Your Best Adventures Are Just Outside Your Comfort Zone

Time to get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

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When I was 16, I took a job as a waitress at a restaurant. My work experience at that time entailed years of baby-sitting and about a few months as a cashier at the local Piggly Wiggly – two jobs that came rather easy to me.

But waitressing was a completely different story. For starters, I was pretty awful at it. I never seemed to have the right answers – or any answers for that matter. (i.e. Customer: “Is the blackened chicken really blackened or just kind of blackened?”),  The whole “multi-tasking” thing was just on an entirely different level and I am still scarred from that one time I spilt an entire pitcher of ice water on a mother. On Mother’s Day. (How waitstaff balance huge trays of randomly weighted objects and do not spill them constantly is a talent I will forever envy.)

Anyway, while it was a rather unremarkable gig on the surface, my waitressing days were life-changing. My teenage self was plucked right out of my no-sweat comfort zone every single night. I had to think on my feet, remember 87 things at once and defend myself when the cooks accused me of not grabbing the meals fast enough (i.e. I grew thicker skin).

On the eve of my first pageant in college, I paced backstage trying to come up with some believable excuse to get out of performing that night. My anxiety was through the roof. Actually, to say I had anxiety isn’t adequate; I was terrified. I was so far out of my comfort zone, the boundaries were not even remotely visible. While I was pacing backstage, I told myself: I will never, ever do this again. (Ha!)

But like a lot of people who step outside their comfort zone, I surprised myself that night. I did make it through the evening and dare I say, I had a little fun along the way. Actually, I felt totally changed after my first solo performance on stage; it was as if a whole new world of possibilities opened up for me. And that is the beautiful thing about the comfort zone – whether you tiptoe outside it or get yanked like I did that night: Life really does change.

Of course, you don’t have to sign up for a pageant to step outside your comfort zone. 🙂 You don’t even have to quit your job or move out of state or agree to give some big speech (unless you feel those things will bring boundless happiness!). I love the idea of “thinking big, doing big” but sometimes, even the teeniest micro-steps outsize ‘the zone’ will yield for you some magic. ✨

There is probably someone less talented doing exactly what you should be doing right this very instant. Once you quit resting on your laurels and slice through that sense of security, I bet you’ll uncover juuuust enough gumption and bravery to go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. And when I swear I’m fresh out of gumption and bravery, I try to ask myself: Well, why the hell not? If it could change my life in only the best of ways, why not? Why wouldn’t I want to learn more about this world, and shape my story within it?

Time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

How to be Alone

Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:

According to a 2014 issue of Science magazine, participants across 11 studies would rather give themselves a mild electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone.

That’s just insanity.

But in some ways, I’m not surprised. For starters, we live in a society that tends to celebrate extrovertism. And to be clear, the state of being alone is different from the feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, they’re linked. But I’m here to declare you can be alone without feeling lonely, bored or sad. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite!

Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:

Self-Love

When you’re not afraid to try things solo, you’re building your independence, self-confidence and resilience.

So you want to try that new restaurant? Grab a table for one. Dying to see the latest blockbuster? Hit the theater by yourself. Interested in learning a new skill or hobby? Sign up solo! I think you’ll be surprised by what you might learn about yourself by taking on even the smallest acts of independence. And overcoming the weird looks you may get (but probably won’t), is actually kind of empowering.

In late August – early September 2017, I embarked on a 9-day road trip through Michigan and parts of Canada. When I told friends and family my plans, I received a lot of gasps: “What? But why are you going alone?!” They were worried for my safety (which I appreciate) but I’m glad I didn’t let their reactions influence me. It was a trip of a lifetime. I played trivia with some folks from England, enjoyed poutine and local beers at a dive bar in Montreal and hit the hay in some odd, tiny and ecclectic AirBnbs.

When you head out on your own, you learn to be highly observant and appreciate (and look forward to) the quiet moments.

Without your friends and family by your side, you also get really great at forming your own smart opinions. This is such a rewarding, and oftentimes unforeseen, fringe benefit of “going it alone.”

Need a few ideas? Consider some inspiration from Women’s Day: 25 Things to Do By Yourself.

“So, why are you single?”

Let’s talk about being alone in the sense of being single. Ah, I’ll try to be brief.

I’m in a relationship now but I was kind of always known as the perpetually single girl. And I used to hate being asked, “Why are you single?” Every time, I’d have to suppress my inner sass. My preferred answer was: “Well, because I’m a strong independent woman who believes finding true love with a great partner is a rare thing. Add to that, I value my time and would rather not waste it alongside someone less than mediocre.” But in the interest of not scaring off nice people who I know meant well, I’d usually just shrug and mutter something about how I’m too busy, blah blah blah.

But now I am in a relationship. Shortly after meeting my boyfriend at Christmas this year, my dad remarked, “Huh. Yeah. We were starting to wonder if maybe you were a lesbian.” He was serious, and I thought this was hilarious. I spent most of my 20s alone and partner-less (albeit happy!). I thought my dad’s theory was amusing but I also thought it was interesting insight into how people view those not in a relationship. (i.e. “What’s the deal with her?!”) If you’re reading this and you’ve been single for a while, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

One thing I know for sure is that if you can’t handle being alone – if you depend on being with someone (or anyone!) – you should not be in a relationship at all. Work on doing things for and with you, and the rest will fall into place in the best way possible.

