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Description

Brooke Lively is President and Founder of Cathedral Capital. She grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, soaking in the American dream of building something from scratch. Bored during her public education, she spent her last few years at boarding school.

Brooke started honing her skills as she ran departments at Nordstrom, worked for Ethel Kennedy, and helped her father scale his law firm.

In this episode, Brooke and Luke talk about what it’s like to be steeped in debt, waiting for a new credit card to do a cash advance to make payroll, being good with numbers despite not excelling in math classes, and why every good party involves champagne.

Transcription

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Brooke Lively:

As you become more profitable as you become more efficient in your firm, as you free up time, as you free up cash, it’s what do you get to do with that? To watch the change in them, to watch the change in their firm, to watch the change in their family is amazing.

Luke W Russell:

Welcome to Lawful Good, Powerful Partners, a series about interesting and caring folks that we know and trust whose journeys brought them to collaboration with the legal community. I’m your host, Luke W Russell. I’m not a journalist. I’m not an attorney. I’m trained as a coach. I love human connection, and that’s what you’re about to hear. My guest today is Brooke Lively, President and Founder of Cathedral Capital. Brooke grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, soaking in the American dream of building something from scratch. Bored during her public education, she spent her last few years at boarding school. Brooke started honing her skills as she ran departments at Nordstrom, worked for Ethel Kennedy, and helped her father scale his law firm. In this episode, Brooke and I talk about what it’s like to be steeped in debt, waiting for a new credit card to do a cash advance to make payroll, being good with numbers despite not excelling in math classes, and why every good party involves champagne. Brooke, going back to your early years, where did you spend your first six to eight years of life?

Brooke Lively:

In Fort Worth.

Luke W Russell:

Fort Worth. And I believe you were the oldest of three children. Did they understand that you were the big sister?

Brooke Lively:

Oh gosh, yes. There’s no doubt that they understood that. One, it’s my personality. And two, I am six years older than my brother and 14 years older than my sister.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I had a lot of age on them.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Was the youngest the favorite child?

Brooke Lively:

So my parents have always told each of us that we are their favorite, which I was older when I finally figured out that they were telling that to the others also. I think that my parents had different expectations for each of us based on our skills and our personalities.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you went into elementary and middle school as a smart young kid, did it feel like the school level was sufficiently organized to you?

Brooke Lively:

Organized, yes. Was it rigorous enough? I mean, let’s face that I didn’t have to work.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Was it boring for you in that regard?

Brooke Lively:

Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Were you a playful kiddo?

Brooke Lively:

My friends were my friends because our parents were friends and our grandparents were friends.

Luke W Russell:

Okay.

Brooke Lively:

It was that kind of town. And I went to a school, I went private school, and you start in kindergarten and then you graduate 13 years later. You get pigeonholed as a five year old.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

If not before that. And I was lucky enough that I went away to boarding school and I can remember right before I went, my mother said you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and to be whoever it is that you want to be.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And that was incredibly freeing, because I could be anybody. I could do anything. And having been pigeonholed as this, you may find this shocking, as this very quiet introvert. Yeah. Me. It was like I was being set free.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. Yeah. And so I believe boarding school, you started at boarding school sophomore year of high school?

Brooke Lively:

Sophomore year.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Was that like partially, entirely your decision?

Brooke Lively:

It was a tradition in my family.

Luke W Russell:

Okay.

Brooke Lively:

My grandfather and his siblings had gone away, my uncles had gone away, my mother cried for 12 hours the night before she was supposed to go to get out of it and subsequently said it was one of her greatest regrets.

Luke W Russell:

Oh wow.

Brooke Lively:

So the tradition was there and it was not about sending your child away. Like it was not punishment, it was a privilege to be able to go.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I was in a school that was not as academically rigorous, where I wasn’t being challenged, and the opportunity to go really be challenged sounded fun.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Bit of a thrill and an opportunity to probably even redefine yourself as a student, not just how you were socially.

Brooke Lively:

Yeah. You would’ve thought I would’ve done more of that, but turns out it was a harder school, the conversations were different, the conversations were fabulous and I still didn’t study much. It was scary. It was exciting. It was a whole new adventure.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I had had a friend who had gone to summer school at a boarding school. And her mother had called my mother, they had grown up together and they were good friends and she said, “Okay, here’s, what’s most important. You have to find someone for your daughter to have dinner with the first night and breakfast the next morning, once you have found a dinner partner for her, she’ll be fine.” So we get there, climb up to the third floor only to discover I have a single and my mother was panicked because I didn’t have anyone to have dinner with. So she promptly marched across the hallway, introduced herself to the very nice couple from Pennsylvania and their daughter, Tanya, and literally turned around to me and said, “Now that you’ve met, Tanya, you all can have dinner together.” I was mortified, but we had dinner together and breakfast and a lot of meals thereafter.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. How did all that time away from home change your relationship with your parents?

Brooke Lively:

I think it made me much more independent. I had been independent before, but going to an all girls boarding school, I got to let go of some of those traditional Southern roles. Girls are quiet, boys are in charge. I did become much more empowered.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. You’ve mentioned that boarding school was really great for you because you were there for three years rather than four years, like some of your peers. Can you tell me more about that?

Brooke Lively:

Someone told me this once and I think it’s really true. Your first year you’re just trying to figure out where you are, find your friends, get your feet under you. The second year, you’re in your element, you’ve got your friends, you know how it all works. You’re really starting to enjoy it and excel. And then by the time your third year rolls around, you’re like, okay been here, done that, it’s really cool, and that’s nice, and from what I understand from my friends that had a fourth year and just from what other people have said, sometimes when you’re there for the fourth year, you’re like, yeah, and now I’m done.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. And you loved it.

Brooke Lively:

I loved it.

Luke W Russell:

Do boarding schools tend to have more or less social cliques and bullying?

Brooke Lively:

Anywhere, whether it’s in school as an adult, I think Europe, Africa, Asia, the US, it doesn’t matter where you are. There are always going to be social cliques, if for no other reason, then you’re going to be attracted to people who are like you.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

People with whom you have things in common, and the people who don’t have things in common with you, you’re probably not going to embrace. I love you, Luke. I am never going to spin class with you. Just not going to happen.

Luke W Russell:

Oh, come on Brooke.

Brooke Lively:

Yeah, no. You might be able to drag me to a yoga class because I do like going, but I’m not going, if someone’s only interest is in spin class and I have zero interest in that, I’m not going to hang out with them all the time.

