Put Yourself Out There

Originally published on 10/12/18 on LinkedIN; By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley and guest writer Ashley Heath

John: So Molly &Trish are still on the move and should be returning soon. Jen and I haven’t stopped though. We miss them but continue to put ourselves out there, especially with our connections here on LinkedIn. One of those we connected with is Ashley Heath, who is building her network here and contributing with us this week.

“When was the last time you put yourself out there?”

This got the three of us talking: When was the last time you put yourself out there? Like, I mean really, really put yourself out there? I attended a quality conference this week here in North Carolina. Among the myriad of great presentations, there was a chance to network. Usually, I reach out to others at these events, like some sort of glad-hander collecting business cards and introducing myself. This time, I did something different. I just hung back, chilled and let people come to me. It was very counter-intuitive, but it was the right move. It felt more like me. I felt if I could make one or two really good connections, then I had a productive networking experience. I put myself out there by stepping outside my comfort zone, staying quiet, but intentionally pushing my limits and that means I am growing closer to who I want to be. Letting others talk first is very scary. It is new, unchartered unfamiliar territory for me. But that is what forces me to grow, and when I did have interactions, , I was vulnerable, opened up and let others get to know me. I felt scared. And magnificent.

Ashley & Jen: When was the last time you put your full self out there? Any repercussions?

Ashley: I am not like John at all. I want others to talk first. I’m a person who stays fairly quiet in professional and networking settings. I don’t put myself out there, and even thinking about stepping outside of my comfort zone gives me anxiety. I have been on a job search for three years now, so I’ve had to put myself out there more in these past three years than ever. I’ve applied for roughly 70 jobs and have interviewed nine times, creating PowerPoints, scope of work plans, giving presentations, and I have yet to land a new role. Anyone who has gone through a similar experience knows how disheartening it is to work hard, be yourself, and truly put yourself out there to a world of strangers in hopes that they will accept you, just to be denied in the end. Still, I don’t give up, and I continue to put myself out there. I recently connected with John on LinkedIn and he encouraged me to try something new: put myself out there via LinkedIn to build my network. Since this was something I hadn’t tried before, I thought, “what the heck?” and went for it, full throttle. I began writing to people who are in roles I’m applying for or aspire to be in, I reached out to recruiters, I messaged alumni from my alma mater, and what did I get? Silence. I didn’t get a single reply. Even though it feels like I’m putting myself out there time after time and failing, I have learned a lot through this process. First and foremost, I’ve learned how to put myself out there and I have proven to myself that I can do it, even if it is frightening at first. I’ve discovered that there are several ways a person can put themselves out there, and I have accepted the fact that it isn’t always going to work out in the end. Most importantly, I’ve become more resilient, I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there, and I know that since I am learning from this experience, I haven’t failed at all.

Jen: I feel like I ‘throw myself out there’ in some way almost every day. I usually say I am ‘winging it’ and realize now that’s pretty much what I am doing. Thinking about a recent time I did this that was significant I keep coming back to writing. I have always wanted to write more, and it took meeting John for me to put myself out there more than ever before. I remember our first piece a few months ago, I sent him back what I thought was a draft and he published it right away! I cringed typo anyone?!?

Over time, it has gotten easier and easier and while typos still bother me, I have accepted them for sake of forward progress. This is out of my comfort zone, but it has allowed me to lower my stress and worry associated with writing. More recently, I took an even bigger leap and published my own piece. It was totally on a whim and emotionally driven from the experience. I hit ‘publish’ and snapped my computer shut before I had a chance to renege. It felt amazing! I am grateful for the experience and joy this has brought to my life. Everyone should find at least one thing today that they can do to move out of their comfort zone. Worst case, you will learn something new, even if it’s learning what won’t work for you. More times than not, I think you will find a greater freedom and renewed sense of purpose.

