Pursuing Balance and Fulfillment in Your Personal and Professional Lives, with Sam Ettus
Episode 21: Pursuing Balance and Fulfillment in Your Personal and Professional Lives, with Sam Ettus
Samantha Ettus gets a lot done: she’s a work/life expert, author, radio host and all around boss. Her passion is to help women realize they can absolutely have thriving personal and professional lives and that there are tools to help them do that. Her new book, The Pie Life: A Guilt‐Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction, is the ultimate playbook for women who want to sustain thriving personal and professional lives at the same time. In this episode Samantha shares strategies for work/life integration, developing your network through social media, and building your personal brand.
00:00 Announcer: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Kristy Wallace.
00:14 Kristy Wallace: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is Kristy Wallace, and I'm joined here today with Maricella Herrera. Hi, Maricella.
00:21 Maricella Herrera: Hey, Kristy. How's it going?
00:22 KW: It is going great. I'm having a great day. We just taped some of our podcasts, some really fantastic guests. I'm inspired and energized, so it's a fantastic day.
00:33 MH: Stay tuned because we do have a great lineup of guests in the next few weeks.
00:39 KW: We do. Ellevate's making me cool 'cause I'm meeting all kinds of fun, fun people and making some good connections. And our guest today, Sam Eddis, I can call her Sam 'cause we're on close terms, we're buddies, is definitely someone I want in my girl squad.
00:53 MH: She is. She's great.
00:57 KW: Sam, Samantha Ettus, is a work-life expert, a key note speaker, best-selling author, radio host, Forbes contributor, and all-around just kick-ass woman.
01:06 MH: Oh, she's busy.
01:07 KW: She is, she's very busy. Some of my goals in life is to learn from women like her, how to do it all, and she certainly does. And part of the reason she knows how to do it all, she's about to release a book called, The Pie Life, which is a guilt-free recipe for success and satisfaction, and it's very much about how you manage your life, and compartmentalize, and prioritize. And she will be doing a book tour with Ellevate. We're really excited. She's gonna be visiting some of our chapters and talking about her insights with the women in the Ellevate community. But today she's here to talk about her insights with all of you, our listeners. So let's get to it, but before we do, I know we have some interesting stats and data from the women in the Ellevate community around, "Have you ever judged another woman for being a working mom?" Which is huge, that's a big topic. Have you ever judged another woman? And I'm watching your face 'cause I am a working mom, so you better answer right.
02:09 MH: I might have. I might have. Probably more so in my previous life. More when I was in a very much different environment, more in banking, and certainly in a very different country and setting, where we might have just been a few of us women in the room. But not since I've been here. I think being part of Ellevate is really eye-opening into a lot of the issues that women face, both working moms or just women in the workplace.
02:42 KW: Sure.
02:44 MH: It definitely has shifted my perspective.
02:46 KW: What did the poll tell us?
02:50 MH: 72%, so almost three-fourths, is that right? Yeah, three-fourth of our members say they have never ever, ever, ever judged other women for being working moms. 11% said they did before they had children, and 6% say they have in the past but I don't anymore, and 7% they do now, they do judge people. Have you ever felt judged?
03:12 KW: Oh, absolutely. That's a whole other podcast episode. We could talk about that for awhile, but, yeah, and it's hard. I think priorities shift when you have kids, maybe. I don't know. I think just the perception of who you are as an employee shifts.
03:30 MH: Well, I'm guessing the perception of who you are as a person shifts.
03:34 KW: Yeah. File that away for another episode. One other poll is, "What's your strategy for getting your to-dos done?"
03:42 MH: When we did ask our members what's their strategy for getting there to-dos done, more than half of them say that they write out my lists every morning, which helps me focus. So having a clear picture of what they need to get done. 17% say they don't get them all done, so they don't have a strategy; 14% multitask, 7% block off time everyday, and 4% decline non-critical meetings. One of the most interesting things from this poll, to me, is that no one said that they don't check their email regularly.