Luke W Russell:

Right. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I think that people do naturally form friend groups based on shared interests.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So yes, that happens in boarding school. Does it happen more? I think that the cliques and the bullying and all of that is born from insecurity.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And is there more or less insecurity in a boarding school than in a day school? I don’t know.

Luke W Russell:

Now, did you have any extended family involved in your life or grandparents, aunts or uncles that were particularly a part of your growing up years?

Brooke Lively:

So I’m from a rather large family. I have one brother, one sister. My mother’s one of four children. My father’s one of three children. None of that sounds so big. However, my great-grandparents moved to Fort Worth and pretty much all of their descendants still live here. So I have probably a little over a hundred family members that live in a five mile radius.

Luke W Russell:

Oh my goodness. That’s so cool.

Brooke Lively:

So yeah, there are always cousins. Like when I was in college, I knew I was at the cool bar when my uncle and two of my cousins were there. Like if Lucy was, it was really cool. Because she always had the best places to go. I have an uncle who’s only eight years older than I am. So we carpooled together.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So there’s always been family around. On Saturday I went to the Greek festival with a cousin and tonight I’m having dinner with another cousin. It’s just part of the way we are that there are cousins everywhere.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I love that. And can you talk to me about field hockey, lacrosse, and being a squash player?

Brooke Lively:

Good gosh, who have you been talking to? Yeah, I played field hockey. I liked to play defense so I didn’t have to run so much. It was mostly in high school and I played goalie, which was great. And in lacrosse I was very much on the defense and then I got to college and they needed a goalie for lacrosse. And they’re like, will you be the goalie? I’m like why would I want someone to hurdle balls at my face?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

They’re like, well, if you really want one we’ll give you a mask. I’m like, no, thank you, I like my nose, I’m good. But yeah. So I played in high school. I wasn’t ever very good. It was much more of a fun thing than a competitive thing.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Squash was a little different. Squash I really liked, I didn’t start playing until I was a junior in high school and I picked it up really quickly. It’s a small court, so you don’t have to run very far, like two, three steps each way. You’re all good. So my kind of sport, right? And I loved it and I played competitively and was actually nationally ranked by senior year.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. Now squash, is that played on like basically the same thing as a racketball court?

Brooke Lively:

Yes. Racketball court, slightly different lines, and the ball moves between 110 and 130 miles an hour, which by the way really kind of hurts when it whacks you in the thigh. So you got to learn to get out of the way.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Wow. Do you ever go out and maybe play a little recreationally these days? Even if you’re not hitting it at 130 miles an hour?

Brooke Lively:

I do not play recreationally anymore. When I was in high school, in college, the only squash courts were at the men’s sports club and I got special permission from the manager of the club to go play, which was great until Martina Navratilova complained that why was I allowed to go down and use the squash courts and she wasn’t? So I lost my squash privileges. So at that point I had to drive an hour to get to a squash court and it just …

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

Wasn’t worth it.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you were in high school, did Christianity play a role in your day to day life?

Brooke Lively:

When you go away to school, especially when you’re 15, you crave the familiar, you crave the safe. There’s some home sickness that comes in and not crying yourself to sleep every night home sickness, just kind of looking for that familiar, comfortable place. And church was that for me, because it didn’t matter what Episcopal church I went to, it was the same service and the same words, and it was familiar and I knew exactly what was going to happen next. And so it was a great place for me to go.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. As you were wrapping up your final years in high school, how did you feel about the future? Was it an exciting prospect or something else?

Brooke Lively:

Yeah, no, I would go with something else. I applied to, I think, 12 colleges and didn’t get in any of them. When you’re in boarding school, you don’t ask where someone applied and if they got in or not. What you do is you take all your acceptance, and in my case, rejection notices and on the right side of your door, you hang all your acceptances on your doorframe, on the left side of the door, you hang all your rejection letters upside down. Upside down letters all the way down the left side door. Yeah. Ivy leagues had absolutely no interest in me. So I got the University of Texas as a junior, I didn’t actually need to complete my senior year in high school. I was at a school by default. I went to college just because it was the only place I had gotten in.

Brooke Lively:

I went to UT for a semester, that wasn’t great. I walked in three hours shy of being a junior. I could have graduated in 18 months, and I hadn’t even finished doing all my placement tests. And I had a college counselor and he got my grades from first semester, he called my mother and said, “She needs to drop out of school now. We can’t have another semester of grades like this.” And I was actually at adds and drops at the University of Texas and mother’s like drop everything, forget adding classes and come home. And so I did. Spent a semester at junior college and then went back to Virginia to go to a school where I would be happier.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. And was that Randolph?

Brooke Lively:

Randolph-Macon. Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

Randolph-Macon. Yeah. And there you ended up studying international relations and economics if I have that right?

Brooke Lively:

Yeah. So I have this really impressive sounding degree. I have a degree in international relations with a concentration in Western European history, language, and culture and minors in art history, economics, and politics, which qualified me to do exactly nothing. That’s the thing with a liberal arts degree, it makes you a fabulous dinner conversationalist. It teaches you how to think. I mean, all these fabulous things. Getting a job, not so much. And so I graduated, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I went home to Texas. I was talking to my uncle, the one who’s only a few years older than I am, and he had just been in Colorado where my grandparents had a house and he said, “You know, there are a lot of help wanted signs up here.” I’m like great. Moving into Aspen.

Luke W Russell:

All right.

Brooke Lively:

So sure enough, I moved to Aspen two weeks later.

Luke W Russell:

All right. Yep.

Brooke Lively:

Got a job, got a second job, got a third job, because you know, resort town. I was paying in rent what my friends were paying on the upper east side of New York and they had a doorman. I was living in a converted attic of a Victorian house. And that was really fun. I mean it was, I worked incredibly hard. I generally had one day off a month, worked two jobs most days, but it was fun, and there was a great group of people up there and we’d work all day and we’d drink all night, then we got up and do it again because we were 22 and we have all the energy on earth.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What kind of jobs were you working?

Brooke Lively:

Well, let’s see. I was in retail. I worked for the Ritz Carlton. I opened the Ritz Carleton in Aspen. I worked in another hotel called The Limelight and I was a private secretary.

Luke W Russell:

And how did you get from Aspen to working at Nordstrom?

Brooke Lively:

So it was time to go. I was cold and I didn’t have a car because I never went more than four blocks, but I was slogging through snow every day and I couldn’t handle that. So I went home, and I didn’t know it to do, and my friend said, “Well, move up here.” She is from DC, from Northern Virginia. And so I said, okay. My father came home one night to find me throwing shoes in the trunk of my car. He’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m moving to DC tomorrow. And he looked at me and the only thing he could say is, “Their mayor is a convicted felon.”

