Dr. Kathy Gruver is a health and wellness expert who specializes in stress, mind-body medicine, mindfulness, meditation, and nutrition. She’s an award-winning author with five books, has lectured around the world, and in your spare time, what do you do, Doc?
Kathy Gruver: Trapeze and hip-hop dancing.
David Brower: I saw that. That was my next thing. I’m going … First of all, welcome. I’m glad you’re here.
Kathy Gruver: Oh, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
David Brower: You bet. So, one of the things that fascinates me about guests that I talk to is either where they’ve been, what’s their story that helped get them to where they are now, and they’re in a place to pay it forward, and all those fabulous things, or what is their experience outside of their professional thing. And I interviewed a lady this morning who wrote a book, a dating book, it was just freaking hysterical, but she is a … She used to be a national figure skater, and now she’s a professional hockey coach.
Kathy Gruver: Wow. That’s cool.
David Brower: And then I saw yours, and I’m going, “Flying trapeze and hip-hop?” I’m on a roll with my guests today, man, this is … So tell me about that. How do you do your flying trapeze and hip-hop dance in a house in Santa Barbara?
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, well, I’ve got to leave the house for that. I discovered trapeze probably about three and a half years ago, and I’m quite the adventure junkie, and I’ve told multiple people, you know, I don’t really believe in a bucket list. I think we write things down that we want to do, and then we shove it in a drawer, and we don’t look at it again until we’re 80 or terminal, and then pull it out and go, “Guess I’m not getting to Albuquerque.” To me, it’s like, you live these things now. I had a client ask me about all these things I’d done, and she said, “Well, what in the world is left?” And I said, “God, you know, I’ve always wanted to try flying trapeze,” and I realized as I said those words, well, I guess I’d better get on it, right? So she’s changing after her massage, and I’m online trying to figure out where I can go do that. And so I went down to Santa Monica, right on the pier, in California-
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Kathy Gruver: … which is about an hour and a half or two hours away, and I tried one class. I thought it would be a one-off thing. Oh my God, no, totally addicted. I’m there all the time. I’m on injured reserve right now, but I’m going to be getting back soon, so …
David Brower: Oh my gosh, that is so cool. I got goosebumps on that one, because I couldn’t agree with you more. If you’re … I decided to get rid of a bucket list right after I heard the term “bucket list,” and just try to pay attention to, okay, where am I in the moment? What do I want to do? What’s kind of tripping my trigger? Oh, that caught my attention, flying trapeze … I mean, it’s not flying trapeze, but you know, things that are just out of the assumed norm are just so much fun.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, absolutely, and with the dancing, I’ve been dancing since I was about five. I think I shot out of the womb, and my mother strapped tap shoes to my feet. It was her dream that I was a dancer, and so I get to live that dream, and I hated it when I was a kid, but as I got older, I really did love it, and so I danced throughout high school and college, I danced when I got to California, and I still … I do hip-hop three or four days a week. I’m a funky white chick.
David Brower: That is cool. So white chicks can jump.
Kathy Gruver: Yes, they can.
David Brower: Good for you. I mean, I’m going to be thinking about that combination, flying trapeze and hip-hop dance. That’s just a visual that’s not going to go away any time soon. It’s fabulous.
Kathy Gruver: Good. I’m glad I could leave you with that.
David Brower: I know, thank you.
Kathy Gruver: Sure.
David Brower: All right, let’s get back to what you also enjoy, and that’s being a health and wellness expert. First of all, what made you decide to become a doctor, and then how did you get into health and wellness part?
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, you know, I never made that decision. I followed the breadcrumbs, and everything happened as I said yes to things. I was an actor. I left Pittsburgh after college to pursue an acting career; that’s how I got to Hollywood. Went straight to the … You know, what I thought was going to be the big time, and I always had this interest, running parallel to the performing, of healing, and things that were alternative, and choices and alternative thinking. My mom got sick when I was 13, and died when I was 18, and there were no options for her. Pittsburgh in the ’80s with cancer was chemo, radiation, surgery. That was it.
David Brower: Right.
Kathy Gruver: Though that was not the direct reason I ended up getting into alternative medicine, it definitely was an influence. You know, you can’t go through that and not have that influence you in some way.
David Brower: Correct.
Kathy Gruver: And so I got to Hollywood pursuing the acting career, and I had studied massage when I was in college. I thought it would be the perfect addition to … You know, in between those mega-million-dollar movies I was going to be making, I could do massage.
David Brower: Oh, yeah.
