Discovering Your Talents: Athena Simpson | OYNB 095

One Year No Beer Podcast Episode 095 – Discovering Your Talents with Athena Simpson

It’s always interesting to hear the stories of regular people who change their relationship with alcohol and end up changing their lives in the process. What can you do when you’re not being held back by alcohol? Could you have amazing adventures and achieve physical feats that you previously didn’t believe you were capable of? Today’s guest did. 

When Athena Simpson decided to give One Year No Beer a try, she was remembering a time in the past when she’d given up drinking for a significant period of time. She remembered what she felt like during that period, and she wanted to see if she could achieve that feeling again. She knew that she was drinking too much, so she decided to sign up for a One Year No Beer challenge and give that a try. 

“I just remembered feeling superhuman and I wanted that feeling back.”

The experience wasn’t without its difficulties. Athena says that she didn’t do much over the first month without alcohol, other than sleep. She recalls seeing others in the group who were further along in their alcohol-free journeys and wondering if she could achieve anything like that. But slowly, she started working on other parts of herself as well. One important thing she did was rejoin a class she had tried before – an aerial silks class that involved doing physical tricks with silks hanging from the ceilings. She remembers that when she’d taken the class before, she often came to class hungover and didn’t make much progress. Without the hangovers to contend with, she gained skills and became more and more interested in the activity.

At the same time, Athena was struggling with both her working and living situation. Feeling empowered by her new skills and her success at staying alcohol-free, Athena decided to join a Circus Collective which allowed her to do a residency with circus performers, to live and train with them. She applied and was accepted and headed to Indonesia. As Athena says, she was literally running away to join the circus. 

The residency was an amazing experience for Athena. She learned the routine, trained, sustained an injury and recovered, and even ended up performing on a mainstage at a Guatemalan New Year’s Eve festival. 

Athena’s journey wasn’t all idyllic. In today’s interview, she discusses grappling with feelings of anger and learning tools to cope with periodic waves of depression. But she’s also had some incredible experiences and major personal growth. She’s gotten to do things that she probably never would have been able to do if she was still drinking regularly. And at the time of this episode, she’s reached 500 days alcohol-free. Athena’s story shows just how transformative an alcohol-free challenge can be. 

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Athena's Links

Instagram: @athena.simpson


Episode Transcript

Jen: Hi, guys. This is Jen Fairbairns. Welcome to the One Year No Beer Podcast. Today, I'm speaking to Athena Simpson. She is one of our One Year No Beer members and today she is celebrating her 500th day alcohol-free. Last time I saw Athena, she was in the UK. Since then, she has given up her big-city job in London, sold all of her belongings, and literally ran away with the circus. I let her tell you her story herself but it's a very interesting one. So enjoy this, guys.

Athena, welcome to the OYNB Podcast. So good to see you.

Athena: So good to see you, too. Thank you for having me.

Jen: It's an absolute pleasure. It's about time as well, but it is today, because today is a bit of a special day, 500 days. Amazing. What a journey it's been. I'm going to let you talk mostly about that, but first of all, just let us know your whereabouts in the world you are right now and your current situation.

Athena: I'm currently in Panama in Central America. I came here in January to spend some time with my parents. The world locked down and literally they stopped flights. This is my home for the foreseeable future now.

Jen: Really hanging out with the family.

Athena: With the family, it's good.

Jen: How awesome. It's a decent place to be. Hopefully, once you get on lockdown, you get to explore a bit more. You've been traveling loads lately. You're traveling the world and doing some awesome things. Tell us a little bit more about that, everything, your alcohol-free journey. There are no words that I can put it that sound cooler than when it comes from you.

Athena: It's interesting. I was reflecting because it's 500 days today since I started the challenge, but I actually signed up for the challenge 507 days ago and I was actually here in Panama. It was Christmas time. I was here visiting my parents. I'd gone out for my birthday which is the 28th of December and had a massive night, and then spent all of the next day in bed. The next day after that I was just like, what am I doing?

Back home in London where I was living, I just had this massive anxiety and massive depression. I just wasn't really living my life. I thought back while I was here over that trip to the last time that I felt amazing. It was 10 years previously when I had stopped drinking for 9 months. I just remembered feeling superhuman and I wanted that feeling back. I didn't really know where to start and the One Year No Beer ads keep popping up. I was like, you know what? If I commit to this, if I pay some money, maybe I'll go back home and do it.