Brooke Lively:

Yes, daddy, Marion Barry has been reelected and he cannot vote for himself. And he just like, “You’re going to live there? Convicted felon as the mayor.” I’m like, yep. So he shrugged this shoulders and was like, okay. So I moved up there. I moved in with my best friend. She was engaged at the time and I was living with her in her one bedroom apartment and she was in grad school and she looked at me and said, “You’ve got to get a job. The mall is across the street. I will be home at six. You need to have a job by then.”

Luke W Russell:

There’s a good friend for you.

Brooke Lively:

I know, isn’t it?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I went across the street and she came home at six and I said, “Okay, I have two job offers. Which one do you think I should take?” I was like, “Is it Nordstrom? Or is it Sax?” She’s like, “I think it’s Nordstrom.” I’m like great.

Luke W Russell:

When you look back at your time at Nordstrom, are there any lessons you learned that you kind of laugh about today?

Brooke Lively:

They told us that we were running our own businesses. If you were a salesperson, you had your own book, and it was your book of business. If you were managing a department, you were really running your floor, you were running your department as a business. And man, I just glommed onto that.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And became very involved, and tried to figure out how I could win.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I wasn’t at the biggest, so I worked in the boys department. I didn’t have the biggest boys floor in the company. However, I was going to find a way to be the biggest or the best or number one. So I was always finding new reports. I mean, there was a desk in Seattle and you would literally pick up the phone and say, okay, is there a report that will tell me this? And they would go through all these thousands of reports to be like, yes. I’m like, okay, I want that report. And I want that report to show up in my email box every month.

Brooke Lively:

And so I would find ways to compete where I could win, and I would find places where I was number two or number three and then I would work to become number one. And I was very proactive. If there was something that really worked for my customers, I would call and get it from other’s stores and hoard it. And if there was something that didn’t, man, I would ship that out to somebody else so fast. So I really controlled my merchandise. And as a result, I ran very profitable businesses.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Did you realize at the time that you’re going from your liberal arts background and starting to formulate a skillset that would lay the groundwork for the future? Or were you just having a great time competing?

Brooke Lively:

I was just having a good time competing.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

When I went to grad school, I did all this testing, like three days worth. If there was a test, I took it. I did personality. I did skillset. I did this, I did that.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And we sat down at the end of it and she said, “Well, I completely understand your career here to date.” She said, “You’re good at a lot of things. So there’s not one thing that is ever jumped out at you. Things were easy.”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I’m like, okay. She said, “However, I really think you should be an accountant.” Like really? I have entirely too much personality to be an accountant. She said, “But you’re so good with numbers.” And I’m thinking, I took math for dumb shits in college, and I didn’t even do well. And so I was calling friends as I applied to grad school, and some people that I had worked with and for at Nordstrom and said, “Will you do a recommendation?” I’m like, “And by the way, they think I’m good with numbers.” They’re like, “You are.” Like, what are you talking about?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

They’re like, “You always found a report. You were always creating spreadsheets. Anytime we needed anything analyzed, we sent that to you.” I’m like, yeah but what does that have to do with numbers? Like that is numbers. I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I’m still getting a marketing degree.

Brooke Lively:

So in grad school and when you get your MBA, you do a lot of case studies. So we did a case study on BMW. We get in, they tell you the facts and then you discuss and whatever. I’m like, okay, that’s great. So we were kind of finished and I raised my hand. I’m like, “So what was the right answer?” And the professor’s like, “There’s not a right here answer.” I’m like, okay, daughter of an attorney, let me rephrase. What did BMW do? And he said, “Well, that doesn’t matter.” I’m like, but there’s no answer. He’s like, “It’s all about the discussion.” And I was like, yeah, this isn’t going to work for me. I’m going over to that finance class where there is a right and a wrong.

Luke W Russell:

And that’s so interesting. Before you got your MBA in the early 2000s, you were personal assistant to Ethel Kennedy. How, how did you find yourself there?

Brooke Lively:

So I had left Nordstrom and I gone to work for Neimans and I got a phone call, I was managing two departments, got a phone call from of my girls. “Mrs. Kennedy’s here, you have to come.” And she was all intimidated because Mrs. Kennedy could be exacting, would be a good word.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And could be a little intimidating. So I go over and I got her, I understood her. She was very much like my grandmother.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And so I helped her in that department, and then I went with her to a couple of other departments and then we were shopping and she pulled out a skirt for one of her daughters and she said, “Oh, what do you think about this for Rory?” And I said, “Rory would never wear a skirt. You need slacks.” And she’s like, you’re totally right. And what she didn’t realize at that moment is that Rory had been two years ahead of me at Madeira.

Luke W Russell:

Oh wow.

Brooke Lively:

I had not had endless heartfelt conversations with Rory, but I knew who she was and all of that.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So Mrs. Kennedy looked at me and she said, “I need someone who can look around the corner, who can tell me what’s coming up.”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

“Do you want to do that?” And so I went on Amazon, which did not, by the way, have next day delivery at that point and bought five books, and I went out to our house and I interviewed with her and I talked to some people and I read the books, and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to like, take that on.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

But I read the books and I talked to her and I was talking to my mother and my mother says, “What does your heart say you should do? What does your tummy say?” Because we definitely believe that your tummy will tell you what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do. And I said, “It says that she is a woman who has been overcome by circumstances and she has done the best she can and that she herself is a kind person.” And that turned out to be correct. She’s an amazing woman.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. How did your perspective and experience of yourself as a woman shift during your time working for her?

Brooke Lively:

I think one of the things with Mrs. Kennedy is she so believed and believes in the people around her.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

She treated me as if I was one of her children, and in her eyes there was nothing I couldn’t do. And when I went to grad school, she wrote a recommendation or I wrote a recommendation and she recopied it and mailed it in, as we know, so often happens.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I was working for her, I had gone back to work for her for this summer because I didn’t have anything else to do, and a phone call came through and she happened to answer the phone and she connected it to me and they said, you’ve gotten in, but you have to take a math class because, did I mention, I’d only take a math for dumb shits in college. So I had to take a math class to be able to go. And she looked at me and she was so proud of me that I had gotten in. She was so proud of me.

