Elaine Dinos Thrives in Cycles
She's the CEO of a company that trains leaders to listen to Nature and embrace a slower path
Hello Elaine, and welcome to the Womancake interview! How is your workday going?
Oh, my workday is going well, [it’s] never just a workday. Life tends to find its way in the midst of work. So I tend to weave in and out of one or the other, but it's been a nice balance of work and dipping into life, too.
Sounds great. Will you talk a little bit about your current role and what you do with your organization?
I'm the founder and CEO at Kindred Lane. I founded [it] back on International Women's Day, March 8, 2018. Kindred Lane gets its name from the path that we go on, a path of purpose, a meandering path, a path through the woods, if you will, that is really about connecting with kindred spirits and community, and pursuing a path of growth amidst nature. Essentially, what we do is work with people on everything from personal growth, to leadership growth, [and] we work with leadership teams, helping them grow. It's really about long-term sustainable regenerative growth and holistic leadership. It's not about extracting all the value out of people and burning them out. We actually work with people who are either recovering from burnout, or who are investing in their teams, because they know that, you know, it's good for business, and it's good for the planet, and it's good for society when people are thriving.
It sounds like you and I have something in common, which is that through our work with clients we have perspective across multiple sectors and industries. When you look at the future of leadership in the workforce in America, what are you most concerned about, and what are you most inspired by?
I spent most of my career in a large public company, executive recruiting, leadership advisory, working with C-suite leaders [and] executives across a broad range of industries and sectors. I'm the type of person who is always connecting the dots. There were trends, and I would constantly scan to see the trends as they were coming. I loved being on the forefront. I built a purpose practice [after] seeing more of the mainstream kind of purpose-driven companies, and how that intersected [with] my own personal passions for doing something good in the world.
[There is] this theme of really trying to balance the demands of work and achievement that many people are pursuing, and we've kind of bought into this story of, Here's what you do: you go here, and then the next step, and the next step, and the next. Just being ready for the next step. That's how traditional school environments are. We kind of are on this path of just go, go, go, go. The hamster wheel gets faster and faster, but we mainly stay on these paved roads that are kind of laid out for us. At some point people are picking their head up and saying, Okay, I'm exhausted. What is this all for? Why are we doing this? And it's happening earlier and earlier. It used to be that previous generations would work towards their retirement and legacy, [then] start asking those questions if they had the luxury to. Now we see millennials and younger generations like demanding that now.
I think with the advances of technology, and the capacity of AI, and how much is possible with productivity, it's requiring humans to be that much more mindful of why we're doing what we're doing. There are tons of studies just showing the extent of corporate burnout and C-suite leaders, not to mention staff across the board. But I think we're realizing that we're not machines, and that we actually are more like nature. I hope that we realize that the more we connect with our human nature, the more we can thrive, and really be leaders who are guiding a future that is desirable, and not just what's possible.
Well said! The theme of our current issue of Womancake is, “Life-Changing Books”. Will you share one of yours?
I have to give a first nod to Brene Brown, because I've read just about everything she's written, but “The Gifts of Imperfection” was the first book of hers that I read. It was like someone was telling me all the things that I'd wished to hear, and never given permission to let myself off the hook. All the things I thought I was supposed to do and be, but she made me realize [that] I don't have to keep this charade up, I can just be real. I read this [other book] right before the pandemic, “The Choice” by Eva Eger. She's a Holocaust survivor. It was one of those books about the choice that we have. We can't choose what's happening to us outside, but we can choose how we respond to it. I come back to, Okay, I have this choice of how I respond to it, I can't control the external circumstances, trying to grow a business while also having three kids at home during the Pandemic, for example. But I have the choice of how I respond to my attitude. If she got through what she went through [during the Holocaust], I can certainly get through this.
Do you have any daily wellness practices or habits that are meaningful to you?
On my best days I get up and have time to meditate and put music on. I have a breathing practice. I'm a certified yoga instructor, but I don't really I don't teach yoga. I use the practices, the breathwork meditation as part of the toolkit that we equip a lot of our leaders with. But for my own personal practice, I love to light a candle and journal and just sit with an intention. The biggest thing is to take a breath and slow down. A lot of it really comes to just slowing down and checking in with yourself, and a lot of that just as possible when you breathe. So constantly coming back to my breath is a daily practice, but I just love wellness practices and I am always suggesting and trying out new practices for myself and suggesting them to clients or friends, [like] jumping in and doing a cold plunge, which I do not do every morning.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure treat?