#CareerGoals

I am not sure if I’ve found professional success because I’ve been single, or I was single because I was focusing on my career – perhaps it’s a little of both. But there’s no denying the fact that being alone meant I was able to focus on the things I really, really wanted and cared about.

Last year, former UW Badger basketball player and current NBA hopeful Bronson Koenig penned a letter to NBA GMs. This excerpt really spoke to me:

“I’m good on all that,” he said. And then he proceeded to tell me something that I wasn’t expecting. He told me that if I really wanted to be successful, that I had to be O.K. with being alone, with staying home and working on my craft to the point of it becoming an obsession.”

-Bronson Koenig, Dear NBA GMs

Of course, when it comes to being alone to the point of obsessing over your career goals, you run the risk of living an unbalanced life. I hope nothing I’ve written has come across as an ode to disowning your friends and family – they’re crucial for success and happiness! But that seems to be obvious to most people.

Stop fussing over what could go wrong or what people might think. Just do it! Jump head first into cold water. Who knows what you might find?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before You Win, You’ve Gotta Learn to Lose

The thing is, people hate to fail. And that is ridiculous. 

“We can be truly successful only at things we are willing to fail at.” -Mark Manson

Someone recently exclaimed in despair to me that I “win everything.” First, I laughed. Second, I denied it. And third, I thought about how badly I wanted to bluntly reply: you clearly have not seen all the ways that I have failed in my life! I didn’t though. Instead, I’m writing this blog post.

Most people don’t talk about their failures. It can be awkward and embarrassing. But such is life. Here goes!

The thing is, people hate to fail. And that is ridiculous. 

The only way to step out of mediocrity, as I see it, is to stick your neck out, raise your hand, speak up, try something you’ve never done before, and then fail at said thing a thousand times. Because failure is a beautiful, humbling, edifying path to learning the best lessons life has to offer.

Over this past weekend, I had the honor of attending the 2017 Emmy© Awards in Chicago. Now, I have a lot of opinions about awards like these. On one hand, it feels pretty damn good to get acknowledged for the work that you do. And an Emmy is the ultimate form of acknowledgement in my industry. On the other hand, people obsess over awards. It’s strange to me when I see someone get so wrapped up over a pretty trophy that they lose sight of the big picture. And believe me, it happens all the time – I think particularly in the TV/entertainment industry.

emmys
My friend and colleague, Teddy, and I at the 2017 Emmy Awards in Chicago! This photo was taken shortly after I got my gown stuck in the escalator. 🙄

Anyway, my work crew and I decided as a team that this ol’ stamp of approval was indeed a goal of ours. And we did it. Two colleagues and I were up for an Interactivity award for our work on Discover Wisconsin. To get a nomination alone was a huge honor and one I am very proud of.

And I’ll admit it: I really did want to win that award. But that is not what happened. Someone else walked away with it. (Congratulations Melinda Davenport!) I’m proud of the work we did but the lesson I learned was: maybe we didn’t put our absolute best foot forward. Maybe next time, we’ve gotta be even more clever, more creative and more inventive. And that is exactly what we’ll do (while keeping our eyes on the bigger picture, of course).

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

-Thomas J. Watson

Exhibit B: My involvement in the Miss America Organization. Having competed in the program for three years, I lost far more than I won (7:1). For three years, I worked harder than I had worked for anything in my life at that point. And seven times in a row, I watched someone else be awarded the job I was so sure I would nail if given the chance. Each time, I had to reckon with the fact that a panel of five judges watched me interview, dance and sashay my way across the stage and said: “Nah.”

Each time I failed, I looked back at my performance and tried to figure out where to make adjustments. I asked my friends, family and most of all, the judges, to steer me in the right direction. I’d weed out the opinions that didn’t feel right in my gut and I’d hold on tightly to the ones that did. That’s important — following your instincts while navigating the success/failure line.

I did end up winning, only to lose a couple months later at the state level. And I learned so much about my own skill-set: I found talents I didn’t know I had. I also felt more in tune than ever with the areas I needed to work on.

When I gave up my crown a year later, I said to the next round of contestants: “Congrats to the future winner…take lots of pictures and enjoy the ride! But to all of you who don’t hear your name called tonight (I know how you feel!), know that you have an even tougher job. You can not give up. Keep trying and I promise you, something really great is just around the corner.”

Thankfully, lots of people encouraged me to keep trying before I won. It wasn’t just my own ambitions and dreams; it was also the encouragement of others. (Of course, there were naysayers, too. They will also be in the background. I liken them to “Ursula’s Garden”…remember those creepy sea creatures from The Little Mermaid? That scene is how I envision all the haters in my life.)

Polyps_from_Ursula's_Garden
Haters not welcome. 🙅

The “failure journey” is maddening. There is no way around it.

Even before landing my gig with Discover Wisconsin, I must have reached out to hundreds of folks in the TV industry with the hope that just one would crack that door open. Just one tiny crack in the door…that was all I was looking for.

Unless you’re one of the golden few who just happens to get “discovered,” you will get 5,000 “No’s” before you hear “Yes!”

Persistence and the willingness to play in the first place is everything.

 

A Roadmap to Building Influence

You don’t need a fancy job title to make a positive and powerful impact. Let’s talk influence. First, what is it exactly?  

influence

[in-floo-uh ns] noun

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior and opinions of others.