Brooke Lively:

She was so bummed that I had to leave and go to summer school and did everything she could to avoid that, including having her daughter-in-law, who was a professor at Harvard, she’s like, “Oh, we’ll just have her tutor you.” I’m like, I don’t think that’s an accredited class and doesn’t she teach history or something? To have people in your life that believe in you like that is an amazing gift.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I think there are more of those people in the world than we really notice. And if we would open our eyes and open ourselves to that possibility, they would be there for us.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. After you got your MBA, you worked at a few different places from 2006 to 2010, and then you ended up working for your dad’s law firm, Lively and Associates around 2010 for a couple of years. How did you end up working for your dad?

Brooke Lively:

My father likes to shed his law partners every seven to 10 years, and he had shed his partners and it was the first time in like 20 or 25 years that he had lost his office manager. So he came to me and said, “I need help. I need someone to help me start this firm and grow it and scale it.” And I’m like, okay, whatever, I can do that.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Sure. Let me bring my MBA to run your law firm.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. Did you have extra clout in the firm because you were his daughter?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t know if that worked for me or against me. With the other employees, yes, I probably had extra clout. With my father and my brother, because after a few years my brother came, it may have been more of a hindrance because I don’t know that you always recognize the talents and the skills of your family members.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And those people who were really close to you.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Did your perspective of your father change while you were working with him when you saw his work from a closer vantage point?

Brooke Lively:

I think my relationship with him changed. He, as many attorneys do, when I was young, he was trying to make partner. So he worked all the time. And then I went away to boarding school around that point where he was able to start to scale back some. My sister and I are 14 years apart. We have very different fathers. It really wasn’t until I started working for him that I got to see him on a really regular basis because I’d gone away to boarding school and then I’d gone away to college and then I’d lived in DC and like he became much less of a remote person in my life.

Luke W Russell:

Was he as organized as you wanted him to be as the office manager?

Brooke Lively:

Oh god no. No. He was very much like other attorneys in that if there was something that he wasn’t really excited about doing, he’d say let’s do a little more research. So paralysis by analysis.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now what did you start learning during this time and growing as a professional?

Brooke Lively:

I think that I got to really look at the different levers that we could pull in a law firm to make a difference. And I think I really got a glimpse into the way an attorney brain works. There was one time where I wanted to raise rates, and they were like, “Oh, well I don’t know. We need to do more research.” Okay. So I go and I do all the research and most state bars will publish a thing every two year about what rates are and what people are getting paid and all that. So I had pulled that up and I had crunched the numbers six ways to Sunday and still came up with, we need to raise rates, and they were very concerned. And I finally said, we’re going to raise rates this much. Do you really think one out of five clients is going to quit?

Brooke Lively:

And they’re like, well, no, we don’t think that many would quit. I was like, well, here’s the thing, even if they did, you could have one out of five clients quit, you would make the same amount of money you’re currently making and you would have 20% of your time free to go find new clients or do other work or spend time with your family, like whatever it is.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I think I learned how to start to phrase things so that they could see that I guess I just put some numbers around their fears.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So that their fears didn’t seem so big.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I hear a bit coming through your tone of kind of joy and passion around how someone can run their law firm, and I don’t think most people associate that topic with something that people get excited about.

Brooke Lively:

I totally get excited about that. I love that. I mean, look, here are these people, they’ve gone to law school because basically they were promised no numbers, right? We’ve got a lot of history majors, we’ve got a lot of English majors, and they go, and this is about reading and arguing and writing. Then all of a sudden they own their own business. And they’re like, holy cow, this wasn’t really exactly, like I want to own my own business, but this owning your own business comes with some stuff that I wasn’t really anticipating, and I don’t really love and I don’t know how to do, and everybody else seems to be doing really well, and I’m struggling here and I’m supposed to be the expert, but I have no idea what I’m doing and who do I go ask?

Brooke Lively:

Here’s the thing, there are things that we can do that make it so much easier. And it’s fun. I mean, there are times when I tell clients things that I think are so simple and it’s like I invented fire.

Luke W Russell:

Sure.

Brooke Lively:

But to watch the change in them, to watch the change in their firm, to watch the change in their family is amazing. Because as you become more profitable, as you become more efficient in your firm, as you free up time, as you free up cash, it’s what do you get to do with that?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

The client who was able to buy the house in her dream neighborhood, I remember her calling me and saying, “There are like lacrosse nets in every third or fourth front yard, and there’s this pack of children that run house to house the house.” She’s like, “It’s like Leave it to Beaver. It’s the 1950s. It’s so awesome.”

Luke W Russell:

Yes.

Brooke Lively:

She could do that because of what we did with her firm. She could give her children this incredible 1950s neighborhood that’s so hard to find, in a great school district, because of the efficiencies we found in her law firm.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

I mean, isn’t that cool?

Luke W Russell:

When we come back, Brooke will talk about why it’s hard for people to open up their books to a stranger and why she refuses to do work while on airplanes. Stay with us. I’m Luke W Russell and you are listening to Lawful Good.

Luke W Russell:

Hey, everyone, season two is about powerful partners, interesting and caring folks that we know and trust whose journeys brought them to collaboration with the legal community. In our next episode, a business spotlight, Brooke and I discuss what her company Cathedral Capital has to offer, and if it is something that would benefit you or perhaps someone you know, by highlighting companies like Cath Cap, we create an opportunity to help make Lawful Good possible financially. As you can probably imagine, Lawful Good requires an enormous amount of resources to make happen. One way we’re making this show possible is by featuring people we know, like, and trust, many of whom we have a referral relationship with. After you finish up this episode, check out our business spotlight to learn more about Cathedral Capital and how they help attorneys.

Luke W Russell:

When we left off, Brooke was sharing her journey from management in retail to accounting. As we continue, she explains why lawyers who are struggling with finances are not at all alone and shares her own story of barely making payroll for her business. Why did you end up stopping working for your father’s law firm back in 2012?

Brooke Lively:

Well, one, I couldn’t own it. So here I am building something that I can’t own. And two, I was the daughter slash sister, so what did I know? So they weren’t executing like I would like them to execute because you know, in their defense I was the daughter slash sister.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I could make more money, have more independence, and impact more people by starting my own company. And that was fun.

Luke W Russell:

When you left Lively and Associates in 2012, did you know you were going to go ahead and immediately start your Cathedral Capital company? Or was there a little bit of a lag time there?

Brooke Lively:

Oh yeah. No, there was an overlap. So I said, okay, here’s the deal, when I have seven clients I’m leaving. So every time I got a call, I walked through the office. I’d tell daddy, got three clients. Jonathan, got five clients. So I walked in one day to my brother’s office, I’m like, yep. Got client number seven. I quit. And he’s like, “Wait, what?” I’m like I told you client number seven, I’m out. He’s like, “Well, I didn’t think you were serious.” I’m like I don’t know how much more serious I could be.

