Laura Di Franco is the CEO of Brave Healer Productions, an award-winning publisher for holistic health and wellness professionals. She spent 30 years in holistic physical therapy, has 14 years of training in the martial arts, and has authored 10 books. Her company has published over 60 Amazon bestselling books with a global community of over 1000 authors who are waking the world up to what’s possible for healing, one brave word at a time.

Show Highlights

Your healing journey begins with living, healing and Taekwondo.
Leverage the wisdom in your community through expert collaboration tips.
Get a daily nap with ‘Awareness Practice’ to pause quickly before burnout.
Mindful body awareness is key to rejuvenation for your entire body.
Top 3 ways to boost your holistic health.
Overcoming the practice of ‘not feeling’ and speaking with your body.
Respond to life instead of react with Box Breathing and Sound Healing.
“People can shift, never at their expense. You’re just not going to do any kind of good in the world if you don’t start with yourself. I’ve got this favorite mantra. I love having enough time, energy, money, and resources to generously take care of myself and everyone I love and serve. I had to come first. And so when I have all those things and I’m feeling good and I’m taking care of myself, then the overflow is what I’m serving from. I never have to, like, tap into the reserves.”
- Laura Di Franco

Dr Chris Jones

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Read the Transcript here.

The Power of Awareness

Thanks for hitting play. If you love exploring how to do school differently so you can make a legendary impact on your campus, then you’re in the right place. I’m Danny Bauer, and this is the better leaders, Better Schools podcast, the original Ruckus Maker podcast for visionary leaders, innovators, and rebels in education. Thanks to Ruckus Makers just like you, this podcast ranks in the top 0.5% of over 3 million worldwide shows. So once again, thanks for listening. In today’s show, I spoke with Laura DiFranco. We cover topics like the importance of cultivating the wisdom found in your community, how body awareness can make you a better leader, and Laura’s top three ways to boost your holistic health and, we’ll get on with the main conversation in just a few short moments after we hear some messages from our show sponsors.

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That’s what we’re creating at TeachFX, teachers record audio of a lesson and then they receive an AI powered report with instructional insights such as, how much are my students talking? How much am I talking? How can I use wait time or questioning to create space for my students to learn out loud? Learn how Teach FX could help your teachers get students talking. Visit teachfx.com/ruckus. Question: would you serve your own kids the same food you serve your students in your cafeteria? Now? Quest food management services elevates the student dining experience, serving scratch made meals using high quality ingredients that are sourced locally and responsibly. Now that is food you can be proud to serve. Learn more about quest food management [email protected] or follow questfood on social media. Welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

This is exciting. You’ve got a lot of cool stuff to share with the Ruckus Maker community. I’d love to start with an idea about a book about being a black belt. And so what’s the story there?

The first book I finally decided to write was published in 2012. But the story is better actually, than the fact that I published that awesome book. And it goes something like this. My son, when he was five and a half, was kind of looking for something for him to try out, just to socialize, make some friends. And we couldn’t really find anything. We decided one day to go watch a Taekwondo class together. So we watched the class, were coming out and I looked at him and said, so you want to do it? And he looks up at me and he says,’ I’ll do it if you do it, mom.” And six years later, we earned our black belts together. He was eleven. He was the youngest in the school. We were the only mom son team in the school to do that, to have that accomplishment together. And I finally had my book because I had been avid journaling all my life. But through those six years, I looked at that and I’m like, whoa, here it is. And I wrote about living, healing and taekwondo all about my journey as a mom and a healer and a martial artist and somebody who wanted to help other people with the healing journey. So there is that story. I love telling that story. It makes me smile. My little dude is 23 now, by the way.

Are there mom’s son taekwondo tournaments or anything like that?

That’s a great question, because when we started together, it was through our YMCA, so it was a family program. We could do our practice right alongside our kids. And when it came time to do sparring, which in our school was full gear, full on, they match you up appropriately. If I was sparring my little guy, I was doing it with some self control. But competitions were also age class and male female so it was just appropriately matched. But we both went to competitions together, and we did pretty much everything together.

Is it true that when you become a black belt, you have to register your hands as lethal weapons? Or has that just been a tall tale that somebody’s told me?

I think that might be a bit of a tall tale. No, my hands, actually, it should be my feet. Really? You really want to know the truth? I can land an axe kick on your head. That should be licensed. My foot.

All right. The foot is what to watch out for. I think a buddy of mine who was a black belt in some martial arts told me that in college, and it was probably bravado in ego and being a macho dude. I had to ask because you’re a black belt. You have a lot of wisdom, and I’m curious how you curate and how you share that wisdom with the world and really share your legacy.

