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Feeling Strong in Your Body and Safe in Your Mind, with Jennifer Cassetta

Feeling Strong in Your Body and Safe in Your Mind, with Jennifer Cassetta

We sit down with Jennifer Cassetta to discuss setting boundaries, how the body responds to and survives trauma, and her book, "The Art of Badassery."


0:00:29.9 Maricella Herrera: Hi, everyone. Before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24th, which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to help at I encourage you to speak up, take care, and spread the word.

0:01:16.0 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.


0:01:34.7 MH: Hey, everyone. Thanks for being here with me on the Ellevate Podcast today. I'm Maricella Herrera. I'm the CEO of Ellevate Network, and your host for the Ellevate Podcast. Today, I am here with Jess Matley, who is our Chapter Programs Lead at Ellevate. Hi, Jess.

0:01:53.9 Jess Matley: Hello, hello, Maricella.

0:01:55.9 MH: Welcome back.

0:01:58.9 JM: Thank you.

0:02:00.0 MH: Jess was here last week too, and it's been so much fun having members of our team join me as co-host for the podcast. It's been a blast having the chance to introduce everyone to our listeners.

0:02:12.0 JM: Yeah, it's so cool. We're here. We're people, real people behind the scenes.

0:02:17.5 MH: Real people, a very small but very mighty team. So how's it been going, Jess? Tell me something. What's going on with you?

0:02:25.3 JM: What's going on with me? Well, as some of you out there may know by now, if you listened to our last episode, I'm a motorbiker. And I'm actually in the market for a new motorbike, so I have just been doing all this research on motorbikes. I've been going to all the motorcycle shops, sitting on all the motorbikes, and it's been fun. But it's a hard decision. It's tough to make.

0:02:52.2 MH: Well, it's a big purchase.

0:02:53.5 JM: It's a big purchase and, unlike cars, you can't test ride them.

0:02:58.9 MH: Really?

0:03:00.0 JM: Yeah, it's hard. They do have sort of open days where a particular brand like Yamaha or Kawasaki, they'll show up at a dealership and have test bikes where you can try them. But they're quite rare. They're few and far between. So, yeah. If it's second-hand, you also might be able to... The owner may let you take it out. But otherwise, it's pretty tricky, yeah.

0:03:25.4 MH: And so you sit on them to see if it feels good?

0:03:27.0 JM: I sit on them. I'll see if it feels good, see if it's comfortable. And yeah, then you've just gotta wing it.

0:03:33.7 MH: That's not... I would not fare well with that. That would be very, very, very stressful for me.

0:03:42.0 JM: It's pretty interesting. It's pretty interesting because you... The different brands, models have very different feels, like a Ducati versus a Triumph, or a Triumph versus a Yamaha. They definitely have real characters to them that you start to know.

0:04:01.7 MH: You're so cool. [chuckle]

0:04:04.5 JM: Not really, but motorbiking helps. Motorbiking gives you a little cool badge.

0:04:08.9 MH: No, you are. I think you're my coolest friend.

0:04:12.6 JM: Aw, get out of here.

0:04:17.8 MH: You're certainly... I know Megan did a TikTok not so long ago of our teenage dirtbag pictures of our Ellevate team, and yours was certainly like you could tell, just like, "This kid's cool."

0:04:34.0 JM: I certainly thought I was back then. Yeah, that's for sure.

0:04:37.8 MH: Yeah, I knew I wasn't. I knew I was a nerd.

0:04:45.4 JM: Yeah, yeah, I thought I was cool, but let me just set the record straight. I was not in the cool group. I was never in the cool group at school, and I'm pretty proud of that, yeah. Me and my friends were all "weirdos", so I'm very proud of that.

0:05:00.4 MH: I agree with that. I am very proud of not being "the normal". I think we have to let your difference shine. Well, so you've been doing motorcycle research. I've been doing cat research 'cause...

0:05:21.0 JM: Aw. How's Toffee?

0:05:24.5 MH: Yeah, so I mentioned it in a few episodes ago that I got a cat, a new cat, and her name's Toffee. And she's still being shy, so she's still hiding a little bit and getting scared. So I'm really trying to bond with her so that she can get all the love that I wanna give her. And so it's a little hard. It's been a little hard. But that's how it is with rescues, especially if they've had a hard time, and she had had a hard time. So doing a lot of YouTube. My algorithm on YouTube is basically only cats now.

0:06:00.8 JM: Let's be honest, Maricella. Hasn't it always been cats?

