Carolyn Barnwell - Documentary Story Teller & Life Coach

Carolyn Barnwell

Carolyn Barnwell proudly wears many hats as a documentary storyteller & branded content video and audio producer (she has worked extensively for National Geographic), integrative life coach, voice over actor, and joy seeker. Not only that, Carolyn has been one of my closest friends since our time together at Middlebury College. I'm one of her biggest fans!


Describe your perfect day as a wildpreneur.
My perfect day starts with going through my self-care morning rituals and eating a healthy savory breakfast, followed by work that needs detailed attention or peak energy. I have deep, meaningful conversations with clients, an energizing workout to re-set my mind and body, and lunch outdoors. In the afternoon I take care of business upkeep, planning and production. I lose track of time when I’m totally engaged and focused. I end the work day feeling fulfilled that I served others well, and was able to use my intuition, creativity and logistical skills. My perfect day would continue with a family-style dinner with friends and laughter and a spacious view of the sunset. It sounds rather cliche, but I have had many days like this and they are absolutely wonderful so I plan to keep it up. :-)  

Is this work your passion? What keeps you motivated?
I am fueled by joy and gratitude that I get to do what I do. It fills my tank, so to speak. My tangible sense of possibility and freedom keeps me motivated! And, more specifically, witnessing moments of awareness, connection and the transformation of other human beings.

Documentary Short by Carolyn Barnwell for National Geographic

Did you make any personal sacrifices to get your businesses started? Any funny examples of living on a shoestring budget?
I knew deep down that coaching needed to be a part of my life from the time that I discovered the field in my twenties. I made a decision to do graduate-level coach training instead of going for another academic degree. Making a large commitment of time and energy with a globally-recognized and accredited program felt important to me. (Life coaching is an extremely fast-growing career nowadays, and it is like the wild west out there with plenty of people calling themselves coaches who don’t have any more training than a weekend webinar). It was the most expensive thing I have ever done, and totally worth the investment because of how I came to understand myself, relationships, and my place in the world throughout the training. I started a private coaching practice while still working in an office-based day job, which was... interesting. When the building I was in was renovated to become an open-office design and I no longer had an office with a door to close, I was scheduling my calls over lunch hour where I sat in an abandoned office in an unused wing of the building at a large empty wooden desk.

Learning to live on a shoestring budget makes you adaptable! I had a taste of the wildpreneur lifestyle right after college when I was conducting an independent research study abroad. I lived in eight different countries over a year on just $17k (excluding the price of plane tickets) by living with host families. There was a month I shared a room with three teenaged girls, one of whom was pregnant, in one of the most remote places in the world – the Polynesian island of Tuvalu, about mid-way between Hawaii and Australia. When I decided I needed a little more breathing room, I slept outdoors on a platform with the grandmother and ended up with head lice. I asked if there was anywhere in the country for me to buy lice-killing shampoo and she just laughed at me! (I ended up suffocating them by dousing my scalp in cooking oil and sleeping with a plastic bag over my hair and them combing them out in the morning. YUCKKKK!).  

What is the best piece of advice you'd give to someone looking to start their own wild business?
Starting is the hardest part. Think of everything as an experiment you can learn from, and take action. Then take another action, and build momentum. It doesn’t have to all be perfectly planned and strategized for you to start creating or to start making a difference for people.  

What do you wish you’d known prior to getting started?
If you’re too trusting you can get burned. Never start working with clients or on projects until you have a signed agreement and payment.

What’s your favorite part about being a wildpreneur?
I thoroughly enjoy that I can work from anywhere (with wifi or a cell signal) and that I have the flexibility to follow my natural ebbs and flows of energy throughout the day and week. Quite often, I don’t work 9-5 because I like to be active outdoors all morning, and then do focused creative work in the evening when it is dark.  

What was your inspiration to create your wild businesses? (you pick: your documentary storytelling, audio producing, integrative life coaching, and voice over acting)
Since my days of doing ethnographic research for my Human Ecology/Anthropology thesis in Thailand in 2005, I have loved interviewing other people and asking them questions that maybe no one has ever asked them before. After interviewing dozens of world-class explorers and scientists as a producer at National Geographic, I started getting curious about how to have conversations with people who don’t regularly go outside of their comfort zones like explorers, but who yearn to have more freedom, growth and purpose. How can I have reflective conversations that can change peoples’ lives? Bingo! That’s what coaching is all about.

Anything else you’d like to share about your journey?
I have had many entrepreneurial ideas over the years that are still just that… ideas. I have a whole list of web domains that are unpublished to prove it. Now that I’m in the groove of being a wildpreneur, I can’t underscore the best piece of advice I shared above enough. You can’t have any results from a good idea without action. You can start working on an idea as a side hustle or take the leap and jump in, all-in. I was too chicken to do the latter and now I laugh at myself for waiting until I felt ready. Of course I was never going to feel ready, it’s scary to take on a whole new level of responsibility for your life as an entrepreneur! There’s a quote which I unfortunately don’t know to whom to attribute it, but is so good it’s become the mantra for my journey: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Connect with Carolyn at www.carolynbarnwell.com