Adding More ‘Me’ Into My Days

Lately I’ve been taking stock of things. You know, adult-y, important, life-y things.

And, in taking stock of all these adult-y & life-y things, I’ve come to a fairly heavy, yet ridiculously common sensical conclusion – there’s just not enough time in the day.

Seriously! I work hard. I support my family. I try as hard as I can to stay in good touch with friends. That said, the time to do things beyond the daily routine seems as elusive as something, erm… elusive.

With time coming out as the main winner in the what-I-need-more-of stakes, I’ve gone around in circles (not literally) to figure out where I can cut corners, clip edges, & add more of time into my days.

Ruh roh, Rorge!

Bad news alert: Other than altering the algorithm of the universe & manufacturing more actual time, there’s no short-cut to making more space in our calendars other than doing just that.

In taking the time (see what I did there) to take stock of 37yr old me, I’ve come to find that I am really good at making time for others. And, by rights, I am shockingly bad at spending time on me. That’s set to change though. It has to.

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I stopped prioritizing time to understand my own thoughts, values, & goals – but I imagine it was when I was staring down the barrel of a traditional lifein my early 20’s.

Married at 23yrs old, child by 24yrs old & wanting to fit into templated cultural standards imposed on me, I went with the proverbial flow – even at times when I felt like swimming against the tide.

Living the ideal of Western adulting was an easy way out. I see that now. The few times I tried to fight to find my individuality, I was put squarely back in my place. Plus, I was  safe, content, mostly happy, & cool with how life felt when there wasn’t any conflict.

So I stopped fighting.

That was then. I built my life & my sense of self on pleasing others & helping others to succeed. This filled my soul almost to full, but the last little bit was always missing. The deeper I dug into what made others tick, the more I realized I wasn’t wholly aware of the things that make me tick.

Not knowing myself made it hard to truly know others, though. And, with the end of my first marriage & in falling in love again, I knew I’d have to really invest in myself to be happy & to make any close relationship truly flourish. Yassssss, ain’t flourishing grand??!?

Let me tell you this: the act of trying to understand oneself is an act of unravelling in itself. It’s also a piecing together of a puzzle that I now realize will always be a whole picture, even when incomplete.

So, how have I been adding more me into my days?

A bit like this…

1.      Allow yourself to be complex

Nothing is simple. Not a single damn thing. Especially not human beings. Humans, as being are inherently a state.

To behuman.

To bein motion.

To beanything is to be human.

Right? So when we try too hard to streamline who we are, or in an opposite turn, ignore who we are completely – then we lose ourselves. By allowing ourselves to be complex & to love the minutiae of who we are, we then give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We strive not for the simple, but for the beauty in the details. And, beyond everything else, when we embrace the complexity of being human – we embrace the beauty of who we were, are, & will become all at once.

2.     Say “Bye Bye” to the Binary         

We all reckon there are only two sides to a coin. But, good news, life isn’t like flipping a coin. Our trips around the sun, should we be lucky enough to experience enough of them, are beyond black & white. And, let’s be honest, Yin & Yang only offer us all so much in terms of understanding the world around us. No singular pro or con, expression of self, or way of being is binary. When you look for them, there are grey areas in which to pay, explore, & discover who you are. In doing so, you learn what matters most to you. And, when you know what matters most to you, you prioritize your time differently. You fill your soul more readily.

3.     Know your tipping point & really feelyour feelings 

We’re nuanced. Hugely so. However, when it comes down to it – we’re our own best judges when it comes to whether or not we’re about to speed full-tilt off of a cliff face or not. My coping method for corralling stress for a long time was to keep moving. My favorite quote was (and sometimes still is, but in a different way) ‘motion begets motion.’ By not slowing down, & by speeding towards a cliff-face I ignored all of my ore-determined warning signals that are in place to tell me I’m heading towards disaster.

Lately however, I’ve been making a concerted effort to really feel my feelings. I’ve suited up, grabbed my goggles, & decided to swim in the mire & murk of confusion. I’ve gotten comfortable with discomfort. And, in the process, I’ve become more attuned to understanding when, how, & why I need to slow down. By tuning in to my gut feelings, I’ve been able to sit in discomfort long enough to change tact. In doing so, happiness & relief follow. Halle-frickken-lujah!

4.     Step away from sameness

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. There’s comfort in routine – to a point. I find I’m at my most creative, passionate, & driven when I am challenged. Challenges aren’t born of monotony. They just aren’t. When we surround ourselves with difference – time flies, innovation happens, & silliness is welcome in spades. Making a concerted effort to change little things, to shake stuff up a bit, & to embrace the opposite of sameness gives us all a better view of who we are & how we feel when we’re learning. I’ve always found beauty in difference, and as I grow older, I now realize that it takes a truly concerted effort to step away from sameness.

5.    Chase your happy

Listen to your gut, and when it’s feeling happy, take note. Then, chase that feeling. If there are big chunks of time in your day to day life dedicated to things that make you feel anxious or unfulfilled, throw them out. Seriously. Chase your happy. Those notes you took earlier when your gut told you that you were having a good time? Keep them close to you & read them back when you need them. Most importantly though, lace up, stretch, & sprint towards the things that fill your soul. I love to mull things over & wade in worry as much as the next person. But, there’s no better way to be happy than to chase your happy willingly. Go on y’all, try it.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

 And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you

But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

 And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said,

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence

 Ah, the Sounds of Silence.

Simon & Garfunkel’s haunting ode to the darkness & the light is ghostly & beautiful. Throughout the song, two seemingly opposing forces that work together to build deep foundations in the heart of a busy, urban loneliness. Every time I hear this song I get chills.

Every.
Damn.
Time.

I can remember the first time I heard this song. The way goose-bumps crawled down my neck & into my soul. These lyrics weren’t jaunty, twangy or trite. Pop music this was not. The words that threaded together to build a world in my mind seemed to be holding onto the remnants of deep-longing & hurt. That, with a dash of sweetness found in soft voices, helped to cut the bitter taste of it all.

Deep in my little girl’s soul, after hearing this song, I understood completely that becoming life-long friends with darkness would be a beautiful, sometimes wild, ride. So, I did what any buckled up.

And, though I could never put my finger on it, from a young age I dove into finding & exploring the yin & the yang of my being. Through this searching, I learned inner-strength that allowed me to smile through times that usually called for rage or sadness. I also learned to relish in the different ways in which one human could interpret silence.

Diving into language, melodies, & dreams of darkness became an escape for me. A meditative one (though I didn’t have the words to explain it as such until recently.)  For my entire life, I’ve chased the promise of stillness & silence. This chase, unlike others I purposefully lace-up for, is one I’ve always known to be futile – but worthwhile, & beautiful.

Finding Beauty in Uncertainty

Bliss. Living near the edges of doubt & change means that you can see the perfection in the imperfect. You’re able to taste the bitter & the sweet. And, you’re able to accept yourself as whole – even when you’re at your most broken.

All of the elements of personal-fulfilment I’ve chased during 37 trips around the sun have been imperfect. Much like me. Darkness, stillness, sunshine, rainbows. They all coexist in me as a fairly well functioning community. They all have the power to both heal & destroy me in equal measure. Sometimes they do both at the same time. Fulfilment has always been a tug-o-war between healing & destruction. A roll of the dice, even. All taking place in the here and now.

Call it what you will but the two sides of the same coin that I flip to wish upon are really more like vacation destinations that I’ve been to a million times before. When I call “heads!” or “tails!” I’m choosing from two different realities that look the same. They’re both home. And, they’re as familiar as anything. But, they feel completely different.

These are my retreats.

Retreats of the soul.

One of these retreats is a place where I find rest & calm. A place where the morning hustle to get kids to school (only to dive headlong into traffic) is okay. The rush is do-able. Nothing’s really a hassle. My thoughts don’t act as weights that pull me down or scream out at me “BUT YOU COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE THAN THIS!” In this place, I can handle anything life throws at me.

This first retreat is where I spend the majority of my time. There’s no laundry pile too tall to break me, no responsibilities too overwhelming to steal my smile, no anger, no doubts, no Mom-guilt, & no rush. This place is basically a forever spa treatment. In this place, the idea & fear of being busy all of the time doesn’t exist. Worries drop away as the sounds of gentle, flowing streams fill my head.

I stretch out on a massage table. Muscles, mind, & soul relax. I can smell special oils. Ah, special oils! Along with the flowing water, I hear the gentle gongs of spiritual music. I breathe in the inviting warmth of glowing candles, drink in the sweetness of human touch, & relish in a pleasurable pain as all of my muscles are worked over.

I love this place. This place heals me. This place empowers & lifts me. Rooms filled with kindness, forgiveness, self-confidence, others willing & able to give freely. If I could, I’d spend quite a lot of time here. Heck, I might just stay on forever. I mean, who wouldn’t, right?

