How to Become Bolder, Braver, and Better Paid with Klay S. Williams
How do ambitious people actually become bolder, braver, and better paid?
By making a contribution.
By committing to their life's purpose.
By risking their authenticity, even when there's only $500 in the back pocket and not much else, other than a dream.
This the story of Klay S. Williams, whom I met at a Dress for Success event in 2016.
Klay helps Fortune 500 professionals find their true purpose and satisfaction in four areas of life: Career, Relationships, Spiritual Lives, and Health. He's the founder of Plan A Enterprises, LLC, a full services lifestyle firm. He's also an author, speaker, and host of Plan A Konversations (the podcast) and Bookstr Wellness, a new digital TV show showcasing authors in the mind-body-spirit space.
Full Episode Transcript
Hi! Welcome to Episode 48 of Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I’m your host and coach, Jamie Lee.
Today, I have a special guest, my friend Klay S. Williams of Plan A Konversations.
You know, you meet one of these people who have become bolder, braver, and really better paid by making a contribution, believing in themselves, and taking courageous action because they are committed to their life vision and their purpose and Klay is one of those people.
And as you will hear when I was listening to his story, even though I’ve heard them before, I was just blown away. And I think it’s really inspiring and he sets a really powerful example of what is possible when we set our sights high and commit to becoming bolder, braver, and better paid.
So, please enjoy and I will talk to you soon. Bye!
Jamie: Hi, Klay!
Klay: Hi, Jamie! How are you?
Jamie: I’m doing great. How are you?
Klay: I am well, thank you.
Jamie: Nice, nice. So, let’s get this conversation started!
Jamie: I always ask my guests to tell me about a negotiation in your life or career that had the biggest impact on you. And I define negotiation as a conversation with the intention of reaching agreement.
Klay: Interestingly enough, this is a kind of ironic level of negotiation in terms of reaching an agreement, based off of intention. When I was in fourth grade, I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and I don’t know if you are familiar with the big drug boom that happened in LA, Chicago, and Detroit during the 80s but I was a part of that sort of period in time and we lived in a really great neighborhood and, all of a sudden, a drug house appeared on our block.
Klay: Right? Yeah. And so our next door neighbors, I went over to go get them to play after school, and their grandmother came and said, “Hey, they can’t come out and play because our street’s no longer safe,” and that was foreign to me. And so I asked her why and she said because there was a drug house and I was like, oh, okay.
So I went back home and I said to my mom, “Okay, I need you to get me the white pages, an envelope, a letter, and a stamp,” and she said, “What do you need that for?” I said, “If you give me this, this will help us with the drug house that’s on the block.” She was like, “Oh, okay,” and because I was really an eccentric kind of kid anyway, my mom didn’t think anything of it.
And so I wrote the mayor of Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young, a letter explaining to him the drug house that was on the block and I told him that me and my friends, who can no longer come out and play, we all got very good grades in school and if you want us to continue to get good grades in school and support us, could you do your part in making sure our neighborhood is safe and get rid of this house?
Klay: Jamie, it was like maybe four weeks later, we were riding our bikes across the street and of course we had a little safe zone because of the house and there was a SWAT team that came on our block, raided the house, and the drug house was no more.
I get a letter, maybe I think three weeks after that, and it was from Mayor Coleman Young thanking me for my tip and asking me if there was any other space that was preventing me and my friends or anyone else I knew from playing who got good grades, so we would make sure we kept our end of the bargain up.
Jamie: Amazing! What did you learn from this experience?
Klay: I learned that, in terms of the negotiation part of it, that there’s a lot of give and take. What is it that I was doing that I could use as leverage as a little kid in terms of the contribution to the world and to the space and what it was that I wanted to get out of this? But also knowing how could this benefit, you know, not only the city but other people around me?
And so that really taught me kind of what it was like to negotiate in the sense of a really roundabout way but it gave me a sense of being able to know that my power and my words and my contribution really matters.
