Keep Calm & Plan Your Crisis Comms

Like all of us, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks glued to news outlets, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts, & other channels to keep myself & my family informed about covid-19. 

And, if I’m honest, I’m feeling pretty much at saturation point from an emotional & intellectual standpoint when it comes to what’s ahead. 

Right know we’re living in a time of heightened uncertainty & unknowns. The impact of this current global pandemic is just beginning to trickle into daily life for individuals, communities, & businesses worldwide. The tidal wave will come. It’s up to us to prepare for how we ride it to shore.

Closer to home here in New Zealand, despite the attempt of many businesses to go ahead in a quasi-BAU state, there’s one thing I am certain of right now: we’re in crisis-mode.

Unfortunately what I’m noticing is that the businesses who need them most don’t seem to have clear, concise, & longterm crisis-plans in place for times like this. 

My hot take is simple. Right now is the time to stop your BAU & take note of culture, context, content, & community when it comes to your business & the communications that you’re putting out into the world. 

For almost two decades I’ve worked with big & small brands alike not only to create clever & innovative campaigns across new & emerging channels – but to write crisis comms & community best practice to ensure brands responding with kindness, impact, & best practice at heart when it comes to communicating through social & digital media in times of crisis.

So here’s a gentle few things big, small, & sole-trader brands alike can do right now to ensure that what you’re putting into the world is kind, not tone-deaf. That how you’re responding to people in need is helpful, not distant.

  1. If your content calendar & media buying is done well in advance, stop all activity now. Look at the every placement. Take note of assets, products, words, & the tonality of content you’re putting into the world. If your comms are intended to be “cheeky” in good times, they’ll sound flippant at best right now.
  2. Check your words. It goes without saying, but the biggest faux pas that a business can make right now is to post or send out a communication that hasn’t been seen by more than one set of eyes. Without any malice meant, in times like these words matter. Messages matter. Thought & empathy matter. Read, re-read, & consider everything you put into the world as a business.
  3. If you’re scheduled to crow about financial performance or any kind of profit, put that on hold through consumer facing channels for the foreseeable future. Sure, share with your board & major stakeholders – but right here, right now, people need emotional reassurance. Profit talk isn’t going to help your brand when all we see are falling markets & trends towards recessions with huge global repercussions.
  4. Make sure you have enough resource available to handle customer conversations & community feedback. If you know it’ll be a stretch to have people monitoring & responding to questions across all channels, then be super overt about where you will be able to respond. Ask people to email you if email works best. If Facebook is where you can handle more customer interaction, ask people to head there specifically. Being super clear about where people can go for help is the kindest thing you can do for your staff as well as for your customers.
  5. If you’re a big business, ensure your customer care teams are looked after. Taking care of the people who take care of customers & employees alike is of the utmost importance. Empower your frontline staff with information & the ability to be humble, kind, & caring at this time. There’s literally nothing worse you can do than have customer care people reading from scripts – unable to veer into emotive territory.
  6. Have a plan around internal processes for signing-off official comms & statements, but make sure that your internal processes don’t hinder (or even sneak into) the conversations your representatives have with customers. Consumers want reassurance, not to know the ins-and-outs of your business. Your stress internally should not be placed onto the shoulders of already worried humans outside of your organisation.
  7. Listen to your gut. If commonsense & expertise are worth anything during more certain & stable times, they’re worth everything during times of crisis. If something feels “off” or a communication sounds distancing more than connective, re-jig, re-write, re-think. Less is more in times of crisis.
  8. If you’ll be laying people off or sending people home, have heart-felt words at the ready & empower your customer service teams to be human, caring, & kind in their responses. Crisis times aren’t times for “perfection.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The brands who most show their humanity through connecting authentically are those that people continue to love.

Hopefully these wee tips are helpful for you right now. 

If you’re in need of a check-up, check-in, or simply need an extra set of eyes over your crisis plans or content during this time please reach out. I’m here & willing to help as best I can. As per usual, slide into my DMs here with any questions you might have.

Together we can put good into the world at scale. Together we can do just about anything. Together we can keep ourselves, our businesses, our employees, & (most importantly) our communities safe right now.

Being respectful with our comms & content is the only way forward during this time.

Kia Kaha.

Cassie 

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! 