Unfortunately, there’s only ever limited time in the first retreat.

The Dark Side of Retreat

Another place, similar – yet very different to the first – exists in me too. This is a place where I need to steel myself upon entering.  Instead of feeling welcomed or relaxed, I tense up as I open the door to step across a shadowy threshold. The silence, darkness, & stillness work to haunt instead of welcome me. My feelings of inadequacy chase me here, running circles around my most tempered thoughts. The end goal of the ghosts that live here? To exhaust me – or even break me – completely. Sometimes, I think they might.

The calming relaxation of my first retreat shifts into a literal low-gear here. Gears grinding, hearts breaking, time standing still. In this place, I cannot focus. I’m unable to see or feel anything other than fear, brokenness, & hopelessness. My vulnerabilities become Kryptonite injected directly into my bloodstream. I am lost, confused, & frightened here.

All of the strength I’ve built up over a lifetime of wins & losses & learning disappears, dissipates in every waking moment. Who needs contentment built through adversity & joy when there’s a place inside of yourself that works quickly & without warning to undo all of the good stuff?

How is it that these two places offer such similar experiences – yet cause such disparate emotions in me? One is my place of healing. The other silently tears me to shreds one negative thought at a time.

Depression is a real shitter.

Call it what you will, the darkness of depression is a real shitter. It’s hard to put into words how one moment you feel fine – good even – & the next you’re not sure you feel anything at all. You teleport without reason or warning from your first retreat to the second. You’re off balance & off course. And, you know it, too. You just don’t know how to fix it.

It’s hard. It’s so, so hard to explain what’s happening inside yourself when you don’t understand it. Speaking to loved ones can be frustrating & feel counterintuitive. I get embarrassed when I can’t find words with ample enough impact to explain the inexplicable emotions that sometimes render me powerless. I feel even dumber not being able to simply share the numbness, the powerlessness, the empty spaces.

So, when we step it up a notch & try to talk to strangers about what we’re feeling (when we still can’t find words good enough to say to those we love most), it’s no wonder so many mental health issues go unspoken about or illnesses left untreated a lot of the time.

There’s this kind of a tug-o-war that happens in my mind sometimes where I know for a fact that I’m not in a space that will allow me to be my best self. Most of the time, I can even say to myself “Self, you’re down & you’re anxious. Don’t make decisions now. Be present. Be kind.” My inner-dialogue whispers “Cass, ride this wave out.”

Unfortunately, these kind internal whispers are quite often drowned out by the din of my even louder inner voice that shouts things like “You’re useless!” over  & over until I start to believe it. And thus, the struggle goes on.

Finding Peace & Riding Waves

I used to think I could weather every storm alone. Blame it on ego, on self-reliance kicked into over-drive, or on a simple overshooting of my own abilities – but what I know beyond the shadow of a doubt now is this: we all need other people at some point to help us get better.

Most of the time, our loved ones will stand steadfast in our corners – ready to fight our demons for us. But they can’t fight our demons for us, can they? That’s not how it works. We all have to suit up, hop in the water, & learn to ride the waves that break near shore. For me, hopping in the water meant seeing my GP & talking to a therapist regularly. Learning how to manage my own negative self-talk & building foundations on which to move forward have been instrumental in me kicking depression.

What I have found helpful over time too is recognising that some of the people we love most jump right in next to us – paddling in tandem to ride the wave together, differently. At the same time, others will stand on the pier next to you cheering you on & pointing out the best waves to ride. Others still will realize that they don’t know much about the surfing you’re doing, so they wait on shore with a warm, dry towel to comfort you once your back on terra firma.

These people are legends. And, they’re doing their best to help.

In opening up & being as genuinely truthful as we can be, our beloveds are armed with the knowledge of how to best coax us out of stormy seas & into calmer waters. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them to listen to us as we fumble to find ways to explain how we feel. Other times, it’s just sitting with us while we whimper in a corner. 

Ask & You Shall Receive

As I get older, I find that the easiest way to make peace with darkness has always been to light a fire of honesty. To speak simply & to be heard without needing to be fixed. Opening up is scary. Admitting you need help but that you’re not sure exactly why is scary, too. But, it’s necessary.

If you or someone you know is struggling with getting lost in the vortex that is the second retreat, please ask for help. Asking is scary, but necessary to build your crew around you to see you through the rougher seas that we’ll all be faced with in life. Finding beauty in silence & darkness is like retraining your brain to love what you’re supposed to shun.

Depression? It sucks.
But, there’s more to life than the darkness.

Hold on & hold out.
And, bring your surf board along with you.
You’ll catch that next wave to shore.

Where to get help 

The below resources are some that I found on an article from The Spinoff looking to #endthestigma around talking about depression & suicide here in Aotearoa. Please, if you need help, reach out. It’s scary & brave at the same time – facing the unknown. But there are so many people who are here to help. 24/7/365.

As with many folks, I am here to talk should you ever need to reach out. It is okay to not be okay. Each day is a new start, & I’m positive we can get through it together.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland.

Outline –  0800 688 5463 (10am – 9pm weekdays, 6pm – 9pm weekends)

Samaritans – 0800 726 666.

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). Open 24/7

Depression Helpline  – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202. This service is staffed 24/7 by trained counsellors

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Counselling for children and young people

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat. Open 24/7.

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email info@mentalhealth.org.nz

10 Things I Know For Sure At 37 (Well, Kinda)

Cassie Roma Wordpress

I turned 37 this week. Holy moly, THIRTY SEVEN!

This means that I’ve now outlived Hank, Jesus, & Marilyn in terms of years spent on this spinning rock we call home.

I won’t lie to you, 36 was an interesting trip around the sun for me. I had some amazingly high highs, & some killer lows. My family grew closer, my friendships grew stronger. I married my best friend & soulmate! I traveled home to California three times, spoke at some of the world’s most prestigious industry events, & was elected Chair to an amazing Pride organization. I still have to pinch myself when it comes to how lucky I’ve been.

That said, it’d be remiss of me not to take a moment to nod to the lows that happened, too. You know those moments in life when you think “I couldn’t possibly handle another kick to the guts.” & then another one happens? And another. And another… ad infinitum.

Yeah, I got kicked a lot. Right in my soft bits. I also had some unsteadiness in my own identity. I guess you could say that I fell upon some rough times. Author & researcher Brené Brown called her own ‘rough time’ (AKA an early-midlife crisis) an unraveling.

So, I’ll say it: Last year, I unraveled.

In fact, if my journey through this world is seen in the light of being a knitted sweater of sorts – yes, an awkwardly ugly-yet-amazing Christmas sweater is just fine with me – last year was the year in which I tugged a loose string far too firmly & everything came undone. I’ve always had a knack for keeping myself on my toes!

And, as a true adult does when struggling, I found myself the most kick-ass of professionals (yassssss, counselling FTW) to help me learn to re-knit myself together. I’m no sweater, yet. But at least all of the necessary parts are right here in my lap waiting to be spun together in time.

So, without further ado, below are 10 things I know for certain heading into my 37thyear that I’d like to share. Hopefully these lessons are familiar to you, & maybe a little bit helpful, too.

  1. Grey hair, it’s there – embrace it (or colour over it)
    I’ll level with you here, there’s no EASY WAY to find your first grey hair (or have your spouse/child/BFF find it.) There just isn’t. I can deal with smile lines, laugh wrinkles, & diminishing eyesight… but the hair change? Wow. It’s a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to age. But, it’s also a bit of a wake-up call. Time to really buckle down & enjoy the journey, kid. Now’s YOUR time.
  2. Glasses are cool
    Hair changes. Eyesight changes. Waistline changes. And, the older we are, the cooler we look in glasses. Seriously, this is a proven, data-driven fact. Once you’re in your 30’s, you go from a nerd-bird to a cool-cat overnight simply by wearing corrective lenses. I have embraced the four-eyed-factor of my life & have many a pair of tortoise shell glasses filling my days & bringing me literal clarity. Win-win!
  3. Self-care (book in time for this)
    If you’re not prioritizing your own health (physical, mental, spiritual), you’re not doing time management right. Have too many meetings to meditate? Too many errands to be able to exercise? Nah. Recalibrate. You are your most important person (if you’re not, you should be), & you deserve time to take care of you in the ways you want/need. If you’re super busy at work/home like I am, book in time for you. Early in the morning, late at night, or sometime during the day – you’re worth 30 minutes of you, daily.
  4. Exercise more (seriously, book in time for this)
    Get up & move. Seriously, move your body as much as you can. Remember that feeling of being a kid & running, sprinting, jumping, playing, & sleeping like a rock? Yeah, it was the best! As adults, lots of us have forgotten how to move our bodies. How to spend time on doing things we’re built to do – like walking, jumping, lifting things (no, you don’t have to become an Olympic weight lifter…but it is a fun sport!) etc. Moving your body helps to temper your mind. Make time to move. I promise it’ll be the best time you spend all day!
  5. Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?
    Someone recently asked me “How much of you are you filling your days with?” when I did the math the answer was shocking. None, really. I had forgotten who I was, & how to tease out small selfish pleasures from moments in the day. Now? I take time daily to walk & think. To listen to music. To write poetry. And, simply, to re-discover the beauty of childhood imagination & play that has been dulled down with the marching on of time.