Jamie: Amazing. And that also reminds me of your leadership! How you stepped into your leadership even as a little kid. You realized, I have a voice, I have power, I have the ability to communicate to the people who are in a position of authority. And I define leadership as creating solutions in the best interest of everyone and you created a solution that was a win-win for you, so that you can continue to have good grades and play outside, and for the community.
Klay: Yeah, that really set the basis as I moved on in adulthood and really thought back, wait a minute, let me comb through my past and see where are there other scenarios where I’ve been confronted with a challenge. How did I get myself out of it? And that literally, I think, was the foundation for how I would then approach any level of risk-taking, any level of leadership, and just courage in general.
Jamie: Alright, so let’s fast-forward. How did you apply those lessons in creating Plan A with Klay?
Klay: Well, interestingly enough, I was in grad school at Princeton Theological Seminary and I was working at Polo Ralph Lauren to offset the cost of grad school. I ended up getting a promotion to a manager, I was just a sales associate, and I was also, of course, getting my master of divinity across the street. And people started to come into Ralph Lauren not just to shop but to talk to me about their life issues and problems.
Mind you, I never told anyone that I was obtaining an M.Div. I kept my life very separate. And while I was having these wonderful spiritual awakenings and epiphanies at the door of this luxury brand service and not so much on campus at Princeton, I said to myself, “There has to be a way that I can juxtapose my love for nurturing the interior with image consulting the exterior,” and Plan A was sort of born from that in a Starbucks coffee shop in Princeton, New Jersey.
And while I was toying with idea, okay, how am I actually going to make this happen? And I said to myself at that point, “You’re gonna have to take a risk,” and I remember I had turned down so many wonderful opportunities because it wasn’t the perfect fit after graduate school.
Klay: I ended up moving back to Detroit, Michigan where my parents were at the time and was just trying to get my mind together. I literally was a monster all of that summer because I knew what I really wanted to do but I did not tap into that courage that I had or that level of risk-taking, that level of leadership to even just say, “Klay, go ahead and go.” And so….
Jamie: And create this newfangled thing!
Klay: What’s that?
Jamie: And to create this newfangled thing that’s never existed before.
Klay: Yeah! Yeah and after, literally, Jamie, accepting this position over the summer. I had another luxury gig from my old boss at Ralph Lauren. I ended up going to New Jersey, I walked into the store, a sense of claustrophobia came over me, Jamie, and I returned the relocation check.
I went back to Detroit, Michigan. I said, “Sit down, Klay, you know what you want to do in your heart of hearts. You need to muster up all the strength and courage and take a risk,” and I moved to New York City with $500 and began this company.
I couch-surfed for a little bit, maybe close to a year. I called maybe 12 or 14 different friends and said, “Hey, can I crash on your couch maybe once every other week? You know, if there’s a time where I may need a meal, can you support me?” And then you know, asked them again, “How can I support you in exchange?” And so Plan A was born from that experience.
Jamie: Wow. So what helped you become bolder and braver than before? Actually, the question that I really want to ask is what made you decide and commit to that vision?
Klay: Good question. So, during that summer of me just being so incredibly unhappy because I was not living to the vision or the purpose that I had in mind, I knew that I would have to create what I wanted it to be. I was talking to one of my friends, Inger Parker, and I talk about her in all my books and my talks and things like that. And she said to me, you know, I said, “Well, if I just had x amount of dollars, then I can move to New York City. If I just x amount of relationships with this particular company or that network then I could do this.”
And she said, “You know what, Klay? It’ll never be perfect. It’ll never be exactly how you want it to be in order for you to move, so wait, you’re gonna wait until you’re, wait, 30, 45, 50, 60, then the grave?”
And when she said the grave part, there was something inside of me that said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to be that person. I do not want to be that individual who has spent their whole entire life wishing, shoulda, couldas. I want to live to the highest expression of who I am as a person. I want to expand my mind and I want to really give this a shot. It’s something that I really believe in. I know that I can do it.” And that conversation, literally, was the impetus for me packing up my car and moving to New York.