Quite simply, it’s “knowing the heart of the person you wish to influence and ordering your words (or more generally, communication) so they’ll act.” What I’d add here is: when they don’t have to.

The interesting thing about influence is you can be influential without being the leader. The old way was: the one with the power had the influence. Now though, the one with the influence has the power.

 

Why should you care about influence, you ask?

You’re influencing people every single day whether you realize it or not: at work, at home and everywhere in between. Employees are influencing their bosses. Parents are influencing their children. If you’re the type of person who is interested in moving the needle, you’re going to want to hone in on how to change others’ behaviors and outlooks.

Cruise through my Keynote presentation below for a deeper dive into some of the themes relevant to building influence – from self-awareness and likability to collaboration and authenticity.

Unlocking Potential #12: Q&A With Mariah Haberman

You’ve really gotta own it and believe in yourself, and when you make mistakes, you assess and move on.

This article originally appeared on garthbox.com. {Interview by Garth Beyer, @TheGarthBox}

Welcome back to another Q&A with a remarkable marketer as part of the Unlocking Potential series. I heard about a woman named Mariah Haberman when I first moved to Madison, I found out she worked at the PR agency I hope to work at, and then I got to see her speak not too long ago. (Post about impressions and link to her presentation here.)

Mariah has drive, excitement, and more passion that I thought one person could have. It will be clear as you read on. Without further ado, welcome Mariah.

Q: What motivates you to get out of your bed in the morning?

Mariah: Caffeine! And lots of it! I am so not a morning person so the fact that I make it into work before 10 a.m. is a miracle in itself. That said, I can honestly say I have never dreaded a day of work. Getting to discover Wisconsin is a cool gig but I think working alongside amazing and talented people is just the best thing ever. (Also: Free Sprecher root beer :D)

Q: What business would you say you’re in and how did you get there? What’s your story?

Mariah: I have a weird hybrid role: I’m both a television/radio host and a PR and social media marketer.

I always dreamt of working in television. In fact, I can recall writing my sixth grade career report for Mrs. Herbers about my aspirations of becoming a news anchor. In college though, I threw those dreams out the window after coming to the conclusion that a television career in Wisconsin during a recession was a ridiculous dream to have.

So I picked public relations. And upon graduating from UW-Oshkosh, I threw a few suitcases in my tiny ’02 Corolla and with my shiny, new diploma in tow, I made the trek to Chicago. There, I worked as a temporary assistant at an entertainment PR firm. Next, I decided to freelance back in the Madison area and then I worked at a wonderful marketing agency in town.

Meanwhile, I spent three years competing for the title of Miss Wisconsin. That endeavor really reignited my desire to pursue television. So, I reached out to the one contact I had at Discover Mediaworks and asked if, by any chance, they’d ever consider letting me guest host an episode or two. After several months of back-and-forth, the crew finally invited me to come in for an interview and audition. Apparently, they saw something in me, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Q: What are four life lessons you’ve learned from following your muse?

1) Make things happen for you.

2) Be nice to people.

3) Own up when you’ve messed up.

4) Never take yourself or your work too seriously.

Q: You’re constantly putting yourself out there. How have you dealt with fear – be it of rejection or failure or even success?

Mariah: I hate to quote the most buzzed about kid flick of all time, but when it comes to being in front of crowds, you really have to just let it go. I’ll get nervous from time to time during the preparation of a big shoot or speaking engagement, but once I am on stage, or those cameras are rolling, I don’t even let myself go to that place of self-doubt. You’ve really gotta own it and believe in yourself, and when you make mistakes, you assess and move on.

So much of the television business I think is listening to your own gut. You are going to get people who absolutely adore you and your work. And the opposite of those people are Internet trolls :). I take it all with a grain of salt—both the compliments and the critiques.

Q: What do you do to continue growing in your field? Are there a few special practices or habits you think people reading may benefit from doing too?

Mariah: The idea of being stagnant or out of the loop as both a host and marketer downright scares me. I am constantly trying to learn and get better at my craft whether it be through improv classes or online marketing research—you name it. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the biz, learning is essential.

The beauty of working in the agency world is that you’re surrounded by folks who specialize in all sorts of things that you may not necessarily be an expert in. But making an effort to understand their work inherently makes you better at your own.

Q: What has been a major highlight of your work?

Mariah: A viewer reached out to me on Facebook the other day to tell me that he and his daughter make it a weekly tradition to sit down every Saturday morning and watch Discover Wisconsin together. Hearing things like that – from people who make our show a part of their lives – is the kind of stuff that sticks with me.

Q: What is one characteristic you’ve noticed every successful marketer has? Better yet, what the heck does it take to become a remarkable PR pro or marketer?

Mariah: Great marketers want to learn; they are asking questions. They are paying attention not only to what other brands are doing out there, but more importantly, they’re noticing what people care about, why they do the things they do, buy the things they buy, and hang out with the people they hang out with. I think a marketer has to be easily fascinated by and curious about the world around him or her—and I’d say the same thing applies to great TV/radio hosts.

When you understand why people do the things they do, the ideations, strategizing and executing for brands comes a whole heck of a lot more naturally. (It’s still a tough gig, don’t get me wrong!)

Q: Would you tell us about a time you almost gave up and what you did instead?

Mariah: Interestingly enough, I actually have to tell myself to let go of things more often. (Noticing a theme here?) I get invested too easily. I love to dream big and I think the upshot of dreaming big is that you tend to bite off more than you can chew. So while “giving up” often has a negative connotation, I really have to continue to remind myself the importance of walking away from the stuff I can’t or shouldn’t fix.