  6. Family matters
    More than anything, family matters. I know most people think this is a big “No duh!” statement – but you’d be surprised at how many folks I know that are pulling long hours, emailing whilst at home, spending time on stuff that seems important…that really isn’t. Our modern culture tells us stories about success that include forsaking everything in the pursuit of money, title, & status. I’m here to call bullshit on all of it. The only thing that’ll matter when you’re being buried is how much you loved the people who loved you back. Spend time on family – chosen or given – & you’ll find that success is in the eyes of the people who need you most looking back at you smiling.

  7. Being a good spouse means being 100% you
    I’m not gonna beat around the bush on this one. I’ve been a spouse to two people now. The first person I was married to taught me a lot about love, giving, & being selfless. He is kind, he is worthy, & he is a big part of who I am still. Marrying so young, I know now that I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to become. For a decade I floated through life seemingly at the whimsy of the tides. As I came into maturity, I started to uncover who I was becoming. When confronted with the truth, I realized that I wasn’t meant to be married anymore. I wasn’t fully me – which meant I’d never fully be the spouse I could be if I were 100% myself. Fast forward to marriage number two, I am now fully aware of who I am. And, I am a much better spouse & partner for it. I don’t get caught up in my own head anymore or stay quiet when I want to speak. Being a good spouse, it seems, means knowing who you are & accepting yourself enough to accept another. Ah, love!
  1. Know when to listen & when to speak up
    We have two ears & one mouth – use them in proportion. This little bit of advice was handed to me as a small child & I have tried to live my life by this mantra. Sometimes it works, sometimes my mouth outruns my brain. But, after 37 years of learning how to interact with others, I know how important it is to listen…and I mean really listen to others. Listening without the intent to reply is a skill that takes time to build. As does having the courage to speak your truth when it feels scary to do so. The precarious balance of knowing when to speak/send that email/reply to that text vs simply listen & take in another’s opinion is an interesting one indeed. 
  1. Read Maya Angelou
    Every morning I find a passage, poem, or quote by Maya Angelou to help ground me for the day. Her strength, passion for kindness, drive to be courageous, & ability to weave words together fills my soul. Having someone to look to as a human North Star is so important for me when it comes to staying balanced & in the moment. More than reading her words & hearing her voice inside of my own head, hearing her speak her words & taste them before she speaks them is magical. Her kind of magic, even just a moment of it, is what the world needs more of.

  2. Practice thankfulness by the minute
    Not by the hour, the day, the week, or the year… practice thankfulness by the minute. Spread kindness around like it’s the air that you breathe. Share both as far & wide as you can. And, even when you’re at your lowest point – remember that the simplest of actions (a smile, compliment, or kind email) can make someone’s entire world a brighter shade of happy. Saying ‘Thank you.” & writing down the things that you’re thankful for daily also help you remember just how many silver linings there are – even in the angriest, darkest of rainclouds.

Wandering And Pondering, Slowing Down to The Speed of Life

Goodbye, Commute. Hello, ‘Me Time.’

I recently had three weeks at home between jobs. Well, really, only one week between them – but I spent the last two weeks at my old job tying up projects from home. But that’s all beside the point.

What I got, was three weeks of not having to fight traffic, rush out of the house, or stress about running from meeting to meeting without time to eat, drink, or pee (AKA the trifecta of natural losses stemming from most corporate cultures these days.)

I know it wouldn’t surprise you to know that a professional life without traffic, timeframes, interruption (open-plan offices can be both the best thing & the worst all at once), or the need to wear anything other than activewear is good for both mind & body.

But, I’ll say it here anyhow:  whoa nelly, a few weeks of working to my own timeframe, at my own pace, & with the ability to exercise & ponder was amazing.

When I set out for some “me time” between jobs, my goal was to do nothing. And, to do a lot of it, at that. All of those copy-paste days of waking up, getting out the door, driving to work, sitting through meetings that could’ve been emails, driving home, sleeping…wash, rinse, repeat… oftentimes, fill a soul they do not.

For me, the goal of doing nothing was the pinnacle of re-setting. Though, as it turned out, my idea of nothing became doing a lot of somethings. And, looking back on it now, I’ve learned some good lessons when it comes to the art of slowing down to the speed of life.

Meditation in Motion
What have I learned about slowing down, then? Well, firstly I’ve learned that walking – or rather, wandering – without reason or end goal is the most cathartic thing for me when it comes to clearing my mind & moving my body.

I so love wandering. I walked every, single, day for three weeks & felt a huge shift both mentally & physically for me. I put my phone away & looked at flowers. I relished in the sunlight on my arms & legs. I sat near the ocean.

I went to cafes & eaves dropped on little old ladies (man, they’re the queens of the Gossip!)  In all, some days I walked over 30kms. Never did I have a day under 15kms. And, the wander + ponder gift I was given by time cleansed my soul happily & helped my mind wander creatively.

There’s peace in allowing your brain to wander freely. When you realize that there’s life beyond office politics, chasing numbers, & exhausting yourself to the point of tipping over – you put more onus on chasing memories.  We’re all only ever here for a short time. We might as well make it a good time. Right?

Wandering for the sake of it is akin to re-learning to play. At some point, as adults, we deprioritize playing. Some of us (I’m guilty of this at times) forget to play at all – or we create an internal narrative that playfulness at work will be seen as weakness. Pish tosh to that crap. My goal moving forward? Play more. Laugh more. Connect more.

What a blessing to have time to play without boundaries. With the only reason for it being to have fun & be joyous. I believe 110% that there needs to be more time built into corporate life for people to work play, physical movement, & the space for thinking into a day.

Slowing Down Means Speeding Up – Creatively
Between & during walks – & whilst getting myself ready for speaking events & workshops (that I also shoehorned into my “me time”), I listened to hours upon hours of podcasts with topics ranging from the science of happinessto building engaged teams to LGBTQ+ rights conversations & beyond.

By listening to other people, other points of view, & diving deeper into topics & conversations that interest me, I was able to think deeply. To ponder. To pontificate. Most mornings my friend Wendy would come for walks with me & we’d end up with no ears between us (because, ya know, we talked them off of each other).

What I found from having more unstructured learning, more fluid conversations, & more time to dive deep into different topics – is that my creative mind flourished. It’s almost as if the walls of big business act as force-fields against creativity. Really though, it’s not the walls that cause many of us to think inside of the proverbial box, it’s the constraints on time.

Creativity & cleverness both take time. For amazing work to happen – we need air to breathe, time to settle in, & space to evolve. And, a knowledge that speed does not equal best results by any means.

Just as we nurture those we love, we must learn to nurture ourselves & our own ways of working. We must honour the individuality inherent in each other, because the ways in which I work best won’t always be the same as the ways in which you feel most free to do your best.

By binging the TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz, Queery with the amazing host Cameron Esposito, & a handful of other amazing podcasts – I filled my mind day in & day out. And, in doing so, I felt myself becoming more & more interested in the world around me.

Slowing down, for me, was a reawakening of sorts.

No Phone, Who Dis?
One thing that happened the last week of my “break” was that I became homeless as far as mobile phone plans go.

For a full 8 days I had no data on my phone (don’t get me started on the absolute highway robbery of telcos in New Zealand when it comes to top ups on pre-pay plans – $120 literally got me ten minutes on my phone – & I’m still seeing red about it). Day one & two were the most difficult for a tech-addict like myself.

It’s amazing how often we all pick up our phone & look at it for no reason. And I mean NO REASON AT ALL. We’ve hardwired ourselves to have our little BFF in our pockets or on our person at all times. And, I’m being real here, there were moments where I almost struggled to put my phone in my backpack & just leave it there.

By day three, everyone who needed to get in contact with me (or might need to) knew I had no connectivity unless I was at home with wifi or in another public place with wifi.

The freedom of knowing I wouldn’t hear the dull pings of emails, text messages, DMs, or social media notifications while I walked was awe-inspiring. I was no longer on anyone else’s timeframe. I made the rules in my day around when I would check emails, when I’d answer messages, & when I felt like turning back on to the tech.

