Archetypal Woman Spotlight
by Mary Margaret Skelly
The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: I'm so excited to kick off the Archetypal Woman Series with a truly impressive woman, Nicole Sollberger. Nicole is just as practical and savvy as she is unafraid to evolve beyond conventional ideas of what's possible. A top-notch, UCLA-trained entertainment lawyer, Nicole is also an entrepreneur, having founded an astrological consulting business that serves Fortune 500 companies. Read on for her thoughts on astrology as a business tool, how the legal world needs to change, and the tangible workplace benefits of meditation. ~ Mary Margaret
This series tells the stories of creative women. Women often tell themselves they aren’t creative if they aren’t painters, or actresses, or into arts and crafts. But I consider you creative for the way you’ve navigated the corporate world. How do you express your innate creativity in your role as Corporate Counsel for Dish Network?
I consider one of the most worthwhile creative endeavors to be finding novel ways to eliminate dualities between the material and spiritual realms, and the divisions between various spheres of human experience. Especially as women, we often feel we need to hide the softer sides of our personalities in the workplace, or our creative or emotional expression. But if we are able to share these parts of ourselves in creative, rather than destructive ways, I believe it actually makes us better employees and leaders.
For example, my office is a very creative space - there are crystals, thangkas, essential oils diffusing, mantras playing. When I first decorated, people would stop as they walked by, some judgmental, but mostly complimentary. Now many of my coworkers regularly come by my office when they are seeking relief from a stressful day.
I have also offered free mini astrology readings at our business and legal retreats, which have had a great response. People are so much more open than we realize, and more hungry than ever for this type of information and experience. I believe much of creativity in the corporate world has to do with removing self-imposed limitations or accepted standards of thought and behavior.
Earlier in your career, you were in entertainment law. Is it as glamorous as it sounds?
Technically, I am still in entertainment law! Though now I am in the (even less glamorous) role of content distribution. Previously, I worked with a lot of big-name artists such as Diplo, ODESZA, Barbra Streisand, the Dixie Chicks and Neil Young. However, for an associate (rather than a partner), this just means I worked with the artists' managers and, if I was lucky, got to attend some free shows. Probably the most “glamorous” event I got to attend was the 2017 Grammy Awards.
There is a well-known Bob Donnelly quote - “Become an entertainment lawyer - touch paper touched by superstars,” which sums entertainment lawyer life up pretty well.
You are also the Managing Director of Selenic LLC, a consulting firm that provides strategic business advice using metaphysical tools such as astrology and numerology. It’s not well known, but powerful institutions have relied on astrological power days for centuries. JP Morgan is reported to have said, “Millionaires don’t use astrology. Billionaires do.” How can businesses benefit from astrology?
There are a myriad of ways that businesses can benefit from astrology. Astrology is really a tool of self-knowledge, evolution, and the maximization of potential. The most successful businesses are able to constantly evolve, and astrology helps to predict cycles of micro- and macro- trends and human behaviors on the planet.
Common sense as well as organizational research tells us that people perform best when they know why they are doing what they’re doing. Because each company has its own astrological chart, we can identify the company’s core evolutionary “purpose”, and sync up this information with individual employees’ drives, passions and skill-sets to best serve both the organization and the employees.
And you do not have to “believe” in astrology for it to be useful to think about your business in creative ways. Astrology challenges us to get out of status quo thinking, remove preconceived notions, and take an aerial view of things. It is agnostic to labels of “good” and “bad”, and so permits an individual or organization to look at all aspects of a situation without judgment. This is incredibly useful for strategic decision-making.
Some practical applications of these tools include choosing an optimal date to incorporate a business, launch a product or service, or make an IPO; synergistic assessment of potential mergers or new hires; market or location-based growth analysis; and team-building.
What kind of reaction do you get when you market your metaphysical services to traditional businesses? Do you think astrology will become a mainstream business tool in our lifetimes?