Q: How do you try to live your life? Do you have a life motto or a particular quote you stand by?

Mariah: Nah. No life quotes really. I just try to live life to the fullest…you know, find the silver lining in even the crappiest of days!

Q: What is a dream you have or a project you want to create that you haven’t had the time for?

Mariah: Sooooo many. I want to write my own book(s). Open a wine bar. Learn French. And piano. And how to cook (better). And more time for travel would be lovely!

Q: Where can people find you and your work? (Shameless self-promotion here!)

Mariah: Why, you can watch “my work” every weekend on your TV screens (or laptops or tablets or smartphones)! Broadcast guide here: www.bobber.discoverwisconsin.com/broadcast …and because social media is my thang, I’m pretty easy to find on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram 🙂

 

Stay Positive & Curiously Alive

 

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

10 Tips and Tricks to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

I don’t know a single soul who was born a brilliant public speaker…

I live for a great speech. I think that to write and give a speech confidently is a powerful talent to behold. It’s a big deal to me. I was probably one of the first people to follow Obama’s original speechwriter on Twitter. (Hi @jonfavs #iswearimnotastalker). And my penchant for watching commencement speeches on YouTube has turned into a full-blown side hobby. (All-time favorite? Eh, it’s a toss up between Conan O’Brien at Harvard and Jim Carrey at Maharishi University of Management.)

So yeah…to summarize: One could conclude I have a bit of an appetite for communication, specifically public speaking. I suppose it’s something of an obsession. 🙂

And truth is, I’m not the only one obsessing. According to The Book of Lists, “speaking before a group” is the #1 human fear. For point of reference: Death is #7 on this list! Jay Leno put it best: I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.

I’ve been pretty fortunate to hone my public speaking skills by way of my profession. Thus, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Here are 10 ways to channel that executive presence while all eyes are on you:

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice.
    The most boring and obvious tip on this list is also, undoubtedly, the most essential. I’d credit about 95% of the growth I’ve made as a public speaker to practice. Rehearse in front of your significant other or kids, in small groups at work, at your local non-profit…just put yourself out there. And be warned: To practice does not mean to memorize. When I’m getting ready to speak – whether it’s a premiere party for Discover Wisconsin or a speech at a wedding – it’s not uncommon for me to just make an iPhone note of three to five points I want to make or stories I want to tell. If I’m more anxious than usual for whatever reason, I’ll practice out loud several times in my car. (I’m sure those who pass me on the beltline are all sorts of confused when they spot an animated orator in the right lane! 😂)
  2. Watch Yourself Speak
    One of the “luxuries” of working on-camera is I have easy access to playback footage of my own work as a communicator. This has been incredibly helpful. But I was doing this long before I had a job in TV. In college and throughout my pageant days, I’d film my speeches and interviews and solicit feedback from my peers and professors. A major mistake people make is spending 80% of their time writing their material and only 20% of their time rehearsing it. You need to flip those numbers. Surprise! It’s less about what you’re saying and more about how you’re saying it. We’re getting a bit into paralinguistics here but people really have a tendency to mirror your emotions as a presenter. If you are communicating in an animated, exciting, cheery way, chances are, you’re going to notice some smiles on people’s faces. If you’re going for a more solemn, dramatic mood, expect some pensive crowd reactions.
  3. Study Others
    Whether it’s a bridesmaid speech or the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I’ve learned as much from others as I have my own speeches. There are always little nuggets to glean. For example, by watching a speaker I admired, I learned to be okay with a little silence – to embrace it actually. When I was in front of a group and unable to come up with a way to wrap up a point I was trying to make, I’d feel my face get real hot and search for words – any words – to fill the silence. But a little break in your flow is just fine. Take President Obama, for example. An incredible orator, inarguably, but one thing that has struck me about his speeches and interviews is the fact that silent pauses are trademark Obama. You can tell he is searching around for the perfect word, the perfect way to wrap up what it is he’s trying to communicate and it sticks with you because it comes across as authentic and not rehearsed (even if those dramatic pauses are indeed rehearsed).
  4. Tap Into Self-Awareness
    While studying others is helpful, knowing yourself is essential. Capitalize on your strengths – are you an amazing storyteller? Do you have a sense of humor? Are you able to simplify complex concepts? Or do you have a flair for drama?
  5. Consider the Audience, but Don’t Overthink It
    Knowing your audience is paramount. It can be daunting to try and guess what it is they’d like to get out of your talk. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to ask the host/moderator/event planner: “Is there anything in particular your group wants me to address or share?” That said, don’t overthink the audience factor. I find a lot of people focus a little too much on the audience and not on their own material. Don’t worry so much about them – they are not there to watch you fail.
  6. Ruminate Over Your Transitions
    Ah, the transitional trap…Picture this: The Best Man is at the head table – mic in hand. He’s really getting into a funny story about the groom and he’s telling it pretty well! But now we’re nearing the end of the story, and you can tell he’s unsure how to transition to the next point. He didn’t think that part through and this is where you usually get an awkward “So…yeah. I thought I’d share that…with all of you…” Gah, facepalm, we were off to such a great start! One of the biggest differences between a great speech and a mediocre one comes down to the orator’s ability to smoothly transition from point to point. In other words, he or she has built a roadmap for the entire speech and didn’t just work on the individual topics/stories.
  7. Get Your Audience Involved
    If it makes sense, consider asking questions in the middle of your talk. This shift in your presentation pace may re-energize the audience and also give you a chance to recalibrate. Plus, fun fact: people learn best in 20-minute chunks…which is a major reason why TED Talks are as popular as they are.
  8. Do not personalize the audience reactions.
    This lesson was a BIG one for me. I’ve always considered myself pretty attuned to how people are interpreting my messages. So during my first talk with an Alcohol and Other Drugs class at UW-Whitewater about a highly personal topic (alcoholism in the family), I was a little discouraged when the 75 students I spoke to seemed rather apathetic and incurious throughout my talk. As I would speak and make eye contact with each student, their expressionless faces had me thinking: “I’m not getting through to them. They’re not interested in what I have to say.” This is probably the worst feeling to have as a presenter. With every passing word, my confidence further dwindled while my anxiety gained momentum.Two weeks later, I received 75 feedback forms in my mailbox from the professor of that class. I dreaded looking through them, so sure these college students would rip me apart. But I was numb with emotion after reading every last one of those feedback forms; they told me what I had to say really moved them. Some of them shared their own personal stories with me that were over a page long. I was shocked. They weren’t at all disinterested…they were simply concentrating hard on what it was I was saying.