Kathy Gruver: Well, the massage stayed, and the movies never came, but I just started doing it, and when my husband and I moved up here to Santa Barbara, I started full-time, and I realized that my clients wanted a health practitioner, they didn’t just want a massage therapist. So I started studying more and more, and I went to Harvard, and I studied mind-body medicine there, and I went back to school, and I did my master’s and PhD with an emphasis in that mind-body medicine. It really just … It really tickled me, I just wanted to do it so bad. And then I started writing, and then I started lecturing, which was the acting thing all coming full circle.
David Brower: Exactly, yeah.
Kathy Gruver: And here I am, but I swear I just followed the breadcrumbs. I never set out … You know, I never wanted to get into medicine. I’m obsessed with Western medicine now, just as an interest, but I never had a desire to be a doctor. Yeah, it was weird. I just sort of ended up here and went, “Oh yeah, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” It’s pretty cool.
David Brower: It is cool, it’s way cool. I love that stuff. My wife followed the breadcrumbs, if you will. She’s a public health nurse, and she goes door to door and takes care of newborn babies and moms on Medicaid.
Kathy Gruver: Wow.
David Brower: And she followed the crumbs to get there. She had no idea … I mean, she was in the NICU for a long time, and that kind of thing, and all of a sudden, this deal opened up, and she did exactly the same thing. And I think if we are blessed enough to be able to pay attention to the breadcrumbs, so that we know there are some out there to follow, but so many times, I think we don’t see the breadcrumbs.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, I think we have so much resistance, and I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to get to a one thing. And I remember, you know, as a teenager, we think we know everything, and we think we have it all figured out, and we’re all set, and adults say things to us, and they’re just stupid, and they don’t know, and they don’t get us. And people saying, “Well, what are you going to do if the acting thing doesn’t work out?” And me very honestly and seriously looking at them and saying, “What do you mean, if it doesn’t work out? Like, why would it not work out? Like, what is wrong with you, doofus? Of course it’s going to work. What the hell is wrong with you?”
David Brower: Exactly.
Kathy Gruver: And then I got to California and went, “Oh, huh.”
David Brower: “That, yeah.”
Kathy Gruver: And as I was in it for so many years, and I realized it’s not … It’s totally out of your control, and it’s such an irritating profession because you get a degree in it, and you’re really good at it, and you work hard at it, but you’re still not that thing. You’re a waitress, or a secretary, or any other profession. You don’t have any lawyers who are like, “Well, I got my … Passed the bar, I’m really good, but I’m a waiter now.” You’re a lawyer, you know?
David Brower: Exactly. That’s fascinating.
Kathy Gruver: So yeah, I [inaudible 00:06:36] that everything came full circle, though, and I told someone the other day, I said, “You know, I’m back on stage.” I’m performing every time I do a lecture. I’m just in a different outfit, and I’m not playing the wacky neighbor, I’m playing me. And though I tell funny stories and I do weird voices sometimes, it’s performing, but in a different way. I get to educate now with the entertaining as well.
David Brower: Well, and you get the immediate feedback.
Kathy Gruver: Yes.
David Brower: Right, it’s like doing Broadway, I mean, you get the immediate feedback of your audience. Be it 10 people on the left or 50 people on the right, you’re going to get a sense of how it’s going and adapt your presentation accordingly, I would think.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, absolutely, and I was just … I just booked a talk in Rochester, New York, and I said, “What is the audience going to be like?” because we were talking about what my topic was going to be. She said, “You know, I’ll be honest with you, it’s probably going to be mostly women, because that’s who tends to go to these types of things.” And I said yes, and I told her, I said I just spoke at a health and safety conference in Fort Worth, Texas. The attendees to the conference were about 95% men, and when I stood in the room for my breakout session, I thought, “Oh no, is anyone going to come? Because this is not my normal crowd.” And at 10:20 … I was supposed to speak at 10:30. At 10:20, I had two people sitting there waiting, and our rule in community theater always was “Well, if they outnumber the cast, we do the show,” and now I’m a one-person cast, so I had to do the show.
But by 10:30, I had 65 or 70 people in there, mostly men, and they were so … But I had to alter that. I talked about the work I did for the military, and I talked about meditation in sports, and I talked about … You know, it was like, I wanted them to know it wasn’t going to be this airy-fairy hug it out, cry together, sing Kumbaya and talk about your feelings, it was going to be a very practical talk. And that is the joy of live presentations, is getting to alter what you say, and how the audience affects what you do.
David Brower: Well, you did a pirouette. It was fascinating, yeah.
Kathy Gruver: Oh, yeah, I do, yeah, I do.
David Brower: That is so cool. So, in reading some of your stuff, and obviously, you travel all over the world, you speak to lots of groups, you’ve written some very successful books, one of the things that really caught my attention — other than flying trapeze and hip-hop dance — is working with a project with the military to create and institute a stress-reduction program. Tell me about that.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, I was contacted by an old high school friend, of all things. You know, thank God for Facebook.
