to be in fashion. Well, this girl has no resume on fashion, except for a few selfies she’s taken. Within two weeks, I got her a job in fashion. Because we really were able to tell her story, things that she throw away. And this is for your listener, you shouldn’t throw away, you might want to go back and go, Wait a minute, that can work for me. If you frame it in a story way, she was able to tell that story to somebody I set her up with. And now she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing.

Achim Nowak  31:53

Yeah, if I may just add my own story to that for like, I spent 12 years teaching at NYU. To me, that means nothing. It’s one of the one of the least cool things I’ve done. I’ve learned number one, that it can be meaningful to some of the people that I work with. But my job is to frame it in a way that I can speak positively about it, because I have done lots of other things that are more cool for me, right? So it’s interesting, something that I don’t inherently value can be an important part for some people about the story of who I am and how I’ve served people. And I have many things like that those of us who’ve had rich lives, we have a lot of things and something that can be small, we can pluck out and we can amplify it and and own it in a new way, which is really what you’re saying, right?

Debra Olshan Cooper  32:46

And it keeps that so interesting to say that, because the things that are really big. Start from being small, because we didn’t give it credence, we didn’t think it was important. Maybe somebody told us that and you know, I’ve, I’ve learned something, too. And this is what I want to change for kids so bad is they look in these mirrors. But these mirrors are broken, because they’re coming from other people’s sensibilities. And until you come to know who you are, what you stand for, and do things based on what you want what your intuition tells you. Universe is telling you, you can never move forward in life. Yeah. And so I’ll do anything in my life. It’s to replace those broken mirrors with reflections of yourself, to let yourself get bigger to use your voice and those small things that were small, make them big, because that’s who you are.

Achim Nowak  33:43

I love the metaphor of the broken mirrors, that is so clear. But I want to want to take it to you now. And where you are in life and the choices you’re making. And again, let me offer myself as an example. I’m an accomplished person. I’m good at many things. I’m constantly being asked to do things that I’m really good at but don’t really want to do anymore. And it takes courage to say no for a new yes to emerge and to create the space for it and trust the guidance that takes us there. In that spirit, what’s emerging for you. What are you what are you saying yes to more What are you saying no to perhaps?

Debra Olshan Cooper  34:28

What a great question. Well, what I’ve learned and I will be totally transparent with you is that I had some distance from my 20 now 20 year old daughter, based on who I was based on, and I think a lot of listeners might understand this too. In our job at our age, our jobs, we thought we could bring into the family. I thought I am so successful. I build stories for people. I make people famous. I direct them. I’m all that I can bring all that into my family. But what I’ve missed was there were two other people, my husband and my daughter in that family. And while people were paying me to do that they weren’t. And I was negating who and what they were. And I’ll be honest with you, when he my daughter was like, kind of done with you in this way that you’re bringing me up. And so it’s been interesting with your career Design Lab. And why I say these kids have taught me is that I have now been able to sit back and see what they’re going through, and being able to help them and I also through my spirituality, from taking courses like NLP neuro linguistic programming, studying Gabrielle Bernstein studying Joe dispenza. Listen to Jay potty shot, you know, Jay Shetty podcast, your podcast, this wisdom that is out there. But when you the mastery class that we’re involved in, you know, there’s certain themes that come from it. And I’ve taken those themes, and now put it into my own family. And one of the things I’m most proud of right now is resurrecting my family in a way that I never dreamed possible by just listening and breathing love, instead of like direction into my life, and letting people be who they are. And just breathing love, and being in the moment and not creating the action plans, or the directioners feeling like everybody’s got to experience everything by the time they’re freakin 25. Everybody has their purpose, everybody has their journey. And I go back to the Joseph Campbell thing, it really is about following your bliss. Because when you follow your bliss, that’s where your purpose comes from. It’s not from, you know, your daily to do list.

Achim Nowak  36:58

I love the word resurrection, and the possibility that we can resurrect at any time. Yes, that’s the power of it. You gave us a wonderful, your personal recipe for what you’re doing, and everybody can find their own, which is lovely. What I also heard, you know, I might want to spell this out for our listeners. For many years, my identity was actually Novak theatre director. And that role really took over my life in other parts of my life suffered. And I had to make different choices, I had to dis disengage from that role and what that meant. I think a lot of people when when they enter their 60s, men, especially the women as well, you know, so much of that self is attached to a successful role we’ve played in life. And you’ve given us a glimpses into what I would call your spiritual journey, and how you make choices every day. You and I on similar spiritual journeys. So when you use you talk about love, wisdom, I’m going to put in the word energy or divine energy. How else do you play with those every day and give them space? And where are those taking you if you had to take a hunch?