Jamie: With $500 in your pocket.
Klay: With $500.
Jamie: Yeah. My father did something very similar. He packed up his life in South Korea and he was like, “I’m just gonna go to America. I’m gonna make it work.”
Klay: Yeah. Yeah. I’m gonna make it work. And I think there’s something inside of people who decide to do that where they feel like it’s perhaps a life or death scenario. Where if the vision of what you truly have is what you feel you’ve been called to do, there is no, I mean clearly, there’s no Plan B. I mean, that’s the whole reason why the work I do is called there’s only Plan A because that’s what I feel purpose work is at the core.
Jamie: Wow. So what changed for you as a result of that?
Klay: I’m sorry?
Jamie: What changed for you? What was the transformation you created for yourself when you stepped into that vision and you were like, “I’m gonna execute on this vision, I’m gonna live my purpose?”
Klay: It’s really interesting because I became bolder, I became more authentic. This was also a point where I was forced to face anything that I shoved in the closet and for lack of a better word or expression, I literally came out of the closet. I discovered during this whole period of time that I was gay. And by me deciding to go on this adventure, anything that I compartmentalized, anything that I did not want to face all came running to me like the floodgates had just opened.
Klay: And I think I was the Universe’s way of saying if you want to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you have to make sure that you are as authentic as the voice that you are speaking out to the world. Can you get beyond just speaking this level of jargon, but can you actually walk the walk?
Klay: And from that experience, I kid you not, like the sexuality piece came out and made me a better person. Anything, my relationship to money shifted, my relationship to other people shifted, any area that I felt inferior, I was faced with these things all within that first year. Me not wanting to ask for what I need. Me not setting boundaries with other people and then getting mad at them for…
Jamie: I think your story is going to be so inspiring for many people who just wait for the opportunity to be who they really are, who want the circumstances to line up so that they can speak up and stand in their own power.
Jamie: Yeah. And I love that you mention the money relationship because, as you know, a lot of my listeners, we, including me, we want to become bolder and braver so that we can be better paid.
Jamie: Yeah. So what, if anything, helped you become better paid? And I’d love to hear a story!
Klay: I have a great story for you. One of my...I had just changed my pricing matrix and I landed my first, one of my first Fortune 500 clients and she had this incredible epiphany, this incredible service and she ended up leaving corporate America and matriculated to her calling and passion and she enrolled the school of midwifery at Yale. She said to me before she left, “Hey, Klay, do you mind if I take you to brunch?” And I was like oh, okay, great!
And so we ended up going to brunch, she goes, “There’s a reason why I wanted so sit down with you,” and I was like, “Oh, okay” and I was like, okay, maybe she’s gonna give me some feedback that I need to hear as a coach or something maybe has transpired in her life and she said, “Take this the best way possible, but your prices are too low,” and I go, “Wait, what?”
She goes, “Klay, you have too many high touch points, you have such great quality and a level of transformation. The things that you gave me, I kind of felt that you gave a lot of things for free that were, could have been add-ons.” And she goes, “I’m glad I got in now, but you need to double your prices.”
Jamie: Do you mind sharing what your prices were before and what became after?
Klay: Right, right, so at that point I was charging $3500 for this monthly package that I was offering and after that conversation I literally start, my prices start at $10,000.
Jamie: For like a series of coaching?
Klay: For an extended service.
Jamie: For like how long a package is that?
Klay: Oh, got it, for the monthly Plan A interval package, is what I call it it, it’s a 30-day intensive.
Jamie: You’re charging $10,000 for a 30-day intensive?
Klay: She said to me at that point…
Jamie: Wait, wait, wait! So that’s almost triple the price!
Klay: Yeah! Yeah. And if I did not have that conversation with her, I would not have been, I don’t know if I would have said to myself, okay, you’re worth this amount of money. Maybe something would have happened later on but hearing it from a client who not only saw the value in it but also would pull me aside and said this is what I really think you need to charge.