Dealing With Change

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour and Patricia Graham

John: I’m a fixed person. I like what I like when I like it. I get up at 4:59am. I am in my office by 6am. I leave by 6pm. At the gym, by 6:30, vigorous workout pre-planned from the night before. I am home by 7:15, for dinner, watch the Yankees, and then make my lunch for the next day. Saturday is similar to Sunday, with pre-planned routines. Needless to say, I love my rigidity. This goes for the majority of my life. I like new things, but when I am ready for them. My question to my other three friends is, how do you deal with change?

“How do you deal with change?”

Jen: Dealing with change is eventually inevitable – we can either fight or slowly lose, or we can accept it and adjust accordingly. As human beings, we are constantly changing, even the most stubborn of us are doing it at a molecular level. Some changes are optional, such as electing to take a new job. Some are not, like when we are forced out of a job. At the core, resistance to change is rooted in fear. Fear of the known, such as knowing chemo is required to treat a cancer; or fear of the unknown, such as not knowing where you will live after an eviction. These fears precipitate the ultimate sense of a loss of control, which can be the hardest part for many of us to overcome, myself included.  Imagine for a moment a ballerina performing turns- they can be any type of turn, but I like pirouettes and fouettes best, so I think of those. (If you can’t imagine or haven’t seen these, click here to see- starts at 00:40).

This ballerina is in a constant changing motion, but she controls it in one big way (yes, I realize there are dozens of other controls in play, just indulge me for a minute). Notice her eyes are focused on a single place and it’s not until most of her body is already turned that she whips her head around too and refocuses. She repeats this each time because she is trained to find the same constant point each turn. If she were to let her head spin around at the speed of her legs, she would quickly lose balance and fall out of the turn. Having danced as a girl, I recall that missing my focal point for even a single turn could render me unable to find it again, leaving me dizzy and in the floor. This example illustrates how I navigate change, by exerting control over other areas of my life to stay grounded. I remind myself of anything that I can control, even something small, like choosing what I eat. By doing this, I feel less “out-of-control” and manage thru the changes. If I don’t, I eventually fall flat on my face. Of course, I simply jump up and pretend like it was supposed to happen, relocate my focal point and keep on spinning.

“…there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you.”

Molly: I agree that there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you. I like change and I recognize I can easily get frustrated with the status quo when I feel strongly there is an opportunity for improvement. I enjoy solving problems rather than applying temporary fixes and I hate waste (especially my time).

When change is forced upon you, I (like a lot of people) try to understand the rationale behind the change. Unfortunately, not all changes can be understood, such as a natural disaster or a terrifying diagnosis. As an oncology nurse, I have had the privilege of seeing so many wonderful people face the life changing diagnosis of cancer with courage and grace. Courage, grace, and determination come after denial, anger, and questions of why me. Supporting my cancer patients through this process gave me great insight on how I want to face change that is thrust upon me. I let myself experience the emotions as I feel that is a necessary step in determining my path with the change. Then I can decide if I want to fight it, embrace it, or maybe warm up to it.

Trish: Great question, John. This is a very interesting topic. As Jen mentioned, we are constantly changing and the world around us is in constant change. This change occurs with or without our buy-in, and ultimately, it is how we deal with the change that determines whether we are dealing with loss or control.  I like to think of this quote, “Change is a process, not an event.” Somehow, this thought process allows for the element of time. Time to get from Point A to Point B. Some people adjust to change with speed and grace. The speedy graceful people are at Point B smiling and cheering. Other individuals are resistant to change and fight very hard to maintain the current status quo. You can find these individuals still processing the fact that there is a Point B that exists, and heck no, they don’t want to get there at all…let alone get there with speed AND grace! I think I am somewhere in the middle, but more toward the person on the fast road to Point B. Why am I a “somewhat speedy and graceful” change acceptor? I Maybe I don’t like to feel a sense of fear and loss and focusing on the excitement of something new helps me manage the change. The concept of viewing change to be a process and not an event allows individuals time for consideration. This consideration may make a speedy graceful person slow down and discover challenges that need addressing before getting to Point B that they otherwise may have missed. Viewing change to be a process and not an event may allow a resister time to consider opportunities rather than be steadfast in opposition. The next time I am faced with change and feel like I am on the too speedy graceful side of the bell curve or I am too far to the resistant side, I hope to stop, take a breath, recognize that the change is a process and not an event and decide the best way to get from Point A to Point B.


