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! 

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.

 

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Ah, the Sounds of Silence.

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

Every.
Damn.
Time.

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

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

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

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

Finding Beauty in Uncertainty

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

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

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

These are my retreats.

Retreats of the soul.

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

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

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

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

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

The Dark Side of Retreat

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

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

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

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

Depression is a real shitter.

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Peace & Riding Waves

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

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

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

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

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

Ask & You Shall Receive

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

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

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

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

Where to get help 

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans – 0800 726 666.

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

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

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Counselling for children and young people

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why It’s Important To Be A ‘Challenger’ At Work

I’m stuck.

And I’m hoping you can help me out with a little modern-day conundrum.

Here’s the deal:
I don’t get the narrative we’re sold about how we should all live our lives.

Wait, let me rephrase, I do get it. I probably understand it far too well – and it’s messing with my head a bit recently.

You know the narrative I’m referring to. It’s the one that’s been built upon thousands of years of tradition, religion, and accepted inequality.

We’re told what we should do. We’re told what right and wrong are. And, for the most part, the great majority of people in our beautiful world buy into the whole shebang.

We’re not born sheep. But we’re taught to act like them more and more as we grow older.

What’s the deal with Keeping Up With the Joneses? Why are so many people obsessed with ‘stuff’ – so much so that they spend the majority of their lives in traffic or in offices to obtain the stuff they rarely use because they’re so time poor?

When did we all forget to just take in a sunset, or to find joy in time spent with family? When did the ideal of ‘busyness’ creep into our lives as a marker of success?  When will we, as a collective, go back to a pursuit of happiness and kindness over cold, hard cashola?

I’m not sure how to answer the questions above.

We all go about our days, weeks, months and years fairly similarly. All the while, we duck and weave that little tug inside of our heads and hearts, all to keep enlightenment and deep thought at bay.

It’s as if we live so fast and hard that we fear slowing down. We’d rather keep up the pace of facade than face our most genuine selves – just in case we realize we’re not sheep.

In most western societies, we start our journey to ‘success’ by going to school. At school we’re taught that we must sit still when we’re told to, run and play on a schedule, obey, learn by rote, and ‘repeat after me.’

We do what we’re told and get a lovely little pat on the head.

For following the rules, we’re given gold stars. Sticky sweet-fixes that hard wire our baby brains to tell our adult brains that we should conform to imposed standards instead of adapt while we learn.

We (especially us girls) aren’t supposed to ask questions, be curious, or speak out (especially not out of turn.) Lord forbid any of us ever questioned why we did what we did, or why we learned what we learned.

We just went with the norm. Didn’t make waves. We have always been told not to make waves, haven’t we? We’re just here to play the game by the rules someone else wrote. We’re not to change the rules (or even attempt to re-write them completely).

Nope. We’re here to just accept the world as it is. Inequalities dripping from the underbelly of unbreakable glass ceilings.

We’re told to repeat the mantras and learn the jargon.

Success is not measured by kindness or joy brought to others, but rather in quantifiable numbers on bank ledgers and the logo we wear on our clothing.

After school we’re supposed to find a ‘nice boy’, settle down, buy a house, have some babies to raise, and quietly delight in cooking meals for our brood.

Afterwards, doing the laundry, juggling a corporate career, and trying to find time for inner-peace as well. All the while striving to make it to the pinnacle of our human existence: retirement.

Grey haired. Porch sitting. Rocking chair knitting. A grandchild bouncing on each knee. Yep… those are supposed to be our best years.

While this scenario might be a dream for many, it’s a nightmare for me.

At this precise moment in time, as I sit here tippity-typing away on my MacBook (such a cliche) raging against the rules by which I’ve been told to live.

Before you ask, yes, I’m acutely aware of the ultimate irony of my life to date.

That irony being that I’ve followed the Path-of-Good-Educated-Girl-Who-Does-What-She-Should to a T. I’d get an A++ in the school of life for following the rules.

Yep, the path I’ve walked down has always been that of least resistance. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve just always been one to choose my battles while weighing all of the odds and thinking of the longterm.

Why choose the road to Normalville?

I did it because I thought that path was supposed to be my ticket to happiness. And, it was for a good long time. I also didn’t want to let my family and friends down.

In trying to live up to the ideals of others, I took a while to find myself.

For a long time, I was right on track to live the same, cookie-cutter life as most of us who were raised in the pre-Facebook, Zack Morris, Xennial times of rainbows and butterflies and sun-drenched sappy love songs.

Gag. Someone change the channel, will ya?

Every day I’m rufflin’ (feathers, that is)

How have I ruffled feathers? Simple. I’ve asked questions. Lots of them. Of myself and of others. Mostly to learn, to evolve, to innovate – and ultimately to grow as a person.

What I’ve found super intriguing is that asking questions causes people to stop and think. Sometimes abruptly. And, most people don’t like doing that. It’s uncomfortable.

Stopping to really evaluate a situation or choice makes most people feel uncertain – in themselves and in the world around them.

It makes them think about their own life choices. And, makes them remember that they have the ability to chose. Nothing is pre-determined.

Basically, asking questions causes most people to step outside of the comfortable narrative they’re buying into.

Me? I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m recently divorced and am onto my second marriage. I don’t fit any stereotypes anymore – though I used to fit them all. That spectrum people talk about? I skate up and down it on the daily.

I’m simply, unapologetically me. And, I’m happy in my skin for the first time in a very long time.