0:06:02.9 MH: That's true. That is true, actually.

0:06:07.3 JM: I think this is nothing new to the AI.

0:06:11.0 MH: There might have been a dog or two somewhere in there before. Now, it's all cats.

0:06:16.8 JM: Hey, so there is a show, I think it's on Netflix, that's about, I don't know, cats.

0:06:22.5 MH: The mind of cats or something.

0:06:24.5 JM: Yes, the mind of cats. Yeah. So I watched that recently, actually, and it was pretty interesting. And the most interesting fact that I took from it, the episode I watched, was the slow blink.

0:06:34.8 MH: Oh yeah, I do that all the time.

0:06:37.0 JM: Yeah, I didn't know that was a thing. So when you're approaching, especially a new cat that you haven't met before, don't look at it all wide-eyed because that's what predators do. You wanna do a really slow blink so that it feels safe and it feels that you're not there trying to attack it or eat it or dominate it.

0:06:55.8 MH: Yes, the slow blink is important for cats. It's kind of like... It's like I'm not... I trust you.

0:07:04.0 JM: Yeah.

0:07:05.0 MH: Yeah. I haven't... Ironically, for all my time looking at cat videos on YouTube, I actually haven't seen that show.

0:07:13.9 JM: Aha. That's interesting.

0:07:15.7 MH: I've been saving it for a moment where I need some feel-good stuff. Actually, what I've been watching has been... I kind of caught up on Industry. I don't know if you've seen it. It's on HBO.

0:07:32.3 JM: I have not yet.

0:07:33.9 MH: Is it on HBO or is it on Apple TV? Actually, I don't know.

0:07:37.9 JM: Look at us plugging all these streaming services for free.

0:07:41.7 MH: Yeah, I know.

0:07:42.5 JM: They should be paying us.

0:07:45.3 MH: Truly, truly.

0:07:48.9 JM: Consider that a shout out. HBO or Apple, if you wanna promote or if you wanna plug the Ellevate Podcast, go right ahead.

0:07:57.6 MH: Well, I've been watching Industry, and it is on HBO. And it's... I don't know how I feel about it. I read about it on a newsletter, which is why I started watching it. I was curious. It's about traders in London. So I was like, "Okay, let's see." And these are kids that are... The first season, they're just out of college. And then the second season, it's like they're third-year analysts. And it's a little disturbing. It's just a lot of the worst stereotypes of the finance world. In one of... Spoilers, but in one of the first episodes, one of the kids who was actually at the investment banking dies because he's taking tons of drugs and not sleeping. And then the show focuses more on the traders and especially on the sell side, which is just... It's harsh. I don't know. I felt a little bit like it's, yeah, all the stereotypes about finance are being shown, mostly people doing lots of drugs and being kind of asshole-y, to be honest. And it's a train wreck that you kind of can't look away from.

0:09:22.3 JM: Yeah, yeah. Is it rooted in... No. Is it set in present day?

0:09:28.8 MH: It is set in present day, yeah.

0:09:30.2 JM: Interesting.

0:09:31.4 MH: Yeah.

0:09:31.8 JM: And do you think it's still true, these stereotypes that they're displaying?

0:09:39.5 MH: I think so. I have some trader friends, and probably they'd be like, "No." But I was never in trading, in sales and trading, so I can't really speak to that firsthand. But I know a lot of my friends who were in finance, and they had some rough times. It is very high-stress jobs. And also, these are kids who are making immense amount of money for just being out of college. And they work super hard, don't get me wrong. But it's, are you mature enough to deal with that kind of money when you're so young? And I think you can make a lot of bad decisions. So in that way, I think it's pretty representative.

0:10:38.8 JM: Yeah.

0:10:40.8 MH: I don't know. I'm curious to hear what other people think, though.

0:10:44.4 JM: I'll give it a go. I'll watch it. I like gritty, gritty dramas, and I love, actually, horror and all those kinds of genres as well.

0:10:57.6 MH: What did you think about Nope, speaking of horror?

0:11:01.4 JM: Yeah, Nope was visually stunning and really interesting cross-genre, the space cowboy monster movie kind of thing. And I love, love, love Jordan Peele, and I think Get Out is an absolute masterpiece. However, watching it, just coming out of the cinema, I was just a little bit like, "Oh, what?" I was a little bit confused by some of the plot lines and some of the twists and turns and some of the epiphanies that the characters had. I was like, "How did they come to that realisation? Or how did they figure that out? Or why this or why that?" But I've read some things afterwards, some Reddit threads and some articles, and it's talking about, spoiler alert here, how the alien is sort of representative of the viewer, the viewer that's watching people in the... That's watching celebrities like hawks and being super critical of everything and chewing them up and spitting them out. And I was like, "Okay, that's... " Yeah, it sort of enlightened me as to what was going on behind the scenes there.

