How Marty Maraschino Taught Me Resilience

Resilience might be eligible for word of the year. You hear it everywhere you go. We talked a lot about resilience during the Pandemic. How do we bounce back and adapt?

One definition of resilience is: The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Clearly, we need to embrace resilience as human beings. In a chaotic, unpredictable world where the only constant is change, you might drive yourself mad if you cannot adapt.

But more importantly, how is the skill of resilience strengthened, taught, or learned? Can it only be built when you face change or disappointment? Is it kind of like skydiving? You only learn how to really do it by jumping out of a plane?!

And how can I teach it to my son before he actually needs to draw on it?

Thinking back, I got lessons in resilience and rejection early. From professional acting as a child – where I never held on to any one opportunity too tightly and was on to the next if I was not cast – to participating in plays at school, 

While I got many juicy roles in school plays, I remember the ones that stung. Particularly one. A school theater director organized a joint 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade production of the musical grease. And I wanted to be Marty Maraschino sooooooo badly. She was the sophisticated red-haired Pink Lady, brilliantly portrayed by Dinah Manoff in the movie version. My favorite line of hers was “I’m Marty Maraschino. As in cherry.”

Before the audition, I studied the lines. I watched the movie. I perfected my sexpot pout (even though I had no idea what I was doing at 13). The director somehow knew I wanted the role ao it was mine to lose.

And lose I did. While I have been a choir singer for a very long time, I was (and still am) very insecure about singing solo.  So I bombed the signing portion of the audition, singing Freddy My Love offkey and likely too softly.

The director even (sharply) asked me later, “What happened?!”I don’t know, but the role went to a much more deserving classmate who did a fabulous job. 

And I got the part of Dorothy the Cheerleader.

I loved that my school plays would often give names to the extras, so we didn’t have to simply be known as Cheerleader #5. But I could play Dorothy, and give her a whole backstory! I got to be in every dance number, sported a very fun 50s cheerleading outfit, and even got to do the hand jive with a cute boy during the big dance scene.

I learned from moments like that to process my grief over what I’d lost, but embrace what was in front of me – and make it my own. Play Dorothy to the  hilt and perhaps, maybe even steal the show (I mean, I was voted “Best Pickpocket” in the 7th-grade production of Oliver)

Another unexpected resilience lesson came when I was in middle school. I desperately wanted to be on the Drill Team, which was the middle school’s and high school’s dance squad. 

I loved to dance. Channeling Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson with my bestie to their iconic 80’s hits on her living room couch, I even gained some brief notoriety with an unforeseen gift and rhythm for dirty dancing

But my Achilles Heel was not being able to do the splits. Despite taking ballet and gymnastics as a little girl, this flexibility eluded me. I even remember following random remedies like stretching after a hot bath, doing 5 minutes a day, or splits against a wall. If you were on the Drill Team, you knew how to do the splits. High kicks and all of that.

That didn’t stop me from trying out….THREE YEARS IN A ROW. I tried out in 7th, 8th, and then 9th grade for the high school team. 

The feedback? I nailed the routines, my smile was magnetic, but I couldn’t do the kicks or splits. And the competition was fierce, so…others made the team when I did not.

With each disappointment, I still got up and tried out the following year. What could I do better? How could I finally limber up enough to do the splits? Could I make up for this inability with precision moves and bringing the energy? They now call this a growth mindset, but it just came naturally to me.It wasn’t about being praised, it was about my own innate desire to practice and improve. What could I tweak to change the outcome next time?

A popular girl’s mom was on the selection committee, and even told her to tell me how amazing I was at tryouts, that I had such a great smile, but that the splits stopped me. 

But here was what I consider the truest test of resilience.  Back then, there was no email so you had to go to the school on the designated day and check the list posted on the door. Once again, my name was not on it. But two of my good friends were. 

And I remember being on the phone in my kitchen with one of them, as we compared notes. Weeping in silence as we talked, I found a way to share in her excitement. Through tears, I said, Ï’m so happy for you! You deserve this.”She said all the right things – that she was sorry, and it wasn’t fair -, but in the end, she made it and I didn’t. On that phone call, at the tender age of 13, I learned how to hold my own disappointment in check while still being happy for my girlfriend. 

