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When Did Discernment Become a Dirty Word for Female Entrepreneurs?


By: Ashley Walsh, Founder of Inner State and Co-Founder of Kimo Sabe

As a female entrepreneur, I am often asked how having children has affected my business. Through many different discussions, I’ve learned firsthand that many women fear that having children will “force them to take a step back from work”, particularly if they are an entrepreneur. Of course, I understand why they have this concern. 

As entrepreneurs, we are expected to be opportunists. We believe that we must accept all opportunities that come our way to keep our businesses successful, whether it be dropping everything to attend a conference across the country or moving an important appointment for a media opportunity that just “popped up”.  As a founder and co-founder, I realize that in many ways, our companies become like their own kind of “child”. They require patience, support, endurance, trust, hard work and endless amounts of love. We pour ourselves into them and it’s hard to imagine having anything left to give to actual human children at the end of the day. It almost feels like an “either/or” situation.

I’m not going to pretend having kids doesn’t change everything, of course it does. Before I had children, I felt I had to be fully available, which meant saying yes to every potential opportunity to advance Kimo Sabe. If I got a call, I answered and without hesitation, I said yes. That changed after my children came into the picture. My priorities shifted, while my love for Kimo Sabe never wavered, I also wanted to spend time with my sons. I wanted to be present for the things that were important to them, whether that be an after-school activity or simply being home at night to read them bedtime stories. So, I had to ask myself how I was going to be able to assess my priorites, my time and energy with my children and my businesses. This became even more apparent and vital when I founded my company, Inner State, and began as CEO. This time, I was not a co-founder with someone else to lean on in times of unexpected stress or hardship. This means the responsibilities fall on me alone.  I leaned into my new awareness and started to assess how to be a different type of CEO. 

I began building my emotional muscle to say “no”. I scheduled my days and weeks in advance. I let others know that I could not be as flexible as I previously was and would need to know about things in advance. But, above all, I changed my mindset that I was failing if I didn’t always say yes. While it’s sometimes been difficult, I’ve chosen to look at my change in priorities, which resulted from having children, as a gift. It has forced me to be discerning with my time and energy, and I genuinely see this discernment as a valuable gift.

I’ve found this to be an incredible strength. Now, before saying yes, I make an honest assessment of how this will help my company, and whether the time invested will result in a worthwhile result.  I’ve remained purposeful, but more resourceful by understanding I can’t be everywhere all the time. This is so applicable to a core issue within our culture of desiring immediate gratification. While constantly saying yes does provide you with a feeling of gratification that you’re moving your business forward, I think we sometimes forget how valuable our time is. 

Knowing that I have limits on where to spend my time has allowed me to take a breath, use that extra half hour and carefully think through whether these prospects are worth it, and quite often, I’ve found that they won’t move the needle in a meaningful way. Discernment is a skill, and it’s a benefit to me both in my business and my life. We need to change the belief that discernment is laziness in the world of entrepreneurs. Having kids and being forced to look at where my time is best spent, where it needs to go, and where I can say no has not only allowed me to keep my mental health and wellness in a good space, but to be there for my kids, and fortunately, it has not taken a toll on the financial health of my business. I have the utmost respect for entrepreneurs that operate the way I used to, because there is always a chance that an opportunity can prove to be far more valuable than it may first appear. However, that simply isn’t my reality anymore. Additionally, this forced time management has really forced me to delegate and hand things over to other members of my team instead of taking it all on myself. This has proven not only to make me a better leader, but to give my other team members opportunities to handle things I would have normally taken on myself, allowing us all growth.

I truly believe this is also just a function of getting older, whether children are added to the picture or not. As we gain more life experience, our priorities shift. We’ve learned from different experiences, and we begin to refine our goals and shift our attention accordingly. It reminds me of when a friend and I pitched a wine show to a large television network. We wanted to understand which types of wine our potential viewers would be most open to trying. While speaking to a variety of people, we noticed a significant trend. When speaking to people in their twenties, almost all of them reported being willing and open to trying all types of wine. They had only recently been legally allowed to drink alcohol and hadn’t formed a true preference yet. Those in their thirties had a different perspective. They had more experience trying wines and therefore, most of them had a flavor profile they liked and wanted to stay within that. Then, when speaking to those that were forty or older, we found that they usually had a solidified favorite type, a favorite area it came from, and even a favorite vineyard. 

As we grow older and gain deeper wisdom and understanding of what we like, we are then able to use that knowledge and apply discernment to protect our time and ensure we’re living a life that services our current purpose.  I’ve realized that just as adding a second or third child to a family does not equate to you loving the first child less, adding human children into my life has never changed my love or belief in Kimo Sabe or Inner State. Instead, it has stopped me from constantly feeling guilty about the time I may not be able to spend and am now able to view things through a more matured awareness of how I do truly take care of them, all four of them.


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