0:12:12.2 MH: I wasn't a fan. Yeah, I do agree with you it's visually stunning.

0:12:17.5 JM: Yeah.

0:12:18.0 MH: And I just... I don't know. It's just Get Out is so good.

0:12:23.9 JM: Yeah.

0:12:24.9 MH: Get Out is one of the best films ever. And I think I was holding Jordan Peele to that standard. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good movie.

0:12:34.8 JM: Still a good movie and interesting, like I just love that he does interesting stuff, and there's always a sub-context going on. Part of the fun is just trying to figure that out, I suppose. And I think I read in an interview of his recently, where he was like, "Just take it as it is." You know what I mean? Just enjoy it. And it's kind of like that too. You don't need to pick it apart. It's a movie.

0:12:58.5 MH: True, true. Well, I think we've chit-chatted enough and taken some of your time, but let us know what you guys are watching or listening to or checking out, anything we should be checking out. Tell us your thoughts on Industry, Nope, whatever you want. You can email us at That's Ellevate with two Ls. Or find us on social media. We're on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, Instagram @Ellevate_Ntwk. And we recently started our TikTok channel, so look us up and follow. Follow us on TikTok.

0:13:38.5 JM: Follow us on TikTok. Megan just did the coolest post on teenage dirtbag, and you can see photos of all of us in our teenage years, looking cool.

0:13:49.3 MH: Yeah, there's some good content on TikTok. Megan's doing a great job. So definitely give us a follow. It helps. And also rate, review, subscribe to the podcast. Very much helps. So if you like what you listen, please do. And we will continue to do this and bring you interviews with people you don't know you should know. That's how I see Ellevate. We have some incredible people in the community, but a lot of them you wouldn't know you should know them. And we like interviewing them and putting them in front of you and showing you how incredible different career paths and life paths can be, and how much of an impact they can make on other people. So today, we have a special interview. This one is actually Kristy's last interview before she left Ellevate. So after today, you're stuck with me doing the interviews. I've been having lots of fun doing them, so I hope you enjoy them.

0:14:55.2 MH: But this one is... It is a special one. It's with Jennifer Cassetta. She is a speaker, empowerment coach, and self-defense expert. She has a third degree black belt in Hapkido and a master's degree in nutrition, and she's certified in health coaching. She really helps women feel strong everywhere in their lives. Strong, safe, and powerful from the streets to the boardroom, as she puts it. So let's go to Kristy's interview with Jennifer.


0:15:34.1 Kristy Wallace: Hi, Jen, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast.

0:15:37.0 Jennifer Cassetta: Hi, Kristy. Thanks for having me.

0:15:40.2 KW: I cannot wait to have this conversation between two badass women, so let's get started just hearing a bit more about you and your story. Would you mind sharing?

0:15:50.8 JC: Sure, absolutely. So now I'm a speaker, a health and empowerment coach, a self-defense expert, and an upcoming author of a book called The Art of Badassery: Unleash Your Mojo with Wisdom of the Dojo. And it's been a journey getting here. So it all started about 22 years ago when I stepped into a dojo for the first time. And if you don't know what that is, that's a martial arts training studio. I think everyone knows what that word is by now. Do you?

0:16:21.9 KW: I mean I will admit that I have been watching the Karate Kid series, so yes.

0:16:26.8 JC: Cobra Kai.

0:16:28.0 KW: Cobra Kai, yes.

0:16:29.4 JC: It's amazing. I'm so glad. I am so glad you watched that. Yeah, so in New York City, I stepped into the dojo. I fell fastly in love with it, this practise that felt really good in my body. I was feeling strong. I was feeling more confident, I was learning these really cool skills. And within that year... At the time, I was planning on being a... Becoming an event planner, so it was like two years out of college, didn't really know what I wanted to do, but loved the hospitality industry. And within that first year of joining the dojo and working up to become this event planner in an event space three blocks south of the World Trade Center. Obviously, you can guess what happened on September 11th, when I showed up to work that morning at Rector and the West Side Highway. And this was one of those pivotal moments in my life, and I'm sure many, many, many others, that I can look back to now and say it really changed the trajectory of my entire life.