Two days later, I went to New York for a couple days and had another couple of massive nights. One of which ended up ripping the backs of my heels off from the shoes I was wearing. I was too drunk, too, and realized. So I went back to London with no heels and just like, I'm going to do this. Five hundred days ago, I started. 

All I wanted was to feel superhuman. That's all I wanted. The only thing I told myself I was going to do is stop drinking. Everything else, I just gave myself permission to feel it, to let it happen because I’ve done this before. I knew putting too much pressure on myself to lose this much weight, do this much exercise, or whatever would just end up meaning that I wouldn't do it. I was like, just don't drink. 

I think the first 30 days, I pretty much just slept. I was just really tired. I slept. I was like, I don't know. One of the prompts from the One Year No Beer challenge was to get into a physical activity. Everybody was doing Spartan races and running. I was like, I hate running. That's not me. I remembered a couple years earlier, I'd taken aerial silks, which is the circus stuff with the fabric hanging from the ceilings. You climb it and do crazy tricks from it. But when I tried it a couple of years earlier, I was turning up to the classes hungover. I was doing no physical activity outside of my once a week class and I wasn't good at it. I just quit because I don't like being bad at things. I'm terrified to go back and be bad at it again. I know I'm going to have to start from the beginning, but I signed up for the classes. 

My first class was 45 days into my challenge. It's amazing when you don't turn up to something hungover, like how much more progress that you can make. Things just started clicking. I made a lot quicker progress than I had the last time I tried it. 

Just having that physical activity, something outside of work, gave me motivation to look at other things. I kept doing the silks. I started doing yoga in the morning, I just naturally felt eating better and doing more exercise. I was picking up a kettlebell that had massive dust on it in the corner. I did one move I think a couple of weeks into it that I hadn't been able to do before. I literally started crying my eyes out. It was my forefinger.

Jen: How beautiful to be at that point. That's the thing. You put the effort in. You reap the reward. Yes, you should cry and go like, I just did that.

Athena: It was at that moment. I was like, oh, my God. My body can do this. I can do this. I got to, I want to say 90 days. This just isn't enough time. I'm just getting started. I knew there were a lot of things in my life that I was putting to one side and not dealing with. One was my crap living and working situation. It was causing me a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. I started to think about making the decision about removing myself from those situations that were causing me a lot of struggle. We had a really high growth startup that was doing amazing things. The lifestyle and that working crazy to build this humongous thing was just really taking away from me. 

Six months into my challenge, I let my business partner know that I was going to leave and I wanted to travel the world. Part of me was like, am I running away from something or am I running towards something, but I'm just going to go with it. This was about June time. I was still keeping up the silks. I was doing more silks and I ended up finding this Circus Collective that does this residency thing in different places all over the world. You go and live with all these circus performers. You train with them and eat with them. They had all this other stuff, too, like meditation, community circles. It was the stuff that I was like, oh, is it going to be really spiritual and weird? Is it going to be like me? I'm very rock and roll and think with my head. I was like, this sounds like it. It's in Indonesia. I wanted to go to Indonesia at that time. It's kicking off in September so I applied to go to this residency and I got accepted. I can actually say I'm running away to join the circus.

Jen: Circus. I love that. How beautiful. You went with your gut, not with your thinking head. You went, this feels right. I am doing this. It's beautiful.

Athena: It was a couple of months of putting preparations in place. I had amassed 10 years of my life in London. I had all this stuff. I had a two-bedroom flat. I had all these undone things. I hadn't sorted out my citizenship. I'd never gotten my driving license in the UK. Now, I had this motivation to start completing all these things that I didn't realize were causing me anxiety from not having done it. It's really surreal to have 30 different people come into your flat and rummage through your stuff. I need to get rid of literally every single thing in this place apart from two suitcases. The things that you think you need to hang onto are so interesting.

I had this amazing Tempur-Pedic mattress, Euro king-size, four-poster bed. I was like, oh, I don't know if I can part with this. Maybe I need to put it in the storage unit. I actually grappled with this decision for months about whether I kept this bed and I finally decided to sell it. I think it's somewhere in Eastern Europe now. Got bought on eBay, picked up by people, literally taken to another country, but it was so freeing. That last night I was there. I'm sitting in this empty flat with nothing but two suitcases and just made the decision like, you know what? I'm just going to let the universe show me the way.