    Side note: This is also why, as an audience member, I always try to make a point to give presenters non-verbal cues while they are on stage. Whether it’s in the form of a head nod or even a smile, I think it’s important to let presenters know: “I hear you. And I like what you have to say.”

  9. Just Breathe
    Man, adrenaline is one hell of a hormone. When your mind and body are under stress, your fight-or-flight response kicks in. When I’m nervous, I pace back and forth. I tend to make everyone else around me nervous but I need to move around, it helps calm me down. Take deep breaths and reassure yourself that all the preparation you’ve done up to this point means you’ve got this.
  10. Know That It’s Okay to be Nervous
    Actually, nervous energy is a good thing. It means you care about this thing you’re about to do. Even though it’s my job to speak in front of people and on camera, I still get nerves – sometimes it’s just an adrenaline rush before I walk on stage and sometimes it’s full blown chest-tightening, hand-wringing nerves. I’m not convinced it’s anything you’re ever completely “cured” of. In fact, of all the speeches I’ve given, there is a handful of which I felt a bit disappointed with my performance and of those, there was one common thread: I didn’t feel nervous beforehand.

Most importantly, don’t just decide that this is something you’re bad at. I don’t know a single soul who was born a brilliant public speaker. It’s a learned skill and like any learned skill, practice makes perfect. So get out there!

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From Traffic Jams to Peanut Butter & Jelly

Truth is, I still struggle with my decision to stay home daily.

Editor’s Note: This article was guest written by Milwaukee media personality turned Los Angeles stay-at-home mom, Caitlin Morrall. 

It was the family Christmas vacation four years ago. Everyone was out to dinner on Miami Beach, enjoying steak, seafood and cocktails. Well not, everyone. Before the questions about why I wasn’t drinking the wine came up we presented our Moms with their Christmas gifts a few days early. Bracelets with little baby carriages because in seven months they would become Grandmas for the first time. There were the hugs, of course my Mom said she had kind of figured it out already and the congratulations.

Dessert had barely digested and we were walking back to our rooms when two family members asked, “Will you continue working after the baby is born?”… that didn’t take long. This was something my husband and I hadn’t discussed yet. To be honest, I kind of assumed he preferred I stay home. He was raised by a stay-at-home mom, his Grandma was a stay-at-home mom. It’s just the type of life he came from and I thought was accustomed to. On top of that, he was smack dab in the middle of a medical residency in plastic surgery. I wouldn’t wish marriage to a surgical resident on my worst enemy. It’s the pits. Plastic surgery is the second longest medical residency there is… six years of uncertainty, middle of the night pager noise, missed holidays and vacations, going alone to nearly every event you are invited to and sleeping alone more nights than you care to think about. One parent should probably be available and present to our child.

I replied to the question as I assumed much of the family would see fit… that I would likely stay home with our child. You would have thought I proposed taking up work as a professional hit man. Apparently what was once a way of life for many people in my family was no longer a thing… women belonged in the workplace now. It was never brought up again and seven months later we welcomed an amazing baby boy and 12 weeks after that I went right back to my job as a Traffic Reporter on the morning news.

Returning to work was not without its own challenges. Think back to the uncertainty I mentioned with my husband’s job… due to his call schedule I couldn’t count on him to be home overnight or home the next morning to take a baby to daycare. I had to be at work at 4 a.m. before daycares are open. That means we find a nanny who can arrive at 3 a.m. Who wants to work at 3 a.m.?! I mean besides my crazy ass! But lo and behold, we found one… somehow, someone who was willing to wake up in the middle of the night and hang out while our kid slept. Do you know how depressing it is to pay someone to sit in your living room while your kid sleeps? To be honest, I found two someones who were willing to do that. We had to find a fill in when the original nanny was offered a summer intensive spot at a prestigious university as part of her Masters program.