0:17:39.8 JC: So to make a long story short, I got to my place of work. The towers had already been hit. And I was allowed to go into the lobby to make a phone call. And once I picked up the phone to call my mom to tell her not to worry, the first tower fell. And a swarm of people came rushing into the lobby for shelter, and I got pushed into this closet with a bunch of strangers. And for the first time in my life, I felt that paralyzing fear, the kind of fear that just shuts down your body. And I just remember being like that until this woman came over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me a bit, and asked me my name, which forced me to take a big deep breath and answer her. And she said, "Jennifer, I'm Nancy. And the two of us, we're gonna get out of here today." And I just remember believing her. And again, long story short, we spent hours running through the ash and the dust, as I'm sure everyone remembers where they were that morning. And I then brought Nancy to the dojo, where for the first time that day, I was able to down regulate the nervous system, breathe, understand kind of what was going on, get out of that haze of kind of fear and gosh, shock.

0:19:06.3 JC: And anyway that feeling of safety of refuge became this metaphor for my life afterwards, for months to come, I was bartending at night to pay the bills. I didn't have a job anymore. And, besides that obviously, and, all I wanted to do was go to that dojo. And that was kind of the start of this career of thinking, I want other people to feel these same feelings that I was feeling, strong in my body, safe in my mind, more confident, spiritually more grounded. And that, like I said, 22 years ago, started this career of then becoming a health coach, nutritionist, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And I had a private practice in downtown Manhattan for the first 10 years, I would say, of my business.

0:19:52.0 KW: Where's, do you know where Nancy is today?

0:19:58.6 JC: I would love to Christie. I wrote about her in my book. I've talked about her on stages all around the country. I still cannot find Nancy, unfortunately. Maybe she's gonna appear one day.

0:20:10.7 KW: I mean, it's like a spirit guide, who just showed up for you. It's amazing.

0:20:16.6 JC: Exactly. Exactly. And I know there were so many stories like that that day. And, it does, she feels like a guardian angel to me.

0:20:26.4 KW: Well, and so that's, a lot of what, I don't know if you see yourself this way, but what you're doing for other people. Like trying to kind of be that guide to help them navigate these times where they don't feel safe, and can't stand up for themselves and... I think when we talk about that, there's, and also, especially in light of the Dojo, there's an aspect of, physicality around that, but there's many other instances too that psychological, self safety, the environmental and beyond. And so, talk to us a bit more about some of the ways you've really thought about how to build that place of safety and to respond to situations in which we're not feeling safe.

0:21:19.5 JC: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I mean, over the years, yes. My... What I speak on, what I teach, all of it has gotten way less physical. Yes, physicality matters, like you said. And when people think of self-defense, martial arts, that kind of training, they, well, I think they automatically think of the punches, the kicks, the groin strikes, you know? And when really, what truly matters is the mindset first. So no matter if I'm teaching a personal safety class to a corporation or I'm speaking on the art of Badassery or any of it, it's always gonna start with that mindset work. And the book that I wrote, the Art of Badassery, actually walks people through all those different layers. I lay out the book in belt levels, like white belt to black belt, and it's all about mindset.

0:22:16.2 JC: It actually has nothing to do with the punches and the kicks and the groin strikes. The first lesson that you learn in the dojo is really about being uncomfortable, right? So if you think of the dojo as a metaphor for your life, where you do your work, where you get on the mat, where you meet your opponents, that is going to be uncomfortable, right? Getting knocked down and figuring out how to stand back up time and time again. The next level is how to bounce back when you've already gotten knocked down a few times, doing it with momentum, getting up with gusto, all those different things. And then the third lesson is really about blocking. So now that you know you have opponents in your life, they're gonna be throwing punches and kicks your way. Learning how to block AKA setting boundaries is really, really essential to developing that inner strength.

0:23:18.1 KW: How do we set boundaries? Boundaries is such this like, there should have been the Webster dictionary word for 2020, because it's what I heard about nonstop. And yet still setting those boundaries is a work in progress, I think for so many of us. I mean, how do you approach that?

0:23:35.3 JC: Absolutely a work in progress. We're all works in progress, right? [laughter] Well, again, I use martial arts or self-defense as the metaphor. So first you gotta know what your boundaries are, and essentially it's like, just think right now. Is there any interaction that you've had in the last week, month, year where you just feel really uncomfortable with a person, place, thing and start there? Where do you feel that feeling? And then I give people options, right? So again, whether it's on the street or in the boardroom, if someone is encroaching on your boundaries, I say, you have two options. You can, one, create distance and space from that person, Place or thing. So again, on the street it looks like crossing the street, getting yourself to safety as quickly as possible. But when you're in a relationship at work, it could be a little trickier, right?