Well as a publisher, books are a legacy business. And when I decided to start sharing kind of out loud, I was actually in my first career as a physical therapist. I did that for 30 years, and I started blogging every day. I was teaching clients, sharing my wisdom about mind, body, soul healing, helping them get to their goals and peak performance. But I started blogging because I wanted to educate on all those topics. And I was sharing, I don’t know if you’re going to call it wisdom, knowledge, education, all the stuff I had learned that I wanted people to know. And then writing blogging turned into that book I just told you the story about, and I kind of just never looked back from there. I am a 13 time Amazon best selling author, so in those books, I really am just trying to pay it forward, share stories, share strategies, and help other people. I get to leave my legacy. Like, that is pretty cool.
I teach, I’m online but My favorite way is writing.

Without going through a masterclass of your system and that kind of stuff. But for the Ruckus Maker that’s listening and maybe he or she had an idea, like poop and like, whoa, how do I leverage the wisdom in our community? What might we do with our staff or our students? What’s some expert guidance you might offer the Ruckus Maker around that?

Our specialty around here is an expert collaboration. My jam is collaborating. So when you say the word community to me and how do we do that? I’m like, okay, get everybody in that book. I’ve been producing and publishing those kinds of collaborations now for several years, and what I feel is a much bigger energy. We need all the voices. If you are there with a community and everybody is contributing their stories, their wisdom, their strategies, the way that you get from here to there, you have a master toolkit there in front of you. There’s a bazillion ways you could do it. A book is just one way. Y’all have seen online summits, you’ve seen workshops where they’re collaborations, panel discussions on topics. Oh, my gosh, collaboration all day long. It’s magic.

Yeah, it really is a beautiful thing. And my bread and butter has been connecting isolated school leaders who want to innovate. Make a ruckus in education. And that community collaboration piece is really that’s the secret sauce. It’s just creating that container, and the people are the magic within it. We provide tools, resources, whatever, but it’s really us being together.

And don’t you think too great leaders help you step up as a leader, and then you have all these people around you who are speaking up and sharing, and the power there is, I think you’re ten xing the power and the energy and the value of that when you can help people step up into their own brilliance.

But I think you’d agree, to be that kind of leader, you need to be out of an abundance, sort of like energy and mindset and that kind of thing. And there’s a saying that I always share. You can’t pour from an empty cup. There’s no overflow there. And one of the challenges in school leadership that I see, we might even call it, like, an enemy that I have in education, but it’s really a mindset servant leadership’s great. And we should be servant leaders, but not at the expense of always putting myself last. I’m just wondering what type of thoughts you have on that and how.

People can shift, never at the expense. You’re just not going to do any kind of good in the world if you don’t start with yourself. I’ve got this favorite mantra. I love having enough time, energy, money, and resources to generously take care of myself and everyone I love and serve. I had to come first. And so when I have all those things and I’m feeling good and I’m taking care of myself, then the overflow is what I’m serving from. I never have to, like, tap into the reserves. Listen, do I get there sometimes? I have tired days and I have to regroup. I have to reset. I have to be aware enough to pause like, oopsie, it’s getting a little low. And feeling that inside of your body is a really great thing, that awareness practice, so that you can pause quickly before you head to burnout levels. It’s important.

Natural to you. Was that a skill that you learned or.

I don’t think anybody has that natural to them. I think there’s a whole generation of people that learned that they needed to serve everyone else first. That service was what made you worthy and good and all those things. So we didn’t have great models. I don’t know anyone who had a really great model of self care. I did have really good models in terms of parents who kept themselves pretty healthy. They were athletic. I kind of want to say that the athletic model was the model, but in terms of mental, physical, and spiritual overflow, always going. I kind of had to learn that one the hard way through and into becoming an adult and figuring it out.

What helped you learn it? If you’re willing to share?

I chose healthcare from high school. I was one of the lucky ones who decided to be a physical therapist. When I was 16. I heard somebody come into our career center and we could go sign up to hear different professionals. And that day was the physical therapist. And I left her so stoked. I was so inspired by what she was talking about because I’ve been an anatomy geek my whole life, too, okay. And I wanted to learn about all that. And so, yeah, I chose that early on. And I think I’m so grateful that I got to learn about everything, got to start to educate. And once you know a few things, I mean, you kind of have to take care of yourself because you know better. So you know better, so you better do better. I had to be my own model for my clients, first of all, my kids, too. People around me. I think I was pretty lucky. I got to start that off real young.