Talk about #hypewomen  – thank you, Erin Gallagher, for naming this needed ability, starting this movement in 2023, and showing how it only lifts all of us up.

None of this answers my initial question about how you can “teach” resilience without any real fire actually testing your strength.  There are some great science-backed ways presented in this article by Greater Good on ways to build resilience,  – change the narrative, face your fears, practice self-compassion, meditate, and cultivate forgiveness, but I submit that these are more like things you can do to shore up your foundation so when you need to practice resilience, you are ready. 

I don’t know if these tips actually build resilience, because I’m still not sure it can be built until you are actually tested. I believe they make your internal landscape more amenable and open to resilience, they “seed the soil”, so to speak. Happy to hear other opinions about this!

I’m curious how you have learned resilience in your own life, as a child or an adult. Do you intentionally do things to set up a better environment for yourself to be resilient?  Did you have good role models, or was this something you had to teach yourself? Please let me know!

Photo Credit: https://grease.fandom.com/wiki/Marty_Maraschino

You Are a Hot Mess AND a Masterpiece

“You can be a hot mess and a masterpiece at the same time.”  Hannah Corbin, Peloton.

A few months ago, Hannah Corbin uttered these words on a Peloton ride, and they stopped me in my tracks. Metaphorically, of course. I kept pedaling.

I can’t recall the context but I think it was about letting yourself “get ugly” in order to grow. No one looks their best when they are red-faced, dripping with sweat, and struggling to cycle up a steep hill. And yet – doing so, helps you chip away at the work of art that lies beneath. 

That when you try, fail, get up again, strain, get uncomfortable, get scared, yet keep moving forward, you are working toward becoming your own masterpiece. 

AND not just working toward it. You already are a masterpiece.

It felt like she saw me. I feel like a hot mess most days, while I’m striving to be a masterpiece, a better person. It sometimes feels like everyone else has it together but me.

But we’re never just one thing or the other, are we? We can be two opposing things at the very same time. We can be striving and struggling while still being the best version of ourselves. 

That’s the journey we’re all on, whether you’re hopping on a Peloton bike, or trying to be a better parent, or seeking to coach and inspire your team with empathy. It’s a process. And just because you’re not at your ideal goal (which is fictitious anyway), doesn’t mean you are not both a hot mess in progress and closer to your destination.

And it also doesn’t mean you don’t have impact along the way, either. 

Even if you don’t believe you have perfected being an empathetic leader, human, or parent, it doesn’t mean you are not impacting lives yet. YOU ARE.  You are making incremental differences and changes. People notice when you see, hear, and value them. They are affected by your grace and compassion. They are moved to perform, deliver, innovate, and start their own journey to being more empathetic.

Don’t give up or assume it’s perfection or nothing. Just making the attempt day after day means you are a masterpiece. And if you are stumbling along while you do it, that’s okay, too. Both/And.

Photo credit: Ave Calvar, Unsplash

Tried and Tested Ways To Motivate Your Employees

Enjoy today’s Guest Post about fabulous yet often overlooked ways to motivate your people from the team at Scalefluence!

All of us are aware of the fact that an organization can only be as good as its people. However, this is not limited to hiring the right people but also ensuring that they stick with the organization and remain engaged in work throughout the tenure. As a leader, you must ensure that the more motivated your employees are, the more likely they will stay with the company. It is your job to make them feel seen and motivated, and there are several approaches you can take. Here are a few tried and tested ways you can motivate your employees. 

Appreciate them

You must ensure that the employees are engaged and they know that you appreciate their hard work. You can do this by giving them a gift card or an award at the annual party. Awards and recognition go a long way in keeping the team motivated. Alternatively, you can create an initiative to ensure that the culture of the company becomes a matter of pride for each employee. Your team is working hard for you, and you need to show recognition to ensure that they feel confident and motivated at all times. 