0:24:32.6 JC: So that's where the second option is communicating what your boundaries are. And in the book, there are tons and tons of options on how to do that. So in general, there are two types of blocking in martial arts. There's a harder style of blocking and a softer style of blocking. The harder blocking is meeting the force with an opposing equal to or greater force. So again, on the street that can look like a "back off" or that can also be communicating what your boundary is to your boss. Like, do not email me after Friday at 5 o'clock. Or the more softer style of blocking is going to, you're almost like absorbing the blow that's coming at you. And then in a circular motion, you redirect that blow out either into space or back at the person. [laughter] So that can look like, again, depending on your level of confrontation with people taking that into account, there are many ways to do that. Even it could be saying something like, if you feel like, someone just said something to you that felt a little demeaning or insulting or mansplaining, you can say something like, "oh, interesting, that made me feel this way. Was that your intention?" Always kind of like, like I said, absorbing it and then asking a question back. That's the redirection. And asking questions back is a really powerful way to kind of stand in your strength in the moment. So you're not floundering when these things come at you.

0:26:13.8 KW: I love that second example. I mean, to be very vulnerable. I'm very conflict averse, probably, well, I'm trying to pick this apart a bit because my husband wouldn't [laughter], my husband wouldn't do that. I mean, in times where I feel maybe it's just, I feel very safe then. And so I guess maybe that's, relationship with like my partner, or family, I have no problem kind of charging, not... That's the wrong word, but like, very comfortable with conflict. But there's other times when maybe I don't understand the power dynamics or I can't determine what that outcome is gonna be, or I don't, sometimes you have an opponent who is maybe more aggressive than you are or more charged up, and it's those times when, yeah, I'm definitely the second option where it's, I'll always wanna figure out a way to come to a mutually agreeable situation, or to kind of come to an understanding and to work through things. And yet it creates like such an anxiety when I know I'm walking into a place of conflict. Like what have you heard from other stories and from people you've worked with? Like, am I alone in this?

0:27:40.4 JC: Oh, definitely not, [laughter] especially working with women and speaking all over the country and talking to thousands of women a year, this is a very common thing that a lot of people just have low levels of comfort with confrontation. So where does that come from? Does that come from when you were a kid? In the examples I use in my book is like, maybe you grew up in a household where raising your voice was, made you cringe, right? It happened so much that you were cringing and you just don't like being around that conflict or the opposite, right? Could be true. So just, I think doing a little self-exploration of where does that come from? Why don't you feel comfortable expressing yourself? Were you called too much or too direct or too forward? All those things, remain in our psyche until we bring them to light.

0:28:36.4 JC: So thinking about that, and then what I do in my keynote is have women actually practice the blocks that I teach them physically. So I feel the mind and body connection. Obviously we know the mind and body connection is so strong. So if you, so I get people to stand up, right? And really take a sturdy stance, and then I throw pretend insults at the crowd, and I have people use their arms overhead, like blocking these insults, [laughter], right? Just to practice, what it feels like to really protect your energy. That's what setting a boundary I think is. I have people visualize this bubble of energy that is you, it's your life force energy, your chi, your ki, your prana, and you have to protect that, and no one else is gonna protect it for you. So learning how to do it physically, again makes it a lot easier when you have to actually do it verbally.

0:29:36.8 KW: Yeah. I'm gonna do that from now on, but now I'm, I've got, all right, Jen, you've solved all my problems. Thank you. This is amazing. We are good. [laughter]

0:29:46.9 JC: Too bad we can't show everyone over a podcast, but yeah I'll have to make a video with it.


0:29:52.0 KW: That would be great. So like, what, how did you go about approaching this book and, what was, tell us more about your whole process and really what... From hearing your story, I know what inspired you, but it's really taking these practices that your life experiences, your whole like methodology and ideology and putting it into something real and tangible for the world. And how did that feel? Tell us more about the whole process.