David Brower: Right.
Kathy Gruver: And she said, “Hey, I’ve been following what you’re doing,” and she worked for a company that does projects for the military, so they’re the one-off contractor for that, and they bring in subcontractors to help with their programs. And a call for proposals, or whatever they call it, came across their desk looking to redo their stress program. They’ve been using mindful-based stress reduction in the military for decades, since John Kabat-Zinn put it in, and I think they were just looking for something else, they wanted to see what was new and what was out there.
And so this company brought me in as their expert, and I designed this entire program, which they then submitted to the military, and unfortunately, we did not get past the first phase. They did not take the program; they went a very different direction, which I don’t think was as good as mine. I think it’s way too complicated, and just not as user-friendly. I mean, I made this thing so simple that it would have been perfect for what the military needs, and they didn’t go that way, which is fine. But what it left me was … What it left me with was this amazing experience of working with them, and getting on these conference calls, and hearing how that all works, and the amount of money that they were spending on development and all this stuff. But also, it left me with this really awesome, totally user-friendly five-stage stress-reduction program, which I now teach to everybody else. I mean, I already had [inaudible 00:09:58]-
David Brower: Good for you.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, I mean, I already had all these components, but that really made me put it together in a way that anybody can do it, and so I was left with this amazing program, which is all mine. So yeah, it was pretty cool.
David Brower: Well, guess what? You followed the breadcrumbs.
Kathy Gruver: I did, yup. You know, it’s about saying yes.
David Brower: It is about saying yes, yeah. Could not agree more. So, tell me about some of your books. You’ve got five books, you’ve got … You host a national TV show. Tell me about that.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah. I started writing back in 2009, and again, it was the “following the breadcrumbs” thing. I didn’t set out to be an author. That’s my husband’s job; he actually writes for a living. I wrote as a supplement to my practice, and to share more knowledge and to reach more people, and several people told me if I wanted to do any sort of speaking, it would really help to have a book or two. And then I got … I think it’s sort of like tattoos, you know, you get one and then you have to have more.
David Brower: Right.
Kathy Gruver: So my fifth is done, I’m working on my sixth, I got seven and eight in my head, I’m trying to decide which to do next. So it became sort of addictive. I love sharing knowledge that way; it’s just another outlet for what I know. So my first book’s The Alternative Medicine Cabinet, and that’s the one that was turned into the TV series, which is in post-production and going through a different phase of financing, so we’re hoping that’ll be airing very soon. I keep hearing “very soon,” but that’s Hollywood. I was used to that, so …
David Brower: Well, it is Hollywood, yeah. You had that “But wait, I’m saying yes, I’m saying yes.”
Kathy Gruver: I’m saying yes, and everyone else has to get on board with the yes-ing. But it’s training me in patience, which is not my strong suit, because I’m an only child, and so, you know, the world revolves around me, and when I want it, I want it. So this has been an amazing exercise in …
David Brower: Yeah, as an only child and a Vietnam vet, I totally get both those arenas, you know?
Kathy Gruver: Yup. Beautiful. I love my only-children brothers and sisters.
David Brower: Oh my gosh, yes.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, so, you know, I want it now, because I did it, and it’s done, and it’s time, and I deserve it, right?
David Brower: Right.
Kathy Gruver: I’ve actually outgrown all that, but it’s been a great lesson of “not now,” and when it’s ready, it’ll be ready. I can’t push that river, so we wait. And then I did two books on stress. Conquer Your Stress has been very successful; it’s won five awards, and was just picked up by a traditional publisher, so that’s got international distribution now, which is cool. And then my latest is called Journey of Healing, which is kind of a combination textbook and autobiography, so it’s everything I know about natural medicine, how I found it, how I used it, what it works for, what it doesn’t work for, me making horrible mistakes with it and almost killing myself by taking too much horseradish. Lots of personal stories, and then also tales of growth and evolution, stories that I tell during my talks that people found good and educational and inspiring, and so I peppered those through there too. So I love that book, I’m really excited about it, and then the next one’s going to be specifically for stress and care at work, so that’ll be out hopefully by the end of this year.
David Brower: Outstanding. And then you wrote … You co-wrote Market My Practice. What’s that about?
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, you know, I have a naturopath friend — this is when I was more big into the naturopath world — and we would go to a conference every year, and we’d shake our head at the amount of people who were probably really good at what they did, but “Oh, I suppose I should get a business card, huh?” “Oh, well, that’s fine, just write your website down for me.” “I should get one of those.”