It’s already happening and fast. When I brought this idea to my friends and coworkers in 2017, they all said the same thing - you’re nuts, but where can I invest? Since then, astrology has exploded onto the mainstream, particularly in 2019, with a number of popular apps securing investment from major players in the VC and media spaces. The fact that no one has blinked an eye at me providing astrology readings for a Fortune 200 company in Midwest America is telling.
You went to undergrad at USC and law school at UCLA. Did you experience any culture shock when you moved to Denver last year? How important do you think it is for people to settle in the right geography for them?
From a metaphysical perspective, there are a number of reasons that geography is important. I felt the pull to Denver before I realized that my Chiron line runs right through it. We all have a number of connections to various locations based on our natal charts, and can identity and analyze optimal locations for various endeavors based on something called a relocated chart.
From a more esoteric perspective, there are certain “power centers” around the globe that contain vortexes or other generally-applicable energetic fields. However, you might be more or less impacted by these energies depending on whether or not you have any karma or past-life connection with a particular location.
Bringing it back to earth - I was surprised to find quite a difference in culture between LA and Denver. I was not expecting such a large shift in values from career-focus to family-planning and settling down. People come to LA with big dreams; people come to Denver to be close to nature while staying connected to the “real world”. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
That said, the startup scene in Denver is strong, much of which is centered on environmentally-conscious companies doing very interesting and important work in the world. The “down-to-earth” attitude has its benefits as well. In LA, people are often flaky because they are looking for what they can “get” out of any situation or person. In Denver, you can actually expect to keep plans that you make with people.
One of the most refreshing things about Denver is that it is a mixture of Red and Blue transplants. There are the oil and gas folks from Texas, a lot of Florida, Ohio, Midwest, etc., mixed together with the liberal Los Angeleans and New Yorkers. Everyone is pretty well-educated, and can connect over a common affinity for nature activities. You can actually have a conversation between a Democrat and a Trump-supporter not end in a shouting match, with both people learning something. Not so easy in the echo chamber that is LA.
The clarity of mind meditation brings is a distinct career advantage in this age of information overload. How does your meditation practice serve you at work?
In so many ways, but I think much of it comes down to efficiency and effectiveness. I waste very little time on things that don’t matter. For example, I have always been good at taking criticism, but after owning it with grace in the presence of the other person, I would internally beat myself up over the mistake for hours on end. That’s time spent at work which could have been used for finishing other deals or doing something else that I enjoy. Sometimes I feel that I am not working hard enough, but I’m just working smarter.
Because I am fulfilled and not burned out from spinning my wheels, I have the clarity of mind to do my job better - catch mistakes, easily find the most concise way to communicate an idea, help a coworker with a tough situation.
We’ve talked before about how the traditional view of a spiritual person is someone who is too pure for the real world. The stereotype is someone who quits the corporate job in dramatic fashion and becomes a psychic in Sedona, or a Tibetan monk. But you have been clear that you can help the most people by opting in, and by staying in your sphere of influence. How, specifically, have you made an impact?
I remember when I first got into yoga, I told my yoga teacher @caleyalyssa, “I wish I could just go up in the mountains and meditate and focus on my spiritual growth.” She told me, “that’s easy.” What’s difficult is holding this space that you’ve found in all of the hustle and bustle and complexity and “rub” of the physical world. THAT’s yoga.
To me, there is nothing more spiritual than holding the vibration of a yogi in relationship - in relationship to a business, to a culture, to another person, etc. You can work on your emotional responses all you want in a room with a therapist, but if you don’t test them against real people in the real world, how much are you really growing?
Being unable to handle the “real world”, or participating in the apparent separation between inner world and outer world is not a sign of spirituality, but of weakness or apathy. This goes back to the benefits of a strong yoga and meditation practice - you have to have the energy to bring to the situations that you will be faced with as a conscious human being moving through the corporate world.
Recently, my company instituted Keurig machines in our corporate headquarters. Concerned about the mountain of K-cup trash this could create for a company with 17,000 employees (even the inventor of Keurig has expressed regret at having made these machines), I was faced with a dilemma: speak up and risk some form of backlash (or discomfort at the very least), or do nothing and sit with the feeling that I could have done something.