0:30:24.0 JC: Sure. I mean, it didn't happen very easily, [laughter] I've been wanting to write a book for 15 years, and only in the last two has it come together. So just putting that out there as like, sometimes it's about timing. And sometimes I had, I truly think I had to live a lot of life experiences before I was able to write this particular book. Obviously did my martial arts training, had the third degree black belt, but it wasn't until, gosh, I left New York in 2009 with my third degree black belt. So it wasn't until 2020 when I sat down to write this book, realizing again, that martial arts training wasn't about the physical. I mean, yes, it is, right? I can kick some ass if I needed to [laughter], but it's not about that. It's really about what it, the person it shaped me into.

0:31:15.4 JC: And then in the last five years, I mean, I lost my father. I had some other really personal challenges that I went through that the lessons that I learned on the mat really helped me move through with grace, with ease, and with inner strength. So that's when it really dawned on me that first of all, the timing of the book had to be what it was. And the idea of this book being seven chapters, which are the seven belt levels, that I went through on the mat that are like, these life lessons only came to me when I sat down to actually write the book because, I had the keynote for the last six or seven years called The Art of Badassery, but it wasn't as it is today. It didn't have, kind of the martial arts metaphor that I use in the book.

0:32:06.6 KW: How did you get into just being this public speaker, right? So it's one thing you really find your strength in the Dojo and how that is impacting your life. But you've been on the Today Show and Rachael Ray, on, you've spoken to companies like American Airlines and Hyatt and Uber, and you've really built this brand for yourself to share this message with the world. And how did you go from, that September 11th to where you are today? That's a huge journey of not just exploration, but also of, brand building and impact.

0:32:52.2 JC: Yeah, yeah, great question. So in that 10 years where I was in the Dojo in New York City, I did a ton of personal development work, and I would go in person and pay like so much money at the time, to go see Tony Robbins live and do his events and figuring out a way to pay for it. I always looked at it as all personal development was an investment in myself, even if I didn't have the money, I figured out how to get it [laughter] but I would be mesmerized. I would be mesmerized watching the audience. And, just like, it almost felt like, and I know this sounds maybe not great, but it was great [laughter], I almost felt like under a spell, right? A spell, but a good spell, a spell of thinking like, I can do this. That is something that I would love to do one day if I had just a fraction of the impact that this person has on people, to think about themselves and their lives in a different way.

0:33:52.6 JC: That is something that I wanna do. So the seed was planted back then, and then this kind of second half of my career, if you will, is I moved out to Los Angeles in 2009 and knew that training people one to one is not gonna help me spread my message to a larger audience. I need to get on stages, I need to get in front of groups. So it still took me a few years after that to finally have the courage to get on stages. And I started with the college audience. So I thought, who could really benefit from first the self-defense? So I thought of sorority women, and I started traveling around the country and speaking at sororities, and then I dressed it up a little bit more and started teaching that to corporate women, realtors, women in real estate. That was a big audience for me. And then I started developing more programs. So that's where, a few years later, the Art of Badassery was born.

0:34:50.7 KW: You should go to Teachers. [laughter] No, I'd say, my... So I have a twin sister, and I thought of the story earlier when we were talking about, when we were having that discussion about being conflict averse and things that happened when you were growing up. So, ironically, growing up, my sister and I were incredibly close. We still are, we always have been, but we are, very different. So my family always called her Mother Teresa, and she was just like, so good and so generous, so kind. But she's the fiercest person I know. I mean, she will get in a fight with anyone and just, she's so strong and resilient and secure in her like strength. And then I, they always called me Leona Helmsley, which I guess probably dates me a bit for the generation I grew up in.

0:35:42.6 KW: 'Cause I was president of this club and president of that club, and, the businesswoman selling my Girl Scout cookies as a kid. And yeah. And so it's funny. Now she's a teacher and she does a lot of self-defense courses.

0:36:03.5 JC: Really?

0:36:03.5 KW: Yeah, through her school. I mean, she works, she, yeah, she's in middle school and she's, does a lot of special ed as well. And, she loves it. She's been there for 20 plus years. But yeah, I mean, actually now that I'm talking about this [laughter], it's bringing my mind to a darker place around teachers and self-defense and kind of what's been happening in this world. And I did not make that connection when I first started this. But now, wow. That hit hard, yes, we should protect our teachers and our students.

0:36:37.9 JC: Yes, healthcare workers. There are so many people on the front lines, right? And in the last two years, as we can see, targeted racial attacks are up. Random attacks are up, it's just people are stressed. There's that, there's a problem with mental healthcare in our country, people don't have support systems. So yeah. People that are dealing with the public on a daily basis really, really do need these skills, self-defense skills.