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Kathy Gruver: Oh my God. So between us, he’s very practical, and he was the one that wrote, like, the business plan sections. He said, “Do you want to write the business plan section, or should I?” and I said, “Well, since I never wrote a business plan, you might want to handle that part of it.” And then I handled the “how to do radio and TV,” and “how to schmooze at parties,” and “what you should have on your [inaudible 00:13:12] good headshots.” So we put together probably 40-plus years of combined experience into a book on how to market your practice, or your book, or your business in any way, and that’s been really fun. We work well together.
David Brower: Sounds like my marriage. My wife is very, very practical, I mean, to a fault. Thank God, because I am not, because I’m the creative guy. I came from radio, TV, marketing, I have my own agency, I do voiceover work, all that stuff, and so for her to teach me how to be practical and teach me about the healthcare industry, and then me help her learn about marketing and all that kind of stuff, is just … It’s been really, really a fascinating relationship. We’ve been very blessed.
Kathy Gruver: Oh, that’s cool. Isn’t it fun when you find that person with the puzzle piece that fits what you’re lacking?
David Brower: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Kathy Gruver: I feel like I’m surrounded by that. Both my husband and my clients fill that need for me, and people that I do business with, and there’s that perfect meshing, all those little teeth in that saw fit together.
David Brower: Right.
Kathy Gruver: We all complete each other. There’s not one person to fill your bucket, you need … I think you need to be around multiple people of multiple industries, and to educate that. So it’s so great that you found that partner in that; that’s fabulous.
David Brower: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, candidly, what I really enjoy about this podcast. I kind of did it on a whim, because I kind of wanted to do a podcast, but as a voice actor, there’s thousands of podcasts out there that bore me to tears, so I didn’t want to do one on voiceover, and I thought, “Well, why not do a practical one: just interview experts on business, marketing, self-improvement, families, relationships, do those kinds of things?” And man, I learn so much, and I have so much fun talking to people like you, it’s just … It’s really a gift.
Kathy Gruver: That’s cool. I hear that from … Because I do tons of radio and podcasts, I hear that from so many hosts.
David Brower: So we’ve got a couple minutes left, and I want to have the opportunity to talk about specifically what you’d like to talk about. Is there ways for people to reach out to you? How do they get your books? Those kinds of things.
Kathy Gruver: Yeah, absolutely. Everything’s available on … I have two different sites. The first one is thealternativemedicinecabinet.com, so it was named after my first book and the TV show, and all of my books are there, there’s a lot of free resources, you can sign up for my newsletter, and then you get a super-secret health tip.
David Brower: Ooh.
Kathy Gruver: Don’t tell … Ooh. Don’t tell anybody.
David Brower: Shh.
Kathy Gruver: Just for you, shh. And then the other site is kathygruver.com, and if you’d like to book me for a speaking engagement or an appearance, that’s the best place to go for that. My books are available there also. Of course, my books are on Amazon, you can get them on Kindle, and I’m all over YouTube and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can tweet me and all that good stuff.
David Brower: All the social stuff. You have such a … I’m going to go back to your actress bit. You have such a captivating presence, and obviously, it’s very successful when you speak publicly, so are you going to do audiobooks?
Kathy Gruver: You know, it’s … Yes, that’s, I’ve found hard to do, to get those put together, and when the new publisher said they wanted to pick up Conquer Your Stress, and they said something about doing an audiobook, I said, “Yes, but I want to be the person reading it.”
David Brower: Exactly.
Kathy Gruver: But I don’t have the studio to do that, and I have a very dear friend who does a lot of my music for my meditation videos and stuff like that, who said he’d help me out with it, but he’s in Virginia and I’m in California, and life happened, and I haven’t had time to do that. But I would love to, I would love to do all my books on audio. It seemed quite a big investment, but yeah … No, thank you, I hear that all the time. And the way I write my books, I dictate them, so it’s as if I’m talking to you anyway, and I’ve had so many people say it’s like they’re actually hearing me talk as they’re reading the book, which I think that’s the best compliment.
David Brower: Perfect, perfect. Well, I do audiobooks, so if I can be of help, we should … Reach out to me sometime.
Kathy Gruver: Absolutely, I want to do that.
David Brower: All right, cool. Hey, our special guest has been Dr. Kathy Gruver, and it … World’s fastest 20 minutes, seriously. This has been great fun, very informative, and be sure to find her everywhere on social media; Dr. kathygruber.com is probably the easiest place to locate you. And continued success in your acting career.
Kathy Gruver: Oh, thank you so much.
David Brower: She’ll be leaving now to go do hip-hop dancing while she’s on the flying trapeze. That’s, again, the visual I just can’t quite shake. Doc, thank you so much. It’s been a real treat.
Kathy Gruver: Oh, thanks, David. I appreciate it.
David Brower: You bet. You’ve been listening to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower. Be sure to follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/Your20MinutePodcast.
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