The Art of Being You: Building A Better Personal Brand (without the BS)

Fu*k the rules, do what’s right for you?
Seriously. Fu*k em. 

Do you remember life without screens? 

I mean the glowing, talking, ever-present & omniscient ones we wistfully while away our lives behind (be they big, medium, small, or pocket-sized?

Do you remember going out with your friends at the dew-drop-dawn of each new day & riding bikes from sun-up to sun-down. Making up rules to games that didn’t exist yet & relishing in the art of unfettered play?

Did you dance on tables for the joy of & not because we needed fodder to feed an algorithm or three? 

Let me tell you… I did. Thank GAWD we didn’t have smartphones & cameras documenting every waking moment of our lives when I was young. Instead we embraced boredom as a challenge. We invented adventures & undertook them fastidiously.

We found joy in recounting our harrowing tales of escaping scorpions, rattlesnakes, & Bob cats (ahem, we never had to escape really – we never saw all the critters we imagined we’d escaped from, it was their trails in the shallow dust that reminded us they were there though). Oh I loved the days before digital applause became inherently tied to our own self-worth.

When was the last time you spent an entire summer afternoon lying in the grass looking up at the sky & watching the clouds pass overhead?
I can’t remember the last time I did it. 
Has my 13year-old daughter ever done this?
Ever? 
I’m not actually sure. 

My own memories moments where I was truly present haunt me like gentle ghosts. Nudging me. Nurturing me. All of them are specters of a past that whisper in my ears “Do you remember…” hey haunt me in rare moments of silence & stillness, prodding at a dusty corner of my consciousness reminding me of the innate joy in doing nothing. Now though, nothingness is frowned upon. 

In a world where we pay to go places without wifi & are easily seduced by the idea of going offline, we struggle when we encounter boredom. We’re now hard-wired for connection 24/7/365. But the connection our brains desire (damn you, dopamine) isn’t real connection. 

We are living in a time where our personal value is oftentimes measured by how busy we are, how many titles we’ve put next to our names on LinkedIn profiles, & how many followers see the photos/videos/words we upload. The measure is simple: if lots of people see the reckons we post & the breakfasts we tweet about (accompanied by inane/clever/snooze-worthy hashtags), then we must be very important & interesting. Right? 

Yeah, nah. 

In the past 20 years the fabric of our connected culture has become shinier, sure. And don’t we just covet the shiny things? We attempt to grab more & more of the twinkly stuff. We show only our highlight reels to the world. The ups. The celebrations. The rising from a fall. The highest of peaks. Sometimes we show glimpses of the hard stuff. But, that’s only sometimes. 

Mostly though, we keep our fears & our anxieties locked away. 
We wallow in our own defeats when defeat looks like us. 
When the person we see in the mirror isn’t perfect we hide them & from them. 

We disconnect to connect.

For most of us, social interactions are a smoke-screen. A proof-point of interacting with a modernity that has over-run us. It’s social media that defines us. All of us. We post dreamy smiles in golden sunlight in the hopes of living up to the expectations of people we’ve never met. Expectations that have yet to be defined. 

We follow. 
We follow.
We follow. 
We follow…

And, in turn, we hope others will follow us.
Why? Because being followable is the new wealth. 

Whether it’s 100 people or 100million, being followed is a new currency by which we buy & sell our self-confidence off of the back of likes, shares, comments & the ever-elusive idea of virality. Our sweet-fix digital culture is killing us though. Quite literally. We’re drunk on algorithms. 

Here at home in New Zealand our depression & suicide rates are higher than almost anywhere else in the world. We measure our value, our lovability, & our cleverness by double-taps on a screen somewhere else in the world. People we will never know hold our lives in the palms of their hands. 

Which brings me to the topic of Personal Brand. 

Google the term or take a wee squizz on any LinkedIn timeline & you’ll find a treasure trove of people talking about cutting through the din of digital content & becoming a thought leader by building a better personal brand than the next person. Millions of articles purport the best tips-&-tricks for hacking human algorithms (not to mention the social media driven ones) & becoming instantly likable. Instantly famous. Instantly worthy. 

This isn’t a new idea, in fact it’s an old one. It’s only the platforms on which we’re meant to sparkle that are different. Le sigh. Hands up if you’re already bored of all of the beaty-chesty congratulatory swill that people post in an attempt to feel any bit of anything at all. We chase this kind of interaction because we’ve forgotten how to say “Thank you,” and “Well done,” and any other nice thing to each other in real life – so we look for kindness online. 

Let me be the first to tell you though, the beaty-chesty stuff isn’t authentic or likable. We’re smart. All of us. We can sense bullshit at a thousand paces. When it comes to professional platforms like LinkedIn I can spot a boot-licker from just as far a distance as a bullshit artist. 1,000 paces. 

The most frequent question I get asked is: How can you tell if someone is authentic or not? 

Firstly, let’s not beat around the bush. If you are wondering if someone might not be who they purport to be – then investigate further. Our guts are great at spotting/feeling when things don’t feel quite right. If you’re looking for something that’s based on a person’s online activity, a good rule of thumb to figure out if someone’s yanking your proverbial chain is simple. 

On LinkedIn, head to their “activity” tab & see how they interact & with whom. A person who never interacts with their own colleagues but who hammers ye olde LIKE button when it comes to the chiefs is an easy pick as a butt-kisser. When I see folks of this ilk, I unfollow/dis-engage immediately. There’s only so much brown-nosing a girl can handle up in a timeline, ya know? But that’s just one way to spot someone who is out for themselves instead of sharing themselves with others.

I believe that personal brand isn’t what you may think it is.

I’m here to bring you a different view on it. Instead of playing by other people’s rules, we get to write our own. We do! No one has to be one thing or another to have amazing thoughts & share them. You don’t have to be extroverted, shouty, or move at pace. You need only be who you are to be seen & heard. 

In fact, every single build a better personal brand article that I’ve read that doesn’t start with: “Fuck the rules, do what’s right for you!” is an article I automatically am cynical about. Cynical because if you’re going to tell other people how to live their lives, you’re not doing anyone a favour. 

So, in attempt to not write something that actually helps, & to answer questions that I get asked a whole heckuva lot, here’s my take on the best rules for building your personal brand online & offline:

  • FOLLOW THE WELL TRODDEN PATH
    Hahaha! LOL. Not. Don’t follow a path. 
    Follow a beat. Be it the beat of your heart, a beat of your own drum, or the beat of your favourite power song – follow by leading with that which feeds you. When you know your values & lean hard into them, then you’ll know the path you need to forge. I’ve always found inspiration in others. People who move through the world completely comfortable in their own skin are people I look to when my own comfort in who I am wavers. 

