I had the pleasure of interviewing Penny Locaso, founder of BKindred and the world’s first Happiness Hacker on a mission to teach ten million women and girls, by 2025, how to future-proof happiness.

Her passion lies in transforming lives and organizations, by humanizing the future and sharing how Artificial Intelligence and technology can be used to amplify human potential rather than replace it.

Penny has recently been acknowledged as one of the most influential female entrepreneurs in Australia, and is one of a very small group of women to attend Singularity University’s Executive Program at NASA Research Centre along with senior influencers from over 30 countries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Three years ago, I turned my life upside down. In a 7-month period, I left a 16-year career as an executive, relocated my family from Perth to Melbourne, Australia, left an 18-year relationship, and started BKindred. When I couldn’t find a global education company that could skill me to future-proof my happiness, I went out and created one. BKindred delivers world-class future ready education to corporations, universities and schools.

I advocate fear(less)ness and practice what I teach. At Level Up 2017, I was scheduled to deliver a keynote to one hundred professional women learning how to take their careers to the next level. I went viral on LinkedIn (50,000 views) and created a global movement after delivering that keynote in my bathing suit, to demonstrate the power of getting comfortable with discomfort.

In 2018, I created the YouTube series Future Proof TV, opening the doors to my global network of game-changers to provide future-proof tactics to curious minds.

Why did you found your company?

We’ve never been more technologically connected yet humanly disconnected, the rate of loneliness has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the mental wellbeing of our society is in crisis. Technological advancements are unconsciously impacting how we work and diminishing the uniquely human skills required to thrive.

I founded BKindred to teach the skills to thrive in an uncertain future. We provide real world education that amplifies human potential in the age of artificial intelligence. We believe in closing the inequality gap not widening it. We want to enhance the mental wellbeing of society not diminish it. By partnering with corporations like Booking.com, SalesForce, General Assembly, The Department Of Defence, Lululemon Athletica, Australia Post, ANZ, Medibank, Powercorp, and Melbourne Airport, BKindred is transforming lives and organizations by humanizing the future of work.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Through BKindred, I believe in empowering leaders and influencers with the knowledge and tools to thrive in an unprecedented technological era. Our thought provoking, no-BS approach to programs, workshops, and speaking engagements focus on future-proofing self and business by teaching the ‘how’ of impactful and meaningful change.

We keep our finger on the pulse, constantly evolving our programs to reflect the latest technological advancements, their impact, and the uniquely human skills required to thrive. Our programs about The Future Of Work provide a unique opportunity to re-conceptualise what work means and cultivate innovative environments and skills that create happy organizations and people. We help organizations leverage the technological age to create a thriving and inclusive culture.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My mother has been a huge mentor. As a child I resented her because she was never the “normal mum”, making my lunch or baking like all the other mums. She was always on the farm riding horses, building fences, and feeding animals. I was responsible for the household from age 11, preparing meals and cleaning as my parents were divorced and mum had to support three kids on her own. I now realize how amazing my mother was and is. She taught each of us independence and resilience. She told me from a very young age that I was capable of anything and would be loved no matter what. Equally, she has always done work that she loved even though she was born in an era where women were not encouraged to do so. She always said to me that normal is boring, and now I realize the impact of those words and actions on me today.

My Uncle Don was a doctor-turned-entrepreneur, who built large medical clinics in Melbourne long before they became a thing. He opened my eyes to the power of education, giving to others and challenging the status quo. Tragically at the age of 60, his influence took a tragic turn when his empire collapsed and he committed suicide unexpectedly. This very difficult moment made me challenge the traditional model of success (which I shared in a keynote entitled Fuck Success) and redefine it on my terms. It was the catalyst for shifting my life direction and creating a business that positively impacted the lives of others. Equally, it made me passionate about improving the mental health and resilience of our society.

How are you going to shake things up next?

We are challenging the world with the question, “If you had one hour dedicated to humanly connect? How would you spend it and with whom?”

On Friday, August 31, 2018 we celebrated #HumanHour — a global movement to encourage individuals, schools, and businesses to join us in switching off in order to switch back on humanly for one hour. This means stepping away from or switching off the devices and computers, and finding someone to humanly connect with. Organizations around the world have already pledged for #HumanHour, including Lululemon, Telstra, Australia Post, NAB, NOVA Radio, and more.

We have never been more technologically connected, yet humanly disconnected. The erosion of human connection has been driven by the way we unconsciously engage with technology. Through #HumanHour, we hope to shine a light on the need to address some alarming issues: Anxiety and overwhelm have reached epidemic proportions globally, and the rate of loneliness has more than doubled since the 1980s. 60% of Australians report feeling lonely often, according to loneliness expert Professor Holt-Lunstad. Just search #lonelyamerica to see how this disturbing trend is playing out globally.

Can you share the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?

“The more you share an idea the more it grows.” I have always loved these words, as so many people are afraid to share a good idea because they fear it will be stolen. I had an amazing woman my age at Shell who was a very senior executive that took me under her wing, and championed me in my corporate career. Around six years ago she shared these wise words, and I have lived by them ever since.

“Surround yourself with those who are smarter than you.” I was fortunate enough to work with Anne Pickard, who was the Chair of Shell in my time. I still remember the day she shared these words; the next day I took my change management work to the geophysicists and asked them for feedback. Something I had never done. I now actively seek out those who are smarter and very different from me to bounce ideas with. It’s uncomfortable but powerful. As I write this, I am at Singularity University at the NASA Research Centre in Silicon Valley learning from the world’s greatest Artificial Intelligence and tech innovators. I don’t know that it gets much smarter.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?

I have three that have fundamentally shifted my thinking and behavior this year:

1. Jeremy Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution keynote was sent to me by a collaboration partner who thought I might like it. I could not turn off the 1.5 hour long keynote on YouTube and have since watched it 3 times, referenced Jeremy in my Humanising the Future of Work workshops and shared it over 15 times with anyone who will listen to me. I think he is brilliant at helping us understand the past and how very different our future will be by connecting data, trends and human behaviour.

2. Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. A friend recommended Cal early this year when I mentioned how overwhelmed society appears to be, and my concerns about how our overuse of tech was over stimulating brain activity. I watched Cal’s Ted Talk on why you should quit social media and purchased his book immediately. I read Deep Work in a week and implemented the suggested practices to reskill myself in meaningful deep, focused work. I soon realised that I was working less, spending less time in my inbox and on my phone, and yet driving greater growth in my business. It totally worked, and equally it made me feel more in control.

3. Reid Hoffman’s Masters Of Scale Podcast. A friend again recommended this podcast and I became addicted. Reid is raw in his honesty and uses his unbelievable networks to help early stage entrepreneurs like me understand the fundamentals of leading and scaling a crazy idea.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Elon Musk. He has started a school for his five children, and as I understand it, did this off the back of wanting to ensure they had the skills for the future. My passion is to ultimately disrupt global education for children in order to adequately skill the next generation to humanly thrive in an unprecedented era of exponential technological growth.

I would like to learn from Elon’s school concept as a case study to inform a revolutionary school that focuses on human first learning. I’d equally like to bring Brene Brown into the conversation as her work on empathy and vulnerability would be so critical to skilling the next generation in learning to get comfortable with discomfort.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow BKindred’s work and Future Proof videos on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/pennylocaso/ , where I open the doors to my global network of game-changers to provide future-proof tactics to curious minds.

Originally published at medium.com