What I’ve found since heading back to an office setting this week is that I’m the odd bird out (this is usual in most places) because I tend to now forget to bring my phone with me to meetings. The output? Being present. Taking in conversations – & remembering them.

I spend more time ideating, having better conversations, & am enjoying the heck out of my time in a new environment. A lot of it, I reckon, is due to the fact that I’m not tethered to a device that makes me feel like I’m living my life around other people’s to-do lists.

Winning!

Ye Olde Wrap-Up
So, what’s the point of all of these words? Why praise the art of wandering aimlessly?
Easy: we all need to do more wandering & pondering.

We live in a world where the exaltation of busy  is the way in which we comport ourselves day in & day out. I reckon we all need to ask for (perhaps even demand) time to slow down to the speed of the wind in the flowers, the bees in the trees, & the cadence of lyrical gossip that flows from the mouths of old ladies in cafes at lunchtime.

When we allow ourselves to do nothing – something becomes of it. If time is our most precious resource, we need to be kinder in doling it out to ourselves on a daily basis. We also need to be able to realize when we’re moving too fast, too often.

Climbing off the hamster wheel of life & running beside it – then out the door – is the best way to stay hungry, creative, & able.

I hope you’re able to enjoy slowing down soon, you deserve it!

 

Forget Hacking Algorithms! Do This ONE Thing & Your Content Will Stand-Out Every Time You Post

I’m Old(ish). Lately I can’t seem to muster the oomph I need to get to the gym 3 x weekly like I used to. Long runs have turned into ambling walks where I look at flowers & other assorted flora. And, though it’s difficult to admit, the pre-internet-era was a time that existed in my lifetime.

Seriously, Team. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to live without phones in our pockets & screens in front of our faces 24/7/365.

Some argue that pre-technological revolution times were simpler. Less complex. Some would even say that we had longer attention spans (that’s right, goldfish, we used to be able to look at something for more than 3 seconds before growing abjectly bored by it).

I’ve also heard it said many times that, before tech became interwoven into our every waking (& some sleeping) moments, that we made more meaningful connections with others than we do today.

In our tech-drenched modern world, the beep-beep-boop of algorithms rule our world. Seriously, they RULE it. Whether you’re hyper-aware of it or not, computer learning & AI-driven platforms are behind almost everything we see, do, eat, buy, & decide.

Everything? Every. Damn. Thing.

And, while I love a nice spicy hit of hyperbole just as much as the next person to help start off an article for me, the truth of the matter is this: The machines aren’t taking over – they already have.

I’d wager big bucks (if I had them) that you’re reading this right now on some sort of device that’s connected to the internet. Desktop, tablet, mobile phone, old-school projector on a wall… whatever your poison. You’re online, aren’t you? If you’re not, let us all take a minute & send a big shout out your way for being hardcore enough to have printed this out on actual paper. Whoa, throwback city.

Beyond the fact that I’m typing this on a laptop & you’re reading it online, I’d also put more cash that I don’t have on the fact that us sharing this moment right now is due to an algorithmic equation. Somewhere along the line a mixture of our browsing history, engagement metrics, keywords, & shared sass levels, a mathematical equation brought us together.

With a plethora of predilections when it comes to the kind of content we consume, the algorithm goddesses that rule our digital universe have matched us up today. Nawww… my heart’s a bit warm & gooey thinking about it.

I’d like you to think about your day – how it begins, what you do in your waking hours, & how it ends.

I bet you the morning looks something like this:

  • Wake up & groggily grab your phone
  • Squint to check the time (Gah! Time to start getting moving already?!)
  • Check a newsfeed on autopilot (probably Facebook)
  • Check another newsfeed – less autopilot (though denial grows at wanting to get out of bed)
  • Browse your Insta (#YassssssFeedTheFeed)
  • Click through to watch something inane on YouTube
  • Check emails – click through the interesting ones, bin the boring ones without clicking

Sound familiar?

I can’t pinpoint when my waking moments (those unencumbered, quiet times when we all move from dream-land to waking reality) became heavily laden with the white noise of over-information & buzzy technology.

All I know is that this is my new reality. A new reality for most of us. A shared experience determined by machines with built-in biases. Biases that aren’t our own, but that have become so by default.

The freaky part? We can’t escape them. They hunt us down. Those AI, key-word, audience vertical, & segment driven content proliferators. Those tricky little red notifications that pop up on my phone, Mac, & watch send our dopamine receptors into outer-space.

Sweetly named cookies consume us instead of the other way around. Sugary-sweet promises of relevance are promised in their name alone. Tracking pixels know us better than we know ourselves. And, the algorithmic super-sleuths of search find us.

They all work in unison with one goal in mind…

They want us to consume more.
Click more.
Read more.
Watch more.
Share more.
Create more.
Buy more!

Which, if you’re in the business of reaching people, puts us digital/social/new-age marketers in a funny spot.

We spend so much time & effort trying to gather data (the kind of data that means something) so that we can then creatively extract true insight. And we go to lengths hiring on ‘experts’ who charge exorbitant rates to expensively dig their way to the bottom of the ever elusive consumer purchase funnel.

There has to be a better way? A more cost-effective way of achieving both reach & relevance. Because, as it stands, we’re drowning in a sea of over-information – without a lifejacket to keep us afloat. And as much as “purists” out there don’t like to admit it… we need to invest in reach to then have deep engagement metrics eventuate off of the back of exposure.

Which leaves us with quite the conundrum.

In an ever-changing & very very busy marketplace how do we find a North Star by which to find our way home?

Easy (kinda): we face the truth.

The truth:
We’re all being punked by algorithms on the daily.

What do I mean when I say we’re getting punked by algorithms? Simply put, I believe we’re being distracted. By the new & the shiny. And, by jargon. We’re all so busy talking around solutions & looking for ‘innovation’ that we forget the basics.

I truly believe the basics are the basics for a reason. To change hearts & minds you need to be seen & heard. To grow, you must know how to scale.

But before worrying about any of this, there’s something every single marketer or advertising bod worth their weight in salt (or organic tea leaves) needs to remember.

After 15 years working as a leader in digital & social media marketing I can say, hand-on-heart, that you only need to do this one thing to create impactful, successful & memorable campaigns:

Tell a good story well.

If you do this, the algorithms will sort themselves out. Promise.

It’s that simple & that complicated.

The hard part is the empty page staring back at you when you start.

You can’t just magic up a good story. You need data, then you need to find a true golden-nugget of insight to build a story upon. There’s no shortcut to creating amazing work, either. Creating a GREAT story, takes time, skill, & a truly human connection.

Remember, always remember, that humans are at the other end of your communications. Not clicks. Not CPM. Not any other digital metric – human eyes, human hearts, human minds.

I promise you, if you invest in the people you’re looking to influence, & spend the required time & effort on your story & your brand, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition that you’ll never have to worry about algorithm changes or channel shifts again.

Channels come & go – they always have & always will.

The basics are the basics for a reason. Humans have been telling stories since time immortal. Learn how to weave a quilt of mixed experiences, prerogatives, & emotions into a your narrative.

Thread your needle carefully, thoughtfully.
Welcome people into the fold.
Have a reason for being – & always aim to add more value than you’ll ever ask in return.

If you do that & if you include your audience in your narrative then your story becomes their story.

And, when your story is built upon shared ownership, others will share it for you freely. There’s literally no app, website, or social channel that could track, re-target, or plan for that.

Keen to beat the AI newsfeed?

Dig deep.
Be real.
And have fun doing it.

And, if you’re keen to learn how to build your brand & campaign stories to ensure impact & success, drop me a line. I’m happy to help you do this.

Click here for more information on storytelling for business, & to get in touch!

Living Your Life On Purpose: A Busy Person’s Guide To Ultimate Fulfilment

It’s 11am on a Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand & I’ve just flown in from Los Angeles. Before you ask, no, I didn’t do the literal flying. The pilots did, obvs (*insert Dad Joke about tired wings from all that flying here*)

Right now my mind, body, & soul are balanced. Why? Well, for almost every second of the twelve hours I spent winging my way back to reality, I thought about freedom.

All kinds of freedom.

Freedom of choice is huge for me – when I feel super fenced in, I usually feel that way because I don’t feel in control of my time, my decisions, or my future. Having freedom of choice is integral to me being able to live my life purposefully.

Freedom be myself – it goes without saying that there’s a difference between acceptance & inclusion. So often we have to hide parts of ourselves to fit into a certain culture. From where I stand right now, being me is more important than the alternative.

Freedom to accept my present situation – we’re all right where we’re meant to be, even if we don’t like everything about it. I’m one of those super annoying rose-coloured-glasses people who can find good in 99.9% of situations I’m in. Being able to accept the good & the bad means I’m free. Worst case scenario, you change & struggle & grow. Right?