The Great Un-Following: Why I Unfollowed Men on LinkedIn for Six Months

Ah, the modern age. The internet has not only connected all of us in a Wild West kinda new frontier style, but it’s also opened up the opportunity for the democratisation of content creation and proliferation. 

Call it what you will, but most of what people push out into the vast & unending universe online is akin to unlimited drivel. It’s chatter without reason. Chewing-gum for the ego & the brain. 

The world is awash with opinions right now. As an unshakeable optimist, I’d like to say there’s more good information being shared than bad or banal – but going by gut instinct (no data was harmed in the writing of this assertion) I imagine good content is at peak needle-in-a-haystack alert right now.

Our online world is oversaturated with opinionated people who shout at decibels that could puncture eardrums. Armchair warriors and keyboard enthusiasts with little real-world experience (if any, at times), tippity-type away on subjects that they may or may not know a single thing about.

With the onslaught of social media & the reigning court of our age being a handful of powerful algorithms, I thought I might try to break – or rather, retrain – an algorithm that I still feel an affinity towards in the hopes of becoming more wokethat I think I am. (NB I don’t think I’m all that woke at all, but that’s for another blog post.)

Over the course of the past six months, I’ve been undertaking a very small (sample size of one, ahem, moi) experiment on LinkedIn. This wee experiment is quite possibly the most intentional & focussed ongoing personal challenge I’ve undertaken on social media ever. Yep, ever. My reasons for sticking to the experiment started quite shallow if I’m honest – I simply was getting bored with the platform but saw enough of a tiny glimmer of amazing content amongst the shouting & chest beating that I thought I might be able to turn that glimmer into quite the shining blaze.

I also have to come clean about something. If we all took a ride in a Wayback Machine to some point in time about 9 years ago you’d have heard a younger me saying things like  “I don’t like LinkedIn at all. It’s just a bunch of people shouting about their CVs or looking for a job. There’s no substance.” But, like the tides of time, my stance on the platform has changed as it has changed.

Recently I have come to really enjoy LinkedIn. In fact, the words “favourite social media channel” and “LinkedIn” may or may not have been used in the same sentence many times together. Okay, not “may have” they have been. Right here & right now LinkedIn is really the only major social channel that seems to offer me any value when it comes to learning new things, understanding the business world in a wider sense, & not having to wade through what secondary connections ate for lunch last Tuesday. I mean, you take a good pic of sushi, friends – but I honestly don’t give a fig about it. 

You see, LinkedIn is smart. The folks behind the channel pivoted when they needed to. They evolved their channel without pummelling the platform. And, they have given us an algorithm that seems pretty fair right now – all things considering. The content I’m being served seems fair, focussed, but also allows for exploration without being ballsy in attempting to be way too contextual. Believe me, there’s a creepy side to contextuality sometimes. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of annoying bananas (this is what we call people who grind our proverbial gears at my house) who are only ever trying to toot their own horns, hack the algorithm (remember when spaces between lines of SHOUTY CAPS TEXT was a thing?), & are self-serving jerks who assume a connection means it’s time to sell, sell, sell. But, for the most part, Linked In is a cool space to while away some time whilst scrolling for clickable headlines.

So it was when I started finding myself a wee bit bored with LinkedIn that I realized why I was getting bored, most of the articles & thoughts being shared were those of men. White men, specifically. Now, don’t stop reading here & brand me a man-hating-so-and-so-feminist, I love the fellas for their minds. However I was really longing for more diverse world views, opinions, & topical discussions. 

Thus, my experiment was borne. From the moment I realized why LinkedIn was losing its lustre for me, I started unfollowing almost all of the dudes I’d been following who I didn’t know IRL. My hypothesis was simple: if I unfollow a truckload of guys that like to pontificate whom I don’t know, then I can retrain LinkedIn’s algorithm to serve me more female, LGBTQ, non-western voices & content. 

Fast-forward six months: I haz findings! 

Before I tell you what I found out, I should probably tell you what I thought would happen when I started unfollowing 99% of the men in my newsfeed. I thought that I’d start seeing more and more original content by women. I thought I’d start understanding women in business more in-depth. And, I thought that I’d see a lot more ideas bubbling to the surface in my industry in which I’d be able to network more widely with women who are making change happen.