I bought tickets to Malaysia first and then I went to the Circus Collective in Indonesia. I went to Australia after that. I went to LA. I went to Peru with my mom and we climbed Machu Picchu. That first month at the Circus Collective was one of the most transformative things I've ever done in my life because normally I would be very scared to put myself in a situation like that, where I'd be out of my comfort zone and doing all these things. It's like full moon ceremonies, women's circles, meditation, and eye gazing, like who knew?

I cried more in that month than I ever have before. I discovered how to use my body again for just freeform movement and just dancing. Even dancing made me break down and cry. I realized that I was hanging onto so much stuff. Being put in that container with these people that were a really loving place and even realizing I had a major hang-up around physical, non-sexual touch like having hugs with people. It was crazy. They had these performances that you could take part in as part of this residency. They were like, you should do it. I was terrified. I've only started silks in February. It was September. There were three Cirque du Soleil performers that were at this residency that we're also going to be performing.

I am not Cirque du Soleil. I'm 35 years old and just started exercising consistently 7 months ago. But they pushed me and I pushed myself. It was crazy going through that process of learning a routine and training. I got a really bad injury two weeks in and started really realizing I'm older and my body doesn't cooperate the way it used to. I ended up getting to that performance. It was almost the last night I was in residency. Man, it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had, pushing myself to that play. It was magical. I ended up joining these guys up again in Guatemala and ended up performing on the mainstage at this huge New Year's Eve festival in the middle of the Guatemalan desert. All I wanted to do is just stop drinking. I have no idea.

Jen: Look what you've done. You're a superhuman. It's amazing. You studied there going, oh, I'm old. My body is not the same. Does it matter? Look what you did. That's the thing because you set your mind to it. You can do anything. We’re all capable of incredible things. You literally just went, no, I'm doing this.

Athena: I think you've hit the nail on the head. When I first joined One Year No Beer, I saw people like you and I was like, oh, my God. She's perfect. She exercises all the time. That's not me. I think we can get hung up on that because of course, that's not me. You're not me. You have a completely different life, experience, and things that drive you. The mindset of, I need to find who I am. I need to really dig deep. What inspires me? What motivates me? What makes me feel good? Really being comfortable, being uncomfortable, and knowing this life that I once had that wasn't serving me any real purpose, it might look completely different when I go through this process. 

It was terrifying. There was a lot of grieving. The things that I used to do, the people I used to hang out with, the things that were important to me, they didn't hold the same value to me. That can be really hard but I feel more confident. I've absolutely fallen in love with my body, its capability, and its strength. I want my body to look differently. I look now how I feel on the inside. I don't watch my diet. I don't exercise to look differently. I take care of myself because I want to perform silks and I want to feel good. My physical appearance (I guess) has rewarded me for that. Having that as a focal point I think can really be a downfall with your mindset when you go into something like this.

Jen: I think what you said hit the nail on the head. You look on the outside the way you feel inside and often that is the case. If you feel like, oh, I'm overweight or I'm happy but X, Y, and Z. It all comes from internally. If you make a decision to make yourself happy, it's not going to happen like this. It's going to take a lot of work, a lot of tears, dedication, but you can make that work. It will start showing and that's important because we look the way we feel inside. 

That's why it's so important to start taking apart those small pieces. What is it that makes me thick? I do Spartans so I know that's probably what you saw. That looks scary, whatever, but I work my butt off to get it. It started with my mental health, quitting drinking, and starting to deal with my mental health. That became my rescue. I found something that really is helping me. Take me away from that. That was my path. But you just saw that and went, no, that's not my path. What is mine? That's a recommendation for anyone listening. 

I always say this to people. If you see someone do something, you're like, oh, I wish I could do that, and if you stop beating yourself up because you can't do something that someone potentially has been working on doing for years, don't beat yourself up about that. If you want to do what they're doing, go at it. Practice and put the work down, but don't just assume and feel bad that you can't do it. Why would we do that to ourselves? But that's what we do, isn't it?

