This year has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs across the country and abroad. Many people have faced hardship because of or aside from the pandemic. The stress we’ve had on us, though, makes it important to find something, no matter how small, to help better our mental health.
Sydney Weiss, a California-based lawyer, found self-empowerment with the creation of her podcast, Seek The Joy Podcast. As the host and producer of the podcast, she promotes self-awareness and vulnerability and aims to help listeners find their true selves to bring happiness and stability to their lives.
Seek The Joy Podcast brings together a community where individuals can share their life experiences and inner strengths to help better themselves and those around them. Weiss shared her journey with us and what led her to inspire countless others who struggle to define their voice.
Young Hot & Modern: When did you realize that starting a podcast was your calling?
Sydney Weiss: In 2016, I graduated from law school. About a month before, I had shingles at age 25. I had one health problem after another. The big cherry on top was not passing the California Bar Exam. That moment was like my rock bottom because I based my whole life on external things like my success. My self-worth was wrapped around that. I had to pick myself up and have a conversation with myself that this was not sustainable.
I went through a nine-month journey, without realizing what I was doing, by changing the way I spoke to myself and the way I operated in the world. By the time I sat for the Bar Exam for the second time, which was December of 2017, I came out of that experience as a totally different person. I approached the exam differently; the way I spoke to myself was different. I was proud of myself for how I felt and how I approached the problem.
I had this moment around September 2017, so I wanted to start a podcast to connect with other people who had similar experiences or wanted to open up and be vulnerable. In two weeks, I had the idea for the show and recorded the intro a few weeks later.
YHM: What do you enjoy most about the podcast?
SW: I enjoy the opportunities to connect. In the last three years, I published around 175 episodes. I had over 100 conversions with inspiring people like entrepreneurs, authors, and people in the wellness space. Any time I have an opportunity to get on the phone with somebody, talk to them, and learn about their story, it is what I love the most.
I also love the community that has built itself around the podcast, and the friendships and relationships I built from all around the world. The show is extremely vulnerable, and not only because of the conversations that we have. I share so much of myself and my life, and sometimes it can be scary to be vulnerable in that way. The community and the connections that have come as a result has been one of my favorite parts.
YHM: You mentioned that you strive to give your authentic voice, and to do so, you must be vulnerable. How did that process make you feel?
SW: To be vulnerable, you have to know yourself, your voice, and your experiences. I learned to connect to that authentic voice we all have by doing a lot of inner work. The process of getting to know yourself asks questions like: Why do you think this way? Or why do you feel this way? What have you stopped yourself from doing out of fear? You can begin to understand your voice, which allows you to come from a place of authenticity because you allowed yourself to get to know yourself.
In truth, I was terrified the first couple of episodes because I never heard my voice on a podcast before. I went from someone very insecure about my voice to owning and embracing it. The process of stepping into that vulnerability has been an adventure and a leap outside of my comfort zone. I think it has been the best thing that I have ever done. We’re all in a process of continual learning and growth, so knowing that we all will continue to change makes it easier.
YHM: What has truly touched your heart during this journey?
SW: I will never forget the first time somebody had reached out to me and sent me an email. They said, “Hey Sydney, I also didn’t pass the bar exam the first time. Listening to you talk about your journey and how you learned to base your self-worth on your kindness and empathy versus external things like success helped me shift into a new mindset. I sat for the exam again, and I passed. I just want to reach out and thank you.”
I will never forget when I received that email. It blew my mind that sharing my story could positively help somebody else. It affirmed that I was doing the right thing, and I was sharing what I was supposed to. It continues to touch me when strangers reach out because of something that I created and put out into the world.
YHM: What is one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of Seek The Joy Podcast?
SW: As the podcast has continued to grow over the last three years, what has been—not so much as a challenge—but an opportunity for me is to make sure that every conversation I have and every person I bring on the show aligns with the Seek The Joy Podcast mission. Regardless of what you do, you always have the opportunity to talk to many people. But making sure the conversations provide a space of inspiration and joy means also making sure that it is still grounded in what is happening in the world.
For example, with COVID-19, everyone is talking about it because it is a big part of our lives. It would be easy not to focus on the pandemic because it is stressful and anxiety-producing, and instead solely focus the podcast on joy and positivity. But I found it is important to talk about the challenges of COVID-19 and quarantine, as well as highlight what is going on in the world. If we can find our joy and our ability to connect through, and despite, what is going on in the world right now, we come out of that stronger. This is a connector and something that we all have in common. It is also an experience that is individually unique. Being mindful that everyone is having a different experience is important, and it is something that we all have to remember.
YHM: How do you plan and decide on the content for each episode?
SW: Usually, most of the content is planned two to three months in advance. When quarantine and protests for Black Lives Matter were at the forefront of conversation in the summer, I decided to have conversations that shed light on what was going on. I understand that life is full of dualities: we have joy, celebration, and hope, but on the other end of that, we have frustration, grief, and turmoil. Figuring out how we can hold both in our experience and live with them simultaneously, for me, has been meaningful. I often shifted my content in the moment this year, so I could have conversations on the show that touched on what was currently happening.
It was powerful to have those conversations this year. I learned so much, and I was able to share that with my audience. I think it is essential to share our perspectives, but there is also a time to be a listener. This year was important for me to become a listener and try to help open and provide a space for conversations that I don’t necessarily have to be at the forefront of. It is important for everyone to share their personal experiences and to think about the role they play as individuals within those conversations.
YHM: What do you hope someone would take away from listening to and interacting with Seek The Joy Podcast?
SW: I hope that the biggest takeaway from listening to the show is that there is room for everyone here. We all have different experiences. We’re all on this journey towards our growth and our empowerment. There is always self-love and connection, but with that individual journey, there is also a collective journey. I hope that anybody who listens to the show would feel that sense of community and belonging.
Joy can be found in coming together and sharing who we are and what connects us. Also, as much as what connects us, there are always things that divide us, too. The ability to still come together and find commonality is fundamental. While we experience a lot as an individual, there is so much we experience as a community.
YHM: How do you define joy?
SW: Joy is individual and unique to everyone. Joy is this perfect blend of what lights you up, makes you feel alive, and allows you to feel hope and develop resilience. There is a season for every emotion. Part of joy is knowing for yourself that it’s okay when you don’t feel joy or experience it daily, but also not allowing yourself to stay there for too long. We can often be hard on ourselves if we aren’t able to stay optimistic or hopeful. You can seek out joy when you are ready because it’s always there. It’s individual to you. It is empowering to define joy for yourself, to find and seek it out on your terms.