But, these things didn’t eventuate. More & more I started to see posts by women in my newsfeed outnumber that of men. However, the content that 90% of the women were sharing was that of men. I was (& am still) floored by how hard it is to unearth original content made for, by, and about professional topics that originates from the minds & souls of women. I started to get pretty frustrated with the lack of content penned & shared by women, before taking a deep breath and remembering that, no matter how smart an algorithm or AI is, we cannot take away the human variables to the equation.

Society has told us for a long time that our thoughts aren’t welcome at the proverbial table. We hold our tongues when all we want to do is speak. We look to each other for confidence and sisterhood, but we have very few female role models in the public domain of whom we can learn from & share their stories. To say I was & am still disheartened by a lack of content by women would be an understatement. But, I’m heartened to know that more & more we are putting our voices into the public realm. We’re facing the potential for bruised male egos & the anger that comes alongside the bruising. 

I’d like to use this small experiment to ask all of us to do a few things when it comes to being super cognisant of what we’re sharing online – especially in public forums like LinkedIn. 

When & where you can, ladies, please write more, record more, podcast more, pontificate more, share your unique points of view & your wisdom with the world. Men & women alike deserve to learn from your experience. Women especially are longing for your voice.

Men, whenever you can, LIFT WOMEN. We need you. We really do. Give us space at the table & just as much space online. Also, when it comes to algorithms & re-training an AI system to share content more evenly across diverse people & opinions, why not share twice as many posts from women as men? We’re not even in the running of the race yet, let alone about to lap you or even tie for back of the pack. The more you share our ideas, the better society & LinkedIn can & will be. 

All in all, six months has taught me an important lesson:
We need to fix society before we start can hacking algorithms.

Keen to follow me on LinkedIn, click here.

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…?

SELLING MY SOUL TO THE SCROLL

DEAR LORD,  SOMEONE SOMEWHERE PLEASE TAKE MY PHONE AWAY FROM ME!
Hide it from me.

Throw it out the window from the 100thfloor (but, ferchrissakes check for pedestrians below please, I don’t want anyone injured.)

Toss it overboard into the sea – have it swim with the fishes (then retrieve it to dispose of it sustainably if possible.)

Seriously though, please someone help.

I HAVE NO SELF CONTROL & AM ON MY PHONE FOR WORK, PLAY, & COMPLETE MIND-NUMBING RIDICULOUSNESS AT ALL TIMES!!! HELLLLLLLLLLP!

Whew.
Sorry about all of the shouting to start this all off. But, I needed to get that off of my chest. Recently I’ve been struggling with how damn addicted I am to screens, & to scrolling.

Mindlessly, mostly, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much more productive a human being I could be out of work hours if I spent less time on any kind of device. Thinking ain’t doing, I know.

But, it wasn’t until the recent iOS update that I was hit squarely between the eyes (seriously, right in the brain) with irrefutable information on how much time I’m spending on my phone. With the new “screen time” data available that I now see – in unmistakeable numbers – just how much of my time I’m wasting scrolling.

The numbers aren’t pretty, Team.

A small story:
Day one after the new iOS update I confidently opened up my phone to check my usage data for the day. I’d had a busy day at work & busy bookends to the day doing the school-run & school pick-ups. Surely I would be an exemplary example of digital mastery and methodical app mastery.

Um, nope.

I’d spend THREE HOURS on my phone on social media alone. I spent 2 hours of that time on Instagram. What the actual f*ck? I couldn’t even remember being on Instagram. Let alone any of the content I’d apparently consumed. Yuck.

From this point, I realized I’d need a self-intervention. After having taken all social media apps off of my phone this time last year – they’d crept back into my daily life & back onto my homescreen. When I say ‘crept’ I mean hit my iphone like an avalanche of time-yet-to-be-wasted. GAH!

From the second day of recording my screen time, it became glaringly obvious that I’m still a tech/social-media addict. I know I’m not alone in this. But, when you’re someone who studies the physiological & psychological effects of new media on our brains – I should be better than Josephine Bloggs at logging off. Right?

Again, nope.

Right now I’m wrestling with taking all social apps off of my phone again. It is definitely time to start putting limits in place to stop myself feeding the feed with a soulless & unending scroll that my attention isn’t even paying attention to.

Because time-wasting is most literally wasting time. And there’s nothing I abhor more than wasting our most precious & unrenewable resource as humans.