Luke W Russell:

How did that play out then? Were they a little panicked or did they get over pretty quickly?

Brooke Lively:

They were fine. I had trained, we had this incredible receptionist named Julie, who I couldn’t ever move from the front desk ask, she was amazing, and when people talk about their receptionists and they’re like, “Yeah, I can find some $10 an hour person.” Your receptionist is so much more valuable than $10 an hour. They are worth paying 25 or $30 an hour, and Julie was an example of this because people just unburdened their souls to her. They would call and talk to her for five or 10 minutes before asking to be transferred to their attorney. And for a while the attorneys were like, why is she talking to them? I’m like, she’s getting information.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And she would, she would come in and say, “By the way, did you know this? And did you know that?” And sometimes it was personal stuff, but sometimes it also had a bearing on their case.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And so I had taught her how to do my job.

Luke W Russell:

Okay. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

When I knew I was leaving as I was getting the seven clients, and I had been talking about doing a hedge fund. So I had this URL of Cath Cap sitting out there for a company called Cathedral Capital, which was going to be a great hedge fund. And it was just kind of sitting there, and since I needed to file and have everything done that day, I’m like, yep. Well guess what we’re going to call this company. No time to get creative.

Luke W Russell:

And just to be clear, you are not like Cathedral Capital is not like a lending or banking or fund.

Brooke Lively:

No, I have like totally this wrong name, which is why we refer to ourselves as Cath Cap so much. It’s our URL, and it’s kind of our thing. Yeah. No, we’re fractional CFOs. We make law firms more profitable.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. So what’s the value of a CFO? Like what exactly is the CFO? Like what is that role for a law firm?

Brooke Lively:

So it serves a couple of different roles. I think probably the most important one is, I talked about attorneys feeling isolated and trying to run a business and not knowing how to do it and feeling like everybody else is doing it better than they are. I think the most important role is that we are a C-suite person, we’re someone who can come in and stand shoulder to shoulder with you, and be a partner.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And have those discussions and tell you what’s going on in the wider world and have some experience and fight some of that isolation that a lot of business owners feel it can be lonely to be the owner.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. You’ve mentioned a couple of times just that there’s this idea that like everyone else seems to be doing well, and I think that’s a pretty common belief. And yet you’re also in an interesting position where you actually seeing people’s books and you have a little bit more intimate knowledge, right? Because we go to an event and we’re putting on our best and everybody’s doing great, but for the lawyer who is struggling financially and they look out and they feel so alone, what would you say to that person?

Brooke Lively:

Oh my God. You’re so not alone. You are so in the majority, and I’m just sorry that people don’t feel more comfortable saying that because law school doesn’t prepare you to do this and you guys are in uncharted waters. So Cleo does a kind of a state of the legal industry every year, and I think it was in 2021, the legal trends report where they said only 7% of attorneys had any kind of business ownership preparation, whether it was owning another business, whether it was a business degree, having taken business classes. So you’re in the majority.

Luke W Russell:

I think for some people it feels like a strong sense of failure if their business isn’t performing the way they want it to be.

Brooke Lively:

You know, is it a failure that I can’t run a four minute mile? No, it’s training.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Right? I don’t know that I could ever run a four minute mile, even if I trained a lot, but it’s do you have the skillset? Have you been given an opportunity to acquire the skillset? Have you used that skillset? It’s not about failure. If there’s failure, it’s the law school’s failure because they know darn well that you’re going to go out and own a business and they’re not preparing you for that.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Why is it so hard for so many people to open up their books and let someone come in and take that financial perspective?

Brooke Lively:

So one of my first clients, one of those first seven, we had known each other as friends and as comrades and he said, “Brooke, I’m going to have to show you my underwear drawer, aren’t I?” I’m like, where are you going with this? And he said, “Well, you know that underwear you have in the back that has some holes and some skid mark stains?” And I’m going, oh my God. He said, “I have to show you all that financially.” And I’m like, yeah, you do.

Brooke Lively:

It’s a vulnerable place. It is. Money is a hard topic to talk about. And it is incredibly personal. And so people don’t really want to say I’m 62 and I haven’t saved for retirement, or I’m 37 and I have $250,000 worth of credit card debt plus law school loans. It’s hard. It’s personal. And it does go back to, I think everyone thinks that other people are so much further ahead than they are.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So they do feel like they’re admitting that they’re failing, and they’re not.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

It’s just where you are at this particular moment in your life, and does this mean you have to stay there? No. We had one client that came to us and he said, “I want to get out of debt.” We’re like, okay, got it. How much debt is there? And there was about a quarter of a million dollars and he was very disciplined and we really worked with him. All that debt was gone in seven months.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. How freeing.

Brooke Lively:

No kidding.

Luke W Russell:

In your estimation, what do you think the consequences are of kind of this cultural idea that our value, like our human value is tied to our economic value?

Brooke Lively:

I think it’s really hard.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I think it’s very much ingrained. I think that a lot of us have heard it from early on. If we continue to think that, we may pass up opportunities to learn incredible things about incredible people, because they may not be that traditional successful, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an immense amount to add. It’s an internal problem. I have a college roommate that calls it, the itty bitty shitty committee. What is that committee saying in your head? What’s it telling you? Is it telling you that you’re a failure because you haven’t achieved some external dollar goal that probably wasn’t set by you?

Luke W Russell:

Have you ever experienced that kind of like, so we have this idea if you don’t make a lot of money then there’s what we were just talking about, you don’t have as much to value that, but then there’s also like the same culture that says that that’s almost like, well, if you make money and then you spend it in certain ways, maybe now you’re behaving like in a way that’s socially not good too. It’s almost as if there’s some like magical in between world that you’re okay to live in. Have you experienced that?

Brooke Lively:

Yeah. So I think that goes back to your financial thermostat, and Gay Hendrix, The Great Leap, talks about this a lot. Where is your financial thermostat set? Is your financial thermostat is probably set at the financial level where your parents were. So if your parents made $60,000 a year, your financial thermostats going to be set to $60,000 a year. If you heard your parents growing up saying things like, I work for the man and the man is evil, or my manager’s a jerk, you’re going to have a hard time being a manager because you’re not going to want to be a jerk. And that’s internalized.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I think that more than anything, it’s over that programming that we had as children that was not intentional, our parents weren’t trying to do anything bad, our parents were living their lives and we were witnessing it through children’s eyes. And you take that in and you take it forward with you and you take those judgements with you, oh, look, they’re spending so much money, they’re awfully high and mighty, they’re hoity toity. Or they don’t have any money and they don’t work hard. If they worked harder, they would have more money. All those stereotypes that are off hand comments heard by children and the children very often miss the backstory or the context. And they’re just so deeply ingrained.

