Daily Grind: Sheng of The Social X Change Project
With its first debut episode December 7, 2019, The Social X Change Project has since gone on to have 21 additional episodes and counting! The podcast "aims to provide a platform for individuals to share their story." Read on as Sheng Lor Waldinger talks about her passion for people and how The Social X Change Project came to be.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Sheng Lor Waldinger, and I was the first child in my immediate family born here in America. Much like the story of my many Hmong brothers and sisters, my parents met and married on the Vinai refugee camp, and had my three older siblings there before immigrating to America. My degree is in Psychology, Human Services, Sociology, and focused on research in Positive Psychology. I have always had a fascination with people and a passion for being involved with helping or coaching others. I'm a very extraverted and very curious "forever student" that seeks understanding and connection with people.
What are the three qualities that got you to where you are today?
Tenacity, hard work, and passion. I owe it to my parents for all the sacrifices they have made that shaped me for who I am today. My mother's strength and fearlessness has taught me how to overcome barriers, and even as a Hmong woman, I aim to speak my mind and vocalize my opinions. She has always been the bold and smart role model I needed growing up. Everything she did in life reflected her ability to persevere through the hardest of situations, make everything out of nothing, and power through pain. My father taught me the value of hard work and having a real passion for everything I aim to do. He taught me humility, kindness, and patience. My father believed in finding happiness in simplicity, being authentic to who you are, and truly the wisest man I have ever known.
What's the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?
As a kid, I wanted to be a teacher or a doctor. However, as a teenager, I realized I was more interested in becoming a Counselor or Psychiatrist. I worked through a lot of hardships growing up and wanted to be able to help others make sense of their struggles and internal dialogues. It was always interesting to me how people find motivation or resiliency in all they do, as well as how fears and trauma shapes people.
Do you currently have a 9 to 5 job on top of what you're doing now?
Yes, I work full-time for a non-profit that helps low-income families. The non-profit contracts with the state as the program I work for is case management services for Federal and state assistance.
What inspired you to start doing what you do now?
What inspires me was the my need for expressing myself in a creative way. I podcast because I love talking and connecting with diverse people to exchange thoughts and ideas.
Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
I have been inspired by many podcasts out there! I've listened to many conversations that have sparked thought and I find myself replying to the host and guests because it was that provoking! There are other podcasts that are just funny or entertaining, and I wanted to throw some of it in there as well.
How did you come up with your business name?
It's a play on words. The Social X Change project came from having a "social exchange" with others, and also hoping for a "social change" because I focus on guests that promote three major areas of expertise: 1) Entertainment, 2) Education, and 3) Impact. The impact piece is important because I want to talk about social issues or mental health, for example. I want there to be content that surrounds conversations that people may or may not agree with, but is affected by.
Is it just you or do you have a team?
My team is primarily just myself and my brother who is the videographer. However, I always outsource for help depending on the guest. For instance, I may need to get an Audio Engineer, or reach out to my co-working space that offers input on the business side of things, or to a Life and Business Coach who may provide me with insight on things I hadn't thought about when it comes to my brand. There's a plethora of people I have access to, and I'm thankful for knowing that I'm not completely alone in this journey.
Where is the most interesting place you've been?
I have traveled to so many places and love exploring. Much like people, I am fascinated with places and new experiences. I absolutely loved Thailand! Chiang Mai was one of the most diverse and busy-body cities I've ever been to! It's rich with culture, food, and people! The mood and overall vibe was beautifully foreign and uniquely unparalleled to any other place I've ever been to!
What's your favorite time of the day?
My favorite time of day is right before I go to sleep. I have time to just take in my day, relax and think about my accomplishments and shortcomings, my emotions and mental health, and reassess how I can absorb the good, and leave the not so good from the day. I use it to inspire my mind to start the next day a little better, and a little bit happier.
What hobby would you get into if time and money weren't an issue?
Personally, I would love to get into learning more about all the branches of psychology. I'm really not kidding! I want to understand and be in the know about Positive Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Social Psychology, Criminal Psychology, etc. I truly am fascinated with the human condition and the way we make sense of things, how we've been impacted, and how we persevere. I would get a PhD in every single concentration and do a whole bunch of research!
What skill would you like to master?
There are so many things I want to "master." I am a huge fan of music and comedy, and learning a skillset like writing or producing music, to writing or creating comedic content. I think music and comedy connects people and brings them together!
What are some small things that make your day better?
I'm going to be super cheesy here, LOL, but honestly, stupid text messages from my husband. I love memes and hilarious video clips, things that breaks up my day.
If you got a free check for $5,000, how would you use it?
If I got a check for $5,000, it's honestly going straight to debt! LOL. I'm jumping on that Dave Ramsey train if I get money. But that's probably a boring answer, so I'd say putting that back into my podcast and investing in myself somehow. For instance, I paid for a communications college course and attended a Business class. Perhaps a training opportunity to expand upon my knowledge.
Who inspires you to be better?
My parents and my husband.
What's one thing that you are exceptionally good at?
I'm exceptionally good at solving problems.
What's on thing that you are epically bad at?
I'm exceptionally bad at singing. Nobody needs that in their life!
What's a favorite book of yours?
Honestly, I have not read anything recently. I'm much more of a go, go, go person and don't really have time do that. I normally listen to podcasts so I can work or walk, or I'll watch stuff in my free time. Although, I have received a list of books lately because I realized I haven't read anything in a while, and I am going to work off that list!
What do you like most about where you currently live?
I love the familiarity of the Midwest! I enjoy being around my family and seeing my nieces grow up. Other than that, we would most definitely consider relocating!
If you could live in a foreign place, where would it be?
I would consider somewhere in Europe or Asia!
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would tell her to be patient about each stage in life, and be more mindful about the milestones she reaches. Often times, I was always searching for so much more when I already had great things right in front of me!
What advice would you give someone who wants to follow their passion and start their own business?
All I can say is to be completely true and authentic to who you are! It's good to be curious, try something uncomfortable, and to think outside of the box, BUT none of it matters if it doesn't match who you are and what you want. I have tried many times to fit a square into a circle, and I always end up feeling incomplete or unhappy. I would also say balance the mindset of preparing, planning, and educating WITH following gut feelings and going with the flow. Be smart, have fun, work hard, and be yourself!
What change would you like to see in the Hmong culture?
There are so many things about our culture that is so uniquely beautiful, and things I wish will never change with change. However, there are some social issues and norms I could live without. Without getting into too much detail (because I could talk all day about this) is to review how we treat gender roles in our culture. Women are supposed to be dressed a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way...and well, toxic masculinity also exists for some of the Hmong men in our community. Other thoughts are the general expectations of Hmong wives and Hmong sons in a family unit; I definitely feel there could be cultural adaptations that still captures the essence of who we are as Hmong people, but in a healthier and more empowering manner.
What is your favorite thing about being Hmong?
I love being Hmong because NOTHING else feels quite the same way. The experiences I get to uniquely enjoy is directly due to the fact that I'm a Hmong woman. For example, the basic understanding between Hmong people of "everyone's invited" enthusiasm for large and casual get-togethers is so inclusive and wonderful! From the desire to help as a community at events, to the collectivistic values we carry into our relationships, and the feeling of being home whenever you see another Hmong person in a different city is such a blessing! It's just this feeling of belong somewhere all the time!
How can people get connected with you?
You can contact me through my Facebook page The Social X Change Project or email me at email@example.com for now. My podcast is also available for streaming off YouTube, Spotify, and wherever you listen to your favorite podcast! Website is still in the works but hopefully coming soon!
- The Story Cloth Shop Team