Clearly the work lives we led were not the norm. You’ve heard of the term “two ships passing in the night”? That was our life. Sometimes the only time I would see my husband was to catch a glimpse of him sleeping as I woke up for work. Or we’d let out collective groans during the third overnight wake-up with an infant. My day went as follows: wake up at 2 a.m. (often after having been up once or twice in the night with the baby), shower and do makeup, nanny arrived at 3 a.m., I take the dog out for a walk, come back up and make coffee, go to work. On the air at 4:30 a.m., last update at 9 a.m., home and take the dog out again before the nanny left. Mom all day, kid to sleep at 6:30 p.m., take the dog out, get myself to sleep by 7:30 p.m. I often called myself a stay-at-home mom who works full-time. I did most of my working while my son slept and once I came home I was “on” all day until bedtime. During that first year my husband was also interviewing all over the country for fellowship positions in orthopedic hand surgery and he was given the opportunity to travel to South America for a medical mission trip. To say things were stressful would have been an understatement. In May of that year he matched into a very prestigious hand surgery fellowship that would require us to move to Boston the following July after his residency had been completed. Around the same time, my mom asked me if we would even be married by the time that move came around. Our lives became a constant argument centered around who was more tired, who had the next turn on dirty diapers, who was waking up with our son next. It wasn’t like my husband could switch jobs and I was worn so thin, you could see through me (Although I wish I was saying that in a literal sense… baby weight is a bitch!). The only answer was for me to stay at home.

To make matters worse (or maybe better?), our nanny took a job as a research assistant and would no longer be able to work early mornings for us after the school year started. I had hoped to ride out my contract, which ended on December 31 but couldn’t hire someone for mere months under those conditions. I gave my two weeks notice and said I would be available to fill in as needed until they found a replacement. I ended up filling in for myself at least once a week until December 31. Thank goodness for a retired Grandpa who didn’t mind sleeping on our couch.

Now here I am… explaining my decision to you all, like I need to make excuses for being a stay-at-home mom. This blog post simply should have started out with “Hi, I’m Caitlin and I am proud to be a stay-at-home mom”. But no, our society doesn’t find a whole lot of value in the woman who doesn’t bring home a paycheck. I’ve always said one of the hardest things about being a woman is that now that we CAN do it all, we are EXPECTED to do it all. I’ve had friends start on the SAHM front, and months later they are reapplying for jobs because they feel like their education is going to waste, or that they aren’t contributing enough. That being said, I also have career Mom friends who tell me that my husband couldn’t afford me as an employee… that the work of a SAHM is a million jobs in one. In one day I work as a chef, a chauffeur, a dog walker, a maid and a nanny. Sometimes I work as an assistant too, managing calendars, picking up dry cleaning and booking appointments. There’s very little glamour (we’re lucky if I shower some days), there’s very little praise and there is nearly no encouragement. You are exhausted and irritable all the while never feeling like you’re doing enough. And let me tell you, coming from the working world of local television, that’s a really difficult transition. In Milwaukee I was “The Road Warrior”, people would see me out and talk to me about my future plans. I typically parlayed my decision into “Well, I am preparing to move our family to another state” instead of just owning my decision. Always the question of “Will you be returning to work?” and “What’s your plan once your son is in school?”. I had been coming into the living rooms of thousands of people every morning for five years. Many of them couldn’t grasp the idea of me not working. Their opinions weighed heavily on me and I was never happier to move to another state, a state where would only be known as “Jack’s Mom”. But in hindsight, was I just shifting the blame? Was it just me who couldn’t grasp the idea of not having a career outside of the home?

Truth is, I still struggle with my decision to stay home daily. I sometimes still think former colleagues and former viewers look at me differently for deciding to leave it all behind. More than ever I am realizing those thoughts are a product of my own insecurities. I often have to remind myself how much I loved having a parent waiting in the hallway at school to pick me up. How much it meant to have a parent in the audience at school programs. In my case it was my dad. My mom worked in corporate America for most of my life. She traveled the country almost every week. As a little girl I thought working until 7 p.m. every night was “the norm” for her. My husband will rarely be able to pick our son up from school. He will never be able to help organize the class Christmas party and couldn’t take a day off if our son needed to stay home sick. I have the opportunity to be that rock for our little boy. To be the face he sees after lunch every day (and when he yells “Hi Mama!” through his classroom window, it’s pretty awesome). I’m a work in progress most days still… but I do make a mean class treat, I have a hell of a cleaning schedule and like most moms who have 90% of their human interaction with a three year old, I lose my shit occasionally. But I do the best I can, the best I know how. I take each day as it comes. Some days are easier than others. Every stage of childhood and motherhood is equally difficult, unpredictable, frustrating, wonderful and amazing. I’m sure when my son is 18 I will have finally come to terms with my career… a Stay at Home Mom.

Caitlin Morrall is a former Miss Wisconsin USA and competed for the title of Miss USA, live on NBC in March of 2007.  She finished among the Top 15 semi-finalists. Caitlin continues to be involved in many areas of pageantry including judging, coaching and consulting. In addition to her work with contestants in the Miss Universe Organization she was also a four time titleholder in the Miss America Organization, placing as a runner up at the state level each time she competed. She continues to volunteer her time as a pageant producer, emcee, judge, coach and local competition board member in the state of Wisconsin. During her time competing in pageants Caitlin championed the causes of Breast and Ovarian Cancer awareness and the important of Character Education. She has also been very active in her community, participating in events supporting charities including Children’s Miracle Network, Special Olympics Wisconsin and the Make A Wish Foundation. 