Luke W Russell:

Do you feel like you had some internalized ideas that you worked to let go of over recent years?

Brooke Lively:

I have to say I was incredibly lucky. I am from a family of entrepreneurs.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Which most people don’t have that. My grandfather used to joke, he was in private equity before private equity was a thing. He started and sold 26 companies.

Luke W Russell:

Wow, wow.

Brooke Lively:

Yeah. My mother owned companies. She stationary stores when I was growing up. My father has always owned his own law firm. My uncles, like everyone in my family did that. I mean, my father’s side of the family and my mother’s side. My father’s sister, my aunt is a children’s clothing designer and has been for 40 years.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And you can buy her dresses at Neiman’s and other fabulous upscale places.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So that was really normal in my family. And the hard work that goes with it was also part of it.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

My mother would wake up, she had charge accounts at her stores and didn’t think that any of her employees should know who owed money and who didn’t, so she would get up at four o’clock in the morning and do the billing.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

She’d do it in the middle of the night and then she’d go back to sleep. I thought it was perfectly normal to go to work on Saturdays. That’s what you do when you own the business, right?

Luke W Russell:

Yep. Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

It’s not a nine to five job.

Luke W Russell:

Is there a difference in your mind between being an entrepreneur and being a business owner?

Brooke Lively:

There is. Entrepreneurs push, they’re much more about growth. They’re about expansion. I think there are people who are business owners who are just kind of marking time and and are happy to be where they are.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I hear you’re really good at solving problems, which leads me a little curious, are you good at solving your own problems too?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t think we ever see our own problems as easily as we see someone else’s.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Which kinds of problems do you most enjoy solving for other people?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t know. It’s just fun to work through a problem. It’s fun to figure out all the different strands and how they come together. First of all, the problem is never the problem as stated.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Right? You got to dig and you have to ask questions and it’s in that digging and in that asking questions that you really get to go find the root of the issue, and I find that fun.

Luke W Russell:

Why is balancing personal life and work a fallacy?

Brooke Lively:

If you think about a set of scales and people talk about balancing, right?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

It’s supposed to be equal. It’s never going to be equal. There is always going to be one part of your life that needs you a little bit more than another.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So it’s not about balancing, it’s about integrating. How do we create something that works for both parts and how do we create something that gives you that capability of shifting to where you need to be when you need to be there?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

My mother sold her store, my sister was probably three.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And my mother was leaving and you know, as children do, they cling on your leg, daddy, don’t go, mommy, don’t go. And that day, my sister didn’t do that. She stood at the back door with tears rolling down her face. She didn’t try to stop my mother because she knew my mother was going.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And my mother just watched her. I mean just these tears and got in the car, drove to her store, walked up to her manager and said, do you want to buy it?

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

And that was what she needed to do in that minute.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And so is it hard? Yeah. I don’t think it comes easily to anybody.

Luke W Russell:

You were co-president of Finding Your Power for about a year around 2015, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Brooke Lively:

Holy cow you dig stuff up. Yeah. That was with my friend Heather Quick, and she’s an attorney. We were really looking at women and how they balance, how they do the work life integration and how they feel empowered in their businesses. The things that attorneys feel of I don’t want to be the one to raise my hand. I don’t want people to know that I don’t know things, I think is just as strong for women. When you have a female attorney, it could be that much worse. And so we really worked with women to help empower them in their businesses.

Luke W Russell:

Was this becoming something new for you, thinking about empowering women, or was this something that being really brewing in the background for quite some time?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. I think it was something that I first encountered when I went away to boarding school. I went to all girls schools.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

For high school and college.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I had had a different experience than a lot of other people. So I didn’t have the same hangups about speaking out or showing up or looking smart.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I could look as smart as I wanted because the guy in the second row wasn’t going to not ask me out because there was no guy in the second row. So I became much more vocal with what I believe and that’s not something that a lot of women have had the luxury of having.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. Yeah. I want to shift us over to what we call a high velocity round. I’m going to ask you a series of yes no questions, they’re all minorly ridiculous, but the rule is you can’t answer just yes or no. You can say yes or no, but you got to give me more than that.

Brooke Lively:

Okay.

Luke W Russell:

Sound good?

Brooke Lively:

Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

Okay. Should American restaurants assume customers want ice in their water?

Brooke Lively:

Well, yes. Otherwise your drink is warm, unless it’s water, at which point, no ice.

Luke W Russell:

You go to war for coffee in the morning?

Brooke Lively:

No, absolutely not. I don’t drink coffee. Tea only.

Luke W Russell:

Is Taco Bell for breakfast better than pancakes?

Brooke Lively:

Who goes to Taco Bell for breakfast? Do they serve breakfast?

Luke W Russell:

Well, I have to ask that question comes from one of your friends who said, Brooke might be the person who says let’s get Taco Bell for breakfast.

Brooke Lively:

Okay. So that comes, let me guess that was Martha and yes, when we were in college, everybody would want something sweet. I’m like, can we do salty please? And I do love Mexican food. But yeah, I’m going to say pancakes for breakfast, but I do love me some Taco Bell.

Luke W Russell:

Is it ever okay if a poem doesn’t rhyme?

Brooke Lively:

No, it really should rhyme.

Luke W Russell:

Can you ever read something too quickly?

Brooke Lively:

Yes. And yet I read really fast and I love reading really fast.

Luke W Russell:

Is a dog a woman’s best friend?

Brooke Lively:

Mine is.

Luke W Russell:

Do you often demonstrate how a saber a champagne bottle on Zoom?

Brooke Lively:

I do. That was a birthday present from my siblings. They gave me a champagne saber. So I went through a period where every time we got on a Zoom call, I would saber open a bottle of champagne, and then I finally had my video editor cobble it together and so I now have a standard champagne sabering video.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. Do you still ever use your cloffice?

Brooke Lively:

I do. I was using my cloffice this week. Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

And just to be clear, that’s a closet office, right?

Brooke Lively:

Yes. It is a closet in my house that is eight feet wide and 20 feet long and was where I started my company.

Luke W Russell:

Yes.

Brooke Lively:

Was sitting at a desk in the cloffice.