Celebrate together

No matter how big or small a win is, celebrate it with your team. Make it a point to stay connected to the team members and celebrate their little joys. This will make them feel like a part of your family and encourage them to bring their best to work. Let the team celebrate their joys and success at work. 

Understand their purpose 

All of us have a goal in life, and we want to achieve something or become someone, and as a leader, it is your job to understand this purpose. You need to find out what truly motivates your employees and understand their “why”. It could be through a map of drivers or even a heart-to-heart conversation. You need to understand your employees to know what is it that they are searching for. 

Train them 

One way to motivate the employees is to train them and take them towards their goals. This will increase their self-confidence and improve productivity. You need to provide specific training to help improve the job performance, and it will create a win-win situation for you and the employee. Ensure that you have clear goals and you can work with them to accomplish them. Once they are achieved, you can reset the goals. 

Bonus time off

All employees enjoy bonus time off and this is something they will always appreciate. Leaders need to understand that when employees relax and reset, it improves their mental health and productivity. You need to give your employees time to reset so that they do not feel stressed or burnt out. Keep a watch on the amount of work they are doing and ensure that they are making progress but aren’t overworked. 

Set the right company culture

The company culture speaks a lot about the leadership and whether the team is happy with the same or not. Motivated employees will follow the actions done by their leaders, and you need to be an active leader who leads by example. Allow opportunities that can motivate others and understand what they expect from you. Employees can thrive in the right company culture, and you need to create one that helps everyone grow. 

Ask them what they want

Not many organizations do this, but you must ask your employees what they want and try to give it to them. Look for their preferences and try to meet their needs. There are times when they will not be happy to speak about it openly, but ask them again. Give them a safe space to talk about their needs and deliver them. This will have a huge impact on them, and they will feel like they belong to the organization. 

Pay for professional education

Encourage the employees to have an always-learning mentality and you can do this by providing them access to online training, classes, and educational benefits. Pay for the professional courses they are willing to take as this will help your company in the long term. Help them identify their weaknesses and the areas where further learning can benefit them. It will show that you are happy to invest in their growth and success. 

Set a system that allows growth, engagement, open communication, and advancement. This can be achieved through regular huddles where employees can talk freely, and share their ideas. Let them communicate their problems with the team leaders and ensure that you stay engaged with them. This will set the pulse of your organization. You can have workshops, team outings, or even weekly meetings that can help bring up new problems and brainstorm ideas and solutions. 

Image credit : Unsplash

The Power of One

What can one person do?

We often ask this question when faced with insurmountable odds or unfathomable injustice.

In recent years, many are asking themselves that question around how to combat climate change, homophobia, gun violence, or healthcare inequity – you can actually pick about a hundred given the state of our world today.

When I start to lose hope, I remind myself that many of the world’s most successful movements, non-profits, and social enterprises were started by ordinary people. Usually by one person, maybe two people,who saw a need. 

People like….

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action (gun control)

Candice Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, founder of Missionaries of Charity

Ian and Brittany Bentley, founders of Parker Clay

Oprah Winfrey (yes, she was once just an ordinary news reporter)

Sojourner Truth

Greta Thunberg, climate activist

Nelson Mandela

And many more individuals I have recently been reading about in the amazing book, Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us (highly recommend!)

But then….

This person or those people connected with others to make their vision a reality. They were able to rally like-minded individuals and start a movement.  That is the power of a team.

This is why I am committed to helping every single person understand that their voice matters. When you speak up, you are a magnet for those who see the world the way you do and want to join together with you to solve complex problems. 

If no one person speaks out, others who believe the same thing can’t find each other and make change. (TWEET THIS!)

I have long dreamed about creating a movement called One Dollar DIfference. Donating $1 might not seem like enough on its own to benefit anyone. But what if you can inspire  800,000 people to all donate $1 to cause at the same time? Or each donate one hour of time to a community effort? That is an impact!

Empathy is what enables us to connect and engage each other. To solve these tough problems together. To make a difference. 

Never be afraid to stand up and act as “just one.”. In truth, you rarely are ever alone. You just have to connect with others to have the impact you desire

If you want your team to more effectively bring the ideas of “just one” to life, I can help! Let’s chat about an empathy workshop or talk to boost collaboration, innovation, and performance – and make magic happen!

