Jess Ekstrom Kahut Is Chasing The Bright Side
Jess Ekstrom Kahut is the best-selling and award-winning author behind the much talked about book, “Chasing The Bright Side”, and also the Founder of “Headbands of Hope”, a company that is celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year!
As an inspiring female author and business woman, Jess has taken the industries she is in by storm, and done it all by looking on the bright side and giving back whenever she can.
We caught up with Jess to ‘Chase The Bright Side’ with her.
What is the key to success as an entrepreneur and author you have found?
For me I discovered that true success is not about how far you can reach, but how far you can help others reach. It took me a few years to realize this, but if you base your success on your own achievements, it will never be enough. Now, I try to think of my life as less of a personal race to win but more of a relay to participate in. Eventually, I want to pass the baton to future generations and rest assured that I made progress for them during my leg of the race.
Tell us about your incredible book, Chasing the Bright Side....
Chasing the Bright Side was born out of the idea that optimism isn’t necessarily a mood, it’s a strategy. Sometimes optimism gets a bad reputation because people equate it to toxic positivity. But actually, optimism is about absorbing the bad so we can create the good.
I started Headbands of Hope with this idea that maybe small things, like headbands, can make a big impact. I didn’t have a lot of skill or experience (I was 19 and still in college!) but I had this rooted belief that I was solving a problem. That’s what Chasing the Bright Side is all about: training your optimism muscle so you can solve problems and create the world you want to live in.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part was removing the filter that I’ve used my whole life. We all have a filter or we compartmentalize stories and try to file them away in a folder that grows dusty. But when you write a book, it’s not about putting yourself in the best light, it’s about using your story to help people in their story.
Particularly Chapter Two was a doozy to write and it was a story that I had never told before. But I knew if one of the practices of optimism is about owning your story, then I had to do the same.
What do you hope people walk away with learning after reading?
I hope people walk away and understand that we can’t always control every experience in our life, but we can always write our story. And optimism is just about writing a good one.
Aside from your own, what authors and books are on your top reading list?
I loved Stop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves and Built to Belong by Natalie Franke. I also really enjoyed the style of Black Buck, it showed that you can still get a self-help message across by telling a fictional story.
What quote helps motivate you on a daily basis?
“We will never live in a perfect world, but it’s not silly or naïve to work towards a better one.” – Steven Pinker
I love this quote because if we set the bar so high for ourselves to end world hunger or solve everything, then we’ll never start. But if our goal is “better than yesterday,” then that’s something that’s attainable.
7. Will we see additional follow-up books in the future?
Yes, you will! I’ll have something for younger readers (I’m not allowed to release the title yet) on shelves in November.
8. You are all about giving back, which you do through your successful company, Headbands of Hope. Why is giving back so important to your mindset as a person?
I’m truly fascinated by problems, which is why I think I’m a serial entrepreneur, I love creating businesses to solve problems. And I think it should be an expectation of all businesses to make people’s lives better, and that’s possible in so many different ways. My personal belief is that if you can’t look back at the end of your life and say “I made something a little bit better” then what’s this all for?
9. What's next for your company this year?
This year is our 10-year anniversary, wow I feel old! But we have a really exciting partnership with the NBA and WNBA so expect to see some fun team spirit. But I’m super excited about collaborating with some of our patients who also happen to be very talented artists to create designs for Headbands of Hope!