04:17 KW: We are tied to technology. We're all gonna become cyborgs. Alright. Well, let's see what Samantha Ettus has to say about all this.
04:39 KW: Thank you so much for joining us.
04:41 Sam Ettus: Thanks for having me.
04:43 KW: Why don't you share with our listeners a little bit about your background? 'Cause, man, you do a lot.
04:48 SE: Well, I was actually on the creative side of media for a number of years, and then I went back to business school. I guess I was 25 or 26, and at the time I was the only person in business school that had come from the creative side. Everyone else had been in banking or consulting, so I felt a little bit like a fish out of water. And then when I graduated, I, at the time, was the only entrepreneur in my class and I started a firm for personality-driven brands. It was a personal branding firm in 2001, which was well before anyone knew what a personal brand was. [chuckle]
05:17 KW: Sure, absolutely.
05:19 SE: I was definitely ahead of the curve in a negative way actually, because it really morphed more into a PR firm because that's what my clients would pay for. So I would do the branding and then I hired a PR team that would do the PR, and I loved it. It was really wonderful, but over time I realized that you couldn't talk to women about their personal brands without talking about what was going on in their personal lives. It was the elephant in the room. It was on everyone's mind. How am I managing my personal life and my professional life? So I backwards fell into it, and I started focusing on that and at this point I have, Malcolm Gladwell would say, I have my 10,000 hours. In the last five years I've hosted a nationally syndicated radio show every week for working moms. Actually now it's more working parents than working moms. I get a lot of calls from dads. And it's really, my passion, is really helping women to realize that they absolutely can have a thriving professional and personal life and giving them the tools to do that.
06:17 KW: You went to business school?
06:18 SE: Yes.
06:19 KW: And I know it's something I thought about in my career. What was it that was really the catalyst? Like yes, this is something I'm gonna commit to. And was it a good decision?
06:30 SE: For me it was really important because I'd only been on the creative side. I think that a lot of people were there for a two-year vacation from their banking career or their consulting career. I was really there as a complete newbie. Every single thing I learned was new. Finance has never been my favorite thing, it's never been my forte. Accounting, finance but they were core skills I needed to learn to be able to be a woman in business in any way, in any capacity. So it was really helpful for me and I also think unfortunately in this world, women in many ways are in a disadvantage in business and having an MBA from Harvard... And by the way I think an MBA from anywhere, I think a graduate degree really helps in credibility, so it makes up for some of the bias towards women in business.
07:20 KW: Sure. And so you also talked about women telling their stories and how it's interwoven with your personal life. And I've seen that so many times and it's something that I actually think a lot about as well because I've heard many men speak and they talk about maybe their professional accomplishments. And then a woman will speak and she's also tying in her family or her story, and it becomes more of that personal interaction. Is that good? Is it bad? Is it just natural and we go with it?
07:50 SE: I think it starts really young in terms of how we socialize girls and boys, and how we raise them. I'm really passionate about this topic. Actually, it's almost like a hobby but I think it's so critical to encourage young girls. We often hear someone saying "be nice," they're dressed in dresses at the playground and boys are taught to get dirty and girls are taught to keep their dresses clean. And I think from that age we start seeing this divergent path for boys and girls in terms of how they talk about their work and how they get dirty and what they get into and their confidence. And I think that men in many ways, their confidence is derived from accomplishments and women's confidence is derived from relationships.
08:38 SE: And so women are so concerned with how their stories are gonna come off to other people. They don't wanna be perceived as bragging and they are very conscious of how other people are going to view them or judge them. Whereas men do a connect the dots really easily from their accomplishments one to the other, and they don't tend to dwell on any of the negative. Women will typically feel guilty not mentioning that time that they were laid off or that gap in their resume. And I just met a woman the other day who hadn't worked in many years. One of the things I share in my book is you always wanna keep at least a foot in the door. It's just so hard to get back to the workforce after time off. But one of the things I said to her was, "You have been copyrighting all these years, there's no reason to call yourself a stay-at-home mom or to say I was out of the workforce for 10 years. Say you've been freelance copywriting for 10 years and no one's checking to make sure that every year you had an assignment. It's just not the way it works." So how we tell our stories is so pivotal to our success.