Hints

  1. Be super intentional when it comes to your time & attention
    Don’t just be intentional, throw a cape over your shoulders & be SUPER intentional with who & where you spend your time & attention. I have found it pretty hard/frustrating to focus my attention with my phone anywhere within eyesight. To counter my own lack of intestinal fortitude when it comes to ignoring the siren call of my iPhone, I try to put my phone somewhere out of eyeshot from the moment I get home from work. I find myself being pulled back to it like a fish caught on a fishing line. But the more I practice the distance-method of living with tech, the better the results of ignoring the need to feed the feed!

  2. Take the apps that drain the most of your time off of your phone
    This time last year I took all of my social media apps off of my phone. Why? For the same reason that I’ll be doing the same thing again this year: they are a waste of time 99% of the time – for me at least. Mindlessly scrolling in an unaware & numbing way is such a darn waste. By taking apps off of my phone, I’ve foundthat my time online is much better spent. I hop onto a channel, do whatever it is I feel I need to, then hop off. Simple? Seemingly. The urge to tap into another universe (AKA social media) is strong. Going cold-turkey is one way to get more of you back into your days!

  3. Set yourself a time limit for aimless scrolling (chewing gum for the brain)
    If you can’t go app-less on your phone, or you’re prone to aimless scrolling on your desktop – fear not! A good way to get out of the habit of scrolling is to set yourself a time limit. I try to scroll for no more than 15minutes at a time before getting back on track & focussing in on more productive pursuits during the day (or night.) You might need 30 minutes of mindless online socialising to calm your brain a bit – the important thing is to set yourself a realistic limit so that you’re not heading online for a single google search & then look up only to realise you’ve spent ten hours reading through the entire history of the Vikings when they landed in England. Tough cookies though, them Vikings.

  4. Notice what makes you feel good, bad, or indifferent… do more of the former & less of the latter two
    This is so so so important. SUPER important, even. Being present & understanding your gut feelings when you’re online is something a lot of us don’t do well – myself included. It’s hard to make a concerted effort to understand your feelings & emotions when you’re mindlessly scrolling. That said, once you start to understand what makes you feel good, bad, or otherwise, you can curate your feeds to suit more positive interactions. Just because you’re supposed to love Beyoncé & follow kale-eating macro health bloggers doesn’t mean you have to if following them makes you feel a little bit less that the awesome you already are. It’s totally okay to unfollow or never follow the crowd in the first place. You do you, Boo.
  5. Read more books with actual pages
    Whoa. What? Yeah, I know… right? Books with pages. They’re bad for trees, but man alive, they’re sure good for your brain. They don’t have notifications, in-built distractions, or need ad-blockers to keep $hit you’re not interested in from stealing your concentration away. Books with pages are great because you can write in them, you can touch each page as you turn it, & there’s no such thing as an endless scroll. You know how far along you are in a story simply by looking at how deep you’re literally into a book. If there’s one tip in this article I follow fastidiously, it’s this one. Books with pages are modern day rock stars. Truly.

 

IMG_6785

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

Expert Tips For Surviving a Crisis Of Confidence

I have something to tell you.

Sit down, grab a cuppa, & buckle up.

This morning I woke up & wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. To simply find a dark place to hide away in.

Away from the world.
Away from pressures nipping at my heels & responsibilities I’ve signed up for.
Away from my own internal narrative of self-doubt.

But I couldn’t hide. Or rather, I refused to.

Because while getting out of bed was tough, I knew that I needed to move – my mind, my body, my goal-posts. I couldn’t stagnate. I couldn’t let self-limiting chatter in my mind make limitations a theme for the day.

We’re all our own worst critics.

We’re all so hard on ourselves. Why is that? Where does that little voice inside our heads that tells us we’re not good enough come from? When are we taught to second-guess our motives?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that it’s important to acknowledge that we all have bad days. Some are worse than others. And, although they might not happen often, when they do, they can be all consuming.

It would be remiss of me (or any of us) to pretend that life is all about riding the highs. That each day is greeted by rainbows & butterflies with nary a dark rain cloud looming on the horizon.

But that’s what we do online, through social media, & through facades we don in professional settings isn’t it? We pretend everything’s okay, when it’s not. We wear masks & paint on smiles hoping no one else realises that our walls are cracking.

Ready to crumble.