Being that the yogic teaching is that it takes the same amount of energy to do the thing as to keep yourself from doing the thing, I chose the former. I emailed everyone in my group and on my floor offering suggestions for biodegradable and reusable K-cups. The response I received was overwhelmingly positive, including a thank-you from the head of our department.
Many employees wanted to talk with me about the ways in which they could reduce their environmental footprints. One employee worked with me and the facilities team to put up signs in front of the machines advising employees to consider the environment in their choice of K-cups. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with other employees working on environmental efforts behind the scenes so that we may pool resources and find additional solutions for making a difference.
If we’re not in the spaces where these decisions are made, how can we have an impact?
I understand law is changing rapidly to keep up with client demand for different billing practices as well as technology that renders some lower-level work obsolete, among other things. Are the changes you’ve seen for the better?
I am hopeful that these changes will eventually be for the better, but right now we are in the awkward and painful adolescent phase. The traditional law firm model is broken and sick. Prior to the heightened billing scrutiny by clients, BigLaw associates could just churn hours and this was good for the associate (making her hours, which means making her bonus), the partner (making her numbers), and the firm (making its profits). What has happened with the different billing practices and technology is an incredibly heightened amount of pressure on associates and partners, resulting in a lot of serious problems.
Many older partners like to play the “when IIIII was an associate” game and say that millennials are lazy. But when they were associates, there were no cell phones - when they went home, they got to go home and turn off. When they were associates, they had secretaries to do their time and non-billable tasks, whereas increasingly associates are expected to do their own time with clunky technology, and often don’t even have secretaries. Associates are also expected to participate in client development and recruiting efforts at a more junior stage, and are pressured by partners to under-bill because partners get dinged for “wasting resources” if the associate bills the actual amount of time it takes to complete a project and writes it off because they expect the client won’t pay. In my experience, these requests are more frequently directed at female associates.
And as secretaries are forced to take more and more partners onto their shares in order to save costs, the other thing female associates get asked to do by male partners is secretarial work. This is unbillable time that then results in women having to put in more hours at the office (agonizing over whether or not to mention that it is inappropriate, actually having the conversation and/or doing the actual work), in order to get the same amount of billable hours as men.
You combine all of this with extremely high stakes work, a culture that rewards sick behavior - cancelling important events with families and friends, drinking, taking stimulants, not sleeping, and the stigma against lawyers as “bad people”, and it’s no wonder that lawyers have a much higher rate of depression and suicide than the national average.
It’s a system that has to change, but it’s also exciting because there is a huge opportunity for innovation.
How do you measure success? When will you feel like you’ve “made it”?
I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve “made it”. That is, until it’s my time to go. I take note of each little victory along my hero’s journey - to me, that’s success. Being able to see how each so-called pitfall or tragedy has assisted in the culmination of some great achievement.
I’m in the process of creating a social movement called #porcupineproject, inviting the younger generations to write letters to corporations (or create art) asking questions about known practices that harm the environment, and offering solutions. Remember when CVS stopped selling cigarettes as “the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health”? If a middle school student’s letter could be the impetus for a grocery chain eliminating the sale of meat and dairy products as the “right thing to do” for the health of our planet and its humans, that’s the type of success I’m interested in.
But while I love business and career, the biggest achievement for me will be to have a successful and loving long-lasting relationship that supports me on this journey. So for me, I will know I’ve “made it” when I am on my deathbed looking into the eyes of my loved one and we can say together, “we did a good job.”
Nicole Sollberger is an accomplished entertainment attorney, with a J.D. from UCLA and B.A. in Communication and Music Industry from the University of Southern California. Prior to becoming in-house counsel at DISH Network in Denver, Colorado, she practiced at a top Los Angeles-based law firm, working with multi-platinum recording artists such as the Eagles, Fortune 100 companies, and international brands such as Red Bull. Nicole is also the Managing Director of Selenic LLC, a management consulting company that provides C-suite executives bespoke strategic business advice using metaphysical tools such as astrology and numerology. She is a public speaker, visual artist, published poet and journalist.
Find her on Instagram @raicharankaur.