Athena: We have this idea of perfection that someone else has created for us. Society creates this idea of what perfection is for us. We start feeling anxious if we're not achieving that. What I've been talking about a lot is this idea of perfection, this idea of success really needs to change. We need to redefine it for ourselves. I had a moment like that. I was in Guatemala and we were doing a performance for the full moon. I sound so hippy but I love it. There were two other women that were unbelievable on silks. One had been doing it for 12 years, the other had been doing it for 7, and then there's me getting up there. 

For a minute, I was really doubting myself. People are going to look at me, compare to these women, and be like, what is she doing here? I was like, no, reframe that. I am in a situation where I'm able to perform with women like this. What a gift that is. Watching them how beautiful they were and how easy it looked, that's where I can be if I keep up this. How lucky for me to be able to experience this and be able to be at the point that I can even get up there. 

In February, I couldn't even climb and now I'm climbing up enough, unable to stay on the things for five minutes and perform in front of humans. If you're not where someone else is, reframing that rather than beating yourself up, it's like how awesome that I get the opportunity to soak up what they have, learn from that, and congratulate myself that I am even here.

Jen: Lift each other up. Lift yourself up. Lift each other up. Don't envy other people for their team. Look and go, wow. Admire and learn. Get inspired. That's how you should see it. Not go, oh, well, they're better so I don't like them, which is, unfortunately, a lot of that jealousy because of that pressure like you say. There's this pressure in society to be certain things. This is where you should be. Are you happy? Take this test. Who are you to tell someone? Why is that a test in a magazine able to tell you if you're happy or not? How about you sit down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and go, am I happy?

Athena: What makes me happy and that's going to be a different answer for everybody. What are the things that nourish me? I think it's really important you talked about mental health. Part of my story was that I was severely depressed. I was drinking enough during the weeks that I gave myself permission to lay in bed all weekend, feeling sorry for myself, watching Netflix, and ordering takeaway that I ate in bed. I didn't even have the energy to get up and sit at a table. My neighbors upstairs were really worried about me. Every Saturday they're like, come upstairs, watch Dancing with the Stars. I was like, no, I haven't showered in days. They're like, we don't care. Come upstairs.

I think back to that, it was a lack of motivation and not depression. I did start seeing a therapist which really helped. I think if people are struggling, you don't have to do this on your own. You're not an island. The community of One Year No Beer is so helpful because it's just massive support. I had that other element of having someone personalized to me and it was coaching me through that. One of the things she asked me early on was, “How do you nourish yourself?” I was like, what do you mean? She's like, “How do you do things that are nice for yourself? How do you nourish yourself?” I was like, I don't know. I don't do that. It was so crazy. 

She had me make a list of all the things that I felt were nourishing, that serve no other purpose than to make me feel good. Some of them are really simple things. I like having a coffee in the morning just sitting there hanging out with my coffee, having a bubble bath, getting my hair done, or getting a massage. Some of these things we can't do now but reading a book for pleasure, not for business, not for any other purpose and to just enjoy it.

The challenge to me was to do one thing a week if you can. That was really a struggle for me because I think when we're feeling really bad about ourselves, we don't feel like we deserve nice things. We'll never love ourselves if we can't show ourselves love. Really figuring out what brings me pleasure even in the smallest ways, start showing yourself that you love yourself, and nourish yourself. That was a fundamental game-changer for me when I started doing that. Now my whole day is filled with nourishment. It took me a long time to get to that point, to feel I even deserved to treat myself well.

Jen: Nail on the head again there. When you don't feel very good, you don't feel you deserve good things. You don't feel good about yourself. It's crazy. That's why we get stuck in that pattern. That's what we find with a lot of members who are in a similar situation, who was in a dark hole, just not feeling good, beating self-up, and stuff. The way of them nourishing themselves would be alcohol. That would be their only treat. That would come back and bite you the day after. It would just go on and on. That lifted that clarity much like you did. You just went out and just set the world on fire, living your best life literally. All from just giving yourself that break, finding out what you wanted, what makes you happy, and following your gut.

Athena: It's a process, too. I'm 500 days into this so we tend to forget what it's like at the beginning. As I said, for the first 30 days I just slept. I didn't do anything else. I wasn't exercising. It was slowly getting into having coffee in the morning without turning my phone on first. Maybe I'll try a little yoga here and there or maybe I'll walk to the train instead of taking the bus. It's small incremental things.