0:37:16.3 KW: Well, and even from some of your examples earlier, I mean, one is again, it's, yeah, some of the physical self-defense, obviously, some of them more emotional and boundaries, and across the work that so many of us do, if it's in an office or in a hospital or in a classroom, we're oftentimes, we're always gonna come up against, I think a challenge or a situation where, we need to be able to protect ourselves, protect others like Nancy did for you all those years ago. And to feel you have those tools and that framework with which to do it, and to be able to respond to a myriad of situations. If it's a... A "hey boss, don't send me an email after five." Or, you're frat girl in college and in an unsafe situation at a party or something.

0:38:11.2 JC: Right.

0:38:11.3 KW: There's really a spectrum here, but it's about how you respond to those situations and are able to quickly pivot them in another direction.

0:38:20.0 JC: Completely. It's... When I'm teaching personal safety and self-defense it's always about avoiding danger whenever possible. The self-defense, the physical stuff is always the last thing taught because it should be the last option. Nobody wants to jump into a physical fight. You wanna avoid that at all costs. So yeah the situational awareness the setting boundaries the communicating them in a powerful way these are all things that I teach way before the physicality.

0:38:51.4 KW: It's amazing. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work, personally rewarding?

0:39:00.0 JC: Oh gosh. I truly love all that I do and I'm really... I feel really blessed to be able to say that. I know that's a privilege and it's also been a 20-year journey, so I'm not discounting that part. The most rewarding I would say is the feedback that I get after I do either a keynote talk or... Gosh this one woman is popping into my mind right now but there's so many examples like her but a woman that came up to me after a keynote I gave one time that said she was in an abusive relationship and these skills that I talked about just made her feel so empowered to be able to leave that relationship and... Oh gosh, the stories that I've heard that people will confide in me after the fact are unbelievable and that's why I continue to do what I do because there's so many women out there that... The statistics are there, one in five women in the US will be the victim of some kind of sexual assault and that is on the low side. Every expert you talk to will say that the numbers are probably higher because most assaults go unreported. So the numbers don't lie and that is... If I can make an impact in some way in that alone I will die a very happy woman.

0:40:25.8 KW: Yeah. And that's quite a legacy and it's important that we talk about this because just as I was being vulnerable earlier your response like, No, you're not alone. Other people feel that way. We have these narratives in our head and just being able to know that we all have the ability to respond and respond in a way that keeps us safe but also it feels real and authentic to us and to know we're not alone that we're all navigating situations in which we need to be badasses and we can all do it, we all have those tools thanks to you.

0:41:13.5 JC: And that's what I just remind everyone at the end of any session is that all the power you need is always within you. It's a matter of being able to tap into it on call, on-demand. So you just have to practice doing it whether that be setting boundaries or even just walking with your shoulders back and your head held high like different little practices, again Mind and Body practices that I... Take aways that I give throughout my courses and talks help people just make it part of their every day. Right.

0:41:52.5 KW: So Jen how can our listeners find The Art of Badassery and connect with you.

0:41:58.9 JC: Yeah. So the The Art of Badassery book is out. It's on Amazon and all of the different booksellers websites and you can find me on my website or I'm on social media as Jenn Cassetta, two N's, two S's, two T's.

0:42:14.3 KW: I love it. Alright Jenn, well, thank you so much for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast.

0:42:20.8 JC: Thank you Kristy. Thanks for having me and thank you to everyone who's listening.

0:42:29.8 Megan Oliver: Hey, everyone. It's producer Megan jumping in to say that right now you could get 20% off Ellevate membership with code PUMPKINSPICE. The offer ends October 10th, so if you're feeling the fall vibes be sure to head to and use code PUMPKINSPICE all one word for 20% off of pro or executive Ellevate membership.

0:42:56.1 MH: And we're back. Jess are you feeling strong, safe and powerful.

0:42:56.3 JM: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, and I love the whole sort of neurological side of this too and how a lot of it is in your own head and how your mind sort of holds you back.

0:43:13.0 MH: Oh yeah.

0:43:13.8 JM: I love it and I think it's so important for women to feel as safe as they can on the streets and out in the world 'cause let's face it, it's not safe for a lot of us and I really love that aspect to it as well.

0:43:21.5 MH: Yeah, I'm very happy that we had this conversation or that Kristy had this conversation. I'm gonna miss her interviews, she has a very interesting point of view and I know you've been... Listeners you've been listening to her for a really long time here doing our interviews. So I hope you stick with me for the next ones. It won't be the first time you hear me interviewing someone but I'm very excited to continue to share some of the work we're doing and continue to share and introduce you to incredible people.