Photo credit: Guardian ng

How Your Body Reacts to Mistakes vs. Success

I remember how my body felt when I made those BIG mistakes. Do you? How does your body’s reaction compare to your successes? My mistakes felt a little something like this…..

Panic rising up my chest into my now flushed face.

My stomach somehow dropping to my feet in the opposite direction.

Numb or tingling hands and feet.

The sound of my own heartbeat in my ears.

My eyes welling up with tears.

Success causes a very different physiological reaction than mistakes, doesn’t it?! But which are more valuable to making you the person you are? 

But we often gloss over our successes and stay laser focused on the mistakes because of the trauma in our bodies that those mistakes cause.

In great detail, I can describe all of those heart-stopping mistakes:

In college where I served as my sorority’s Rush chair during a crucial year. I had managed to turn attitudes around and mobilize everyone to work as a team to save the chapter – but screwed up the very manual process for the last round, in essence, dis-inviting maybe about 50-100 women who wanted to join us, with no way to change the decision, leaving our chapter in dire straits and my sisters furious with me.

My first management consulting engagement right out of college, where I spent weeks coding computer-based training, only to press the wrong button the night before our manager needed to compile the code and – POOF- it was all gone.

That brand new marketing job where I was thrown in to picking up on organizing our presence at a very large and important sales trade show. And despite triple-checking requirements and timing because I had never done this before, we completely missed the set-up time, and the VP of Sales had to bail me out.

That time I poorly estimated costs and hours on two of my very first consulting projects, resulting in great money for my subcontractors, but barely enough for myself. 

And SO MANY MORE…

But what I also take away from those mistakes are the lessons learned, like many more famous successful people do. How to perform better. How to pay attention to detail. How to communicate more clearly. How to listen to instructions and ensure I repeat back what’s expected so we are both on the same page.

Those mistakes make me the valuable professional I am today. Without them, I might not be as successful. And they led to so many more wins in my career. Leading a global roadshow. Pivoting brand messaging to boost sales. Speaking on stages about the power of empathy.  Researching and publishing books. Guiding clients to connect and engage through empathy with the stakeholders who matter most.

Your mistakes may cause intense trauma, but they provide the fire that forges the successful person you are today.(TWEET THIS!) Older. Wiser. Sharper. You now know what to do and when to take your hand off the hot stove!

Looking at them that way, is there ever really such a thing as failure?

Photo credit: The Blow Up on Unsplash

Reinvent or Renew in the New Year?

Perhaps a new way to approach your new year’s goals this year is to decide:

Do I want to reinvent or renew?

This question asks you to reflect on how the last year went for you, which is a much more nourishing way to plan for the future. 

As a recovering Type A overachiever, my bulleted list of 35 new goals (tactics, really) wasn’t serving me anymore so I came up with three new ways to set goals.

But this year, I’ve had the privilege of working with one of my besties, women’s coach Jamie Greenwood, who guides ambitious, big dreaming women on how to live life on their terms. And together, we created NOURISH, a unique retreat to approach the new year with more ease and joy. (Please join my email list to know next time we run it!)

Our first step, before blazing into new year goal setting, is to clear the decks and reflect on the past year.

What went right? What am I most proud of from this past year? When did I feel most fulfilled and energized? What do I want to RENEW?

What held me back this past year? What did not align with my values? What actions, habits, or behaviors (or people) did not serve me well? What can I REINVENT?

Not every new year requires a complete personal transformation! If you thoughtfully reflect on the past year, perhaps you can merely turn up the volume on what’s already working for you. (TWEET THIS!)

For me, I’ve reflected on the many years I’ve offered brand story and messaging consulting to both solopreneurs and fast-growth businesses. The work was starting to drain me. For every amazing client that embraced our co-created work, brought it to life, and found tremendous success, others paid me well yet never executed –  and stayed stuck. And that made me incredibly sad.

With the launch of my book The Empathy Edge, I began delivering keynotes and leadership training about the power of empathy as a strategic leadership, culture, and brand advantage.