I’m also a better parent, partner, colleague, and friend for it.

Sitting here on the cusp of what I hope will be an epiphany (and not a pre-midlife crisis), I’m questioning everything.

My home, my car, my bank account, my hair colour, my clothes, my plan, my purpose.

Why question everything? Because I’ve seen the Challengers. They’re brazen and brave. I’ve even toyed around with the notion of being one without committing to it whole-heartedly.

It’s that one-toe-in, one-toe-out approach that’s the worse! You’ve tasted true freedom of choice, but then teeter back to normalcy.

I’ve seen the spark in their eyes, these Challengers. I’ve breathed in the passion in their souls, and felt the burning heat from the fire in their smiles.

I’ve pontificated late into the evenings and gone of on otherworldly tangents – learning all the while – with these oddballs who poo-poo societal norms.

I’m ready to be a Challenger.

I’m ready to commit to Otherness. Outsiderhood.

I want to be someone who exudes individuality. Someone who lives for the pleasure of living. And, someone who works and toils endlessly the betterment of others.

I want to spend time with people I love. Earn money to live, not live to earn money (this is an old hippy chestnut of a saying, but is a goodie I cling to.)

And, most importantly, I want to be genuinely passionate about asking questions. I want to hear other peoples’ stories and forge my own path. Write my own narrative. Be happy without the confines of normality.

What are your thoughts on bucking the trends?

Why must we all follow similar, already forged paths when there are potentially better/different/alternative ways to get from one place to another?

Here’s to questioning, challenging…

…and to being The Challengers.

Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

A few evenings ago, I had the immense pleasure of sharing a room with about 70 local digital and social media minds to talk about the ever fascinating topic of Social Media ROI. I’ll be honest and tell you this: I stopped going to most social media gatherings centered around this topic a long time ago because I feel like I’ve been there, done that.

We’ve hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed the subject a million times as an industry to seemingly no avail. Trying to find a ‘golden measure’ of social media success is oftentimes akin to hitting your head against a brick wall. The brick wall doesn’t budge. But your head does. And, all you’re left with is an achy melon and the knowledge that bashing yourself against an inanimate object for over a decade isn’t good for anyone involved. Especially you.

That said, I went along the other night for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew the person putting on the talk. She’s a cool cat, and amazing at what she does – if anyone could draw interested, interesting, and engaged people to the venue to really get down to nuts and bolts and talk, she could. And, she did!

The night itself was great. The venue was funky, and open plan – mostly brick, too (yikes! protect your heads!) The speakers for the evening were engaging before, during, and after the proceedings. Dialogue fascinating. And the crowd asked important, evolved questions. Yee haw! Though we all took angles in talking through social media ROI, a common thread was woven across the tapestry of topics. And, when boiled down, the most important takeaway for me from everyone in the room was this: humans matter most.

In marketing.
In storytelling.
In channel planning.
In brand and social media ROI.
Yep, humans.
They’re the best.

Seems pretty commonsensical, right? That people matter more than platforms. More than analytical tools. More than data and insights. More than anything. But your brain would boggle and your head spin at the amount of times I’ve been called into a meeting and been told to “prove the worth” of Facebook as a line-item on a community or direct marketing campaign pitch. You’d fall out of your chair in shock (or maybe not) at how often I still get asked about whether audience should go before channel. Here’s something I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind: ROI is driven through the human condition. All of it.

AUDIENCE. FIRST. ALWAYS.

Let’s taking a quick walk down memory lane, shall we? I remember the first time I was hauled into a senior manager’s office to sit next to the CEO and CFO and talk social ROI. The exec knew that that new ” social communication channels” were lining up to be the new next-best-thing, but weren’t sure how these emerging channels would slot into the existing marketing mix. Fair enough to ask the hard questions as bean counters. But, at 25yrs old I wasn’t quite as well versed in the language of cash-flow and P&L ledgers as I am now to be able to have eloquently answered the questions put to me as I could now. In fact, my attempts at speaking ‘marketing talk’ to digital people, and vice versa, were fumbling at best. I failed a lot at convincing people of the value of social media, but also kept at it. I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run. From that, I got more and more wins on the board. It was all simple psychology and basic marketing fundamentals – just on new platforms. Right? If only the IPA study about brand building in the long term had been out a decade ago!

The funny thing is this: social media has always just made sense to me. At all junctures. It’s never been strange, other-worldly, or foreign. Maybe because I’m inherently a creative and love learning new ways to share images, or stories, or video. Social has been another avenue (or, more recently, major freeway) on which businesses and individuals were able to tell powerful stories in a more relevant way than perhaps traditional advertising could. In my life, social media has become a passion, a profession, and almost an obsession. From the beginning, social media ROI has always been in relationships – it still is. Before the tracking tools. Before the analytical powerhouse back-ends. Before the ad platforms. Before custom and lookalike audiences. Before all of that, and to this day, I firmly believe that social media ROI is in all of us. It’s in emotion, familiarity, and trust.

So when I say social media is dead, we all know it’s not. It’ll never die. But, it will evolve and change quicker than Beiber’s hairstyle. Social is powerful. It unites us. It divides us. And it earns us the right to speak about things other than just our products. Social media allows brands banter, heart, and voice. Each touch-point, each piece of content, each story is a chance for you and your brand to differentiate and ingratiate yourself to consumers. Put people first, and your ROI will be ever-growing.

Long live social media.
Long live all media.