And the good thing about it was she was in financial services, so she helped me map out, during that brunch, a pricing matrix that made sense for me and also for the level that I wanted to be at.
Jamie: Amazing. What I love about this story is that it was your client. It was your client who clearly saw the value of your contributions and you obviously had over-delivered many times over, right?
Jamie: And so you got the clear signal, you got the permission slip from the person who charges you. That’s really incredible.
Klay: Yeah. And I had never had that kind of experience happen before. I had people who were really satisfied but not to the point where they were like saying, “Let me help you out in this way by telling you that you’re undervaluing yourself.”
Jamie: Yeah. And I just can’t stress it enough that, you know, you first over-delivered and I think that’s so key. I was just reading this quote from Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich…
Klay: I love that book and that quote! Go ahead!
Jamie: Yeah. And I’m gonna paraphrase but, basically, the person who does more than she is paid for will get paid more than she gives…
Klay: Yeah! And it says give more in use value than cash value. And that literally, and Jamie, this is crazy synchronicity, me and my marketing and business officer this morning just used that as a conversation point in our meeting for our 2019 goals. It’s so true, it’s so true.
Jamie: Wow. Amazing. I find this incredibly inspiring and wow, so what has happened since then?
Klay: Let’s see. So, since then, I’ve moved into a new building and, again, just started asking for what I want, utilizing my networks and that kind of thing, but so my offices are down in the Helmsley Building in New York City, one of the oldest historic buildings in all of New York, which has been such an incredible blessing.
Jamie: That’s near Grand Central, right?
Klay: Yeah! Uh-huh. Really, another great opportunity has come, like I’ve now set it up where media informs the business development and business development informs the media and so I’m hosting a show called Bookstr Wellness. I’m a regular guest host on Bold Television, which is a lifestyle brand, and I also have my own podcast as well and so, from that different business opportunities have just really been sort of skyrocketing.
Jamie: Wow and you are living the dream. You’re living the American dream, you know?
Klay: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that because I was just having this moment before the Thanksgiving holiday and I was just thinking to myself, I have so many more big, big, big goals and big dreams that I really want to, you know, accomplish but at this point in life I was just thinking, “Thank you, Universe, because I am everything that I have always wanted to be at this point.” And that in itself…
Jamie: Can I just interject here and make a plug for that podcast you did? Thank you, More Please. Please everyone go and listen to Klay’s awesome podcast. It’s short, sweet, and so powerful. Thank you, More Please. It’s about your approach to abundance and the grace with which you receive that abundance.
Klay: Yeah. Yeah. You can’t do anything without it. You really can’t. And just being grateful in the muck and mire of the busyness and just wanting someone to see you and understand your value and all your hard work. It literally is just this vehicle that I believe that prepares and propels and just sets you up for continued success.
Jamie: Yeah. So, what advice do you have for ambitious people? And ambitious people are listening to this podcast and they want to live a life like yours, authentic, real, abundant and making their dreams come true. What advice do you have for people like that who want to lead with purpose and authenticity?
Klay: I would say, again, first, to set boundaries with other people. I found out through a lot of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, good and bad times that your relationships and literally the people who surround you can either be your biggest advocates or they can be people who are pulling you down from accomplishing whatever those visions or those goals are. I cannot stress that enough and as Yvonne and Luvvie say from the really cool podcast Jesus and Jollof, they always say on your glow up, when you’re coming up, be cautious of who you spend your time with because that could really be a deterrent.
I would also say ask for what you want, what you need and what you feel that you deserve. And a lot of times, I kid you not, my biggest breaks have come by me being very persistent and also not being afraid for asking people for what I want. My very first spotlight, television, was on Fox 5. I literally, Jamie, I harassed the national news advisor until he literally said to me, “Okay, okay, I have 15 minutes at like 12:00. Can you call then?” And I had my elevator pitch ready and I pitched to him and I had my first spot with a viewership of over 5 million people in New York City, right?