When it comes to confidence & women, research has shown that there’s a big ‘ol gap that separates the sexes. While dudes surely have moments of insecurity & low self-esteem, the weight of these two emotional loads pull women back at much more alarming rates.

I digress though. Moving on, to why I’m writing this.

Climbing without falling isn’t a true representation of reality.

We’d all like to be happy all of the time right? Ride a dopamine wave around loop-de-loops & throw our hands in the air without a worry in the world.

But the roller coaster ride isn’t all fun & rush-inducing. Nope, life is fast, slow, up, down & everything in between. It’s a wild ride. A broken, yet beautiful, journey that we all travel.

So, here I am. Tippity-typing my innermost thoughts. Before you ask, yes, I’m slightly afraid to share them. Shedding light on anything other than a perfectly crafted veneer is uncomfortable for most of us.

But, fear not, I have great news!

Moments of darkness, confusion, & sagging self-belief aren’t all bad. In fact, it’s taken many a crisis of confidence, in my life to build me into the *mostly* consistently confident person that I am today.

Keep on truckin’, Team!

All of those quotes about ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight…’ resonate with us because they are rooted deeply in the fallible nature of humanity.

And, seeing that we’re all humans, understanding that we’re inherently flawed is a good thing to learn ear.y.

Like all of us, crisis moments are all unique. No two moments of self-doubt or crisis are the same. They can be as quick as a flash-in-the pan or last days (or weeks or longer) depending on the situation.

And as cliche as it is to say this, the deeper the impact, the higher I’ve risen afterwards.

By using lows as starting points for growth, I’ve learned to ride the rough waves towards a sunny shoreline. And, I’ve taken time out over the course of my professional career & in my personal life to hone skills in utilising techniques around positive self-talk.

No more limitations. No more negative trolls between my ears.

Over the years, the following four tips are the ones I come back to time & time again to get me out of bed, out of a rut, & back into a positive frame of self-reference.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me. Sometimes the simplest things (perspective, conversation & context) are the most helpful weapons we have to fight self-doubt.

1. Take a deep breath
Breathing is what keeps us here. It’s what grounds us. It’s what moves us forward. Being able to control your breathing means you control your body. When your body is settled – then you can take care of your mind. Taking a deep breath also means pausing & evaluating your current situation. You’re allowed to cry. And I big, ugly, feel-it-in-your-soul crying. But once you’ve done that, take a deep breath. Then another. And then, find a way to be calm. Sit with yourself & allow yourself the time & space you need to move onto tip number two.

Which is…

2. Talk to someone you trust
Oftentimes I try to solve my problems without letting anyone else in on them. Why? I’m not really sure. But, I think it’s probably got something to do with appearing weak, imperfect, & not enough for others to want to be around me. My goal in life is to spread goodness, not to be a drag on others. So, for a long time, I’ve hidden away things that bother me or that cause me to doubt myself. Talking to someone, be it a friend, family member, or therapist is a good thing. Most of the time other people want to be there for you. If someone reacts badly to your truth, find someone else to talk to. Find someone who wants to help. I promise, you’ll be amazed at the level of love & support you’ll get by opening up in your own, genuine way.

That then leads us to…

3. Make a plan
Making a plan doesn’t have to be onerous & time consuming. It also doesn’t have to be a forever-plan. Making a plan can be as simple as getting up & getting dressed – & from there, going for a walk or writing down your thoughts. The important aspect of planning is that you’re focussing on moving forward, not looking back. You don’t have to solve your problems all in one foul-swoop. But you can start to tackle little pieces of problems in a way that gives you hope, belief, & purpose. Not all big moments stem from big plans. Start small. Do what you can with what you’ve got – & move forward at the pace you can move at in the moment.

From there, it’s time to….

4. Celebrate the small stuff
This is something I try to do as often as I can. Taking notice of, & then celebrating small milestones gives us a realistic way of approaching our days. Be it at work, at play, or in our pursuit of joy – practicing appreciation for moments that become building blocks is super important to creating a habit of positive self-belief in all of us. I don’t mean for this to sound trite, but I reckon if we all really celebrated each other & our little moments of victory more often, that our workplaces & homes would be filled with so much more love & our crisis of confidence days would be less and less. So remember, Team, celebrate yourself. Celebrate others. Celebrate more & more to be more & more!

Back to good.

Right, so those are the top four ways that I personally employ to get my head back in the right place – a place of positive self-talk, confidence boosting thoughts, & of forward movement.