And by rights, the freedom to change who I am & what I believe in.

So I took the time, Team.
The time to ponder, question, struggle, grow & change.
Time is such a precious gift – how lucky I was to have had some to be able to dig deep.

On this trip, I had many a plane, train & Uber ride in which to embrace my wandering mind. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a REALLY LONG TIME since I allowed my mind to wander beyond the realm of doing. I’m consistently pushing myself to do more, create more, be more… but I never allow myself the time to wander without reason.

Last week, wander I did.

Four of the five days I was on the ground in California, I walked half marathons. Not purposefully mind you (which is ironic considering the title of this article, but roll with me). I never set out thinking I’d walk a crazy distance each day – I only set out thinking that, no matter how uncomfortable it was, I would allow my mind to wander. I’d allow myself the gift of discovery. I’d be kind to my body with nourishing food.

Walking near the Pacific Ocean, I dove deep into my own mind. One major blessing I had was that I had no data on my phone & there was little access to WiFi. So, after habitually taking my phone out of my pocket about 20 times to aimlessly look through it – I trained my mind to stop. I put my phone in my backpack (NERD ALERT! At least it wasn’t a fanny-pack/bum-bag) & took out a pen & paper.

As I walked, if an idea hit me, I wrote it down. Scribbled remnants of clear-minded creativity. For the first time in 15 years I wrote poetry. A tickle in my soul said write. So I did. And, while my first poem was rusty, the 15th was/is pretty damn good.

I watched people a lot. Observed families on vacations. Saw Germans jump into the sea for the first time – flailing arms overwhelmed with excitement & adventure. I watched young people busy falling in love watching sunsets (totally not in a creepy way, sheesh). And, I looked on as sporty joggers made their way from Manhattan Beach Pier to Hermosa Beach & back (still not creepy).

The output of a few days of not being on a deadline to create, shift gears, & strategise? A whole lot of beautiful, jumbled, actionable clarity around where I am, who I am, & where I’d like to go in life in the next few years.

The reality of being back on home soil though, is that I’m absolutely frightened about losing this newfound momentum. I’m nervous I’ll forget who I am at my core. But, let’s be honest… that ain’t gonna happen on my clock.

Whilst walking, scribbling, & not being a creepy watcher-of-all-the-people, I wrote down some thoughts on living life purposefully. On finding fulfilment everyday. And, in building in time for creative & deep thinking.

These next tips & tricks are absolutely do-able.

They’re free for us all, too! And, if you’re like me & find yourself at a bit of a cross-roads (oh no, does this mean I’m getting old?) you might just feel better about the cross-road itself after reading through.

Right, here we go…

  • Smile More
    This is a seemingly (ahem, misleadingly) simple ‘hack’ when it comes to living life more purposefully & feeling fulfilled on the regular. Smiling is, in all actuality, a self-fulfilling prophecy for happiness in both the psychological & physiological sense. When you smile, even if you really don’t feel like it, your body sends all kinds of happy juju-vibes into your bloodstream & you end up happier. Weird, right? But, science makes this so (& maybe a bit of magic, too). Smiling more isn’t just about you either. It’s about the happy juju-vibes you’re able to spread to others. And, if the world needs more of anything, it’s happy juju-vibes. Plus, selfishly, making others feel better about themselves is my ultimate fuel. Having the tank consistently filled through kindness rocks. So, while it may seem super simple, just do it. Smile more. Smile often. Smile until your cheeks need a rest.

 

  • Do Unto Others
    If you haven’t heard this saying before… where the heck have you been? I absolutely live my life by this motto & always have. Oftentimes overused & underdelivered upon, these words have had a profound effect on me at many junctures throughout my life. Like a nagging voice in the back of my own head, these words act as tenets to my existence & consistently force me to think beyond my own self, beyond my own frame of reference, beyond even my own narrative around a journey. By purposefully acting on a kindness first viewpoint on life, I find my sense of fulfilment is topped up daily. If you live with a viewpoint that your actions & words do matter to others, then you live more completely. When you do unto others you get back what you give. Even when there’s nothing in it for you in the moment other than even a quiet moment to skite around being the better person, good begets good. Do more good to others & more will come to you. Ah yes, a prefer recipe for fulfilment.

 

  • Get Used To Being Disconnected (observe people)
    We’re always on. Always connected. Always buzzing, pinging, & beeping. And, we’re addicted (for the most part) to our mobile devices. That little red notification button is more addicting that crack – seriously it is! So it’s no surprise that droves of uber-and-over-connected people are learning to turn off. There are retreats in all corners of the world literally dedicated to turning off your phone & learning how to work through the silence that settles in your mind & soul when you don’t have something in your hand shouting out to you constantly to consume. I for one can tell you I am a fully-fledged member of the majority of people who’re too connected. I’m shit at just being in the moment. And, my goal in life is to become less shit at being present. Yesterday, walking on the beach without anything in my hands, I realised that my little baby is now a 12yr old independent (& beautifully stroppy) young woman. I blinked & she grew up. Sure I have 300,000 photos of her on Facebook, but looking back, I have only a few dozen deep memories of her childhood that happened without a camera in hand. Since returning home, I’ve put some tactics into play around disconnecting. At work I leave my phone on my desk & take my apple watch off in meetings. At home I leave my phone & computer in different rooms to where the family is. I’m not going to lie, it’s a struggle to not have my technological safety blanket with me at all times… but good god, it’s freeing to be always in the moment. Looking into the eyes of people you care for is magic. What you see reflected back might just get you through the toughest days you’ll ever face.

 

  • Listen More (to yourself, to others, & to the universe)
    This tip dives deeper than simply turning your listening ears on. While most of us are always in a hyped-up state of working through answers to pauses in conversations instead of listening to hear – we are all facing a crisis of understanding why it is we do what we do. Listening is multi-faceted & especially feels foreign if you’ve been sipping the Kool Aid of oneupmanship for years & years. Listening to yourself is extremely important to living more purposefully. What is your gut telling you about a situation, a project, or an opportunity? Tune in to your intuition & you’ll grow & change faster than you could ever imagine. Also, listen to others. What are the people who love you telling you? What’s not actually getting through? For me, it’s that I am worthy. I am good enough to follow my dreams. Sure it’s scary, but my beloveds have my back. Why not take a risk. Why not just jump? Beyond humans, listening to the universe (yeah, yeah, I know it sounds super hippy-esque, but roll with me here) is one of the best things you’ll ever do when working towards more fulfilment. Stop, observe, try new things. What’s coming your way? What’s not? And, what can you do to help shape fate? When you take the time to listen more, you get back more. And, you’re able to be more to others. Listening ears/soul, ON!

 

  • Try, Fail, Learn, Grow, Repeat ad infinitum
    At what age or juncture in life do we go from being invincible (remember being 5yrs old, dressing as Super Woman, & flying out of windows?) to being afraid to try at all for fear of failing? Why does growing up usually mean praying at the pew of comfort when it comes at expense of adventure? Personally, I’ve always fought against getting comfortable. For me, comfortable usually delivers a hearty dose of boredom. And believe you me, when my inspiration tank is empty, my wheels turn towards other avenues & ventures. As far as living a truly purposeful & remarkable life goes, the best & worst times usually blend into one & the same because it is in those moments of discomfort than we learn the most. It is in these moments that we grow. My life mantra is that we must all at least try. If you want to play tambourine on stage with Elton John, you’ve gotta at least buy a ticket to the concert, right? And, even if you get on stage & don’t happen to have a tambourine handy (damn it, Cass!) … at least you’ve tried & know better for next time. From a professional sense, I’ve always pushed myself into roles that scare me a little bit. Selfishly, I want to grow. I want to stretch. I want to help others. To do this I need to stay in motion. Standing still is safe, sure. But it’s also boring. If you’re looking for purpose, if you know what drives you, get out & try. Learn to be okay with failure. Learn, grow, & get back on that horse. I promise you, you’ll look back on this very moment in a year or 10 years & be so damn proud of yourself for moving forward.

And there you have it. Tried & true ways to dive deep into what drives you & to put them into action.

If you’ve got your own methods for not only finding your purpose, but ensuring you stick to the things that matter to you most, please comment below or shoot me an email.

I’m always happy to learn from others!

As always, thank you for reading.

#KindnessRocks #KindnessRevolution

A Letter To My Mom On Her 70th Birthday

Dear Mom,

You don’t know this (yet), but I’ve been writing this for months. Years, even. It’s taken me a long time to put into words something worthy of celebrating someone who’s been not just my best friend & North Star, but that to so many others.

The second I hit ‘publish’ on this letter & set it free into the great, untamed wilds of the interwebs, there will be a knock at your door. The knock will be significant for two reasons.