Debra Olshan Cooper  38:22

I love that. Love that question. What is happening for me to your point is I am becoming detached in the most positive way, you know, that’s again, reframing people’s like, Well, no, I’ve got to be there for them. And I’ve got to do this for them. No, no, no. That’s their journey. They’re on it. We need to stay detached. And what I’m finding is, I then get what I deem downloads. And that may be confusing, but it’s this all knowingness. It’s not should I do this? Or what? Should I make this move? It’s this God like sense that says, This is it? This is what you do. Then I sometimes set it to boundaries. I never knew about boundaries in my life. You know, I was just there for everybody. And boundaries, I gotta say is the new power bar. It just is. Because boundaries is your truth to me. Yeah, setting boundaries, like when you were saying about saying no to things. No, don’t say no, just to be just, you know, whatever. It’s, this is my boundary. And so it can never be yelled at or screamed at or reacted to. It’s a knowing sense. This is who I am in this present moment awareness. And I’m sharing this with you. And then it’s like, it’s like powder dust, but then it like poops into the air. So there’s no nobody can react to it. Nobody can get emotional about it. It just is. And that’s where I try to stay now is I’m looking at you. I’m waving For you to tell me what your truth is. And then I will respond to that. And if I get a download, I may express it to you. But it doesn’t come with judgment. That’s the thing, too, doesn’t come with judgment. But this is what I think you should be doing. That’s cool. I think you should be in directives and whatever is such bull shizer? Because it just shows it to you like,

Achim Nowak  40:26

Yes, I like Oh,

Debra Olshan Cooper  40:28

that was my Munich Munich background. Just allowing people to be who in what they are detached from what you think they should be.

Achim Nowak  40:39

That phrase, it just is. And what I want to add to is in what just is is enough, correct. And the power of the journey that you’re on, and let’s say the journey, I invite our listeners go on as to when we accept that we have more room for and I love them for downloads to come in. Yeah, because when we’re too busy, we don’t notice the downloads. But when they come in, we have room for them. And there’s yet another unexpected unfolding, because we’re allowing it to enter. I want to start wrapping up with this question. If you from your current vantage point, and you give us such a beautiful sense of what you’re discovering, exploring, allowing in your own life, if he were to whisper a few words of wisdom to younger, Debra, based on what you know, now, and it’s not about changing the past, it’s just about sharing wisdom. What would you say to her?

Debra Olshan Cooper  41:39

Oh, God, I would say, it’s all going to be okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Love yourself for who and what you are. And know that, like what you just said, know that you’re enough. Know that you’re enough. And that in life, you don’t have to prove anything, to anyone, to be more inward to have relied on me more than the outside world, the outside world for so many years. And I think it’s our generation defined who I was, I wish I had had the capabilities to define who I was early on. So that I wouldn’t have been such a struggle, in a way. It brought a lot of successes. But you know, you got to weigh the costs, the costs sometimes to what it costs me and my family what it costs me in other ways. And and so and as I say that, too. I would not change a thing. Yeah. Either.

Achim Nowak  42:52

Understood? Yeah, I am sure a bunch of our listeners are going Gosh, I would like to learn more about what Debra does. What this your career Design Lab really is all about? Where Where should people go to learn more about what you do? ,

Debra Olshan Cooper  43:10

I’d love them to go, they can go to my website, which is I’m also on Instagram, @yourcareerdesignlab. I’m on Twitter, and I’m on YouTube. I’ve had a lot of you know, I’ve done a lot of webinars, I actually monthly put together a webinar, the 10 steps to finding your dream career. Because it really is about finding your dream career. Not a career, you know, and I’ve came up with something the other day too, is instead of finding something that you want to do, find something that you love and do that and that would change the lives of so many people. So that’s where mostly you can find me so on a monthly basis on my acuity, you can sign up and I go through step by step of how you can find your dream career.

Achim Nowak  44:05

That was just that last tidbit was another beautiful reframe. Thank you. And thank you for the gift of the compensation but maybe what thank you for your incredible spirit. It was such a joy to speak with you.

Debra Olshan Cooper  44:18

Thank you so much feel the same way about you.

Achim Nowak  44:23

Bye for now. Bye Thank you like what’s your hurt please go to And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


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