Luke W Russell:

Are you comfortable in your own skin?

Brooke Lively:

I would say 95% of the time.

Luke W Russell:

Can you tell me a joke?

Brooke Lively:

Not a good one.

Luke W Russell:

If you could travel anywhere you wanted, whenever you wanted, stay as long as you wanted, would you quit your job?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t think so. I don’t think I would. I love traveling. I love seeing new places. People talk about having a gratitude practice. I am never more grateful than when I am on an airplane. That is the place where I slow down enough and I can think about everything, and that is the place where I am most grateful. In fact, if I’ve had a drink, sometimes I get teary, I’m so grateful. But I love what I do. I love the impact we have on law firms and it gives me purpose. It gives me something to do all day and as much as I love traveling, I think I can combine those two things and find some kind of balance or integration between them.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I love that. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard someone say that they are the most grateful when they’re on an airplane.

Brooke Lively:

Well, think about it this way, how often do you slow down enough to stop thinking? To not have anything that you’re responsible to do? When I get on an airplane, I do not hook into the wifi. I do not work. It’s a rule. I don’t work on airplanes.

Luke W Russell:

Yes.

Brooke Lively:

So it is anywhere from two to 12 hours is time to sit and think and reflect and read trashy spy novels, and maybe watch a movie.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. What’s a big professional challenge you faced?

Brooke Lively:

The biggest professional challenge that I faced was in 2015. I had a contract with a client. We weren’t a good match. We just had different things and I needed to not renew that contract. He wanted to, I didn’t. In making that decision, as so often happens, I managed to blow up relationships with other clients so that by the time I told him no, he was 94.3% of my business.

Luke W Russell:

Oh. Wow.

Brooke Lively:

And my sister worked for me at the time. And I cannot believe that she didn’t spend her entire time throwing up because her risk tolerance is like a negative three on a scale of one to 10. But I knew that that was what I needed to do for my company. It was rough. I encouraged someone to leave. I moved someone to part-time. I refinanced my house and took out every penny of equity. I maxed out my lines of credit. I maxed out my credit cards. I think my low point came when I got my last credit card with a whopping $900 limit, and then I waited for it to come every single day. And it finally arrived. And at 11 o’clock at night, I drove to the other side of town because did I mention large family lives in Fort Worth?

Brooke Lively:

I was so embarrassed about what I was about to do, I didn’t want anyone to recognize me. And I took a cash advance on that and was at the bank when it opened the next morning.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

To deposit that stack of 20s so that I could make payroll that day.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

Running a loss for 26 months is incredibly hard. When people come to us, they think that we won’t understand what they’re going through and we do.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

We’ve done it all. We’ve done those same things. I had to really take a look at my company and make hard decisions, and I treated my company just like I would treat a client’s company. And as a result, I’m no longer worried if we can make payroll, we’re consistently hiring new people. I don’t worry about whether a charge is going to go through on my credit card. We’re debt free. I think everyone has been through that hard part. And a lot of people are still in it and there’s no shame in it. I felt shame while I was in it.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I mean, I was acting just like my clients. I get it. But now I tell that story all the time because people need to hear it and people need to know that you’re not a failure.

Luke W Russell:

What are the consequences of sharing one’s struggles publicly?

Brooke Lively:

I think there are multiple consequences. I think some of them are good and I think some of them are not necessarily bad, but eyeopening. I didn’t tell my friends or family any of this when I was going through it. Our clients don’t either. Most people don’t. I told this story one time, I was giving a speech and my best friend from college was in the room and I thought, oh gosh, she’s going to hear this, well tough luck. Can’t do anything about it now. And I gave the speech and she came up to me afterwards and said, “I had no idea, no idea you were going through all of that. It must have been incredibly hard.”

Brooke Lively:

And I think that when I tell the story, people feel more empowered to share. They know that I’m not going to judge them. And it’s not about that. It’s about, this is a journey and where are you on the journey? And can you be more profitable than you are now? Can you make some better decisions? Look, everybody has made decisions that aren’t ideal. Everyone. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Everyone on the street. That decision’s been made, all we can do is make good decisions going forward. And here’s the thing about that decision you made that may not have been ideal, in the moment it kept your company going. And ultimately that’s all that’s important.

Luke W Russell:

What has growing your company revealed about yourself as a leader?

Brooke Lively:

That I have no patience, that we have to grow faster, we have to do more. I think it really has highlighted my strengths and my weaknesses. And one of my weakness is in detail and structure. That’s just not my bliss.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I have people on my team who are good at that. Thank goodness.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What does it take to be an empathetic leader or maybe a pre-question of that, is empathy even a leadership trait?

Brooke Lively:

I think it should be a leadership trait. If you are not understanding where your team is, you’re going to have completely unrealistic expectations.

Luke W Russell:

A lot of women feel pressure culturally by family to have children. Did you experience that pressure?

Brooke Lively:

That whole combination of right guy, right time thing wasn’t easy for me. I could have gotten married, I would’ve been divorced, no doubt. One guy asked, one guy had a ring. So I think it was much more sadness in what could have been.

Luke W Russell:

There’s for women or men who feel this sense of they aren’t as much a part of society they either can’t have kids, don’t have kids, don’t want to have kids. It sometimes creates shame for people in that scenario. What would you want to say to the person who maybe hasn’t worked their way through that shame yet?

Brooke Lively:

For me it was less about shame and it was more about being left out.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

There was an experience that I wasn’t having that’s all encompassing. Yeah. I mean, it takes a lot of time and effort and energy to raise your children and those that don’t have children, especially if you’re single, it’s very lonely because your friends check out for a good 12 years.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

They have little ones and then there’s little league and soccer games and weekends and all of that, and your friends are wrapped up in their families, which they should be.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

But you’re sitting there like, okay, well, can your children get old enough so that we can go do something again?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I am so grateful because I have had some friends that have truly shared their children, like I got to take a child to college.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

It is such an incredibly thoughtful thing to do, to share your children that fully and to enable me to be included in some of those things.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. That’s really beautiful. You’ve faced tremendous loss during the past year, and some of our listeners probably have too, and many of our podcast guests that we’ve had on here have talked about great losses. Is that a conversation you would want to join here?

Brooke Lively:

We can talk about it. I’m very much a very good waspy ostrich.

Luke W Russell:

Is grief predictable?

Brooke Lively:

I don’t think so. Everyone does it differently. It will hit you at moments when you’re totally not expecting it, and I think that if you try hard enough, you can just cram it down, but God help you when it actually won’t stay down anymore.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Have you surprised yourself in any ways in how you’ve shown up for yourself this year as you process loss?