The first reason being the most obvious… no one ever comes all the way up the hill unannounced & then knocks at the front door (and, can I say here in a public forum, just how amazing your new front door looks?) They just don’t. Ever.

Mostly we all just rock through to the pool & then into the house as if it’s our own. Because, well, you’ve always made it feel like it is. Rob & I have only ever known your home as our home… so, ya know, knocking at the front door?

Secondly, the knock will be significant in that the people on the other side of the door are the only two humans you grew from nothingness to the adults that stand in front of you.

Rob & I have arrived to surprise you. Please don’t fall over or pass out (if you don’t do either of these things though, I’ll know that Dad spilled the beans about the trip!)

We’re here to celebrate you. To thank you. And, to shower you with love. In this moment of surprise, if you feel even 1/1000th of the happiness you bring us (& have done for 36yrs), then our deception in surprising you will be worth every mile, minute, & fabulously silly turn we’ve taken to get to you. On this, remind me to tell you about Javier, the Amtrak dude in business class on the Surfliner I took yesterday. YOU. WILL. HOWL!

I could write a novel about you. And, if you ever want me to, I’m happy to. I’d love to write about your childhood. Your adventures growing up as a country mouse & moving to a big city (ahem, shall we mention the abalone sandwich & guacamole debacles?)

I’d also love to share with the world stories about the kindness you exude. The strength that seeps into every ounce of your being. And the way your eyes dance when you giggle. Because, let me tell you, depending on how much red wine you’ve had – they ChaCha, they Rumba, they Two-Step, & they waltz like a ballroom dancing competition on uppers.

But at the expense of time & novel writing, I thought I’d share ten things that make you the most amazing human I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known.

Also, a bonus, not only are you the best human, YOU ARE MY MOM!

HOW LUCKY AM I???

Right, so in no particular order, here’s how I celebrate you, Momma. On your birthday. Today & every day, here are just a few of the things that cause me to adore, look-up to, & to love you without bounds.

Happy birthday, Momma.

  1. You Have The Patience of a Saint
    No really, you do. I don’t know how you raised two kids who were 16 months apart, held down a 50+ hour-a-week job, did all of the traditional female roles in the household, volunteered your time to the community… AND DID NOT KILL A DAMN ONE OF US. Lord knows there were times when ringing our necks would’ve been completely permissible in a court of law. Remember that time I tried to get away with driving up to LA to go to the waterpark & then threw the WHOPPER OF ALL WHOPPER tantrums when you caught me out? Yeah. I remember you looking on in shock & a little bit of hilarity. You actually could’ve reacted with something akin to homicide. And, you could’ve walked away scott free. But you stuck around. And, you kept a calm & cool head along the way. I always like to say that my base personality is more like Dad – a bit fiery, very silly, & reactive. But you, with your calm head & lessons that could be scripted into a Holy book or carved into stone helped to temper me. To teach me more about playing the finite game in life. To enjoy each moment we’re given. Thank GOD or whatever that higher power is out there for you.
  2. But, You Also Have a Nolan Ryan Arm & Aren’t Afraid To Use It When The Right Moment Presents Itself
    While you may have been as saintly as any Saint most of the time, you could also be naughty as the devil. No flies on my Momma, nope. No sir. No way. You were & are a woman of strength & conviction. You spoke up, spoke out, & put your neck (& I imagine ass) on the line to fight for better. To do better. Your throwing arm was also a thing to behold, especially if Rob or I were being bullied or treated unfairly. One of my most vivid memories of childhood took place in the stands at the high school gym. Rob was playing in a late Friday night game (we girls had just finished our game with a win!) & it was a battle on the court to be sure. At one point in the third quarter, a senior on the opposition threw an elbow right into Rob’s freshman face. Rob went down fast. The next thing I know all I can hear is Dad’s voice yelling “No Jennifer! No! Don’t do it!” to which I turned around & saw you – crazy eyed & hellbent on making it to the violent offender – with one of your 6 inch heels above your head. Lock, set, THROW! Thankfully Dad caught your arm just as you were about to bazooka this 18yr old asshole into the year 2099 with a $1000 high-heel. As all this was unfolding, Rob got up (black eyed) & played on. The-elbow-throwing senior on the other team saw you & ran off of the court cowering. And I sat there, beaming. MY MOM IS A MUTHAFUNKIN BADASS WOMAN Y’ALL. Just try something, and a black suede Balenciaga will be your dinner if you do.
  3. You Cook, Oh Can you Cook!
    Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub…yaaaaaaaaaay, Mom! Right, let’s talk about Betty Crocker Homemaker of the year. Mom, you can cook. There’s a reason every main memory of my life is associated with some kind of yumminess. It’s because you always made sure we ate. And boy did we ever! Remember my obsession with pork chops? And spinach souffle? And croutons? And, no. Not all of them at the same time, folks, sheesh. You always made sure that we had plenty to eat. And, you helped us learn how to set a proper table and to present meals in a beautifully artistic way. Food literally has to look good enough to eat, right? You sure taught us about the art of presentation when it came to cuisine. That skill in itself has helped me so many times to pretend I’m a real adult when I was completely out of my comfort zone. Putting on a good dinner party is a magical fast-forward step into being seen as an adult. 21yr old me thanks you!
  4. You’re The Most Heliotropic (Kind) Leader I’ve Ever Known
    Everything you do is kind. You smile at everyone, talk to everyone (EVERYONE). You make other people feel heard, worthy, & important. Watching you as a small child treat people equally, regardless of social stature or title was magic. That said, it was watching you as a leader at work when I was young that helped to be the leader & the human that I am today. One who puts kindness, empathy, understanding, gratitude & forgiveness ahead of office politics & ego. So many people live life professionally spinning in a giant wheel. They go round & round & round in a never-ending rat-race that might (or might not, for most) eventuate in a big title & some cash in the bank. And for what? A fast-track to the graveyard where you can’t take your fancy title or Roller with you when you go? Gawd, I am so thankful that you taught us about what’s real & really important in life. Getting to know people, working as a team, moving towards a common goal, & allowing others to be just as flawed & imperfect as we are. I still don’t understand folks who are in positions of leadership who don’t know how to connect with others. Laughter is so important. Trust is necessary at all junctures. No successful business was ever built upon the broken backs of others. Instead it’s common experiences, shared struggle, & individuals following their passions that make success long-lasting & impactful. Thank you for teaching me this. Thank you for embodying this.
  5. You Make People Feel Smart, Empowered, & Loved
    No matter where you are or who you’re with, you make people feel pretty damn good about themselves at all times. As a kid I thought all Moms were like you. Sensible, funny, & ready to talk the ear off of anyone who was up for a conversation. As a grown up, I realise that you’re special. Grown ups, for the most part, are weird & can be super antisocial. So, having you as my mentor & teacher throughout life has meant that I love connecting with people. Hearing their stories. Laughing. I can’t even begin to count up how many people have told me & how many times I’ve heard stories of your generosity of spirit. I get pulled aside at parties, events, & in the company of long-time family friends to be told just how special you are. And, let’s just put it out there, the more red wine people drink, the more hilarious stories are that come out about you & the adventures you’ve taken people on over time. Adventures that these folks hold tight to as some of the best times of their lives. I won’t mention the New Orleans story, this is a G rated blog, but let’s just say that you’re definitely something & someone to live up to! If I could ever embody even an iota of the way you make feel others feel, my life would be worthwhile as heck. A mixture of self awareness & true giving of energy & spirit, Momma you’re truly a legend.
  6. Your Missouri Shines Through Often
    You’ve been in California for a long time now, but you really can’t take the Missouri out of the girl, can ya? One thing I love about you is how you’re able to take all of the pieces of yourself & put them together to form a worldly, intelligent woman with a bit of twang running through everything you say & do. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think Rob or I (or our kids) would know how to use colloquialisms such as “Well I’ll be damned.” or “God love ’em.” in context so perfect that – no matter where we are in the world – we’re understood. There’s something about following our adventuresome spirits towards wide open spaces on the road to Hannibal that makes my entire self smile. Just grab a rental car in Kansas City, hit up the Sonic for a pork tenderloin & Mr Pibb, put a Wynonna Judd cassette in the tape player – & cruise into good times on the way to the farm. California is cool, but it’s the Missouri in you that I love the most.
  7. You Taught Me To Collect Memories & Moments, Not Things
    I’ll never forget your battle cry when heading into adventures: “Have toothbrush (& a clean pair of undies), will travel!” Like Wonder Woman without the booty-baring costume & sans cape, you’re always up for having fun. Whether we’re driving, flying, on a boat, plane, or train… you’ve aways been my #1 person for adventures. From the time we were really small, I can remember you telling Rob & I that it was memories that we were paying for when we went places. We didn’t need things (though, let’s just take a moment to stop & pay tribute to cheap souvenirs in tacky touristy shops abroad), we just needed each other. The best investment ever made is in experiences & experiencing life with others. And, it might be a trip to the beach or a trip to the Alps, either way, you always taught me to have a glass of wine, a bite of the cake, & to take in the moment. Enjoy each adventure, no matter how small. Here’s to the next one!
  8. You Are One Helluva Grandma JJ
    Now, I’ve always known how fab you are as a Mom. But it wasn’t until our little Pootie girl was born that I saw your true silliness & depth shine through. From the moment she was born, I understood the magic of grandparenthood in a way that only a someone who has become parent themselves could. Just as Grandma Roma was my hero from the moment I took my first breath – you are my daughter’s hero. There’s no question about that. You’re her soulmate. You’re her everything. And OHMYGAWD I thought I was spoiled growing up, my kid has the world (& Grandma JJ) at her fingertips. Watching you two together reminds me that magic still exists. And, seeing you now with Rob’s girls is such a joy & a pleasure. How the heck are you good at ALL THE THINGS? I’m not sure how you find the recipes for & then mix your potions of kindness & generosity, but I’m glad that you do.
  9. You Enjoy A Nice (or slightly mediocre) Glass of Wine
    Let’s talk wine, shall we? For a woman of the world, you’ve always had quite the palate for a lovely (or not so lovely) drop. When I think about you, I often think back to our European whirls together, & all of the times you’d order a 1/2 ‘giraffe’ of vino di tavolo at the local Italian & end up giggling until one of us was in tears. I love that you’re just as nonplussed drinking a $1000 bottle of wine as you are excited to drink a Two-Buck-Chuck as long as the company is right & the conversation is flowing. Ice cubes in red wine? Why the heck not! Warm white? Sure thing, if the mood is right! As with everything in life, you’re in it for the right reasons. To enjoy, to share, to make memories of occasions. Wine snobbery? Nah, not my Momma. She’s happy to be at the table with people she loves. Everything else is a bonus.
  10. You’re 70! Holy Shit, You Made It!
    MOM! YOU’RE SEVENTY! Remember when turning seventy seemed old? I guess in 2018 seventy is the new forty – or something like that. Because, when we’re honest, you have the outlook of a Gen Z, the technological nous of my millennial compatriots, & the experience of a Boomer. So, the last thing anyone could ever call you would be old. In fact, sometimes I think you’re younger than me. I mean, to quality that statement would be simple, right? I’m abed by 9pm, you’re up into the wee hours. You’re the first one to jump off of a mountainside (albeit, strapped to a handsome young man with a glider), the first to do most things. And, with time, you seem to be getting more & more adventurous. Thank you for the million trips you’ve made from California to New Zealand to help us parent our best girl, for the late night phone calls, for the FaceTime sessions that start in tears & end in laughter. You’re everything I hope I grow up to be & then some.