Eyes sparkle. Flames rekindle. New leadership paradigms emerge. Attendees leave my talks inspired to redefine success, align their personal values with their career goals, and bring humanity back to their work. And I was inspired to do work that helps people be more compassionate while still achieving excellence. Yes, it can be done!

For me and for Red Slice, this new year is one of REINVENTION. I’m adapting my business model to do more of what lights me up and makes a difference.  I am repositioning myself primarily as an empathy speaker, facilitator, and author.

Strategic advisory work (aka, brand strategy and story consulting) will be less of my focus, and only on an exclusive basis for right-fit corporate clients and larger organizations.

What is a right-fit client? Ready and willing to adapt, revamp, do things differently, and embrace empathy in their leadership, culture, and brand engagement.  Ready to connect and engage emotionally to accelerate impact and revenue.

While I will longer promote my SLICE engagements to solopreneurs, I still love supporting ambitious passionate people doing great work.. Existing courses, plus a new workshop and 5-week course will help you craft a winning brand story and strategy – with empathy at its core – to stand out, attract more ideal customers, and grow your impact.

And of course, my content and podcast will continue to inspire you to amplify your impact. Remember my mantra:  Cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive!

This is a big reinvention for me and for Red Slice and I hope you will join me in redefining success and hopefully, making the world a more empathetic place. Lord knows we need it.

Stay in the loop on all the changes! Be sure you’re on my email newsletter list for the new website launch and for my new Brand Story Breakthrough course coming soon!

 Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash 

Going Back to Office Life: Do Employees Fare Better at Home?

PhotoCredit: Ben Kolde, unsplash.jpg

How do your employees work best? Well, it requires leadership empathy to understand your team best and help them thrive. Today’s guest post addresses the hot question right now of going hybrid or not is the recipe for future performance success. Guest Blogger Stephanie Hendricks is a full time freelance contributor to many leading small business growth publications. Including SmallBizTrends, SMBCEO, and Noobpreneur. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the American West in her sprinter van with her dogs.

When COVID first struck, most businesses wouldn’t allow their employees to work from home. For the most part, they simply didn’t want to relinquish control. There were also questions of efficiency.

Although remote work proved extremely lucrative, reducing office costs and other expenses, most companies couldn’t wait to bring people back. Unfortunately for them, some employees got used to the idea of working from home. Economic data indicates that this approach is the best option for both sides.

In this article, we’ll analyze whether or not working from home is actually worth it. Check it out!

Tackling the fears

So far, several studies have analyzed the impact of remote work. Given that most companies had to send their employees home, we have ample data to make some conclusions. Here are some general data:  

  • 51% of companies declared they’ll return their workforce to offices within the next year.
  • 53% of workers have had at least one infection in the office since they all returned.
  • Approximately 20% of employees now have a hybrid schedule.

One of the major concerns for employees is how they would adjust mentally to the newfound situation. Every third person said they were happy to return to the office. Interestingly enough, one-third of the workforce doesn’t want to come back. So, we’re split even in that regard.

Aside from the fear of COVID, there are other reasons why people don’t want to come back. For example, they’ve seen how productive remote working can be. During this period, employees experienced less stress and had more time for family and friends.

There are also less common reasons why some people don’t want to return.

“Employees that work in an esthetically unappealing environment are less willing to return,” according to the Collection, a premium office rental in Los Angeles. According to their data, the quality of the workspace has an enormous impact on employees. After enjoying all this time at home, they don’t want to return to a gloomy environment.  

Impact on productivity

The reason why most companies wouldn’t let their employees go home is that they feared losing productivity. And truth be told, some teams really struggled to meet their deadlines. This isn’t particularly surprising, given all the comforts and the lack of control.

But, there were also opposite cases. Some people worked even harder as they had much more free time on their hands. Among others, they felt free and didn’t experience the same level of stress as they would in the office.