I heard a quote recently and I'm probably going to get it wrong, but it really resonated because what I talked about in the group and when I talked about to other people is your mindset, the thoughts that you have, and the things that you tell yourself. The quote goes something like, “Be careful of your thoughts. They become your words. Be careful of your words. They become your actions. Be careful of your actions. They become your reality.” It's something like that, but it's so completely true because when we're sitting there in our head, beating ourselves up, telling ourselves that we’re worthless, we can't do something, or we're not capable of valuing ourselves of making that decision, first of all, no one is going to do that for you. Second of all, that's just going to keep you in that cycle. 

One of the things that I did early on was to change my thoughts. When I heard myself say to myself, I need to do something, I replaced it with the word want, and then I'd have to reflect. Do I actually want to do this or am I telling myself I need to do this because of what somebody else said or some unrealistic expectation I'm putting on myself? Reframing your thoughts can have an impact on the things that you say and then the actions that you do because often what you're thinking you end up saying. Just changing the word need for want and then really thinking about, is this something I want? Also stopping yourself before it becomes a word. 

You might have those thoughts on what would have been my seven-year anniversary with my partner who I'd left the year before. There were pictures of him with a new woman. I just remember losing it in the group. I was like, oh, my God. What I normally would have done would be messaging all my girlfriends and be like, oh, my God. Can you believe this? Just created this drama storm and I decided not to do that. I vent it to the group and then I was like, you know what? I'm just going to keep myself busy this weekend. I'm not going to ignite all the girlfriends. We have this massive negativity fest about it. I chose to leave that relationship and that was the right decision for me. Good for him for moving on in his life and finding someone he could love. That had such an impact, realizing how I felt at the end of that by not going into that normal process of my thoughts becoming my words and then getting other people involved in it. I think it's a process. 

When you stop drinking, what you don't realize is—for me at least—I was numbing all the emotions. I was drinking to keep the emotions down so I didn't have to deal with any of the emotions or the thoughts. When I removed the drinking, the emotions came thick and fast. I had to learn how to deal with it. I even got a book six months ago about anger management because I was so angry at everything. I was taking it out on everyone. I'm not drinking so why am I doing this? But I’m finally taking that stopper off the emotions and they were coming out. It was just like layers of the stop just coming out learning how to deal with it. I seriously thought I had a massive anger management problem. As time went on, I stopped being angry but I realized I needed to get that out.

Jen: Actually, that's worth it for our members, for listeners to also take it, because a lot of people go through these emotions like, oh, I don't know. I thought I should be feeling so happy right now. Most of these they do but then they'll come through this path and then they're like, oh, my God. You have all this emotion. Maybe that's what you just said just there is because you have all these unleashed emotions coming out that's been in for so long and you don't know how to process it that quickly. That's actually a good point. I never really thought about it that way, actually.

Athena: Years of stopping your natural processing ability because I've had a bad day at work or had I seen that picture before, I would have just lost myself in two bottles of wine so I didn't have to deal with it. I didn't want to deal with it. Booze was a great way to make me feel better at the moment and then I was so focused on how bad I felt afterward. It wasn't actually processing what was going on. It's been waves. I'm not going to lie and say I haven't been depressed. I've gone through waves of depression over the last 500 days as well, but what I've learned is I've created a toolkit that I can use to mitigate that, to feel it, to process it, and be like, what do I need to do to make myself feel better. I need to do nourishment. I need to hang out with friends. You end up learning how to deal with it in a more productive way. 

One of my friends recently said to me, “You've learned how to replace all the toxic habits and thought patterns with positive ones.” I think it's just that. When you see something that you're doing and you're like, this doesn't feel right or this isn't working for me, what can I do instead that won't be to my detriment? It's a big learning process. 

Six months ago, I was in Guatemala and something happened to a friend of mine in a romantic relationship. For context, we were at this lake and there's this volcano there. People always said when you go to this lake it's magical like stuff will come out. I was like, yeah, okay, whatever. This thing happened to her. All of these emotions around men, around seeking external validation, around seeking love outside of myself, just came out of me. It was so intense. I don't think I would have been ready for anything like that before. It's interesting how you go through this process. You learn things about yourself. It's like, now we're ready to take this on.