Caitlin joined Milwaukee’s NBC affiliate, TODAY’S TMJ4, in November of 2009 as the “Road Warrior” Traffic Reporter on “Live at Daybreak”. Prior to joining the TMJ4 team, Caitlin was a freelance reporter for Fox Sports Wisconsin. In 2008 she was a sideline reporter for the WIAA State Football Championships. She also contributed to feature reports for “Bucks Live”, the pregame show for the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Caitlin attended Alverno College in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Communication. Upon graduation she completed an internship with ESPN Radio in Milwaukee. In 2013 Caitlin appeared in a Wisconsin Summer Tourism television campaign alongside Hollywood Actor, Robert Hays.

Caitlin currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, their Pug and their three year old son, Jack.

16 of the Craziest Things I’ve Done on Discover Wisconsin

Cheers to another year full of adventure, mishaps and fearlessness!

One of the more popular questions I get asked is: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on Discover Wisconsin?” There’ve been so many wild moments, but here are 16 that come to mind:

  1. Completely bombed a waterski jump on Lake Arrowhead…three times in a row
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  2. …but redeemed myself by waterskiing behind a seaplane!
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  3. Kept the bulls at bay as a rodeo clown in River Falls
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  4. Competed in a smooshboarding competition in Hudson
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  5. Judged a “Show Me Your Fur” Contest during Fun on the Frozen Flambeau in Rusk County
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  6. Kayaked these CRAZY rapids in Black River Falls…
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  7. Floated above Lake Geneva in a hot air balloon
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  8. Motorcycled my way around southeastern Wisconsin
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  9. Toured Lambeau Field with former Packers kicker Chris Jacke
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    Dressed up as an 1800s dame at the Baker House in Lake Geneva
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  11. Competed in a barrel racing competition in Buffalo County
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  12. Buzzed around Lodi’s Smokey Hollow Campground in a giant shopping cart
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  13. Made my way around the backwaters of La Crosse by airboat
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  14. Flew over Oconto County in a helicopter
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  15. Played snowshoe baseball at Blizzard Blast in Conover
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  16. Performed with the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Show Team in Janesville
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Ah, the memories! Hats off to the #DWcrew for putting up with my shenanigans 😀 If you have a favorite moment or episode, comment below. Let me know if you have a destination you’d like to see featured on the show, too!

Cheers to another year full of adventure, mishaps and fearlessness!

What I’ve Learned From 13 Jobs in 13 Years

Work work work work work 🎶

There’s a lot I have yet to figure out about life but here’s one thing I know with absolute certainty: having as many varied experiences as you possibly can is a major and direct contributor to personal and professional growth. It is so much of what determines how quickly (or conversely, how slowly) one develops.

Many of the jobs I’ve held seem, at least on the surface, rather unremarkable. Others truly put the “odd” in “odd jobs.” Each – while diverse in the skill-set required – has impacted me in a pretty profound way. First, the super quick rundown:

Skipping the years I spent baby-sitting, my first “big kid” job was as a cashier for Piggly “Shop the Pig!” Wiggly. (I can still recite a handful of PLUs. Bananas: #4011) In high school and early college, I also was a waitress at a few different restaurants. (And subsequently, was quickly made aware of how sucky my multitasking skills were.) Then my dad, who worked at Oscar Mayer for 13 years scored me a stint as an assembly line worker in the factory’s ham slice department. He told me this job would teach me to stay in college. He was right. That same summer, I also worked the p.m. shift as a retail associate at Hollister at West Towne Mall. (Not sure which environment I hated more: 40 degree, smoked ham-smelling basement vs. the “So Cal” cologne-infused teen dungeon.)

Later, my lifelong obsession with gymnastics would draw me to a kids center near my hometown where I worked as a gymnastics assistant. On campus at UW-Oshkosh I worked as a journalism assistant as well as a phonathon caller, where yes, I called and convinced alumni to fork over some cash. (i.e. “I totally understand $50 won’t do but how bout a tax-deductible $5 gift to the UWO annual fund? Every dollar counts!”) And then there was the summer I was an MMA Ring Girl. (It wasn’t as interesting as it sounds but…$$$) I was also a bartender at a couple different golf courses as well as a bar in downtown Oshkosh. And then post-college, came all my recent stuff AKA social media consultant, marketing strategist, TV host and producer, etc.

And now for the analysis.

The thing is, in my early 20s, I was pretty insecure about how many jobs I had already held for my age. I had to defend my ADD-inducing resume at almost every interview I had. Working consistently at the same place for multiple years seemed to be the idyllic route – decided by my peers, my employers and by society. There is something to admire about that, for sure, but as you’ve probably guessed, I’m here to tout the opposite 🙂

For starters, working this many various jobs throws you head first into a lot of weird, wacky, frustrating, challenging, stressful, exhausting and rewarding situations. You’ve gotta buckle up, adapt quickly and brush off the stress when you show up for your waitressing shift, and the only two other scheduled waitresses called in that day and it’s Mother’s Day and you have the ginormous patio all by yourself and oh my God, you just spilt the entire pitcher of ice cold water on THE MOM and it’s MOTHER’S DAY. Shit. She’ll give you a good tip though because she pities you. Not all is lost.