Here is some data that would interest you:

  • According to a smaller Ergotron study, 40% of people worked longer while at home. The National Bureau of Economic Research shows something similar. According to them, the average work day was prolonged by 48.5 minutes during peak COVID. Based on that calculation, a person that has a 40-hour work week would annually work extra 193 days.
  • Another positive improvement has to do with balancing a job with personal life. According to the same Ergotron study, 75% of people said they’re now more productive at work while having much more time for their family. A few other studies corroborated similar data.
  • As previously mentioned, remote work also had a major positive impact on stress or, better yet, lack thereof. Out of all the people working from home, 29% experienced moderate job-related stress. This is down from 33% in 2019 when employees were still in the offices. Remote work had a similar impact on extreme stress, and these numbers fell from 17% in 2019 to 15% just a year later.

Other important figures

Based on everything we’ve shown you so far, it seems that remote work is fantastic for employees and companies alike. Here are some other interesting tidbits that favor working from home:

  • Employees were able to save 8.5 hours every week just because they didn’t have to commute. Annually, this would accumulate to 408 hours saved.
  • One of the reasons why remote work was so efficient for companies is because it allowed them to eliminate social interaction. For 70% of employees, social interaction is every bit as important as getting their work done.
  • Aside from having a positive impact on mental health, working from home was better for physical health. People who don’t visit the office exercise 30 minutes more during the work week.
  • Approximately 62% of employees have to work alone to reach maximum efficiency. That being said, being at home allows them to reach their maximum potential.

Who Influences You – and Who Do You Trust?

Thought leadership is nothing new. Strong personalities make up the fabric of business success folklore. Henry Ford. Richard Branson. Steve Jobs. Oprah. Sara Blakely. Mark Cuban. Jessica Alba.  Tony Hsieh.

Since becoming an entrepreneur in 2008, I have been exposed to so many more of these cult personalities that many folks who still work in corporate life have never heard of. Marie Forleo. Chris Brogan. Gary Vaynerchuk. And further,  there are those thought leaders that influence us in the personal development and lifestyle space: Mel Robbins.  Lisa Bilyeu. Glennon Doyle. Tony. Robbins.

Influencer marketing may be a fairly new concept, but thought leadership (which I equate as somewhat similar) has been around a long time. It’s a fabulous and authentic marketing tactic. Establish  yourself not just as a successful leader in your organization, but as a leader in your industry. Someone who has their finger on the pulse of trends and customer insights.

There are many influencers and thought leaders that inspire me. From whom I learn a lot. But I am very skeptical of those who get elevated to gurus, saviors, and absolute truth-tellers. 

It got me thinking about how we decide which influencers we will trust. Which we will follow. I don’t even like the word “follow”as it implies discipleship. 

And that is my fundamental problem with many of the “gurus” out there. When I started out in entrepreneurship, I immediately spotted such snake oil salespeople a mile away. They promoted how they knew the “secret” to your business success. If you learn their formula or do things exactly the way they will tell you (for the low, low price of $5,000), you will be able to buy a jet! They planned extravagant conferences, walking onstage to pounding rock music and fire torches going off. 

I saw new entrepreneurs, mostly women I have to admit, spending THOUSANDS of dollars they didn’t have to take a short cut promised by the so-called prophet.  It made me so angry, I even tried to pitch a Wall Street Journal reporter to do a story on it.  

We definitely need influence in our lives. But we have to be more discerning about who those people are, and what we expect from them. So how do you decide who to trust?

I believe it’s wise to avoid experts who raise these red flags:

  • Make you pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn their “secrets.”If they can offer a framework, or valuable lessons within a curriculum, that is one thing. But if they start making me think there is some secret shortcut to success or a
    “7-figure business”, I keep my guard up.
  • If their social media feeds are full of acolytes agreeing with every word that drops from their lips – or if followers expect them to have all the answers to the challenges in their own lives, I back away. We should never give anyone else that much power. 
  • Anyone who encourages people to go into massive debt to fund their dreams. Not responsible. And not sustainable. Just gross. I’ve heard one such current trendy expert tells her “students” that if they don’t go into debt and max out their credit cards, they don’t want it badly enough. Big no for me.

