Chris Castillo is the Founder and Coach at Empowered Achievers, a company that helps driven millennials take ownership of their careers. She is a trained facilitator, a Certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner, and CTA certified coach. Castillo was voted as one of the Best Millennial Career Experts by PeopleMaven. She also wrote articles for Thrive Global and featured in several other publications.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in the SF Bay Area, about 45 minutes outside of the city. I was blessed with a pretty amazing childhood, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

One story that comes to mind is that after my first week of kindergarten, my teacher remarked to my mom at pick-up, “she sure has leadership potential”. It was a joke in my family for years afterward, as it was my teacher’s nice way to say that I was a little bossy as a kid! As funny as it was, I did take the lead, and that was something that followed me into my corporate life. It’s not really any surprise that I’m a business owner now!

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

That I have to live for myself, not for others. For years I was focused on doing what was successful on paper (the things that made my family happy, society happy, etc). Eventually, I learned that success only feels fulfilling if it’s based on YOUR definition of success. That really rocked my world. Now I work with clients to teach them this same thing and help them define success for themselves.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

There are a lot of career coaches who focus on assessments as a way to help their clients get clarity. They administer the tests, compute the results, and voila…an “answer” about your perfect career! I am strongly against this approach for 2 reasons.

A test is only going to be as clear as you are. They rely on you being self-aware, so if you’re inconsistent, it may not give you the right answer for you.

I’d argue that thinking of clarity as “an answer” is your biggest problem in the first place! If you think about career clarity as a math problem to solve for, you put A LOT of pressure on it. Plus, that assumes that there only is one answer and once you find it, you’re done. What I think, and what I try to impress upon clients, is that clarity is about turning inwards and uncovering your own needs for a fulfilling career. That simply can’t be done by a test. You know yourself way better than any test could know you.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I lost my mom to cancer when I was 26, and it was without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. As Robert Frost said, though, “the only way out is through”, so through I went. It was awful, but in the end, it taught me a valuable lesson: that life is short, so I’d better make the most of the time I have. This “aha” drove me to start my business, Empowered Achievers, in 2016.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

I think the biggest thing would be authenticity. In the world of coaching, I feel like there’s a lot of people who practice toxic positivity and have this kind of “I know everything” approach. I think what my clients really appreciate about me is that I’ve been exactly where they are, which is why I get the experience so intimately. It’s frustrating! At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that careers are a messy, imperfect process, and all we can do is make the right decision for ourselves in any given situation. I think that authenticity about the situation and my willingness to be real enables them to feel heard.

What is your morning routine?

I have a baby and we’re in the midst of a pandemic without childcare…so this varies. Roughly, though, I wake up around 7, make breakfast, journal and plan out my day, move all of my tasks into Asana, and then get plugging along.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Blocking my time and honoring my boundaries has been transformational. This was something I struggled with for years, especially once I started my business. There are truly an endless amount of tasks you can do as an entrepreneur! Once I got pregnant with my daughter, though, I knew I needed to do a serious overhaul of my calendar. I started blocking off my time for tasks, setting a cap on my number of client calls per day, and began being fiercely protective of my weekend time. This was so helpful and allowed me to better serve my clients. When I’m “on”, I’m on.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I plan out my day each morning, blocking off time for the tasks that I need to complete. When I have a lot of little things on my plate, I occasionally use the Pomodoro method to stay focused on task sprints. Really, though, a lot of this comes back to being mindful and not trying to over-stuff my days.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

My most highly recommended book is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. This book taught me about the concept of a growth mindset, which completely changed how I look at the world around me. As a high achiever, this is a transformational lesson that I think of often.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

One quote I love and come back to often is, “the grass is greener where you water it”. I think this is such a nice reminder and reframe, as we can get so focused on the lives of others that we stop focusing on our own.