Brooke Lively:

I think I have surprised other people more than I’ve surprised myself. I am very much a cram it down and soldier forward. Take action.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

Where’s my checklist, let’s get it done.

Luke W Russell:

Because there’s a lot of people out there who are probably who are like you, who it’s just like give me the checklist. Grief doesn’t come with a clear checklist. Has grief at times maybe been a frustrating thing as well?

Brooke Lively:

Annoying. Like why is it still there? Why am I still dealing with this? Why is it not gone? Why is it causing this?

Luke W Russell:

If it’s okay with you, I’d like to hear about the day your mother received her cancer diagnosis.

Brooke Lively:

I called my mother. I was living in DC, I was working for Nordstrom. I had been racked, which meant I had been sent to the rack division. I’m not a good discount girl, not my ideal job. And I was miserable and I called my mother and I said, “I think I need to quit.” She’s like, “That’s great.” Which is not usually what you get from your mother when you call and say, “I’m in retail. I don’t make the very much money, but I’m going to quit my only means of support.” So I hang up the phone with her and the phone rings not 10 minutes later and it’s my father. And he’s like, “I’m so glad you quit.” I’m like, “Well, daddy, I haven’t quit yet.” “Well, hurry up and do it before you lose your nerve.” Okay. Again, really not what you expect a parent to say.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

So I quit my job. It was right before Christmas. I went home for Christmas, which I hadn’t been able to do for a long time because I was in retail. And it was time to go back, I had quit my job, I hadn’t quit the company. Time to go back, and I’ve been home for about two weeks. My mother said, “You can’t go back. I need you here.” I’m like, what are you talking about? She said, “I have cancer.” I’m like what? She said, “I have uterine cancer and I haven’t gone to the doctor yet. But when I do a whole bunch of stuff is going to happen and I need your help to get my life all in order before we get to that point.” She didn’t go to the doctor for months, and when she did finally go, he said that he had never seen a tumor so large that had not metastasized, and sure enough, she was in surgery within like 48 hours.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

But yeah. Oh yeah. She self-diagnosed like six months before she went to the doctor.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Brooke Lively:

Yeah. Talk about soldiering on.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. No kidding. Brooke, you have a lot of friends who have been in your life for many decades and your friend Maria, she described you as a bright, interesting, sweet and loyal friend.

Brooke Lively:

Aww. That’s nice.

Luke W Russell:

What’s the value of a friendship?

Brooke Lively:

Your family will stand by you because they’re supposed to. You choose your friends and they choose to be there for you. And that is an incredible gift to give.

Luke W Russell:

Earlier you mentioned in your spreadsheet that you keep track of which parties people have attended, what makes for a good party?

Brooke Lively:

I love mixing people. So people that don’t necessarily know each other. I lived in DC for a long time, then I had these separate groups of friends. I’m like, okay, people, this is way too much effort for me, so you guys need to be friends with each other. So we would have parties and just the comradery and the conversation was fun. And then of course beautiful flowers and fabulous food, and champagne. It’s not a party without champagne.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. Is it interesting for you when you bring people together for a party and you see these like different worlds of your own mixing together. Talk to me a little bit about kind of the joy of being the person who creates that environment.

Brooke Lively:

So just before COVID, I kind of had a milestone birthday and I took seven friends to France. And they were from all different parts of my life. There was one cousin, there were childhood friends, friends from college, none of my friends from high school could go, friends from when I was just out of college, and they live all over the country. So they didn’t necessarily know each other. Everybody knew one or two people and me and they kept coming up to me and going, “Oh my gosh, I love all your friends.” I wanted to go, why are you surprised? I chose all of you and all of you chose me, why do you not think you all wouldn’t get along really well?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And I love that, and they do. They’ve got text messages now that I’m not on, and I’ll talk to one and she’s like, “Well, you know, I talked to Maria and Meredith is coming up here this weekend.” Like, I just love that. It’s fun.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I enjoy, I don’t use Facebook much, which I know has its own irony, but I enjoy when I log in every once in a while, when I see like this friend over here is commenting on someone else’s post and I’m like, how do you two even know each other? Oh, you both came to my parties.

Brooke Lively:

Me.

Luke W Russell:

That’s just a really fun, fun thing to see those kinds of relationships blossom.

Brooke Lively:

It really is. I love watching that.

Luke W Russell:

I have a quote here from Finding Your Power, “At Finding Your Power, we believe you must be willing to get rid of the life you planned to have the life that is waiting for you.” Do you ever reconsider the life that is waiting for Brooke?

Brooke Lively:

I have been throwing out the life that is planned for years. What’s the expression? You make a plan and God laughs? Man makes a plan and God laughs? I think that what I thought would happen when I was in college, what I thought my life would be like, there’s no resemblance. And I think that I keep setting that expectation and then I have a different life. And so now it’s about enjoying the life that I have.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

And realizing, people ask me, would you go back and do something differently? The fact of the matter is no, because I have a pretty freaking awesome life.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Brooke Lively:

I love my company. I love what I do. I love the flexibility I have. I love being able to travel and have I made some decisions that I didn’t think I would make? Did I do things that it never imagined I would’ve done? Absolutely. But it brought me to this place, and so all I can do is trust that as I continue to move forward, that amazing things will unfold.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Brooke, it’s your 80th birthday celebration and people from all throughout your life are present. A gentle clinking on glass can be heard and a hush washes over the room. People raise their glasses to toast to you. What are three things you would want them to say about you?

Brooke Lively:

I would want them to say I was there for them. That I made the time. That I was able to listen, to be a shoulder, to be someone that cheered them on. I would want them to say I was giving. Giving of time, of money, of self, of experiences. That’s something I love doing with my godchildren. Like if I drag my goddaughter to Europe one more time she may rebel. I mean, she may, she has. And what’s the third? I think that I’ve lived life to the fullest, that I’ve had the experiences. That I’ve enjoyed it

Luke W Russell:

To learn more about Brooke, visit cathcap.com and be sure to check out our business spotlight conversation, which is available as the next episode. Thanks so much for listening to us this week. This podcast is produced by Kirsten Stock, developed in collaboration with Max T Russell edited by Kindle Perkinson and mastered by Guido Bertolini. A special thanks to the companies that make this project possible, Russell Media and the SEO Police. You can learn more about these groups by visiting our website, lawfulgoodpodcasts.com. I’m your host, Luke W Russell, and you’ve been listening to Lawful Good.