Happy 70th Birthday, Mom. We love you.

You make this stuff look good! Now let’s go get donuts, drink wine, & dance on tables.

Get Out Of Town, Literally. Why Taking A Break Is Good For Every Part of You.

The Rat Race & The Human Hamster Wheel

If you’re like me, your life is a bit like a hamster wheel – but for humans. We live out our best years as quasi-robots bound by a monotonous & perpetual cycle that has been colloquially dubbed the 9-to-5. This cycle is what we’re taught as children that we need to be a part of to be a true success. So, we yearn for it, we give our all to it, & we lose out a lot of time, sleep, & dreams to it.

For most of us, our modern professional lives begin each morning in traffic on the way to the office & end each evening in the same way (but in the opposite direction, obvs.) We see little of our family, & even less of our friends. We connect online & see children growing up through social media.

The Exaltation Of Busyness

Outside of the office we’re tired. No, we’re more than that. We’re exhausted. Don’t just take it from me, take it from number crunchers & geeky scientists who tell us that we need to be working less & living more.

Instead of making martyrs of ourselves at the altar of the 9-to-5 (which, let’s face it, is more like 7-to-6 when we break down the long days & the hours we’re working outside of the norm) we need to be paying attention to our relationships, our health, & our goals outside of post campaign implementation reports & P&L ledgers.

We need to stop praying at the altar of Busyness. Being busy is not a badge to be worn proudly, it’s the opposite of such. Restfulness, taking time to think through strategy & projects, & building in space to be creative is necessary now more than ever in professional spaces.

Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away

So how do we break the mould & ensure we’re working at our most optimal level without breaking the bank or breaking away from work we enjoy or need to do?

One thing we can all do is simply take a break.

We’re so lucky here in NZ to get 4 weeks off a year paid, minimum. Four weeks! Taken in one big chunk, or broken into mini-vacations or multiple long-weekends throughout the year, it is imperative that we all take time off & out from the office.

At last count, there were over 70 million unused vacation days on the books across New Zealand. WTAF?!?! 70 million. That’s a lot of time for head-clearing, family bonding, & adventuring.

When I talk to people who’ve banked a WHOLE FREAKING LOT of time off, my mind boggles. Whether it be deadlines & deliverables, the perceived cost of taking time off, or simply a bad co-dependent relationship with a job – excuses for not taking time off run the gauntlet of human imagination in full.

My take on all of it? I call poppycock.

Time off doesn’t have to be expensive. You can chose a staycation & stay at home. Get some goals ticked off the list in your own backyard. That is a win in & of itself! Too time strapped & trapped by deadlines? Bah humbug. If there’s no one to take on your workload while you’re away, then set expectations clearly. If you set boundaries when it comes to recharging & you communicate them openly, I have always found that people will respect them.

The Importance Of Time Off

To be your best self – at work & at home – you need to know who you are. Without a title. Without a corner office. Without a uniform on. Beyond the office. Who are you at the core?

Getting to know yourself means you’ll be more engaged, confident, & driven across all verticals of your life.

What follows are the main ingredients in self-discovery that you can only undertake when you’re outside of your routine. When you’re resting up, heading out, & expanding your understanding of the wider world around you.

  • Exploring
    • When you’re exploring a world beyond the usual day-in-day-out that you’re accustomed to whilst working, your health improves on all levels. My family & often I always end up walking a lot more when we’re on vacation. Our physical fitness goes up, not down! And, our mental fitness becomes stronger, too. I’d be willing to wager that the simple act of exploration is the most impactful way of turning off from routine & flipping the switch on self-actualisation.
  • Adventuring
    • As with exploring, adventuring is such an important thing to take & make time for. Adventures can be undertaken anywhere with anyone, so embracing an attitude of fun & discovery is one of the best ways I know of switching off & truly experiencing life. Just last month, my biggest adventure was driving to Las Vegas in the middle of a desert winter – on a whim. Thanks to the whim, my wife & I both ended up not only in Las Vegas, but also dancing on stage with Elton John. Adventurous? Heck yes. Did it change me? Yes, yes, yes. So much so for the better. The more I feel a need to break free, the more I embrace adventure.
  • Learning
    • Taking a break & getting away teaches us all more than any meeting in a boardroom or worship at a conference. By stretching beyond our norms, we learn more about people, cultures, & become more empathetic. Having a larger world view & understanding more about how different people live allows us to come back to our own workplaces more educated. With empathy, kindness, & learning on holiday, we become better business people in the longterm.
  • Refocusing passions
    • When you have some free time & space to explore, adventure, & learn – you invariably will start thinking about your passions. What are the things that drive you & what do you stand for? Do these values & passions translate into your daily working life? What you often find while taking time away is clarity. Clarity of purpose is something everyone’s searching for, most of the time you’ll only find it when you’re not looking for it. It will define you, not the other way around. Allow yourself time to refocus.
  • Setting goals
    • Setting goals is a huge part of taking time out. Whether you run away to a beach where the cocktails are bottomless, or you find a hiking trail that takes you far off the beaten track, one wonderful thing that happens when you get away from the office is that you’re able to set goals on your own. Being able to work through your own goals without the weight of corporate infrastructure means that you’re much better armed to set goals within the confines of a corporation when you’re back. Clearly knowing what it is that you want to achieve makes achieving things easier.

All in all, we live in a busy, fragmented time. A time in which we work long hours & disregard our own needs when it comes to relaxing & recharging.

My advice? Dream bigger.

Take time to explore the world beyond your daily routine. And, when your batteries are recharged, head back to work ready to do the absolute best that you can do!

Manhattan Beach Palm Trees, California

Speak Out & Shout, Every Voice Matters this International Women’s Day

Wake Up To Change 

I woke up this morning as I do every morning. Full of hope for the day ahead. Full of excitement at the promise of new adventures. And, let’s be honest here, slightly sleepy & bleary-eyed after what’s been a manic start to a jet-lagged week after two weeks back home in San Diego filling my soul & recharging my inspiration batteries.