09:36 KW: It is really interesting to what you're saying about how the focus and the highlights of a story shift depending on what you include and what you omit and how you really tell that story.
09:47 SE: Yeah, and I think that social media amplifies this, right? We all have that person on social media who we think that person really has the best life, their kids are perfectly well behaved at all times, their career is going gangbusters, they have so many friends, they're always having fun. And at the end of the day I always try to remind people that social media is supposed to be a highlight reel. It's not the place where I'm going to talk about the fight I have with my husband last night. It's just not appropriate. No one wants to hear that I was throwing up because I was sick or whatever it is. That's just not what we're supposed to do with social media. It's an awareness also of when those stories are important. If you're having your second business lunch with someone, it's a great way to bond with a client is to really do share something of yourself. You don't wanna create this picturesque view of yourself but if you're talking in a job interview or you're meeting someone at a cocktail party, it's probably the time to give the highlight reel. [chuckle]
10:38 KW: Yeah. On the reverse side of that I was in an event recently and the speaker was a man, the audience was predominantly female and so he talked about his wife and his kids, and it really surprised me and my initial instinct was, "Oh, he's just playing to the audience." I was telling my husband the story and he says, "No, I always talk about our kids in meetings." I was so surprised because I will talk about our family but I didn't assume that he did and...
11:08 SE: Oh, that's so nice.
11:09 KW: It's this gender role in my own head that I just assumed we approached it differently or we...
11:15 SE: Well, and talking about your personal life is different than talking about problems. I think it's so critical to talk about your personal life but I think that one of the things that we need to do as women and men is say that thriving people are ones that have really full personal lives and so hiding that is not gonna help anyone. It's good to talk about the fact that you have a really full, rich life and that includes your family.
11:38 KW: Sure. And I know you've done a lot of so much thought leadership and writing around that work life balance and that the intersection between your professional and your personal life. What are some of your top thoughts on that?
11:52 SE: I think one of the critical things is the partner. Choice of partner is really critical. And then once you have a partner, if they're not a partner, if you have a spouse who's not a partner, then I recommend something I call a partner shift in my book. It's really saying, "I have no energy for us, I'm unhappy, and why don't we over a cup of tea or glass of wine, let's talk about what we each do in a given week? Maybe I don't understand all the things you do and you don't understand what I do." And if they're a reasonable human being, you're gonna have a list and just like if they had a colleague get work and their list was four times as long as their colleague, they would redistribute it and it's the same thing with a partner shift. So I think that is one critical piece.
12:33 SE: Another piece of it is embracing the mess. So I like to say that a really full life with a thriving personal life and a thriving professional life is never gonna be perfect. It's always going to be messy. And as women we tend to blame our professions, our careers, our workplace when anything goes wrong in our personal life. So we'll be in the middle of a presentation and we're working on something with our boss and we'll get a call from our kid's school that they're sick. And if you talk to stay-at-home parents, they will tell you that they have those moments too. So you're never bulletproof against those moments. But to blame your career and drop out of the workforce, it causes all sorts of other problems. And so, I always encourage women to play in all of their slices.
13:18 SE: I like this metaphor I give of the pie. So a pie has multiple slices and your life, to be really thriving, you want to play in at least six or seven slices and those slices are your health, your fitness routine, your nutrition, whatever it is. Any health and beauty for you, whatever that means and then you wanna have your career and you wanna have your relationship or the quest to find one. If you wanna have kids then that would be a slice, your community, your hobbies, and your friends. And the happiest and most fulfilled women are the ones that play in six or seven of those slices. And when you look at a pie, the most yummy delicious pies are the ones that are messy and gooey, they're not the perfect looking ones. And so think of your life that way. For you to have a big fulfilling life, it's not gonna be perfect all the time.
14:07 KW: And I knew you have a book coming out, The Pie Life. So is this in that book?