How do I know who to trust? Well, that’s harder for me to put my finger on. I value authenticity, but not manufactured authenticity. It’s kind of like pornography: You know it when you see it. With our eyes wide open, we can tell when someone is genuinely trying to help people or when they are trying to hustle them. I also value those who treat others with kindness, respect, and empathy and don’t believe they are “too good” to talk with them. And I especially value those who you can disagree with and they invite this with curiosity rather than having their authority questioned. 

We should always be questioning and conversing, not blindly following supposed influencers or experts. (TWEET THIS!)

No one has all the right answers, and we shouldn’t act like these people are gods. They are human. We can definitely be inspired by them, learn from them, and be open to new perspectives, but do so with our own self-confidence fully intact. 

Who do you love to follow and learn from? What makes you trust them? Who do you currently avoid? Would love to know so please DM me on Instagram @redslice.

Photo Credit: Zac Durant on Unsplash

Living a Life of Integrity

My dad, Joseph Piccininni, passed away at 93 years young at the beginning of July. He fought a ridiculously brave fight, constantly getting up again after heart issues, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and more. One thing you never did with my dad was count him out!

For those who knew him, my dad LOVED a party. Quick with a joke, smile, and cocktail, he loved being around friends and family more than anything, never wanting to miss out. When we were planning my wedding, he said, “Make sure we have a fully stocked, open bar for our guests!”

Dad was married to my mom for 62 years before she passed away in 2016. He worked hard his whole life and was one of my earliest influences on having a strong work ethic. He was a butcher and in the auto wrecking business. among other things, before earning his college degree in night school while raising three young sons with my mom (I came along later) to become an engineer, which he was for more than 30 years. Dad even kept working into his 80’s, at the local butcher counter and as an Ohio State stadium usher! He loved designing and building things (structurally sound, but aesthetics could be better!) He built out the attic of our childhood home into a 2nd floor, designed and built a few sheds, decks, and even built our summer house in Mastic Beach, NY.

Dad served our country in the Korean War – and was always happy to share the story of that time he and his Army buddies attended a Hollywood party at Rosemary Clooney’s house in L.A.!

My dad taught me so many lessons about integrity, inclusivity, and happiness – lessons that have helped me succeed my whole life and into my entrepreneurial journey. He welcomed everyone into his home – our friends, neighbors, workmates. His zest for life was palpable. He taught me that age is just a number and you are only as old as you act or feel. “Appreciate your age, Maria. In 10 years time, you’ll wish you were the age you are now, so always enjoy it!”

Dad wrote me a six page letter when I went off to college  – and told me it would be the last such letter he’d ever write to me. In it, he shared how proud he was of me, and gave me all sorts of advice for life: Honor yourself and your integrity. Work hard and honestly at whatever you do. Surround yourself with good people and friends. Never lose sight of who you are and the generations who came before you. And to enjoy every single second of college – and life.

As a kid, it was my dad who helped me (unwillingly) learn to not care what other people think. He always loved embarrassing us kids in public!  Usually, it  involved singing loudly in a parking lot or doing something goofy in front of our friends! He loved turning almost anything into a song – grocery shopping, trash collecting. Dad also had a strange fascination with cheesy 80’s music, in addition to his love of the Rat Pack and Big Band era. He often sang “I Just Called to Say I Love You” when he’d phone me up.

Luckily, my son and I got back from our London vacation in time to say goodbye to my dad before he passed away. He was unresponsive but he knew we were there. Every now and then he’d open his eyes and nod. We played his favorite Rat Pack music for him. We kissed him goodbye. We left that first night and I just knew in my heart he had seen all of us and could now leave in peace. He passed away the following morning.

My dad taught me how to love life, how to welcome people into my home, how to work hard, how to live adventurously yet also with integrity. And in his own way, he taught me valuable lessons about what choices not to make, and I’m equally grateful for those.  I love that I got to speak to him a few days before he died, by video, when we were both able to say Ï love you” to each other.

Who influences you? From whom have you learned valuable lessons?  It could be a parent or another role model. It’s a great idea to take stock on the lessons that person has taught you and how it influences your everyday life and action. In the end, who made you who you are?