I found these chocolate truffles that my mother-in-law gave me, they're so good. [But] if I have chocolate three days in a row then I have to have chocolate every day. I'm constantly trying to break the habit.
How does wisdom manifest for you at this stage of your life?
Our whole methodology is called, “The Wisdom of The Forest”, and a lot of that came from my own personal experience of reconnecting with nature, and these deep realizations of how much wisdom we learned from nature, when we connect with it. We have a lot of tree metaphors and a lot of our content is inspired by nature, and helps people reconnect with their own true nature, and then also nature around them. So nature is definitely a place, and then also [with] my kids. I feel like when I'm open to it, I'm constantly gaining insights from my kids that then show up in my work in different ways, or my own habits. I feel like they are more evolved than we are as humans. There's some really special practices that they've shared, that have formed some of the work we actually share with leadership teams.
What is an aspect of your character that you've grown to love, and one that you still struggle with?
Something I have grown to love [is] the whole slowing down piece. In high school I realized I could take the SATs untimed, because I had an auditory processing problem. What I realized is that when I take in information, I need to sit with it, and really marinate with it, and then it has more of a meaning. So this idea of slowing down and not just giving a knee-jerk reaction is something that I've come to appreciate about myself, but I think I had some coping mechanisms about quickly [getting] an answer out.
I love beginning projects. I'll have phases where I'm creating a lot at the beginning, and then I have to go and really schedule those times where I am implementing and tying up the loose ends [of] the last 10-15% of a project, or the last 10-15% of cleaning out the drawers in my house. The beginning is where I get my energy and then when I am more well resourced I work on the last [part] of something.
Will you share something about their perimenopause or menopause experience that would be helpful to someone who's going through it?
I’m not quite in perimenopause. I think my mom was 45 when she went through menopause, and I am just a few years before that. I know for me personally, just with balancing my own health and hormones and having thyroid issues, that I'm constantly managing my energy. I've unfortunately realized that alcohol and I don't like each other that much, and I feel so much better when I'm not drinking alcohol regularly, which is hard. I don't drink a lot, but every once in a while I'll enjoy a drink, then I'm reminded Oh, right, this doesn't work as well. For me, sugar is the same. I have a friend who does some great work around syncing your cycle with nature, and there's so much wisdom that I find, just in general, of honoring the cycles of nature. [It’s] this idea of slowing down to actually go where you want to go, and to have more of a vibrant life, to thrive, right. So I try to follow those principles, and I know that those will continue to serve me.
You know, I've interviewed some medical professionals for Womancake, and all kinds of coaches related to perimenopause and menopause, and across the board they all point to increasing studies showing that alcohol is processed in the female body very differently from any other gender, and it's becoming clear that it’s just not a great choice during this time.
I think, in general, we're not in a practice of listening to our bodies. My body gives me a lot of information. But sometimes I want to ignore that it doesn't like sugar, or even coffee that much, it doesn't like gluten, it really doesn't like dairy. When I'm actually listening to it, my body likes to sleep a lot. My body [also] needs to move every day.
Mine, too, and it functions so much better when I do those things! Lastly, will you share a current movie, podcast or TV show that you’re currently enjoying?
I took my kids to see the movie, “Wonka”. It's adorable, it's so fun. Yes, it totally makes you want to eat chocolate. But for some reason, that's just front and center. I think the theme of what we've been talking about is slowing down listening to your body. Just not pretending that you can keep up the rat race. I gave up heels long ago, heels and running with two kids and trying to get the kids into daycare and then get to work. I was exhausted before work even started just by wearing the heels. So just knowing what you need and honoring it has been a big theme, and I think it took me a while to actually surrender to a place of enjoying motherhood because I always felt like, I'm supposed to be doing more work, I'm supposed to be doing more here and juggling that. So a lot of that has been my own personal journey. I think sitting and enjoying that movie with my kids is a moment of just being really present and also enjoying [the memory of] “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” as a kid.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You can find Elaine at her company Kindred Lane.