    The happier I am in who I am, the more I’m able to exist in a state of insatiable curiosity. I ask questions. And, I’m open to a magical melding together of electricity and stardust. To stand out, stand up. It’s not always easy to share. But it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t get stuck in the mud of the well-trodden path. Go on, Tiger. Tip-toe through the tulips instead. 
  • DRESS FOR SUCCESS
    Gross, no. 
    Dress for how you feel. 
    Dress how you want.
    Dress up, down, all around. 

    Just make sure that you are, in fact, dressed. 

    All of us should be able to show up in the world the way we want to show up. We must learn to take up space. To be visible in ways that work for us as individuals. Also, we must allow others to do the same. Celebrating diversity means being inclusive of any kind of vibe we bring sartorially. Obviously some professional engagements call for different attire and formalities. If you need to wear a suit, wear one. By all means. 

    But if you’re keen to wear that blue-flower print that makes you feel powerful, do it. Or, that bright orange number that makes you feel like a million bucks – it’s calling your name & does you no good hanging in your closet. If you’re more comfortable with a traditional corporate attire, that’s a-okay as well. You do you, Boo. You write the rules by which you play. If my penchant for double-denim is anything to go by, you’ll soon find out that when you’re at your most comfortable on the outside, you’re also your most productive & effective. Go on, give dressing for your idea of success a whirl. 
  • FOLLOW/NETWORK WITH EXECUTIVES & C-SUITE
    LOL, soz. No thanks. When I see people only managing “up” on LinkedIn & in other professional settings I instantaneously dry-retch. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t reach out to or follow people in positions you aspire to – just don’t let the idea of a corporate ladder be that which defines your personal branding strategy online (or off). Instead of seeking out the top-dogs only, follow people who inspire you instead. Search out people who have a genuine opinion & who aren’t afraid to share it. I always look for the helpers, the givers. 

    The people who spend most of their time with one aim in mind: to connect. These people are worth their weight in gold & then some. I’ve learned more from following people who are different to me & who are in different roles to me than I have by following a whole heap of CEO’s names John or Dave. With a good mix of colleagues, contemporaries, & kick-ass people who you just seem to gel with, you’ll make a much better impression on just on the world – but you’ll learn a whole lot more & be able to feed your curiosity more authentically.

    Also, things we should do more fastidiously are: 
    Thank people. 
    Compliment people. 
    Ask questions. 
    Banter. 

    Remember, building a personal brand isn’t about kissing asses. 
    It’s about trust, integrity, & being true to who you are as a person. If you’re keen on learning more from people higher up the ladder, follow away. But don’t forget to stop for a moment & look at everyone else around you. It might just be your network of contemporaries who lift you the highest as you move through your career. 
  • SHARE COMPANY STORIES 80% OF THE TIME, PERSONAL ONES 20%
    I see this a lot. Folks who are either a) drinking the Kool Aid hard-out & don’t realise the damage they’re dong to their personal brand by not branching out in their interests or who are b) looking for congratulations & adulation from others within their business alone. In the olden days of LinkedIn (yes, there were olden days & I lived through them) the rule of thumb was to only share stories about the business or industry you worked in, but that was because the platform was originally a hunting ground for job-seekers & HR folks looking to poach top talent. 

    If you were caught on LinkedIn during the Wild West days of the platform, you were always branded a person looking for greener pastures. Lucky for all of us, the platform has matured (hopefully as have we) & the facts don’t lie: to have people engage with you you must be engaging. Seems fairly obvious, right?

    Yet, I quite often see folks who will only talk about XYZ business & XYZ profits & XYZ strategy… blah blah blah. In all reality, if you’re looking to grow your personal brand online, you need to flip the above percentages. Or, be much cleverer in how you share information so that the people you’re hoping to engage with understand your personal drivers. If you share 100% business information, but can do so with a personal interest or a passionate & human spin, then that’s a-okay. Because… you guessed it… that makes the information you’re sharing relatable & valuable.

    I mean, I’m sure your big/small/medium sized business is awesome & that you are truly in love with the CMS, DMP, & campaign PIRs you work with… but tell me something interesting. Tell me something surprising. In fact, share a new idea. Say something bold. Something different. I’d love 100% of you & your ideas… but if you’re on LinkedIn, sure go on & pepper in some business speak. But please don’t make it an 80% love-fest about corporate policy.

    Humans connect. Be human. 
  • POST TWICE A WEEK ACROSS ALL CHANNELS.
    Again, this is another case of the “nopes”! What I mean by this is that winning the algorithm & going viral is kinda like winning the lotto. The odds are stacked against us all simply because of the vast amount of content being made & shared every second of every day. If you’re looking to do anything, look to make an impact on one person. Then two. Then three… etc. 

    Instead of trying to hack an algorithm, simply interact with intention. Quite often even I get caught up in thinking that I need to post to Instagram, or to Facebook, or to LinkedIn on a daily basis. But some days (ahem, MOST DAYS) I really don’t have that much to say. So instead, I fight the urge to post a bunch of waffle & instead I only post if I can interact in a way that gives. 

    When we give people our thoughts & our experience, then they receive the gift of knowledge. I love giving people my attention, my time, my expertise. Be boundless in how you give… give give give. 
    In fact, if you take anything away from this article at all, let it be this: GIVE. 
  • WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
    A few months ago I called a guy on LinkedIn an asshat. It was the nicest thing I could think to call him after he attacked me via DM & in public on the wall of my own LinkedIn feed. I’ve never met this man & really don’t ever want to, either.

    New Zealand being small & Auckland being even smaller, I probably will end up next to this dolt at a conference or riding home on public transport – but so far, I haven’t had to breathe the same air as him. Without going into too much detail, this poor, triggered fellah didn’t like my language. He didn’t like my ideas. He didn’t like me at all. 

    So, instead of blocking me or just moving on with his own damn life he tried to put his sticky beak into mine. He wrote to my employer. He attempted to continue DMing me well after me having blocked him. He just really needed to stop being an asshat. In reality, what this stranger was trying to do was to quiet me. To take my voice & my freedom of expression. He tried to bully me online, then through my employer (they didn’t bite, either). He tried to make me feel small. At all of these things, he tried & failed. 

    I’m old enough & worn around the edges enough to speak my truth. I do it kindly, I do it often. And, I hope you do, too. To build your brand, use your language. Speak your truth. People can see right through anything that’s not authentic. And, when that happens you lose trust. No trust = no ability to network.

    Never be afraid to use your language. Your own form of poetry is that which the world is ready to drink in. No one is allowed to steal that from you. One of Dr Maya Angelou’s most impactful quotes in my life has been this “A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing, she goes where she will without pretense & arrives at her destination prepared to be herself – & only herself.

    Don’t watch your language, friends – use it. 

So there you have it. 
A lot of words on personal brand that can easily be distilled down into one common theme: build trust by sharing your passion, your knowledge, & by being truly curious about who other people are & why they do what they do.

Also, wear double/triple/quadruple denim whenever you please. 
Your body. Your mind. Your rules.