Here’s hoping you’re having an amazing day. If not, take a deep breath… & then rock into a future of motion begetting motion. Success begetting success. And, a life of mostly confident self-love!

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time & any feedback you may have.

Also, because I’m sucker for a good, pithy quote I’ve added some below. Enjoy!

Cassie Roma

The Case For Writing (And Investing In) Your Brand Story

What’s your story?

No, really. What is it?

Humour me for a minute – let’s try an exercise together.

I want you to think about how you might answer the above question. Try to formulate a storyboard in your mind about your story. While thinking through it, allow your mind to wander. Allow your biases, for just this exercise, to fall by the wayside for a brief moment in time.

This is your story. You get to write it.

First things first. Where would you start? Would it be at the beginning (birth), or would you choose a different beginning that’s not your literal ‘start?’ If you default to a starting point where work becomes a focus – you wouldn’t be the first. We so often live our lives in the context of meeting each other and asking ‘What do you do?’ Swapping corporate titles like social currency. Park the titles & the jobs. This is about your STORY. Start at your beginning…but make it about you. Not society.

From there, head into the gritty, gusty, beautiful middle of your narrative. How do you, in your own mind, segue from the beginning to the middle of your narrative? Was there a big shift in geography, in relationships, in maturity?

Think through the moments that you see as definitive to you & your journey.

You know the moments already. They’re at the front of your mind often. They are those moments that you look back on often, laugh about with people who knew you when, & even the ones that might cause your eyes to leak just a little bit – emotion still just beyond the surface.

Those are your personal narrrative building blocks. They offer depth, authenticity, growth, & change to occur. They are little pieces of stardust.

From your defining stories, it’s time to lead into a wrap-up of sorts. Your story, as yet unfinished, still needs to end somewhere. As humans, our minds need a finite lesson, or stopping point. But, your story continues.

Do you it end now, in front of your computer screen wit a pithy qupte? Or, do you pick a recent moment that allows you an open end?A hope, a dream, a goal.

However you chose to close your story – you’ve just created yourself another starting point. And therein lies the power of storytelling.

The power of storytelling in life & in business is the power of new beginnings.

For me, for you, for all of us – starting over & over again allows us so much beautiful space to fill empty pages of time to come. By going through the above exercise, you as an individual have a story now. A unique voice. A singular journey.

It can be shared, re-told by others, & written into cultural folklore even!

To ensure continual growth in business – whether as marketers, brand strategists, social media OGs, or CEO’s – you need to understand your brand’s story in-depth. Because when a brand stands for something authentic, human, & unique it’ll always rise faster than those businesses without stories.

Stories are currency, you can bank them & trade them.

I’m going to go WAY out on a ledge right now & say that stories are the most valuable asset to a company after people. People first, always. But, as a close second, stories are the secret sauce that spices up a brand’s offerings & products. As such, they should be just as heavily invested in.

The more people understand why they’re buying what they’re buying – the more likely they are to remain loyal to a brand. Why? Because magic happens when our personal narratives & brand narratives become intertwined. It’s very, very hard to untangle stories once they’ve been melded together. Thus, you create camps of people who then tell your story for you.

Me? I’m an Apple girl. A lifelong Nike gym junkie. Someone who buys Coke over Pepsi. Someday I’ll own a Ford truck. When I shop, I take time to notice my biases. I physically stop myself from defaulting to my favourites… and often wonder what it is in the back of my mind that causes me to reach for one brand over another.

In every instance, I can follow my choices back to stories.

Unpacking memories, it’s the happy tickles at the back of my lizard brain that cause me to truly become invested in a brand. That part of my brain simply acts & reacts based on past experience. I can remember Nike ads from the early 80’s (I was a toddler!), & still am able to sing almost every jingle for breakfast cereals written in the USA from 1985-1999. I remember the Say ‘No’ To Drugs campaign with frying pans & smashed eggs as clear as day…

Stories. All of these marketing campaigns, in all of their channels and iterations, are based on stories. On human truths. On simple, succinct messages.

The moral of this blog’s story? Invest in your story. Invest the time, the emotion, & the cash.

Write it, live it, share it.

We can’t believe in things we don’t understand or know. Once you’ve invested in your story, your customers will invest in your story… and then tell it for you. Whether at the dinner table, whether by wearing your logo on their feet/shirt/jeans, whether through social media channels… advocates will share stories for you. This is how brands grow.