0:43:53.5 JM: Yeah and I've worked with you Maricella now for five plus years and as you as my direct manager this whole time and I'm really, really lucky and I'm happy to consider you a friend as well and so I would just say to all these listeners that you have extremely interesting perspective on things too and your personality and the way you look at things and your kickiness it all makes you you and I think that the listeners are in for a treat as our podcast continues to grow and go on.

0:44:29.3 MH: Ah, Jess. That means a lot to me. Thank you for saying that. Sometimes we forget. Like you said, it's all in our heads.

0:44:38.5 JM: It's all in our heads and now we have to make us so small. Smaller than we are and... Yeah, we shouldn't do that.

0:44:45.3 MH: Yeah. I'm not gonna lie, I've been dealing with a lot of that part of impostor syndrome and it's hard. It's hard having to like... Picking yourself up and being like, no, this is in my head. So I just have to tell the Regina George in my brain to move a little bit to the side and stop being a mean girl.

0:45:01.5 JM: Yep. Send her to time out.

0:45:09.9 MH: Yeah, well if you want to meet some incredible people and get some of different perspectives and maybe even some of that cheerleading that we sometimes need join us for one of our round tables. This week we're a little bit scarce but we are hosting our executive roundtable on Tuesday at 1:00 PM. I run those. So please come and see me. We're gonna be talking practices and processes to enhance resilience at work. It's a very interesting topic and our entrepreneurs who meet on Thursdays at 4:00 PM Eastern will be talking about how to integrate self-care into your routine. So definitely join. Round tables are a great place to meet other people safe spaces for you to come and talk and to get advice and feel part of a community where you can belong.

0:46:01.6 JM: Yes, come and join us at the round tables, they're so much fun. And I think something I've been thinking about recently actually is just how many of us are working remote now and so you don't have those same networking opportunities but that's what we're here for come do some online networking with us and the round tables are just a perfect space to do that. Come as you are. Chat, share what's on your mind. Get some perspective, have a bit of fun, we are here for you.

0:46:53.6 MH: Absolutely, and if you can't make it to round table make it to one of our chapter events, they do host them both in person and virtually. Just go to and you'll see what's going on near you or online. And as we continue to celebrate history makers we have a few cool ones this week. Do you wanna do the honors?

0:46:57.9 JM: Yeah, I will if Megan doesn't mind 'cause I know this first one is 100% in her lane. Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones, and Jordan Chiles make up the first all black all around podium at the US gymnastics National Championships.

0:47:09.2 MH: Wow. Joyce Owens became the first woman to receive the AIA Florida Gold Medal of Honor.

0:47:17.6 JM: Sarah Nurse will become the first woman to grace the cover of the EA Sports NHL videogame franchise.

0:47:28.2 MH: Kristi Haskins Johnson became the first woman judge of the US district court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

0:47:37.6 JM: And Ellia Green became the first Olympian to come out as a trans man.

0:47:37.7 MH: Oh wow.

0:47:38.5 JM: Awesome.

0:47:39.8 MH: Kameelah Martin became the first black woman academic dean at the College of Charleston. So lots to celebrate. I love doing these I love seeing history being made and celebrating these people for their achievements it's... We want a moment where we're not celebrating firsts anymore because everything is so normalized but also while we're doing it let's celebrate the wins.

0:48:06.8 JM: Yeah, indeed, there are so many good things happening out there in the world with so many incredible women and trans men and people of all genders breaking down these barriers and changing the world as they go.

0:48:18.6 MH: Thank you Jess for being here as my co-host today, it's been so much fun.

0:48:23.6 JM: Thank you so much, I've loved it. Happy to come back any time that you want me.

0:48:29.3 MH: Please do, please do. Next week actually I'm hosting the interview like I said and I'm very, very excited for this one. This one is with Meeghan Salcedo who's the Chief People Officer of IPC and Meeghan is fantastic. She has a very interesting human-centric approach to building culture within their company and she has been doing different things and has an interesting background and story of how she got to where she is so she'll share some of that but most of all, we have a blast nerding out on culture and human-centric workplaces. So hope you enjoy it as much as I did and we'll be here next time.

0:49:22.8 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes give us five stars and share your review. Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at ellevatentwk that's Ellevate Network and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website That's and special thanks to our producer Katharine Heller she rocks and to our voice-over artist Rachel Griesinger thanks so much and join us next week.