Dr. Suess said is simplest. 
He said it best.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. 
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Go & do you, Boo. 

Mastering the Art of Wholeness One Day at a Time

We’re born whole.
All of us, in our own way.

When we’re little we’re confident in knowing who we are without question or doubt. We simply, are. As we master the art of motor-skills we reach out towards the world with each waking moment. We look under rocks to see what’s hiding there, we wonder how it is that light can dance on water, & we’re pretty darn tootin’ sure that there’s nothing better in the world that spending a day at the beach.

From our first breath we know what we like (hugs!) and what we don’t (being hungry/wet/etc). We also know what makes us giggle & what fills our minds with endless curiosity.

In the beginning all of our milestones are celebrated, too. Our first smile, our first words, our first spaghetti dinner (so beautifully messy), our first steps. As we grow, we’re told we can do anything – and I mean anything – if only we put our minds to it & work hard. More than anything though, we’re safe in knowing that we’re special.

Unique.
Individual.
Quirky.
Beautifully nuanced.
If we’re lucky, we maintain our awe when it comes to celebrating the differences in others. Mostly though, we learn that sameness is safer.

That said, when we’re young we find wonder in others. In their skills and in their successes. We play games, form teams, and work towards a common goal all for the sake of being together and growing together. We move through childhood hungry to learn and ready to take on the world. Oh that big, wide world. It really is our oyster in the beginning, isn’t it? 

Everyone tells us the world is our oyster. Which even now at 38yrs old makes me giggle. I love the idea of the world being something interesting & shiny – but as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy oysters, I’d rather the world was a musical & approach life like that.

But, I digress…

As a 4yr old, I loved playing sports. 

I’ve loved being a part of a team for almost my entire life. There’s something inherently grounding about knowing you’ve got the backs of your best buds on the field of play & that they know you’ve got theirs. Trust is established. Sometimes it’s broken. But mostly playing sports means we’re learning how different skillsets make a group of people stronger than a single individual. Also, beyond learning how to play by an established set of rules, teamwork builds up confidence & resilience in all of us. 

When I was four years old, I started playing softball. Even though I was one of the youngest kids on the team I loved the physical, mental, & emotional aspects of playing a game I loved. In my first year, I excelled. In fact, I took out “The Little Slugger Award.” Not only was I quick rounding the bases on little feet, but I could connect my bat with a pitch more often than not. For full disclosure, my Dad played for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in his Glory Days – as Springsteen calls them – so I could catch a pop-fly & throw a ball before I could even put one foot in front of the other.

If anyone was swinging for the fences it was Little Cass (fun fact:I’m still swinging for proverbial fences daily). Believe you me not only did I play the part, I looked it too. I swaggered like a little slugger & owned my athleticism. I wore high Bobby-socks with stripes, short golden shorts, a purple jersey, & a visor that reigned in my pig-tails (just) while keeping the sun from my eyes. I walked confident in knowing myself. I stepped up to the plate without fear of a slider or curve-ball. More than that, I loved my bruised shins & skinned knees.

Off the diamond, I took pride in out-pacing the boys at foot races. 
Eat.
My.
Dust.
Stinky, beautiful, silly boys.

Ah to be a child of summer in Southern California, eh? 

Through primary, middle, high school I was comfortable in my skin. I was comfortable in my competitive & curious nature. I was passionate about my dreams & was single-minded about doing what was right by my own moral compass. The Little Slugger was growing up. And, she was growing into who she knew she could be. 

While sports were a big part of my maturing into an adult, music was as well. I played clarinet in the marching band & sat as second-chair in our concert band. From 8yrs old I took lessons, practiced a ton, & honed my skills when it came to ye olde liquorice stick. NERD ALERT! Am I right?

When little doubts about the coolness of clarinet playing started to trickle in to my psyche in high school, I swapped the clarinet for the piano. Whilst most of my peers were deep into honky tonk country twang or emo music like Nine Inch Nails, I was into Elton John. He was all glitter, glamour, & amazingness (he still is). So, following in Uncle Elton’s footsteps, I took to playing rock music on a classical instrument. I love it then & I love it now.

Through teenager-hood, I kept my nose clean, studied hard, played music, learned experimental photography, wrote poetry, played sports & got more & more excited about the whole “the world is your oyster” thing we’d all been promised.

Fast forward to university life.

After high-school I had one last hoorah of a summer to share with friends before heading north up the 101 through LA & Ventura & on to my college campus. Upon arriving in a new town full of people I didn’t know, I became more introverted than I’d ever been. My confidence took a hit. But, Santa Barbara is a magical place & I met people & made friends quickly. I also found solace in the comforting nature of playing sports.  

I had dreams, too. BIG dreams. Whilst at UCSB – a school that had tenured professors & Nobel Laureates at our disposal – I wanted to do two things with my life: the first was to play tambourine in Elton John’s band, and failing that – I wanted to travel the world as a photo-journalist.

My poor parents were forking out dinero like no one’s business to educate me & here I wanted to live on the road shaking whatever I could shake (yes, including that which my momma gave me…) in a band of older, foreign men. Oy vey! My parents, being the amazing humans they are, laughed the Elton fantasy off & masterfully steered me towards a more secure future. When I graduated from UCSB after four years with a degree in History & Spanish Language/Literature, I put my tambourine away. Tucked gently away in a box or a dresser drawer somewhere.

Graduation day was a trip! Family from across the USA came to celebrate. Missouri mixed with So-Cal mixed with the UK. It was magical, fast, & the earth seemed to be spinning at a pace that was faster than normal. At one point in the day though it seemed as if the world stopped for a moment & pivoted in place. Actually, the world didn’t pivot – what it did was it threw me for a good ‘ol 360.

Looking back I reckon this 360 happens to almost all of us at a big juncture in our lives when we cross the threshold from child to adult. 

Enter working life. 

Whoa, welcome to the real-world, Little Slugger. Where once the world I was told that the world was my proverbial oyster, I learned that wasn’t true. Lots of grit, very few pearls.

The world it seems, is a ladder. And, to climb it, we must start at the bottom rung & climb only as & when we’re allowed to. Your gender, skin colour, economic standing, & culture all determine how quickly you get to move from rung to rung. The rules? They’re the rules & we’ve got to play by them. Yuck.

At the point in life when we learn that we must play by rules we never had a hand in writing, things get uncomfortable. So to become more comfortable, over time – without even realising it – the rules become us. We become them. We don’t question anymore, we simply do what we think is “right.” In doing so we tend to lose ourselves to labels assigned to us by random job titles, undefined skillsets, & somewhat relevant professional experience. We truly believe that this is the only way to be happy & stable & to pay the bills every month when they come due.
Again, yuck.

In today’s modern media world, world we’re connected to our devices & to each other all of the time. There’s no clocking in & out for the most part. We’re tethered to our emails. The pings, buzzes, whizzes, whimpers of notifications tell us we’re busy & important.