14:12 SE: Yes. So that is the framework for how I look at work life integration.
14:18 KW: So I will need to get this book because I haven't mastered it. As we were talking about earlier, I have three children and obviously work full-time, and what I find is that all my time goes to work, and all my time goes to the family, and everything that goes along with that, and there's no time for me for working out, or other things that I wanna do and so my pie is in two pieces and I want it to be in five. So how do I make that happen?
14:47 SE: Right. I think part of it is combining some of the slices. So maybe it's putting on workout clothes during your lunch three days a week and going for a walk with a colleague instead of sitting at your desk having a meeting. And by the way, you didn't hear me say running six days a week. It's doing something that's actually possible. In your life right now, it's not probably possible to work out six days a week, but could you and your husband on Saturday morning switch off watching the kids and each of you go for an hour long walk or whatever it is that you like to do for exercise? Yes. So then Saturday suddenly you're exercising and then you have to add one or two days during the week and then you're exercising three days a week. And so it's little simple changes like that. And then I really think it's so pivotal to spend time with your partner, so having date night once a week. People who don't have it are aghast. "Once a week! That sounds like so much if I work." It really isn't and when your relationship is healthy, your kids benefit from that so there should be no guilt surrounding date night, but it's really pivotal.
15:46 KW: I'll tell you, so my husband and I do a breakfast once a week which works out great because the sitter will come at the same times. Our morning schedule's the same and then we just go into work a little late and we have breakfast. It's been great for us to actually just sit down, and have a conversation and spend time together.
16:03 SE: And have that alone time. And then one of the things you need to see is, what are my kids seeing? And what is their life gonna be like one day? And it's most likely gonna be a lot like yours because that's what they see as their model.
16:16 KW: Okay, I love it. So how did you get Shonda Rhimes and Sallie Krawcheck and all of these amazing women in the book? I've seen you on social media and your presence is great. How did you build that network and make those connections?
16:30 SE: Well, this is my fifth book. My last four books were published by Random House and they were a book series called, The Experts' Guides, and they were anthologies and it was from when I had my personal branding firm. There are a lot of people I dreamed of working with, but they were on the way to becoming the next Rachel Ray or whatever it was and they couldn't afford me. So I thought what happens to those people? How do they make their decisions? What speeches to make, and what appearances to make, and where to go with their personal brand and their website and all of those things. And when I tried to work with them, that just wasn't in their budget for a personal branding expert. But the book was kind of a way. "Oh, I could work with them this way."
17:06 SE: So I came up with this idea for a book and I've always been very well educated traditionally, but I never learned the basics on the way to adulthood, how to cook an egg or how to set the table the perfect way. That was not something my mom had really passed on to me. So I thought it's kind of a selfish endeavor. I wanna know the cliff notes to all of those things 'cause I'm not gonna read the whole book on manners or the whole book on how to swing a golf club. So I started cold calling people and I was shocked by how many people said yes. So I had Barbara Cochran doing how to sell a home faster, and Richard Branson did how to get a loan, and Donald Trump did how to negotiate, and Bobby Flay did how to barbecue, Suze Orman on how to save money. They were all cold calls.
17:48 KW: What? Wow!
17:49 SE: Yeah. It was pre-social media. In fact, I think it's actually harder today in some ways because you can get to anyone theoretically or you can't get to anyone. Whereas then it was they didn't have that many just calling them up. It was a random rare thing and I was pretty good at turning a no into a yes. And by the way a lot of people, who I wanted in the book said, "No." So the ones I ended up with were amazing, but you never get to all those yes's without a few no's along the way.
18:16 KW: Yeah, you have to ask. If you want it, you have to ask.
18:19 SE: And if you don't ask, the answer's no is what I mean.
18:21 KW: Yes. And what's the worst that happens? You ask and they say no, but if you don't ask, they're gonna say it's no, too.
18:29 SE: Right, and I always say that you always have those days when you don't feel good enough to ask. We all have days when we're just feeling down, we feel not our confident selves or whatever, so I only ask on days when I'm feeling good. And you never know what's gonna happen.
