Episode 138: Focus Amidst the Chaos

Women don’t think they have the right to spend time on their book or their painting or whatever it is until they’ve checked all the boxes and everyone is OK. And the fact is no one is ever gonna be OK.
— Jessica Abel

Right now a lot of us are thinking about our intentions for the new year. Plenty of people have a side project they're hoping to get off the ground - it could be a novel, a new business, or perhaps you just want to learn to paint. Whatever it is, you have to make it happen on top of the rest of your life. Which is where the problems start.

In this episode cartoonist, teacher, and author Jessica Abel talks about how to bring focus to a crowded life so you can actually turn your idea into a reality.

At the top of the episode you heard me talk about Anne Libby’s newsletter On Management. Anne has been a guest on the show and is also a supporter. You can sign up for her newsletter right here.

Jessica abel

Jessica abel

Further reading: Jessica’s latest book is Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life.

Here are a few of her blog posts as well: the first is on ‘idea debt’, which she mentioned in the show. The second is on scarcity and why so many creatives work like crazy, moving from project to project without allowing any time to think or strategize in between (and how to change that). The third is on how to escape panic mode and actually get on with your creative project.

Episode 137: Pregnancy Loss and Work

Just for practical reasons you have to keep it secret, but then you also can’t be grieving or emotionally affected outwardly in any way.
— Jorli Peña
Photo by Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock / Getty Images
I remember Googling what to say when you experience a miscarriage at work...I found absolutely no advice anywhere on what to [tell] people you manage.
— Ceri Angood Napier

Around a fifth of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but we rarely talk about it. As my guest April Boyd says:

When you’re talking about infant loss and pregnancy loss, those are incredibly taboo topics in our culture.

In this episode we take on that taboo. Most women work, and when we miscarry we’re often recovering physically and psychologically in the workplace. Often, our colleagues will have no idea we were ever pregnant. But they may wonder why we seem upset or distracted.

In this show you’ll meet three women from three different countries, each with a different experience of pregnancy loss and work. Jorli Peña was working for a US corporate giant when she had her first miscarriage. It was not to be her last. Ceri Angood Napier had spent years trying to get pregnant when she finally got good news, quickly followed by bad. She then had to work out what, if anything, to tell her team about why she’d been off for two weeks. April Boyd suffered the loss of her daughter Nora soon after her birth in 2013. She runs the Love & Loss Project, helping people who have suffered infant or pregnancy loss cope with the world they come back to afterwards.

I’d love to hear from you - please post a comment below.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Episode 136: Loyalty Has Limits

It’s a very female perspective on a job. I didn’t want to let anyone down...I don’t know if a man would ever be, ‘I can’t leave this job, it would break my heart.’
— Danielle Maveal
I’m constantly thinking about the whole presentation, body language, what my facial expression must look like, the tone of my voice, the volume of my voice.
— Kim Norris

So many women stick around in jobs they've had for years, unsure of their next step. In the first part of this episode we look at why it can be so hard to move on even when we know we should. We talk to Danielle Maveal, who found it incredibly tough to walk away from her job at Etsy, and to Terri Boyer, who now directs the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Villanova University.

In part two we talk about emotions in the workplace. Is it OK to cry openly (really?) or should we stick with the conventional advice to flee to the bathroom? We learn from author Anne Kreamer about gender and the science of tears. And we meet Kim Norris, who has to watch her tone of voice and expression pretty much all the time for fear of being misunderstood.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Further reading: McKinsey and Company and Lean In recently came out with their 2018 report on Women in the Workplace.

Episode 135: The Comeback

The first step is getting your head sorted, really understanding what are the stories you’re telling yourself about why you can’t go back.
— Lisa Unwin
Lisa Unwin

Lisa Unwin

Many women will take time out of the workforce at some point in their careers. But getting back in can be notoriously hard. In this show we meet Lisa Unwin, co-author of She's Back. We discuss how to change your attitude to persuade an employer (and yourself) of your worth, how to frame an absence from the workforce, and why career and motherhood have a lot in common with a game of chess.

You can also read a transcript of the show.


Further reading: ‘It’s Time to Change Your Strategy on Hiring Women’ by Lisa Unwin, via Thrive Global.

‘Meet the Women who want to Crack the Return to Work Problem’, via the Daily Telegraph.

Here’s the article Lisa and Deb wrote comparing motherhood and career to a game of chess (and advising you how to play) via Strategy + Business.

Why ‘I’m a Mum, I’m Looking for Part-time Work, is the Wrong Way to Start’ by Lisa Unwin, via Thrive Global.

Episode 134: Running for Office

There are some days when I think, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing, why am I doing this? These people are never going to accept me,’ to, ‘Yes, I can do this...why not me?’
— Suzanna Coleman
Suzanna Coleman (center, with burgundy top) and supporters

Suzanna Coleman (center, with burgundy top) and supporters

Because of my party affiliation people assume they know everything about me. But I am the next generation of Republicans. I’m not what we see right now.
— Morgan Murtaugh
Morgan Murtaugh and her grandmother on the day of our interview

Morgan Murtaugh and her grandmother on the day of our interview

The US midterm elections are just around the corner. In this episode we meet two women running for office for the first time, Suzanna Coleman and Morgan Murtaugh - one Democrat, one Republican.

Each woman faces a challenge on November 6th. Suzanna is in Alabama, an African-American candidate in a conservative state. She's going up against an older white man who’s been in office since 2010. Morgan is a young Republican in liberal southern California, facing off against a congresswoman who’s held the seat for 17 years. Each thinks their community may be ready for change. In a few weeks they’ll find out for sure.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Episode 133: The Ambition Decisions

In a lot of our friends’ relationships the default was, ‘My husband’s career takes priority,’ even if that didn’t actually make sense for the two careers people had.
— Hana Schank
Elizabeth Wallace and Hana Schank

Elizabeth Wallace and Hana Schank

I empathized in some ways with the stay-at-home moms, but also I had this tugging feeling inside of me of wow, you had so much potential, why did you give that up?
— Elizabeth Wallace

In the early '90s Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace graduated from college with big dreams for the future. But more than 20 years later they didn't feel like success stories. Career and family life felt messy and underwhelming. But surely their friends from college had it figured out - maybe they could pick up some tips? Hana and Liz set out to interview the women they'd graduated with to find out how they'd channeled their ambition over the years and what their stories can teach the rest of us. The result is their book The Ambition Decisions.

In this episode we cover everything from how ambition changes over time, to ceding control at home, to not automatically falling for the advice to ‘do what you love.’

If you have a comment please post below, I’d love to hear from you.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Further reading: Here you’ll find links to the original series of articles Hana and Liz wrote for the Atlantic that eventually led them to write the book.