We’re always on.
Everything we post, comment on, like or share becomes a part of what is now deemed our “personal brand.” People we don’t even know form opinions on our skills or bankability by the people we follow on LinkedIn & by people with blue-ticks who re-Tweet us on Twitter.

Older Millennials like myself are of an age where we’re the test-cases for a huge social experiment that we’re not sure is going to turn out super amazing for our physical or mental health. We dove into the world of online & digital without nary a look back – & now that’s a lot of what we seem to be doing. Looking back. Social media & the people who built platforms to hook-us (hello dopamine) have a lot to answer for. But so do we, the willing participants of said experiment. When do we decide that enough is enough? I don’t have an answer just yet for this question, but I’m working towards one.

I remember long car drives as a kid. We’d roll down the windows & sing to whatever tape was in the player. Mostly it was Tom Petty or Wynonna Judd. We didn’t have phones to distract us. We took photos without anywhere to post them other than to our friends through the mail or on our bedroom walls.

It’s different now, eh? Do you find it hard to remember disconnected times?
I sure do! In the world we’re working in & navigating today though, we’re on. Logged-in. Liking, sharing, commenting, hash-tagging. To what end though? What I’ve noticed quite a lot recently is that, even though we’re living in new times, we’re still doing things like our parents did before us. And there parents before them. Ad infinitum… 

We get up each morning, get in our cars, hustle kids to school and head in different directions to spend time with people who aren’t our family or loved ones. If we’re lucky, we don’t get stuck in traffic for an hour before arriving at an office where we send emails, cover our asses, and sit in meetings all day.

Only to wash, rinse, repeat day in and day out… year after year… and for what? Security? The ability to intertwine our job title into the fabric of our own importance? 

The longer we play the games of adulthood, the more we believe in a false-idea of becoming who we should be. 

Right here, right now we’re living in an era where anxiety, depression, & suicide rates are sky-rocketing. In the past two trips around the sun I’ve lost six (SIX!) friends to depression & suicide. That’s six too many. We’re a generation of lost kids – kinda. We’re lost not only to others, but to ourselves & we’re digging our heels in deeper & harder when it comes to how things should be. We’re blinded by a blurry past-tense that the generations before us believe we need to bring into focus while living in a present-tense that is just that…tense.

Work-life Balance is BS.

Enter work-life balance.

Never truly-defined, we chase an idea of work-life balance that is, at its core, an illusion. As we chase this illusion, we move further away from who we are at our core. If you can’t define something at scale then how do you attain it? Dunno. But we’ll try! We’re hard workers.

That 4yr old Little Slugger I used to be? Yeah, she became a whisper of a memory that was merely a ghost. A memory. A thing of the past. For many years I learned to dress as someone else & recited lines verbatim from professional up-skilling books like a good corporate citizen. I replaced the Little Slugger in me with a woman in a business suit who straightened her hair every day, wore expensive heels, & donned make up – all in an attempt to hide herself. To fit in. I tucked away the intense blonde curls that used to naturally grow out from my under my cap. While she was away, I missed my Little Slugger. So much.

A few years ago I worked for a company with a great reputation as a place to be employed. My first day on the job was magical. Great people, great vibes & lots to dig into & help with. Not long into my tenure with the business, a senior member of staff took me into a room & told me that I was not, in any form, to communicate outwardly through social media, digital media, or anything IRL without express consent of the business even if said communications were personal & seemingly unimportant.

My opinions? Yeah nah.
They weren’t mine to share anymore.
Huh? Wha? Bacon powder…?
How’s that supposed to work?

Before working for this particular business I’d built myself up a fairly strong personal brand over the course of a decade or so working with some big brands across sectors. I loved the challenge of new tech & media. I loved learning, growing, & sharing ideas. I spoke passionately at conferences on a range of topics spanning from professional to personal & back again. I also stayed sane by writing blogs for myself & an occasional article or three for publications with big readerships. Oh, I was also friends with a whole lot of people from a whole lot of different walks of life.

All of these things were giant red-flags for the company.
I was told I was a risk to the brand.
I was told to stop or else.

Or else.

Long story short:
Over the course of my tenure working for this company I stopped.
I went with the safe route – mostly.
I succumbed to or else.

I stopped tweeting.
I stopped blogging.
I stopped speaking.
I stopped seeing my friends.
I stopped going to the gym.
I stopped taking photos.
I stopped learning.
I stopped calling my family.
I stopped smiling.
I stopping chasing my creative passions.
I stopped being me.
<insert sad panda emoji>

I STOPPED BEING ME! And, I crashed & burned big time emotionally because of it.

For a long time I was angry with the business who’d given me the cease-&-desist order for the hard times I went through. But over time I realised that I’d played the game, their game. And the game won (as did my eventual therapist & her bank account for all of the sessions I needed to un-do the un-doing of me.) I was at fault for not pushing back. I could’ve chosen or else & probably been better for it. I didn’t though.

Toeing the line meant breaking down. My marriage broke down. My confidence broke down. My mental health broke down. My life became something that was not my own. Leaving the job was the biggest gift ever. It took a while for me to stop being angry with myself for playing the game. Especially when I could see it happening in real-time.
But, I’m better now. Much, much better. And, kinder with myself.

There’s hope for all of us, yet.

In truth, we all play the game. And, in playing it we become a part of the machine. So the machine keeps going…slow, steady & unchanging. All the while, we lose pieces of ourselves. We take up less space. We speak up less, and we forget to lift (or fear lifting) others.

Recently there’s been a revival of purpose-driven brands though. Businesses big & small who champion their people & who truly believe that great brands aren’t built from the ground up, but rather from the inside out. When I think of great brands I think of their people. 
I think of the women of Wildfang.
I think of the people who make Patagonia magical.
I also think about Nike.

Nike? Yep! As a business, it seems as though (from the outside looking in) they empower people from all across their organisation to post, create, & curate information about their time working for the businesses. I feel like I know more about the beating heart of the gigantor that is Nike than I do about some local brands closer to home.

I also think about my friend Miri Rodriguez from Microsoft. Miri is a powerhouse. She’s a storyteller, a momma, a friend, a colleague and one helluva human being. She also happens to work for Microsoft. In knowing Miri, I’ve taken a different view of a brand that once was corporate, buttoned-up, cold, & looming in my eyes. 

People matter. 
People being themselves matters.
Good brands aren’t built from the ground up, they’re built from the inside out. 

Life-life Balance rocks my socks.

I have a hot-take on work-life balance: I don’t believe it’s actually a thing.
In fact, I call bullshit on the entire notion of it. Instead, I believe there’s something more attainable & real, I believe in life-life balance.

So many of us talk about the ever-present struggle to attain work-life balance. WORK- LIFE BALANCE. Ahhhh… if only. 