Five Lessons from 100 Podcast interviews

Last week, I hit 100 episodes on The Empathy Edge podcast.. 100 episodes! In that time, I’ve had the chance to speak with best-selling authors, CEO’s, marketing leaders, psychologists, social and emotional learning experts, culture consultants, and DEI champions.

The podcast started in August 2020 as a way to keep my empathy research going. Spending three years writing The Empathy Edge, I immersed myself in the data, stories, and interviews. And then once the book was out, promotion began. And the research stopped.

Suddenly, I didn’t see that latest report. The data I was using was outdated. Oh, and a global pandemic changed the way we work and how we interact with each other.

As the topic of empathy became more mainstream and evolved, a podcast seemed like a great excuse to keep interviewing experts – the best part of working on a new book! And you know me – I love to talk about empathy.

A podcast is as much fun and as much work as I thought it’d be. But it’s the best kind. And it has taught me many valuable lessons about connection, conversation, and change. (TWEET THIS!)

Five Lessons From 100 Podcast Interviews

And, if you’re thinking of starting your own podcast,  how this experience can transform you.

Never Go It Alone

When I set out, I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone. What mic do I buy? How do I even list a podcast on Apple? Who will do my production and editing (because that makes me want to poke my eyes out). A friend connected me to a friend, Erica Mills Barnhart, who had her own podcast and she told me about her production team, Turnkey Podcast. I went to them and said, “Please help me make this happen.”They immediately put me in a Launch Your Podcast course. I got everything done that needed done and now this dream team edits and produces my podcast every week, just for you. 

Learn How to Listen – and Ask on Behalf of Others

Having been on many podcasts before, I knew how to do my spiel. But hosting is another ballgame. You have to learn how to listen. And respond. It’s a lot like acting, really. Curiosity was not too hard for me, as I’m fascinated by my guests and their experiences.  But I also have to ask the right questions to move the conversation along. I don’t like too many podcasts because it annoys me when the hosts ramble on and on about themselves, or don’t get the guest to answer the question asked – or the question I have as a listener. I have learned to think even more about my audience and what they would want to know. What do they need? My job is to get that info out of my guest for them. 

A Podcast is A Great Way to Meet Amazing People

Forget the awkward LinkedIn connection request: My podcast enables me to reach out to anyone and everyone I find interesting and have a chat! If you are naturally curious like me, this is a wonderful way to build authentic connections. Some of my guests have even become clients, or have hired me as an empathy keynote speaker or empathy workshop leader at internal and customer events.. But that’s not why I talk to them. I invite them on because they have something to teach us all. And stories humanize us. The more stories I can help tell, the more I can create more empathy in the world.This is why I’m committed to inviting women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented leaders and experts to my microphone.

Organic Conversation is Authentic Conversation

We have talking points, sure. And prepared questions. But I invite my guests to feel like we are having a casual chat. It’s not just rote Q&A. It’s interaction. We add to each other. We interrupt each other.. We go off on a tangent if that’s the conversation’s next logical step.  We embrace ad hoc joy for scripted humor. The best compliment I get is when people say they feel like they are sitting with us over coffee! When you do a podcast, yes, prepare, but keep room for organic flow for a much richer experience for both of you – and your listeners.

There are So Many People Working to Make the World a Better Place

I think the most valuable lesson I have learned from 100 interviews is that there is hope. If we seek out the changemakers who are doing hard things, we find that there are thousands, millions of ways people are making a difference. Whether they are a CEO of a social enterprise helping Ethiopian women escape human trafficking, a coach helping women find their own voice, a doctor helping children become more emotionally resilient, a DEI expert  helping parents crack open tough conversations about race, a workplace crusader trying to help build cultures where people can thrive at work,  a marketing leader using his company’s brand to stand up to racial injustice, or a community buidling expert sharing how to make online communities more authentic and connective for mutual benefit…..all of my 100 guests have shown me that you can work toward empathy in ways big and small.

Which one is my favourite? That’s like asking me to pick a favourite kid! But I invite you to take a listen and DM me on IG to let me know which one is YOUR favourite!