Klay: And so make sure you’re persistent in your goals. And the third piece of that conversation is you have to be very clear and authentic in who you are as a person. Anybody, no matter if you’re selling a product, if you are the product, people who become your clients or who are your clients, they can see through anybody that’s just completely faking it. If you are not who you say you are, you know.
And last but not least is, one thing I do wish I would have done a little bit more diligently and on purpose with intention was enjoy the journey. I spent so much time working incredibly hard where I missed so many holidays, I missed friends’ weddings, I’ve missed just hanging out with people and it’s been a long, long, long journey to just really be able to be at this point. But I do wish that I would have enjoyed the process a whole lot more and so, if you have that additional 15 minutes to spend with a friend over coffee, if you can get to that holiday with mom, dad, or whomever, be conscious that that time is also important.
Jamie: How long did it take you from that moment when you arrived in New York City with $500 in your pocket...When was that?
Klay: 2007. The whole idea started in 2006 at a Starbucks in Princeton and the day after Christmas is when I arrived. So this Christmas will be 13 years.
Klay: It has been every bit of a journey and, you know, extreme, extreme hard work and perseverance and faith and risk.
Jamie: Yeah, so, I’m on a similar journey. I’m…
Klay: Of course you are!
Jamie: I want to learn from you, Klay. I want to learn from the book of Klay here, so what do you do when you feel like giving up out of fear, out of the scarcity mindset? I call it the Itty Bitty Shouldy Committee, you know, the voice in your head that says, “Who do you think you are? You’re not good enough.”
Jamie: What have you done that helps you overcome those moments of doubt and fear and anxiety?
Klay: So there’s two things. The first part is that I’m the kind of person that when I have the vision in mind, I discount every step along the way. So, yeah, I’ve partnered with Deepak Chopra. Yeah, I have all this wealth of media experience. Yeah, I’ve had a desk side with a producer at CBS and all these incredible things. I will discount all those things, well, I haven’t arrived at the vision!
So what I would do is I would literally start to go back in my emails and go back to my vision board that I have and what I do is star everything that I’ve accomplished and all the things along the way. I will go back and give credence and give a special level of gratitude for those things and say, oh, wait a minute, I actually have accomplished a whole lot!
You know, because I think somebody like me who’s very ambitious, who has a very strong Type A personality and who is literally at my core just a hard worker, when I don’t feel that I’ve arrived at that end goal, I forget everything else that I have accomplished. And so going back and remembering those short-term goals and those mid-level goals, it always brings me out of the funk.
And then the second part of it is too, fitness, movement and exercise has become my therapy. When I get into a funk or a space of oh my gosh, I’m starting to panic or I’m starting to get that scarcity mindset, I’m like, okay, Klay, have you moved today? And usually the answer is no. And so after this interview, I have my training session that I go to and I think people have to figure out for themselves, for me, therapy is my gym schedule.
People have to figure out what their outlet is for them. I know a lot of clients that I have, they’ll do, you know, there’s an art project. Some will go for a walk. Some will bake. Some will, you know, do arts and crafts. Some will color, there are adult coloring books and things like that now. Or they’ll reach out to a mentor. But whatever that thing is, that has to be on your schedule and you have to do it daily. It literally will, if not annihilate, it will lessen the burden of resistance that inevitable will creep in.
Jamie: You have to develop yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and it is a practice for you, a daily practice.
Klay: Yeah. Absolutely.
Jamie: Amazing. So where can people go to learn more about the work that you do, about Plan A with Klay and more?
Klay: Yeah. Okay, great, so I’m on all of your favorite social media by the exact same handle of @planawithklay and they can also go to my website klayswilliams.com and just for your listeners, Klay is with a K.
Jamie: Amazing. I’m so happy to have you share your journey to becoming bolder, braver, and better paid. I appreciate you Klay!
Klay: Thanks so much, Jamie! Thanks for this time.
Jamie: And have a great one!
Klay: Alright, you too. Bye bye!