Let me explain, I don’t start & end when I walk into an office or a meeting. Nope, I bring myself – all of myself – along for the ride. The quirks, the silliness, the passion, the belief in a better world. And when I bring my whole self to work, the ensuing trust engendered means the business gets just as much a halo effect from me as I do from working with them. Chasing the unattainable is what our parents & our grandparents did. It’s not what I’m about to commit to. Not for one more day/hour/minute. 

The reality of the work-life balance fallacy is that we’re living in the most connected time ever known to humanity, yet we’re still expected to disconnect from ourselves when we’re at work. Lucky for me, I’ve found a great business to work with that is filled to the gills with people I admire, respect, & like. I’m allowed to be me. All curls & denim & big ideas.

A little while back a colleague of mine lost her father. Her Dad had been ill for a long time & had weathered some scary storms of getting ill & then getting better again. So, when the end was actually nearing she was understandably upset. We’d seen her ride the rollercoaster of grief – hope, sadness, despair. We’ve all been there, all of us.

Here’s where magic happened: Instead of asking her to wipe her tears & park her grief at the door, our leaders wrapped her up & lovingly supported her through some of her darkest days. Watching a trusting relationship between colleagues unfold in real time & with real tears filled my heart. Our friend brought her whole self to work.

She showed up when she could on her terms.
So we showed up for her.

This is what I mean by life-life balance. 

We all get 24 hours in a day. 
We do not stop being who we are when we cross the threshold to an office block. 
We get one life.
One. 

Living it individually & authentically is the only way any of us will ever be truly happy or connected to ourselves, the people around us, & the environment that sustains us.

Back to good.

How do we then find ourselves if we spend most of our time in places where we learn to be anything other than the confident, curious small humans we were waaaaaaay back in the beginning?

We must empower each other in our weakness & walk confidently in our unknowing. Weaponising the unknown or poo-pooing curiosity is like shutting off a tap when you’re already thirsty. In a world that awards a highly curated, overly-perfect ideal of “self” at work, it’s necessary for us to feel comfortable in our own skin. To do this we must allow for imperfection.

What does empowerment look like for me? Well, it means sitting at the boardroom table in double-denim, docs, & a backwards baseball cap while simultaneously being respected for my experience, ideas, and passion. Because, in reality, getting back to who I was when I started out life – hungry to learn, impassioned by the mundane, and driven to help others is where I want to be more than anywhere else.

It’s also where any brand I work for will get the most value from me. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know myself again. I’ve learned to trust my intuition & I’ve started having playing just for the sake of having fun!

4yr old Cassie, went away for a long time.
I spent almost 20 years pushing the Little Slugger away.
But, lucky for me, she didn’t go too far. 
She’s back & ready to take on the world.
She’s at the plate, smiling & swinging for the fences.
She whispers “Bring on those curve-balls. Bring on those change-ups.”

I don’t have any high socks, short-shorts, or pigtails anymore – well, I do, I just kinda wear them at home when not many people are looking at me – but I am very at home in my skin.
And, I wish the same for you. 

Go on, revisit your passions. I hope, in doing so, that you find your Little Slugger again – that part of yourself that is curious, comfortable, & charging ahead without fear. 

When you re-connect with yourself, confidence & calm are what you’re left with.

Talk about magic! 

FREE FOR ALL: THOUGHTS OF AN ENTITLED MILLENNIAL ON MUFFIN BREAK’S BAD CALL

Oh, muffin.

What a week it’s been here in New Zealand & Australia for millennials. We’ve waded knee-deep into the murky waters of professional self-identification as part of a wild, unruly younger generation in the workforce. And, as I see it, most of us are stronger for it.

I need to be completely open & honest here right up front:
I just squeak in to the millennials category. Just. And, like many folks my age, I’ve at times felt shame in admitting my true self as part of this new, heathen generation of professionals who are coming in to the workforce not only with an education but also with strong a sense of self worth.

I often hide my millennial status. Especially on LinkedIn or in any professional forum online or offline where even the mention of being a millennial is met with a hiss & a dismissive gesture. I’ve often avoided millennial conversations at work in the past. And, I’ve called myself a Xennial more times than I’m proud of to try to somehow be less millennial than I am. 

Screw that.

As Bob Dylan once crooned (yes, I’m damn well quoting a 1964 Dylan masterpiece here)
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get outta’ the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’…

Right here, right now, and henceforth I am a proud member of the millennial generation. Not as young as I once was, I am currently servicing a mortgage, working full-time, raising a child & beautifully embarking on my second marriage. By all accounts, you’d think I was (GASP! HORROR!) old. And, I kinda am. But that’s neither here nor there… because, a millennial I am.

The news this week here Downunder has been seeped in millennial-bashing by older generations of hard-nosed corporate die-hards & TV armchair warriors who fear the internet & social media, but love a good trolling session disguised as aged pontificating in the comment section of local newspapers & community Facebook pages.

As much as I hate to admit it, it sure stung this week when a human being (high in a muffin management position, and with the ear of the media) decided to tar all humans of a certain age range with a brush of selfishness, entitlement, & unworthiness… all because no one is beating down her door anymore asking for free internships or unpaid work experience.  

Yep, the General Manager of Muffin Break in Australia had a right good public boo-hoo about millennials. If my eyes could’ve rolled out of my head, they might have. Which means it’s not surprising at all that online chatter against her & those who think like her has hit full-online-steam-train status.

Finger pointing at millennials is equal parts cringeworthy & foolhardy. It also makes me anxious & giddy. Through foot-stomping attempts by elders to intellectualise an inherent disdain for us new aged generation of rabble-rousers, I’ve come to see as clearly as day that strong-arming youth is the last way to entice us to bake muffins for free. We were raised better than that. 

The irony of where conversations against this way of thinking have been undertaken isn’t lost on me, either. That someone can badmouth an entire generation of people, & is now facing backlash on social media just makes me giggle. Oh the hellish world that we now occupy. A world in which your job title doesn’t make you correct or better than anyone else. A world in which the democratisation of information has helped us all pull together to do better and be better by each other. 

Oh my soul, this lady is so lost. She’s isn’t alone, either. All you need to do is hop online & search ‘Millennials’ & you’ll be served up millions of mentions that brand us as kids who grew up on participation medals – afraid to win, though not willing to lose.

Older generations have always feared/questioned/looked on in disbelief at the changing tides of younger generations, this isn’t new. This is inherently human.

What is new though is that we younger folks (ahem, millennials & beyond) are armed with a whole lot of information that previous generations haven’t been armed with. We’ve watched our grandparents & our parents. We’ve learned from them. We know what we want to be. And, what we’re willing to put up with to get there.

We know our rights.
We know what we think is right.
And, we have the right to choose. 

Who we are is not what our position descriptions denote. We are not words written on paper by someone else. Nope. Not us. We’re a generation built of expectations of creating a better world. We’re dreamers, hard workers, & open hearted labourers. But, we ARE NOT a free for all.