18:41 KW: And so, has it gotten easier now with the books and your network growing to make those asks and get the easier yes?
18:47 SE: You know, it goes in waves I think. I'm much more cognizant of... I think I used to be almost a little brash with just approaching someone and not thinking of the context. Now, I might follow someone on social media for awhile and then I ask. I'm a little more strategic about it than I used to be. I think you have to now because it's just harder to get to people because they're approached so much more often than they used to be.
19:12 KW: And how would someone use similar skills in, say, a job search? I hear from women all the time who are having problems securing jobs because maybe they don't know someone in the company or they don't know how to get their foot in the door.
19:26 SE: Well, I do think that one of the things that social media does do is, for example, Sallie and I met, we met on Twitter for a year before I approached her to interview her for this series I was doing for Ipsos, I was interviewing for women. And by the time Sallie and I met at that shoot, she acts like we were old friends because we kinda thought we were even though we'd actually never met before. There's some people on there that I've almost brainwashed into thinking I know well and I've actually never met them. And they may not even look like that icon. It might be it's a fake person. But I'm convinced I know them well because we've been familiar with each other on social media for so long. So I would say that that helps. For example, if you're looking at a certain industry, figure out who your idols in that industry are, who is doing it but a step or two ahead of you, and start following all of them. And then eventually, you can approach them with whatever it is you're going for. So it's almost thinking of playing long ball, long ball with your career. And by the way, anyone can be more knowledgeable by doing that.
20:31 KW: I know you're doing TEDx talks, you wrote four books now? Four?
20:36 SE: Five.
20:36 KW: It's five books now, a Forbes contributor. It's amazing. How do you do it? I've spoken to so many women who want to get their foot in the door and be more of a thought leader and writer, how did you get started? And how do you keep it going?
20:52 SE: I think the important thing is what's the goal. If the goal is, "I just wanna get published," that's a different goal than saying, "I just wanna reach as many women as possible with my message." And I think that it's obvious when someone is receiving you as a writer or as a speaker, they can distinguish between those two goals. So if you're going out there and you just wanna see your name in lights or you just wanna get on TV or you just want to have a book or an article in XYZ publication, I think it's quite obvious compared to people who are like, "I really have this important message and I wanna share it." The women that I've come up for the last 10 to 15 years with who, we've been on the speaking circuits together, or a lot of conferences, or just women in my network, the ones that are easy to work with. And you have to remember I had 400 experts in my books. I still remember every single one who is easier to work with and everyone who wasn't.
21:52 SE: And so, I think making yourself someone who's easy to work with, to a fault probably, I don't like that advice that women keep getting about, "Learn to say no. Learn to say no." I actually think most women say no too much. Unless it's gonna hurt me or my family, I say yes. Can I help you? I will absolutely help you. And I try to help anyone I can. I'm a huge believer in that. There's a lot of people who will say, "I would never set someone up on a blind date. I don't wanna get involved." But what if one of those hundred blind dates you set up leads to a happy marriage? It's worth it. And that's how I feel about helping anyone in business. Put yourself out there. You know your neighbor is trying to do her will, you have a friend who's a trust and estates attorney, put them together. It's that kind of thing, looking for excuses to help people. And that eventually comes back to you, not from that same person, but if you put it out there it comes back to you.
22:45 KW: Sallie always says, "Kill them with kindness. Just be kind, be good." I think from her Southern roots but it's... We talked about that in the workplace. We've talked about that with networking. It's about you need to put something in in order to get something out and so it's about that positive vibes that you're sending out there.
23:02 SE: Absolutely. And I think in terms of doing the saying yes thing, I think that whenever anyone's in a professional or personal rut, saying yes to that event you would normally have said, "No way," just say, "Yes," and go to it. Or the invitation that is unexpected, say yes. You never know where it can lead.
23:19 KW: Perfect. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us today.
23:21 SE: Thank you for having me.
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