When you work a lot of jobs, you’re never anywhere for too long. This means you’re always the new girl in a foreign land, which is translation for: learn how to have thick skin, especially when the veteran lady line workers at Oscar Mayer gave you major side eye when you stack up 3 feet of ham because sweet jesus, the bubble packages on the line MOVE SO DAMN FAST. Next thing you know, they’re shutting down the entire line because “COLLEGE GIRL CAN’T KEEP UP.” And because you’ve learned how to adapt well in previous roles, you’re able to shamelessly retort, “My dad is the maintenance guy here…just FYI” any time those nasty ol’ ladies get real out of line. Works like a charm!

Working this many jobs as a teen and through my 20s, also helped me weed through what I was looking for in a career and in the team I wanted to surround myself with. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t have to hold a lot of jobs to know that terrible bosses are a dime a dozen. I’ve certainly got a real vivid depiction of “Manager I Don’t Ever Wanna Be” but unlike a lot of other professionals (so it seems) I’ve also had the good fortune of working for some amazing people. And as much as I learned from the bad eggs, I also eagerly consumed every ounce of leadership lore that I could from the really great ones.

And these are just paid gigs we’re talking about. If job-jumping has you feeling uneasy, there are umpteen other ways to take in a variety of experiences like volunteering, travel and classes, just to name a few. However you decide to weave in and out of your own lane, I think these experiences will make you more sophic, open-minded and perceptive of the big picture.

Speaking of the big picture, here it is: The more people, places and positions you experience, the better you’ll be for it.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think below.

 

How I got my Job as a TV Host

It didn’t happen by accident.

Q: “Sweet gig. How’d ya land it?!”

A: Here’s the CliffNotes version:

It all started with a dream…as most things do. It didn’t happen by accident. Since I was in middle school, I dreamt of working as a journalist. I wrote my 6th grade career report about the role of an anchorwoman. I fan-girled over seeing Susan Siman in person. But in high school, I told myself a career in television was not realistic. And according to early 2000s world wide web research, it didn’t pay all that well. And so I shelved the idea. I don’t think I ever told a single soul about my ambitions…perhaps, I was too worried I wouldn’t be encouraged to pursue them.

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In high school, I ended up getting my poms team’s picture in an issue of CosmoGirl magazine and my coach joked that I should go into public relations. I was intrigued by what seemed to me at the time a somewhat mysterious field…(cue daydreams of girlbossin’ Olivia Pope-style).

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I’ve kept the copy all these years. Still makes me giggle. FYI: Katie Holmes and Usher were on the cover of this 2005 issue. One of the headlines also read: “Kanye’s Life Advice”

So that’s what I did. I attended UW-Oshkosh and majored in Journalism with an emphasis in PR and advertising. I’ve always been excited by marketing and PR – even to this day. I’m fascinated by how and why people do the things they do, say the the things they say and buy the things they buy. The very fascination with the “inner thinking” of people is exactly what I believe also intrigued me about hosting. There’s actually quite a bit of overlap between the two, at least for me.

Anywho, I digress. I graduated from UWO in 2010. That year pretty much sucked for college grads. I ended up finding a Craigslist post from a PR agency in Chicago that was looking for a temporary assistant. It was a foot in the door and that was all I needed at the time.

Then I moved back to Madison and continued working in marketing for the next couple of years. During that time frame, I was also competing for a spot at Miss Wisconsin. It was my pageant journey that re-ignited my desire to do something a bit more public-facing…

I started flirting with the idea of doing some on-camera work. I heard Discover Wisconsin was recruiting a new host and so on a whim – without any expectations whatsoever – I submitted a video. And – surprise, surprise! – no one called me. (Womp. Womp.) But I did become Facebook friends with the digital guy there. (Hi, Michael! 👋) I reached out and again – without any expectations – asked whether there’d be any chance they’d let me guest host an episode. They didn’t say yes but they didn’t say no. We did keep in touch for a year and a half. Eventually, the managing producer (sup Chadd!) reached out and asked me to “dust off my video camera and record a few lines.” And that’s where this gem of an audition video comes into play:

Shout out to Alan Ruby for graciously helping me out ☝️ I can’t believe this was four years ago. (FYI: The cell phone number featured in the video is no longer mine.)

And then to play the rest of this out like a 1980s conversation between two teens…

They go: “Part-time gig as an on-camera host?”
And then I go: “Full-time or no-time.” (Totally would’ve accepted part-time…)
And then they go: “Alright, fine.”
~End Scene~

Thanks to my marketing background, the production company offered me a full-time position that involved on-camera hosting as well as marketing strategy. (I’d say 90% of what I do revolves around marketing and brand management in general. Hosting is my fun ‘side job,’ if you will.) In other words, I marketed both skill-sets to my prospective employer:  my marketing know-how + half-developed knack for being in front of the camera – plus my passion for all things Wisconsin.

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Filming at the beautiful Campo di Bella in Mount Horeb, Wis. during the summer of 2015.

This is the most important thing. For anyone looking to break into TV/media: Don’t try to mimic my path. What worked for me probably won’t work for you. I wish someone would’ve drilled that into my head 10 years ago because I found myself obsessively researching the career paths of people that were doing things I wanted to do. No two people experience the exact same path. HOWEVER, there are always – without fail! – several underlying common themes, like perseverance, hard work, laser focus, open-mindedness, entrepreneurship and even dumb luck.

Sadly, there’s no magic bullet for getting exactly what you want out of your career. But to quote one of my favorite late night TV hosts: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” This is a formula that does work every time – I’m sure of it.