I know a lot about millennials, and here are a few things I know for certain:

  1. We know better.
    In her rant to the media, Muffin Break’s GM reckoned that entitled millennials have been given an “inflated” sense of self-importance due to all of these new fangled apps that connect them to the interwebs. Apparently young people who talk to other young people get ideas. Unfiltered ideas. Powerful ideas. Geeky ideas. All of these ideas aren’t eventuating into work ethic though, are they? These young whippersnappers with all of their new-fangled ideas are no longer beating down her door or forging a path to her front counter begging for unpaid work experience to advance their careers. “There’s just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work, nobody” she lamented. Publicly. Team, she said this to the media.

    My first response? Well, after picking my jaw up off of the floor, I laughed. Surely she’s somehow, accidentally been eating one of those funny muffins & she’s not thinking clearly. My second thought, after realising that marijuana doesn’t cause the kind of daftness she’s spouting was “Good golly y’all, never in all of my millennial years would I consider working for free at making muffins (or selling cars, or paper pushing, or coffee making, or anything really).” I’ve always had to pay the rent, put food on the table, raise my family. Cold hard cash is needed for that. The antiquated idea working your way up a ladder still needs to equate to a living wage. Ladders don’t pay the rent if climbing up each rung puts you further down the breadline.

    We know better now, too. We also know that underpaying people (which Muffin Break has apparently been known to do in the past) or not paying them at all is illegal. Ahem, illegal. We’re not selfish for wanting to be paid for our time & our toil – no matter how important or inane. Our non-millennial parents taught us better. Society taught us better & wrote policies to protect us from this kind of thinking. We want to work hard. We’re crazy about the mahi.  And for it, we ask to be paid appropriately. That’s the exchange… not all for nothing. Thanks to those who came before us, we know this for certain.
  2. Exploitation is on display.
    Exploitation & exasperation, this is exactly what this GM & her cohorts who shake their fists at the youth of today are advocating. Folks who used to intern for free were usually either able to be supported by their parents (the lucky ones) or were so desperate that they saw no other way than exploitation to get a foot in the door. Data tells us that “a lot of people are willing to put up with exploitation because they’re desperate and fearful and really need a job.”  Data also tells us that, on average, unpaid internships leave most young people $6,000 out of pocket. Let me just remind us all, too, that most internships aren’t for the big time. We’re not talking internships that lead to high-stakes here, those are usually reserved for a very upper-class & very privileged few anyhow. We’re talking about muffins here, folks. Baked goods & tasty treats en masse.

    The mindsets of leaders who promote old school views of just-feel-lucky-to-be-chosen-and-do-what-you’re-told-kid are exasperating at best for an older millennial like myself. I’ve never, not once, considered working for a business or corporation for free. Why? It’s take/take on behalf of said corporate without any give. Value needs to be exchanged in one way or another. Believe me, I worked for almost nothing when I was of intern age. Let me be more clear: I worked my ass off for a tiny pay packet that I collected monthly. My pay barely covered gas in my car & rent, but gosh I was proud of the money in the bank. Why? Because I earned that, damnit. I worked long hours. I made friends with colleagues. My job became a source of pride. And the pay, though crazy low (even for the time), sufficed. Could I have done the job without pay? Nope. Never in a hundred years.

    If maligning a generational workforce based on apathy around the killing off a value exchange between employee & employer is a thing now, then I’m going to ensure I wave my millennial flag daily. Not paying people for work is exploitation. Having to continually repeat this is exasperating.
  3. My Snowflake Generation.
    There seems to be this weird belief in older generations that all millennials believe we’ll be CEO in five years.

    Really though, who says all or any of us want to be CEO anymore? The climb just doesn’t seem worth it if you end up living in fear of the changing whim of stakeholders, shareholders, or anyone holding your mental health hostage. We’ve seen work burn our parents out. We’ve seen the climb take over lives. And, we’ve learned. Kinda. We’ve also, even in our youth, burned out too. We don’t need to define ourselves by our position descriptions anymore. We are not words on paper devised by imperfect middle managers who, even with the best of intentions, still see us as numbers on an org chart. We’re alive in a time where the democratisation of information, news, & creativity is inbuilt into the fiber of our beings. We want to work hard. We want to make the world a better place. And, we want to be able to live on a decent wage.

    The benefit of youth is the ability to dream without bounds. We are the people who lap up content from people like Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Hannah Hart, & Glennon Doyle. We look up to people who believe in the future & in the good we can do to heal a planet that a more corporate world misused prior to us. We are self-starters & we dive deep into learning through novels, podcasts, deep-reports, popular culture, community projects, & documentaries that we’re planning on writing. We know better than to chase dollars over experiences. All in all, we know better than to hurt others for the sake of the bottomline. We know we get ONE GODDAMN LIFE, and to live it fully, we need to work for the greater good. Are we selfish? Ahem, we’re human. So sometimes, yeah. But, we’re also not going to be duped into scrubbing muffin tins for anyone for less that what our time is worth. Unlike the icing on a lemon glazed treat, our generation of snowflakes aren’t melting anytime soon.

My take on millennials is simple. We’re just like all the other generations that came before us – but we’re connected to more. Tethered to it, seemingly. The pressures generations before us faced, we face now. But differently. We’re still trying to find relevance in the world. We’re rushing headlong into a world in which we now need to reverse the effects of global warming. We know we need to do more, better.

We also know what our hearts desire. Doing business with millennials (ahem, with any woke or waking humans) isn’t hard.
All you need to do is:
Put people before percentages.
Put heartcounts before headcounts.

When this happens, most people (not just millennials or Gen Z, etc) will show you loyalty like you’ve never seen before. When we believe in a mission, in an action, in something better – you’ll see the hard yards we’re willing and able and capable of shine through. Inked in positive outcomes for your bottomline. Actions speak louder than words (remember that one?), we believe in this.

Care about us, care about our dreams & aspirations, too. When we care, we’ll ride to the end of the universe in a broken down starship to grow a business. When we don’t? We move on.
Fair enough, too, right? 

Snowflakes? Yeah, nah.
More like caring humans who want to do well by family, friends, society, business, nation, & planet.  

Millennials, you’re okay with me. And wow, I’m hungry now.
Anyone know where I could get a snack…?

Come At Me, 2019! 

It’s January 1st, 2019. I’m writing this from the future. Kind of. 

I’m sitting in my living room in Auckland, New Zealand looking at the ocean. The ball hasn’t yet dropped in NYC & most of the the Northern Hemisphere is still winding-up for a night of frivolity.

From my vantage point, the first sunlight of 2019 just peeking out from behind the clouds & is warming my feet as I sip a coffee. My computer is perched on my lap. It’s peaceful. Quiet. Blissful.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. The tippity-typing sounds of my keyboard are all that I hear (other than a sweet song of our local Tui couple who live in the Kauri tree outside our window), & they’re currently serving to remind me that I’m determined to start this year right – right here & right now. 