Nice. What works for you in terms of keeping your energy up or keeping your cup full, you know?

So nowadays naps are a success strategy, y’all. Naps are a business success strategy around here. But I hope you can tell from. From who I am so far here. I like to laugh. I like to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re going to start to tank really quickly. I love being with people like you who can have a good time and have a great conversation and not take things so seriously, but at the same time do really awesome work in the world. That is the biggest thing for me. If I get to laugh every day, I’m energized.

I love that. That’s why I have that rule number six over my shoulder here, if you could see that. But the rule is don’t take yourself so damn seriously. And when people ask, well, what’s the other rules? There are no other rules. That’s it. That’s the only one. If you can live that out you’re probably having a lot of fun. And that doesn’t mean you can’t take the business of school seriously. The outcomes, what we want to do for our communities and students, that’s serious business. But that doesn’t also mean you need to take yourself so seriously. And you could just think you were talking about models of people who take care of themselves. Unfortunately, it’s probably true of many industries, but I know education principals have some of the lousiest models.Some of the unhappiest people in the world can be educators and certainly school administrators. If you think of that stone face.

I know that face. I know what you’re talking about.

It’s amazing that anybody ever wants to be a principal. And then the other thing that gets modeled so poorly in, like, the terrible advice, first in, last out. You don’t have to be first in, last out. That’s a very old fashioned way of thinking about work, and it’s just stupid, to be honest. And what you need to consider is how do I create value and compress the time of creating value and outcomes for my community? Because if I could do in 1 hour what it takes you to do ten. Right? I’d rather work for 1 hour and take it. And then take a nap. A nine hour nap.

There’s a lot of things you made me think of. Probably the most basic important thing to me, and that is just your own awareness practice. I don’t like to use the m- word meditation. I want everyone to meditate though. I want them to know that it’s rejuvenation time. The time that you take to just pause and take that big pelvic bowl breath and be in your body and relax and be aware, even if you’re doing the dishes or correcting a paper or whatever you’re doing. The time you take to be here now in the moment of sensing it, is probably the most important practice ever that you could begin to help yourself.

I’m glad you brought up awareness practice because I know, like some of the folks that might critique this episode, they’ll say, well, what the hell? I can’t take a nap at school. And the answer to that is actually, maybe. I don’t know it depends on the system and it depends on the trust you’ve built and that kind of stuff. But let’s say in general, I probably can’t take naps. As a school principal, however, you can have an awareness practice. You can get up out of your office and I know you go to classrooms where you could take walks around the building, get in nature you can do other things to pause so that you’re replenishing and so that’s super important. Can you dive a bit deeper into like what awareness practice and the m.

Word means to you and you’re making me want to go there a little bit deeper for that scenario that you just talked about. Because think about this okay, if you have a stressful job and you’re walking around and you’re dealing with people and you’re doing this and you’re sitting or standing, whatever physical positions you have to do, there is a mental thing going on. And what that can create is literal contraction. Physically, you may not be aware of parts of your body like the jaw or the fist or your low back, your core, or anywhere in you that the mental stress is turning into a physical clench or bracing flight even.

But what I want people to be aware of is the amount of energy and toll that takes if you’re going to do that for eight or 10 hours a day, that racing against the frustration, the anger, the annoyance, the whatever that is that we’re feeling during the day when we have to deal and do our job right. So what if your awareness practice allowed you to actually unclench the physical bracing, even though you’re having maybe a stressful time or day or whatever? Maybe you could be so aware in the moment you were struggling with that task or that conversation, that the deep breath coming into your body was able to relax, and then you could actually be a better listener. And when you weren’t taking it on. I think that’s the biggest gift we get when we practice awareness, no matter what we’re doing. I do it when I’m driving. I multitask my awareness practice with every single thing because I know if my back is tight, oh, gosh, I’m going to have a problem after a while.

It’s the sense of being inflexible versus flexible. And just think about the Ruckus Maker listening. Think about your body presence right now. And, if you are clenched, whether it’s your jaw, let’s say your fists, keep it simple. Those two places which are pretty common when you’re stressed out. Imagine somebody who has an issue and they need your help, and you’re. Your body is showing that, versus one with open hands, a relaxed jaw, maybe even a smile, like, who’s approachable? And if you’re wondering because I actually had a call with a principal who’s up here in New York by me, reveal the name. But many of us can relate to this. On the inside, he knows how much he cares about his staff and how much he wants them to succeed and how approachable he wants to be. But his outside often manifests as surly and unapproachable. There’s a mismatch there. And that’s where an awareness practice can really help turn that frown upside down. Let’s do something about that and you can enjoy life and work more, too.