Fill that funnel, team! Tell stories. As for me, I’m a lucky one. Happily a dreamer, an author, & a believer in good when it comes to telling stories. In the world where I spend a lot of time, the world of brand marketing, I’ve been absolutely blessed to meet some amazing people. Yarn-spinners so prolific that they have me eating from their palms & yearning to be as magical as they are with words, pauses, imagery & beyond.

Crafting stories for brands is my favourite form of beautiful, creative geekery

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with such a wizard of woven narrative, the amazing Park Howell. Radiating kindness, creativity, purpose, & vision – Park & I hit it off from the word go. We talked about storytelling journeys, heroes that helped shape our own passions for becoming storytellers ourselves…and prolific lyrics from the Brown Dirt Cowboy himself, Bernie Taupin.

If you’re keen to learn more about how to find your own narrative, & if you’re up for a rollicking ride on the rollercoaster of passionate storytelling for brands to really super-charge growth & return, click here. I’m positive you’ll enjoy this podcast that Park & I did together.

The #KindnessRevolution starts here, with all of us.

 

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!

Introvert Tales: Survival Tips in a World of Extroverts

Let’s talk about comfort zones for a minute.

There are so many kinds of them. The most important ones being those that ensure basic survival and safety. If we’re in imminent danger, we can usually feel the potential for trouble before it eventuates. And, thanks to our gut-feel, usually back away from situations where we’re uncomfortable. Other comfort zones exist to inform, impact, and drive certain social and professional interactions. In moments both big and small we understand inherently if we’re nervous, unsure, or completely at ease. And, we lean towards interactions that validate and keep safe our needs to feel accepted and liked by others.

Personally, I’m hyper-aware of my comfort zones. Maybe too aware. I get fidgety and uncomfortable in them. Which is weird, right? The whole ‘get used to being comfortable with being uncomfortable’ argument for growth sounds more like self-flagellation than fun. But, it’s where I live my life most days.

Let me explain.

We all have our safe places. Our inner havens, in-built boundaries, & self-check systems. And, we all know without a doubt when our personal boundaries are being pushed, pulled, crossed, mussed or even splintered apart. So, why is it then, that when it comes to finding comfort, I don’t necessarily find it in routine? Or by rights, in spontaneity?

What I’ve come to notice about my own comfort zones is that there’s a constant fuzzy-line-of-discomfort drawn between moments where my worst nightmares & sweetest dreams converge. And, I dance quite the cha-cha on that fuzzy line of peaceful internal existence daily – stepping thoughtfully through the rhythm of  work, life, family, and wider societal pressures.

You see, on the outside, I fit every stereotype of extrovert you could imagine. Bubbly, inquisitive, completely individual, confident… yep, typical So-Cal girl in New Zealand, right? Yep, on the outside. But, just below the surface the truth is bubbling away. I’m an introvert. I’ve done hundreds of personality quizzes, and each time have come out an INFJ. Which confounds most people I confide in. Most, but not all.

You see, while I like to be who I am and to push boundaries – I’m much happier and comfortable recharging my batteries in solitude. Earphones on, music playing, out for a run. Or, TV on in the background, reading and ingesting information in my own way, on my own time. If I could magic-up a perfect day it would include all of the above – peppered with a few people throughout to sweeten the narrative. It’d be a lovely, drawn out day of quiet introspection and small treats of socialising. See? Introvert.

That said, I also love short, sharp moments of discomfort when I get to be in a group teaching, creating, and working collaboratively with some of the most amazing people/peers in the game. A lot of the time if I know I’ll be speaking or presenting something to a crowd, I’ll psych myself up for it. Just like I used to do when I was playing sports – I treat most days like The Big Game. I give my all to what I can, and then head home in the evenings to rest and recharge. Because, as much as I absolutely love a little bit of extrovert time, it zaps my energy stores and sets me right outside of my comfort zones.

The conclusion I’ve come to about myself is this: I am a study in opposites. An introvert forever doing extrovert things. And, I’ve also come to realize that the coping mechanisms that I’ve built up over the years are super important, super necessary, and super easy when they’re simplified down to the good stuff. 