After the coffee is finished, that is.

My wife is happy, still lounging in bed. Our daughter is on the couch next to me. Giggling intermittently at something on YouTube, eating Nutrigrain, & regaling me with minute-by-minute updates of how/when/where she met her idol (a Shortland Street actor) on a small town beach somewhere 14 minutes out of Whangamata yesterday morning. 

This life.
This IS The Life.
Idyllic, right?
Yeah, completely. 

As with most new starts, heralding in 2019 with my two beloveds is the best gift I could imagine. We were well abed before the fireworks started exploding over our city last night (lucky for us, we can see & hear them from home) which means we’re well rested & ready to see friends & family today. 

Yes, there will be mimosas ahead.
And no, the diet doesn’t start until tomorrow.
Or, actually, it’s not starting. Screw diets. 

Hugh Jackman (uh huh, the buffed & uber-cut Wolverine himself) recently said that all of the steamed chicken & broccoli in the world is not worth being a TEN. “Be a six, a seven… be anything! Just eat the yummy stuff while you can!” Hugh, I’m with you. I’m eating for curves from here on out, not for speed. 

I digress. Seeing that it is New Year’s Day, I can’t help but look back on the most recent trip around the sun we all made it through. I can say, hand on heart, that last year was a constant lesson in growing up. And thankfully, in growing older.  

I grew up a hundred times last year.
Maybe a thousand if you split big moments into smaller ones.

I grew up in flying to California for work & in driving across the desert to see Elton John in concert for the 21st time in 21 years. This time we had great seats. Seats so great that not only could we see Elton right up close – but that we were invited on stage AND I DANCED ON STAGE while Elton played Saturday Night’s Alright! Holy cow, Batman! If you know me, you can imagine the weight of this moment. A moment that came & went faster than any other moment before or since. This blink-and-you’d-miss-it moment was something my 12yr old self could only ever dream of. Something she dreamt of for decades. And now? Grown up Cassie has cried a lot of happy tears since remembering it. Bucket List dream, tick! 

I grew up in saying “F*ck it!” to the cost of a ticket home for a 4 day turnaround. I hopped on a plane to surprise my hero (my Mom) on her 70th birthday & spent time with my brother & his family in doing so. We got Mom good, too. She was BEYOND surprised & I think it’s fair to say that she had a magical birthday. Talk about money & time well spent. Memories are all we carry with us for life. I grew up going home. I also grew up throwing caution & my bank account to the wind. Invest in people & moments. Always & often. When you can, take a side road or push yourself beyond a well-worn routine. I promise you’ll find magic in the unknown.

I grew up staying close to home & in travelling across oceans & countries to speak on topics close to my heart, & even closer to my profession. Social Media Marketing World, two VidCons, Digital Day Out, Growth Marketing & too many more to count. I grew up as I grew into my own voice. A voice I’ve made quieter throughout my lifetime as not to be seen as too opinionated or obtrusive. F*ck that. I grew into me, into the words I spoke & speak. Instead of running away from having an opinion, I backed myself. I swallowed my anxiety. I found myself in my fear & transformed it into excitement instead.

I grew up when depression hit me. Literally, right in the face. When my wife picked me up off of the concrete floor, the black eye it left was a doozy – but not as much of one as the slog back to finding myself. You see, I’d been lost for a lot longer than I thought. Growing up is hardest when you have to admit you’re not as strong as you think you are. When you showing your weaknesses to others is all you can do to survive. With great support, great insight, unending love, steadfast friends, the best therapy, & the right medication, I worked my way back to me. I am still working my way back to me. And, I’m cool with that. 

I grew up when I learned that kindness is often mistaken for weakness, yet I stood strong in my own skin. Frightened, but safe. I refused to be an asshole just because being an asshole was easy, or everyone else was being one, or because it felt good to be a jerk. I held my tongue when I needed to. And I let it loose when necessary as well.

I grew up by opening up. And I mean really opening up. Talking to people I trust about hard stuff meant I was able to build foundations of stone in relationships instead of falling for the sweet words spoken by people with feet of clay. By sharing my whole self with others I’ve realised that I need to practice what I preach & be kind to myself first. The good news is that I have promised to be nicer to myself. To give myself the space to fail, learn, grow, & repeat. 

I grew up a lot last year. A lot. In ways that perhaps even I’m unaware of right now. I lost friends & made others. I let negativity crawl into my heart & it almost broke me. I also ate far too much Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream (can someone ever eat too much of it?) I apologised when I messed up – believe me, I messed up my fair share. And, I’ve started to find comfort in relaxing. We don’t always have to pray at the altar of busy-equals-important to be successful. Slowing down is the best way to dive deep & create.  

This year, I’m sure there’ll be just as much (if not more) growing & knowing more about myself, my beloveds, & the world we all share. I truly believe that the journey is what we’re here for. Not a pre-determined destination. 

My hope for 2019 is that I’ll be able to grow older as well as to continue to grow up. Our time here on earth is finite. Each day we get above ground is a blessing. To everyone reading this, I wish you the best of the best. I wish you happiness, kindness, optimism, & adventures. And, as Whitney Houston once crooned to Kevin Costner as he walked across a chilly tarmac & away from their slightly weird love affair “above all this I wish you looooooooooove!”

Bring on this year. It’s bound to be a goodie.  