Definitely. I think we should add body awareness because you can be aware of your thoughts, but then you’re stuck up here all day long above your neck. And you forgot you have the rest down below your neck. And a lot can be going on down there. Right. So body awareness is actually, I think, one of the keys to living an incredible life, no matter what your goal is. I think some people don’t even know the face they’re making. They aren’t in their body. They’re in their head and thinking all day long. And it is making the outsides look tense, tough, angry. A lot of that,

And if you’ve ever received from yourself, what’s wrong with you today? Well, your body is, your face is betraying you in some type of way. Laura, I’m really loving our conversation. We’re gonna pause here just for a second to get in some messages from our sponsors. When we return, I’d actually like to revisit this, like mindful versus body full, and maybe you can. Yeah, give the Ruckus Maker listing a sense of, like, how do I, even if I want to become aware of my body, right, I get it conceptually. How do I do It? Let’s answer that question. Teachers love the support that IXL provides in the classroom, and Ruckus Makers love it as well because IXL also gives school leaders meaningful insights into every level. Put your finger on the pulse of student performance via the IXL dashboard or drill down to see progress and growth for individual students. You can even customize reports to hone in on the information that matters most to you. IXL helps Ruckus Makers make data informed decisions that will benefit their student growth goals. Get started [email protected]/Leaders.
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We’re back with Laura DiFranco. And we’re just talking about being mindful versus being bodyful. And that we’re not just these heads separated from our bodies floating around in space. But conceptually, if I get it, how do I become more aware of my body and what’s going on? What works for you and people you help?

I was talking earlier about being one of the lucky ones to start the physical therapy career as young as I did. But I was also an athlete, so I was used to and loving being in my body a lot. I played soccer and I ran, and I did all these things with my body. And I love to explore peak performance. So I think, can you define it literally means feeling. I’ll stop there feeling. It literally means, what do I feel right now? So if you’re sitting, listening to this interview, maybe you’re sitting, maybe you’re standing. I don’t know what you’re doing listening to this. Let’s say you’re sitting. You’re going to feel the pressure of your body on the chair surface right now. Gosh, we had a huge snow. I’m cold in this room. I’m feeling that in my fingertips. I can feel my sweater on my skin in certain places. You can feel the clothes on your body right now, the temperature in the room, you can feel, actually, if you’re breathing shallowly or not. And that probably made everybody take a deeper breath just now. I win. If you can come into your body to notice what’s up, what am I feeling right now? And most of the people on the therapy table, they may say, well, nothing. I don’t feel anything. And I’d be like, I think you probably feel this blanket on top of you. And they go, oh, yeah. And so they don’t even, like you said, they don’t even know what feeling means sometimes. Is that what are you sensing? But then we can go a few layers further, because your body, your intuition, that connection to something bigger, the source where messages and inspiration come through, I notice it in my body. If something is a yes for me or a no for me, I know it because I either get constricted or open, my posture literally changes. So that’s why I love talking about body awareness, because I think it’s a key to a lot of things to help people feel better.

Got it. Okay, so simple definition, just feeling.

Feeling is healing. And most of us have been taught not to feel. Most of us were told as a kid, oh, you’re fine. Get up. Oh, you’re fine. Don’t cry.

Rub some dirt on it.

And so we take that into adulthood, and we’ve actually practiced not feeling. So a lot of the time, that is a struggle. Gosh, what do I feel right now? And I love to have people make a simple list on a notebook, two columns. What is a yes like a good yes in your life? Feel like in your body? Open posture, smile on your face. Warm, nimble, flexible. What does a no that feels bad feel like in your body? Like even a situation that you’re in. Well, cold, contracted, tight, a knot in my throat. Chokey. There’s literal body sensations, and you can write yourself a cheat sheet, and you can begin to recognize that yes or that no in your body. Your body speaks to you all day long.

I can see that being super beneficial, too, as you’re navigating the complexities and challenges of a stressful job like school leadership, and having that awareness. And I think that would help you be. I know it would help you be a lot more proactive versus reactive in the moment as well, because you could shift. You can make changes when you notice.

And that’s powerful, what you just said. That’s a huge deal. If I can respond to life instead of react. If I can. If I get to choose with awareness, I get a choice. If I can choose what I’m saying instead of something spewing out of my mouth without me even.

Why did I say that?

Exactly. That is powerful.