Today’s a special day though.

One a bit different to other days. Today my Twitter stream & Facebook feeds are dominated by headlines of female world-leaders, strong women we meet every day, marches, protests, & (typically) cats.

Seriously, Internet? Cats? Still?

I guess if cat worship was a ‘thing’ for ancient Egyptians, then it makes sense in the internet age – kinda.

In amongst the usual algorithmic clutter of content, & off of the back of over a year of #MeToo, #TimesUp & #NeverAgain cultural movements, I’m heartened to see a huge surge of powerful posts pointing towards the tidal swell towards equality.

Words are forming.
Language is building.
Sentiment is taking shape – we’re moving from impassioned pleas towards demanding action. Now.

Vivid images.
Eloquent text.
And, vivaciously poignant videos.

Sheesh, it’s 7am & I’ve gone through this Kleenex box next to me crying happy tears, angry tears, impassioned tears. I should note here, Team, I’m not usually a crier. But, as I said earlier, today’s different.

A Happy And Heavy Heart

Friends, family, colleagues, brands, politicians and businesses across the world are bringing International Women’s Day to life this year across digital and social media in a way I’ve not experienced before.

My heart? Today, is happy & heavy. Happy that so many people are not merely recognizing today as a tick-box exercise in political correctness, but rather a necessary element of driving informed, honest dialogue around gender inequality at work, at home, and beyond.

Heavy because we still face a large opposition of naysayers. People who love the patriarchal BAU of inequity & inequality that keeps most down, & lifts only a few. There’s also a heaviness in knowing that one day a year of shaking the internet isn’t enough to bring gender parity closer to reality.

Having a day set aside to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women feels great, but stings just a little bit too. Ya know?

What happens tomorrow? Who among us will continue to talk, argue, scrap, and otherwise fight for women’s rights?

Will we just go back to ho-hum, everyday acceptance of the world as it is. Will we still be supported by our bosses, our lovers, our family if we speak up consistently? I’m not so sure we will be. At some point we are labeled as that feminist or that girl with opinions. 

Will the wheel keep spinning or will our voices quiet again until March 8th rolls around again next year? How will we continue the dialogue daily between all people – women & men alike?

Take Action

This time last year I made a promise to myself, to my colleagues, & to my family to do better. To speak up & speak out. And to call out moments of harassment, mansplaining, inequity, & otherwise detrimental interactions towards women.

365 sleeps later? I’m bloody proud of myself. Slowly but surely I see my younger colleagues – male & female alike – standing up for each other. Allowing each other to speak. And, treating each other with more kindness.

There’s still a lot left to be done though. Old Boys Clubs still run rampant through corporations large & small.  Women are still paid less then men in the same (or even lower) positions. Vernacular & language around leadership are still very male.

Make A Promise

As I did last year, I again am making a promise to do more for women in hopes that we actually start shifting the balance towards fairness. There’s a large piece of work to be done in disentangling visibility from power. They are not one & the same, though they are often treated as such.

My call to action for women & men today? Don’t be complacent. You have a voice, use it. Fight the fear of standing up for yourself or someone else. Do it. Make change happen through your own consistent actions. Small, large… whatever.  Just stand up for something or someone.

Every little bit counts.

Here’s to strong women everywhere.
May we support you. May we lift you up. May we celebrate you. May we be you.
And, may we raise the next generation in your light.

#IWD2018 #PressforProgress 

Forever Friday, How To Keep Those Pre-Weekend Vibes Alive All Week

Friday. FriYAY. Saturday Jr.

Whatever you call it, Friday is our collective Bae Day. Hard not to love even the thought of it rolling around again (especially if you’re sitting on Sunday night or Monday morning), right?

With a typical work week, we give different meanings & values to each day. C’mon, we all do it. We have to, simply to survive!

Monday’s can seem overwhelming, but they’re a turn of the ignition on a new week. Tuesdays are scientifically (supposedly) our most productive days. Wednesdays are “hump days” because, whew, we’ve hit the middle of the week & are gunning for weekend vibes. Thursdays… well, they’re pretty cool. They’re like Tuesday with a taste of Friday.

And then there’s beautiful, beautiful, Friday.

A day whose most popular associated acronym literally thanks a higher power for another pre-Saturday rolling around again. TGIF, indeedy!

And, try as you might to escape it, almost all of us who work a typical 40 hour week for a living, live for Friday night & that roll-on-weekend-Momma-needs-a-break-and-most-likely-a-strong-margarita feeling

So here, in no particular order, I’m serving you up some ways to keep a little taste of Friday alive all week long (through the lens of each week day.)

MONDAY:
The first thing we could all do to bring a Friday Feeling to each day would be to maximise our efficiency at work.

SNOOZE! What a boring thing to suggest, right?
Nah. Wrong.

Think about it. How long do we spend mucking about with emails first thing on a Monday? How long do we spend in meetings about meetings that eventuate in more meetings about meetings we have repeating at the beginning of each week. Meetings where we achieve very little actual actual output?

Too long, I reckon.

I can’t stand busy-work. It bores me & is a super-highway with cars screaming down it at breakneck speed with the end destination being Disengagement City. I thrive on having clear direction, scoped projects, & knowing where to best spend my energy & time.

So, for Monday here’s my tip:
Make Monday YOUR DAY & use it to set the week up for success. Prioritize your work & your calendar. Set yourself some tasks. Stick to a plan.

Then… have a margarita. Monday Margaritas are the best!

TUESDAY
Ah Tuesday, our little steam engine of the week. You’re not Monday, which is a blessing for most, & you’re also the day we really get stuck into the doing part of the hard work – well most of us.

I reckon Tuesdays are ready-made for injecting a bit of Friday Feelz into from the outset. If you’ve got your week sussed on Monday, then you’re clear on where you’re going & how you’ll get there by the time the weekend rolls around.

So on Tuesday, the tip is simple:
Go hard. And, if you can, tell at least one joke to an unsuspecting colleague. The more cringeworthy & gfaw-inducing your punchline, the better.

Everyone will be busy, busy, busy doing worker bee things. A well placed Dad Joke brings a bit of Friday & a bit of snort-worthy giggles to the office.

WEDNESDAY
Ah there you are, middle ‘o the week! Over the hump, we’re headed blissfully downhill. Deep breath, we can all see, taste, & feel Friday growing closer & closer. Wednesday is a great day – really, it is.

I like to start adding Friday Feels into the middle of the week. Wistfully glancing forward towards a brighter, weekend vibe. Wednesdays usually fly by for me. It’s like I blink & they’re over.

Most likely because this is the day where the most meetings happen. Wednesday is right smack-dab in the middle of our own self-imposed time limits to finish projects or move them forward. So it’s about this time we get quite the wiggle on in the productivity stakes.

Injecting Friday into Hump Day? Here’s my tip:
It’s easy, you’re headed downhill, baby! Turn on some music, do a little dance, & keep that head up.

Thursday’s only a day away now.

THURSDAY
Yassssss, we’re almost there team. Seriously. The prize is waiting to be grabbed with both hands… and it’s only one more day of hard yakka away.

I actually adore Thursdays. Thor’s Day, as it were. I always feel a bit pumped, like the people on Venice Beach with arms the size of tree-trunks, getting this close to the end of the week has this little gym-junkie raring to get a few more sets (AKA ‘meetings & projects’) in before mañana rolls around.

Thursdays are full of pizzaz, productivity, & peace of mind in knowing that Bae Day is close enough to touch.

And, so we rock it, don’t we team? Injecting Friday into a Thursday… easy as:
Just roll with it. Take the knocks with a smile. Sprint until your legs give out. You’re almost there.

FRIYAY!
We made it.

Yasssssss! How do we then go about Injecting more Friday into Friday?

That sounds crazy. Absurd. Ridiculous even… but I reckon we should. Enjoy a day of casual dress. Take even a small lunch break & really make it ‘your time’ to start winding down – or up. Because if you’re like me, you don’t take lunch breaks every other day – even though you should – so TGIF is the day to do it.

Why celebrate a day just because it’s nearer the weekend than other days? Because, life is short & the weeks fly by. Don your sexy-as rose coloured glasses & pay the Pied Piper of Happiness. You deserve it!

Bring on the freakin’ weekend, or summat.

There you have it, Team. A few tips to inject Friday Feelings into the rest of the week. Whether you take these to heart – or simply just remember to slow down every now & again throughout the work week to re-set, re-energize, & re-organize.

We all work so hard & live busy lives. Perhaps the best way to live at all times is to take time to simply reflect & be thankful.

Friday, I know one thing’s for certain, I’m thankful for YOU!