I was so besotted with this whole thing. I ended up writing again. I ended up digging into the vaults of every man who's ever hurt me. I'm writing about it, reopening these wounds, and just like, what is this. I saw this pattern in myself that I had never really picked up on before. It's just so interesting to go through these processes and learn these things about yourself. Not only learn but what can I do about this? I've decided I'm going to take a year off men and really learn to love myself. I'm six months into it, not thinking I could have done that at all. It's amazing. I'm so happy. I'm questioning like, “What utility did they serve before because I have amazing girlfriends and I get so much of my girlfriends?” It's a journey. It's a process. It's going to keep going. I'm sure there's going to be lots of other stuff that comes out.

Jen: We're always learning. That's the thing. It never stops. Even people were like, oh, God. I sorted all my stuff, but there's still more to sort even when you're doing podcasts with some of the top entrepreneurs, health, and whatever. They look like they've got it all sorted out, but they are still also learning every day, never stop. Always be curious, I say. If you think you're feeling good like how could you feel better?

I want to touch on something you said that you have something going on and you vent it into the group. During your whole journey, you've been very inspirational to other members in the OYNB group. That is a part of the beautiful setup of our challengers’ group. People get to see people who are a bit farther ahead on their journey. 

Right in the beginning, you said you slept in the first 30 days. A lot of people struggle in the first month. It seems so unattainable. You said it so well. You're like, “I'm not going to focus on running, quitting sugar, or eating healthy. That's my only goal this month. Not drinking, get through that, and then do whatever. Lastly, don't do too many things in one go.” That is a top tip. You posted and you inspired so many. You found that you got as much out of it as well. It was a good go-to tool when necessary.

Athena: I think you guys had stopped at something like 86% of the American population drink. When you make a decision like this that goes against 86% of the population, it can feel really isolating and lonely. By making that decision, you're holding up a mirror to other people and people don't like looking in that mirror. I think what a lot of people don't realize is people's negative reactions to you when you stop drinking isn't about you, it's about them. You need to find other people that are going through what you're going through, lean on that, take inspiration from that, and know that you are not alone. That's the most beautiful thing.

I think about One Year No Beer is that it's a community of people from all walks of life from all over the world. We all have this shared experience of deciding that we believe we can have a better life for ourselves. We know it's going to be difficult every time you go in there. I just love that you can just be completely unfiltered, say whatever it is, and you get no judgment. You get love. You get advice. You get support. I have made friends that are really close friends of mine. I ended up going and seeing Drew in Australia, the rock and roll kids. We're on the same partner journey and really leaning on each other. We still talk all the time to this day.

You're not going to get along with everybody, necessarily, but there's going to be people in there. It's your tiny tribe along with this whole group. The support is immense. That’s what also did for me because I've been through not drinking before so I knew what to expect, but I didn't expect to feel the accountability that I did with it. When you start posting, people start getting to know you. When you start questioning, “Should I drink, or is this right?” You remember. There's a community of people that are supporting me, that believe in me, people that are farther along that I want to inspire and I want to tell them that they can. It really changes your mindset. When you're not alone, when you have other people that are going through this with you, it makes it a lot easier to carry on in that journey.

Some of the support and inspiration I got early on still resonates to this day. I wish I could remember who it was that posted it but this one phrase that they said was, “You can have your best life or you can have alcohol.” That was the one for me. To this day, it's completely true. I can go back to drinking, go back to this life where I was lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself or I can carry on with this incredible journey traveling the world, trying to be a circus performer at the age of 36, starting a new business, and reinventing my life. I'm getting way more fun and joy out of that. Not all of the messages will resonate but there will always be one or two nuggets in there that you're just like, wow. That's what I needed.

Jen: That's what it is. Just go in and take what you need. It's there for everyone. It's there to be shared. It's amazing. I love sitting there. Whenever I do have a bit of time left, I'm just sitting there scrolling comments and have a look at what people are doing. The outpour of support from everyone, it's just a beautiful thing. What's next for you once they let you out of Panama? You have a pretty strict lockdown down there.