You’re onto something there. Again, Ruckus Maker listening. If you’ve ever thought that. Why did I just do that? Or say that again? Okay, let’s start to wake up. Let’s start to be more aware. We had a live event last July in Denver. It was great. It was tremendous. I had my friend Ruth come out and she did some body awareness stuff and some holistic health type of things, too. I didn’t know how it was going to land. To be honest with people. But the rockets, they ate it up. They were like, give us more. I just want to open the door in terms of, like, holistic health and what you might share with the Ruckus Maker listening because they are in a demanding job. They are schoolier, they’re responsible for so much. And yeah, do you have any tips and tricks, things places you might point them to take that holistic health to a new level for them?

Why they ate it up is because they felt alive for a moment. Because anyone who can bring you into this sacred vessel, you walk around all day long in and have you feeling again, you’re gonna like, oh, you want more of that? There it is. There I am. But a lot of times we’re a little bit afraid to go there. This is probably a much deeper conversation for another day. But if anybody has any amount of trauma and they have decided not to feel it as a defense mechanism, then that’s going to be a tougher shell to break through. So to answer your question, dabble with breath work, y’all, because it’s the fastest, easiest, right in the moment thing you can do anywhere. And no, it doesn’t have to be loud enough that anyone gets to hear it. There’s quiet versions you could do right now. And then you could take that and you could go with it in so many different ways. But stress relief, the box breathing, google that, you guys. Box breathing for stress and anxiety. Oh, my goodness. Profound. And then my next one, I got three great sound healing.

Sound healing.

Sound healing. Go find my friend listening to smile.com and listen to some of his beautiful binaural beats or healing frequency. Sometimes if you just have five minutes and just put your earphones in, do a little breathing with the music, it’ll be instant. And then number three, write a journal. Get that therapeutic journaling going on and just feng shui your soul into your journal and shift the energy like that. You can burn it later, you know.

You can. And that could be powerful in itself. Bbox breathing. Sound healing. Check out smile.com and journaling. Did I get those correct?

Listening to smile.com is my friend Ian Morris. I’ll give him a shout out. Ian is such an awesome guy. Yeah. Breathe sound. It’s frequency. It’s sometimes sound healing makes me feel washed from the inside out. Just it’s one of my favorites. And then journaling is again, so easy. You can do that almost anywhere. If you need a little outlet.

And if you’re in Ventura, California, shout out to Joe Clausi, he’s Ruckus Maker. And his partner Amy, she has a yoga studio. But I know they do some sound healing stuff over there. Too, so just figure it out. I forget the name of the place, Joe. You’ll have to tell me. We’ll put it in the show notes. But anyways, there we go. That’s super cool. All right, well, I can’t wait to hear how you’ll answer. But, Laura, if you could put one message right on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message be?

Teach warrior love. That takes love to another level. For me. I want it to be vulnerable, and I want it to be the focus.

Got it. And let’s talk about your dream school. So, Laura, if you were building your dream school, you had no constraints in terms of resources. Your only limitation was your ability to imagine what would be the three guiding principles building this dream school.

Love this question. Our elders would be a part of it, nature would be a part of it, and having experiences that have nothing to do with. I was going to joke and say math, but I know some of your teachers probably won’t like me saying that it would have nothing to do with sitting in a chair at a desk listening to a lecture. So is that. Did I break your rules of that?

Definitely not.

Yeah, it would involve our elder storytelling. It would involve nature, and thirdly, it would involve experiences during the day where I could move.

Got it. Well, this has been lovely, Laura. I’ve enjoyed our time together. We covered a lot of grounds. So of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Oh, take that deep breath. Let that be your door into your body as often as you can, and that will take you to the next step.

Thanks for listening to the better leaders Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker, how would you like to lead with confidence, swap exhaustion for energy, turn your critics into cheerleaders, and so much more? The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world class leadership program designed for growth minded school leaders just like you. Go to betterleadersbetterschools.com mastermind, learn more about our program, and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk about how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a BIPOC only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to betterleadersbetterschools.com mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Bye for now and go make a ruckus.



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Quest Food Management Services

Quest Food Management Services provides high-quality, scratch-made food in K-12 schools and universities across the country, prioritizing the health and wellness of students and elevating the cafeteria dining experience. Quest offers a full-service approach to their school partners, bringing 40 years of expertise through every stage of program development and nurturing a true sense of community through interactive events such as student food committees. For more information about Quest Food Management Services, www.questfms.com

IXL is the most widely used online learning and teaching platform for K to 12. Over 1 million teachers use IXL in their classrooms every day for one reason: They love it. Visit IXL.com/Leaders to lead your school towards data-driven excellence today.

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