15 things for 2019 

  1. Just buy the damn ticket home, you’ve got the money (if you don’t, you’ll pay it off.) As often as you can, be with the people that made you. Be in the places that heal you.
  2. Try new things often. Start. Simply, start. Nothing’s scarier that not doing something… so jump in. The water’s fine, I promise.
  3. Enjoy the heck out of routine. Never feel guilty about routines that help you feel grounded. Whether it’s your first sip of a morning coffee, a not-so-secret-dorky-handshake with a colleague, or the way you reach for your toothbrush before bed. Relish in routine when you can.
  4. Talk to your friends. Ask them questions. Listen to what they tell you about yourself. Truly listen. And if you need to pivot or make a few changes in your life, that’s cool. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. You’ve got this.
  5. Talk to strangers. Sometimes the most insight you’ll ever find happens in conversations with people who have zero context of who you are or where you’re from. When you’re a blank page to a new person, you get reflected back to you the openness you give. Be open. Laugh often.
  6. Enjoy the hell out of your greatest hits playlist. Why is it that we feel guilty listening to the songs of our youth on repeat when we know there’s a GIANT AMOUNT OF NEW MUSIC happening out in the wide world? I have tried for so long to stay up with the kids. Nah. Not anymore. I reckon we should all relish in tunes that get our motors running. Sing all the songs you love over & over without shame. Repeat is a feature on iTunes for a reason, Team. 
  7. Enjoy your work. This one is very important. It takes remembering that what society says is valid work isn’t actually what validates any of us. If what you do day-in-&-day-out does not feed your soul, find something that does. There’s no such thing as “balance” when it comes to work & life. You only get one life. Treat it as a gift. 
  8. Get outside more. Run. Walk. Jump. Climb. Sit. Sleep on the beach. Breathe in the air. Swim in the ocean. Surf. SUP. Skateboard. Skip to your lou, my darling. Do whatever it is that moves you. Just get outside more.
  9. Prioritise time for yourself. Hand on heart, I am really shitty at this. I give all of my time to others. Well, 99% of it. And, though I love my people, as an introvert I need time to myself to decompress. I love being in my own company & sitting in an emotion or moment & feeling it. Make time for yourself if that’s what you need. Tell those you love what you need & protect your headspace. 
  10. Walk away from drama – or, run from it. This one’s simple. If people don’t make your life better, then they’re making it worse. As with your job, you have the ability to chose who you spend your time & energy on. Spend it wisely. 
  11. Fall in love with the words that other people write – then write your own. I love a good hour or two getting lost in #inspirationalquote hashtags on Instagram. The elegance & eloquence of other people’s pain & passion drives me wild. The musical movement of words on a page fill my soul. And, in turn, I put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). Falling in love with words is my favourite way to while away an afternoon. 
  12. Food is fuel – and FUN. As Hugh Jackman said above – eat. Don’t worry so much about being a TEN. Ten is kinda perfect. Perfect is boring. But, you know what’s never boring? Cake. Eat the damn cake. I’m not saying you should ignore the kale or the broccoli or the sashimi – but along with the inherently healthy, a treat is okay if you’re lucky enough to have one.
  13. Hug your little humans more often than necessary. Cliche alert: they actually do grow up so fast. So, so, so fast. I remember the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter as if it was yesterday. The detail, the fear, the excitement. That’s saying something, too, because I can’t even remember what I had for dinner yesterday. I also remember the moment she was born, her first words, holding her & rocking her to sleep 1,000 nights in a row. She’s almost 13yrs old now. She’s her own perfectly imperfect micro-adult. I miss the baby years, HOWEVER I love her now more than ever. And, I still cuddle her, yell out from other rooms how much I love her, & try my best to annoy her, kindly. 
  14. Dance. Anytime, anywhere, with anyone. My wife & I dance basically from sun up to sun down 24/7/366 & we aren’t in the least bit sorry. No music? No worries. Just dance regardless.
  15. Remember, no matter how bad it gets, there’s help. The most important of my list – this is a reminder that hidden behind even the blackest of storm clouds is a summer sun. Asking for help is hard. When I asked for it, I felt like a failure. I felt weak. I felt broken. But you know what, my friends & family helped me get through those feelings. Now I feel strong. I feel worthy. I feel potent. I feel helpful & hopeful. We all fight our own battles. We wage our own wars. If ever you need me, I am here. I see you. 
2018, Wrapped Up.

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!

 

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.

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!

Walking A Tightrope: Braving The Unknown

Here’s the thing about young, handsome Argentinian lifeguards on beaches… they’re very convincing.

VERY.
CONVINCING.

Maybe it’s was his accent, my broken Español, or the casual way in which his eyes lit up when I said “Is that hard to do?” that I decided to go out on a limb yesterday. Literally.

(NOTE: my decision may have been swayed simply by the fact that I am competitive as f*ck, & a cute kid decided to go before me – I couldn’t wimp out & still be a semi-cool-Mom after that!)

Tightrope walking, I can assure you, is not for people afraid of falling. It’s also usually not something 36yr old mother’s who have never tightrope-walked before do at a public beach on a super windy day.

But, what the hey. My inner voice whispered seductively to me “New year, same me… let’s do this, Cass. You wanted to adventure more. You wanted to make memories & try new things. Here’s your first shot at it. And, you’re only three feet above the ground.”

Damn you, seductive inner voice. As awkward as you are, you sure are convincing. Potentially just as convincing as our new, tanned friend from Argentina. So, with a little gust of wind catching me up the backside & along the path towards the tightrope (as well as a healthy cheering on from my beloved & my bestest pal) – I kicked off my jandals & climbed a tree trunk (not very high) to the springy, stringy thing I would soon be walking – or falling – across.

Lucky for me, mi amigo nuevo, saw I was nervous & gave me his hand. Though he was there to steady me as I took my first VERY uncertain first step, he also talked me through where my line of site should be, how to relax & unravel the tension in the rope through my balance, & showed me how to have fun while completely terrified.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I used to be terrified of heights. Strangely, over the years, I’ve gotten much better with heights – but walking that uneven & unsteady rubber-band was pretty nerve wracking for me.

I may have only been three feet above Terra Firma, but it just as easily could’ve been 30 or 300 feet as far as I was concerned in the moment!

Making it all the way across, I learned a few things in the minute I spent without my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Mostly, I learned these key lessons:

  1. Be courageous
    This is seriously not as easy as it sounds. Most of us like to think that we’re daring… at least a little bit. But, in practice, I personally end up turning down opportunities to try new things for fear of what others – and even my own inner-voice – might think. I consistently tell my daughter that she can’t be good at everything. You have to start somewhere, and somewhere is usually right at the beginning. No one starts off as a master. Masters were always once beginners. So, while I might end up sounding like a $.50 fortune cookie, I reckon we should all start at the beginning. Without fear. Without judgement. But, more so, with hope, joy & a sense of adventure. Courage is contagious – pass it on.
  2. Don’t Look Down
    As my Argentinean friend told me as I started walking from one tree to another “Look only ahead, not down, not to the side.” This really resonated with me in the moment – and resonates even more now thinking back on his words. We oftentimes spend so much time looking in a direction other than that in which we’re heading that we lose sight of our end destination. Even with strong winds whipping at your back, or with wobbly footing, if you look ahead & focus on what you’re hoping to achieve – your chance of getting there inherently grows by leaps & bounds. I always tell my teams at work that, as a manager, it’s my job to provide a ‘North Star’ for them to steer towards. It’s their job to get there – whether it be swinging across Orion’s Belt or sliding through the big dipper. Keep your eyes up. Move with intent.
  3. Have fun falling
    This is something I’ve grown to embrace & love over the past few years. Falling, itself, is fun. It’s the landing, if you’re not prepared for it, or it comes too soon, that hurts the most. It’s taken time, but I’ve started to not just face my fear of falling (and, failing) but to embrace it with my eyes wide open. Most probably squealing all the way to the bottom where a soft landing (or slight thunk) awaits. Falling, like flying is all part of the journey. If you embrace each moment, you’ll find fun just around every corner.

 

So, there you have it. A small moment. But, big lessons. Here’s to more travelling South Americans on Auckland beaches this summer, helping us all face our fears – while reminding us, there’s no shame in having a helping hand to steady us while we learn.

Gracias, amigo mio. Que te vayas bien.

 

Tightrope walking!
Tightrope walking!