Athena: Pretty strict. All my friends are posting pictures of them at parks or going to the beach. I'm like, “Stop it.” Panama, uncharacteristically, took a very strict stance on lockdown. The weather is beautiful and I'm so thankful for that but I've left the apartment once in the last 60 days. I haven't been able to train on silks. I haven't been able to go in the sun. I'm definitely feeling that. But the gift that it did give me was reconnecting with my family. I've lived in a different state or a different country from my parents since I was 17 years old and maybe spent a week or two with them here and there. It's totally a gift.

One of the intentions that I had, my reasons why we're doing One Year No Beer was I wanted to strengthen my relationship with my mom. I didn't know how but that's my intention. Oh, my God. How incredible this experience has been, being able to spend time with them, and just refreshed this relationship because I think when you leave the house at such a young age and you only spend little bits of time here and there, you always revert back to the age you were when you left. I couldn't figure out like, why is it every time I hang out with my mom I turned into this 17-year-old that has tantrums? I don't have tantrums with anyone else. Why do I do this? This is hard. It's the thing that was bugging me. We have such a beautiful relationship now. I feel so close to her. I have so much understanding with her. I'm being able to spend time with my dad. There's a gift in this lockdown.

What's next for me? I mentioned that I started writing again in Guatemala. Initially, it started as a memoir of 20 years. I don't know if I've mentioned but I was a former roadie. I used to tour with rock bands, had all the adventures that go along with that, and had lots of crazy times all over the world. With my career, really just going after some crazy things, setting up businesses, and going after amazing brands to work with. This idea of the drinking, the men, the business, I started writing that. I came here with the intention that I was going to write this book. A couple of weeks into it, I got some advice from a mentor of mine. He's like, that's great but memoirs are cathartic. They don't necessarily help people. I was like, wow, okay. You're right. I've gone through this experience now. I have amassed all of this knowledge. I want to share that with people. I want to help other people.

Uncharacteristically, the thing that I know makes the biggest difference with people's anxiety, with the success in their business, which feels like they can live on restricted and live this amazing life, is applying productivity skills to yourself and your business. 

All of the productivity advice that I've seen out there, it just never resonated with it, but I was always really obsessed with how do I optimize myself, how do I work better in less time. I realized I could apply that to my personal life as well. If I apply that same discipline to making sure that I'm taking care of myself, actually I feel so much more free. 

It's things like time management, organization and structure, how to communicate with people so you get what you want, but also taking care of yourself. As an entrepreneur, it is so hard and so taxing to run a business. You set the tone for that business. You are the motivation behind that. So if you're not taking care of yourself, then you can end up burning out, getting overwhelmed, just losing your motivation, or stagnating.

I wrote a book around these concepts and then realized I can do more with this. I want to help people. I'm actually developing a coaching program that will take people through these frameworks. I'm super excited about it. I just want people to know you can live an unrestricted life. You can work better in less time, have a successful business. Rewrite success. You don't need to chase the million-pound businesses or whatever. We can have a life that we're really happy with and feel like we're thriving, but it takes a bit of discipline and it takes a bit of organization.

I'm a testament to that now. I want to help other people to do that. That's going to be launching in a month. Whenever I can leave Panama, I'm planning on moving to Mexico with some of my circus buddies. We're going to live in Tulum and just vibe off each other, these incredible women with their incredible practices of dance, fire spinning, mass making, or whatever. It's incredible to be in a position to now design my life and choose the people that I want to spend my time with, where I get my inspiration from, and where I actually live. The book probably will come out in the fall.

Jen: It's so exciting. You've literally just gone through this journey and just found out what you love, what makes you tick, what work you want to do, just helping other people improve. That is beautiful. We see that with people that come through what we've done and they come to a point where you are when you just smashed your challenge. 

What they want to do is just help other people. They realized that they want to help other people, improve their lives in one aspect or another, which is so beautiful because before they’re like, I had no idea. I didn't even think I like people. They were just so in this grotto of their own hamster wheel. They come out. They just want to help and improve. 

You have hit the nail on the head there as well. You're like, “I'm also going to live with my circus friends.” You're going to be able to do silks and all these amazing things at the same time, living the perfect life that you want to do on your own conditions. It's beautiful. Congratulations.