So, in no particular order, here are some of my own Survival Tips for introverts living in a world of extroverts:

  1. Do your homework
    This obviously only works for moments of discomfort that you can actively plan on. Things like big presentations (or small ones!), public speaking, pitching to clients, and the like. I find I’m much better at finding comfort in discomfort when I’m well prepared or learned on a topic. If I’m speaking at an event, I practice, practice, practice before presenting. Most of the time this means working through a presentation far in advance and then getting up each day at 3am a week or so before speaking to run through the narrative in my mind. For pitches and other moments where I know my palms might start sweating a bit, I study up on both the people and the ideas being spoken to. That way I feel like I’m talking more to friends than to potential investors or clients. Planning ahead and doing the leg-work has been a consistent winner in the coping stakes for me.
  2. Schedule in quiet time
    Whether it’s in short bursts throughout the day, small walks outside, or through meditation – scheduling in time to recharge is key to going full steam ahead (in bursts) daily. I try to take at least 10 minutes a day – though 30 would be better! – to get outside, grab a bite to eat, listen to music, browse the interwebs, and do non-work stuff. I find even small moments of shutting my mind off from work helps me come back with better creativity, focus, and the ability to really pack all of my best hours into a day at the office. Without a break, I tend to break. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. So, if you see me taking a walk around the block with my earbuds in, I’m recharging and will be back to chat soon.
  3. Get to know what stresses you out intimately
    Self-awareness is an art. Believe me, there’s a reason EQ is such a sought after attribute in the workplace these days. People who understand their own emotions and drivers are able to lead better, more efficiently, and drive engagement with their teams. Knowing what stresses you out can void or limit the power each moment of fear has over you. By accepting your discomfort, you can really get zen with it and feel the moment. Acknowledge your fears, then move on. One of the best talks I’ve ever seen, from the amazing Simon Sinek of course, was about how the human body processes fear and excitement. Both are translated in very similar, almost identical ways. We get to choose how we interpret our stressors sometimes. So for me, even when I’m literally running to the bathroom with nerves before a presentation or speech, I tell myself I’m stoked/happy/excited/fizzing to get going. More often than not, a positive outlook works in finding a calm place to work from – in front of a crowd or not.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be honest (or, imperfect)
    Quite often in the corporate world we’re encouraged to live our lives as flawless, perfect, unflappable versions of our true selves. Never messing up. Never failing at a project. Never standing up for what’s right, or obvious, or truly common sensical – instead we live standing in the shadows of not-ruffling-feathers. I call bunk on this. All of it. Personally, I tend to like the leaders and innovators who show their human sides. They wear the dents in their armor proudly – as scars that encouraged growth and change. They believe in honesty. And, they live by it regardless of popular trends or belief. Let’s face it, there are times when all of us struggle. If you’re able to embrace the struggle, ask for help, and teach others from your own journey – you’re not less of a person. You’re more. From an introvert’s perspective, I crave connection with a small inner-circle who allow me to ask questions, admit gaps in strengths, and grow from it all. With a core team you can trust, the sky really is the limit.
  5. Accept who you are and play to your strengths
    Who decided that the best way to ‘grow’ people in business was through concentrating maximum efforts on hiding or erasing weaknesses? To me, this way of thinking is off piste with reality. You want people to come into work engaged, passionate, and willing to learn? Ask them what their passions are. Grow what they’re good at. And, as a matter of course, address weaknesses when they hinder performance. I mean, you wouldn’t take a point guard and put them under the hoop to box out the big guns if your game plan was to win. You’d set the team up in a way that would at least level an already star-studded playing field. Beyond the office, I’m a person who completely accepts that I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be. And, I really don’t get on well with people who pretend they’re perfect and belittle others in the process for a journey that has peaks, valleys, roundabouts, and stops. I reckon it’s simple: accept who you are and who your colleagues are, and play well together. You’ll find you’re more comfortable in your own skin. And you’ll be surrounded by people who are more comfortable in their own, too.

So there you have it – my 5 tips for being you, when you have to put yourself out on the line more often than you might be wired to be comfortable with. Sure it can be scary. But, it can be very appealing – exciting even! Success really is at the end of your comfort zones – especially if you’re able to push your own boundaries in a way that makes you feel secure in the long run.

As an introvert, knowing yourself is your best, most powerful weapon out in the wide world. Wield that knowledge wildly. Thrive like it’s going out of style.