Athena: Thank you. I wish I would have realized this sooner because I was so good at the work stuff and I was so bad at the ‘me’ stuff. There's a link between the two. I think a lot of people, a lot of high performers, a lot of high achievers are in the group as well. It's super stressful running a business. It's super stressful advancing in your career. Some people aren't and that's cool. The escape from what's going on in your head and all this stuff you need to do can be so easy to go to booze for that escape. When you remove the booze, what do I do when I'm not working? I don't know what I enjoy doing. I cut out all my social relationships because I was always too busy to go to dinners. I stopped going to the yoga classes and the dance classes. I sat there like, what do I do now if I'm not drinking? That took up my time in the evening but that also killed the day or two with the hangover.

I have coached tons of entrepreneurs and I've worked with lots of businesses one-on-one. You can look at the business stuff and you can look at optimizing that. But often what I find is there's a lot of ‘me’ stuff that could be worked on as well. Just simply having better time management means you're not freaking out and trying to run all over the place all the time. There's an interesting study that shows people that are constantly late are actually trying to defeat themselves. It's simple things like that that you don't realize have such an impact on your mindset.

When you're constantly turning up late, you're showing people that you're unreliable, that you're selfish, and there's some belief in you that's making you do that. It's so interesting. I have so much to say about productivity which is crazy coming from a rocker circus girl, but I love it. I love the framework that it gives you. I think One Year No Beer is a great framework because it's discipline. It's doing something simple every day. You guys coach people through like, now start thinking about exercise and start thinking about this. When you do small things consistently, that's when your life really changes.

Jen: So true. We always have time to think about the big picture. We make it too difficult to even attempt at certain instances because we make it. We create thought, action, reality. That's what we do. I can't do that. It's just you.

Athena: You keep on too much. I had a little reminder pop up on my phone the other day from a couple of years ago with my New Year's resolutions. One of them was I want to start a morning routine. It made me laugh because my morning routine takes literally two hours now. I love my morning routine. There's a joke amongst my friends, our morning routines have just taken over a day. But you read all these things about successful people and their morning routines. It's two hours long. They do all this crazy stuff. You're like, oh, my God. That's way too much. But actually, the way I got started was I just started drinking a glass of water every day. I drank a glass of water every day until I just did it without thinking about it and then I added something else in. I'm going to make my bed and drink a glass of water. I'm going to do this.

It's these habits that we form over time. That was three years ago. Now I end up having a two-hour morning routine that if I don't do, my whole day is just messed up. It's all about starting straw and small. If I would have tried to do a two-hour morning routine every day that would have never happened, never, just really focusing on one thing that you can be doing and do that. You're going to feel so good when you give yourself that gift of not putting pressure on yourself. Just do this one thing and then you start feeling good about that. It gives you the motivation to attack more things.

Jen: It's amazing advice from Athena. Athena has a book coming out. You guys better watch out. She's got her website which is You can find her on Instagram @athena.simpson or @un.restricted. This is very exciting. You better keep us posted with that book because I think I'd love to revisit. I do redo with a podcast.

Athena: Oh yeah, I love that.

Jen: […] talk to you because you're just going to be in cool places all the time. I love Mexico. I might just be going to see you.

Athena: Come to Tulum. You can have fun with the circus girls.

Jen: I love Mexico but we’ve just always been on the south coast there […] I've always wanted to go to Tulum.

Athena: I'm so excited. It's so interesting. People are feeling called there. I just feel like a lot of people are going to end up coming. One of the things that are percolating in my head is like, oh, we can have a little retreat here and get people off.

Jen: Call me up. I'm your first client. I'll just give you a PayPal. I'll send it right now.

Athena: I'm going to get started on that […]

Jen: Awesome. Thank you so much for taking your time.

Athena: Thank you for having me.

Jen: Being such an amazing member and inspiring. To all the newbies out there listening to this podcast, I hope you get inspired by Athena. She's worked very hard. You can get to your happy favorite place, too. Again, what Athena highlighted is you don't have to become a circus performer. That's an awesome thing to do, but what makes you tick. That's what you should take away from this. Athena, thank you so much for being such a good sport with this podcast. You're awesome for sharing everything.

Athena: Thank you for having me. I'm really humbled that you wanted to have me on. Thank you so much.

Jen: To all your listeners, thanks for tuning in. We will see you back in the next episode. Bye from me. 

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