Originally published on LinkedIN on 10/4/18; by John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

This week’s topic: Vacation

John: Both Molly and Trish are out on vacation this week, which makes Jen and I a bit envious and reflective. Both of them just knew when to take a break and recharge their batteries. I struggle with the idea of stepping away. It’s not that I am so driven that I do not feel I can, but it is truly that my work is my biggest passion in life, and is my true purpose. I also understand that the brain does better with rest, and so does the heart. Mental and physical fatigue causes stress, sloppy decision-making, and carelessness. I try to build vacations into my weekly routine – time on the weekend where I don’t look at my computer, enjoying a foot-long BMT at Subway (double-meat, double-cheese baby) alone, and time watching MLB does my heart good. I found that these short breaks allow me to disconnect long enough and meaningfully enough to recharge my batteries and I come back more responsive, more creative and more fired up to do great work. They don’t cost much – Subway generally sets me back $15, but that hour there is so meaningful, giving me great separation from work and provided inspiration as well, not to mention the health benefits.

What do you think Jen, do we not wait and go ahead and vacate too?

Jen: Well truthfully John, I am still stuck on $15 at Subway…how does one accomplish that? I had to re-read that a few times in shock.

Vacation is not something I do often. Most of my time ‘off’ is spent either on short 2-3 day quick-trips or traveling to visit family, which is wonderful of course, but to me does not qualify as vacation. Last year my family went on our first trip in years that I think qualifies. We took the kids to NYC on the train. Both the journey and the destination hit the mark and we had a fantastic time. When we got home, my daughter Addysen painted a memory for us which I will forever treasure (above). My husband’s parents came along, which was awesome – having extra adults with all the walking and crowds was a major win.

I admit that I got sucked into work a little bit, but for only worthy causes. I was needed to emergently credential a provider due to a death in the family of another. Also I was simultaneously trying to help locate a very important document remotely located inside a department that was closed for the holidays. I dropped the credentialing call in a train tunnel and struggled to speak with the second individual from wind blowing me over in Battery Park. No pressure!

Overall the trip was a success – but it was freezing cold (18 degrees!!!) and we were layered up but determined to make the most out of the time we had. The kids were whiny and sometimes crying from the cold, and every picture looks like we are in the Alps with only our cheeks showing, but we made it thru! I was annoyed by my work phone more than usual because it was buried under layers. In order to get it out, I had to remove gloves and unwrap, which was not worth it in the bitter cold. I let it ring and buzz, which was stressful for me. Here’s why- I stress more to be completely cut-off and wondering what’s needed than I do staying at least minimally involved.  I know many time management and work-life-balance experts advise against this, but it just doesn’t work for me to be cut off for more than a few hours.

Like many of you, I get hundreds of e-mails and texts most days, even over the holidays. The times I have tried (or been forced) to cut myself off from my work phone have been anxiety inducing. I worry about the buildup and what I will ‘go back to’. For the record, this is not unique to my present job, its something that has been the case since my first healthcare leadership position and prior to that when I owned a restaurant. For this reason, I function instead in a ‘critical only’ sort of mode. What this means is that I peruse my inbox 2-3 times each day mainly clearing it out, filing away, delegating, or bumping into a file I will name “do this when I get back” or similar. I set my out of office to inform external senders how to contact me in an emergency and advise them to resend the email with “URGENT” in the subject line. When I peruse the inbox and text messages, I will usually only make note of them unless urgent, even if my reply is asked for. If I am still needed a while later, I will address. Many times however, the team has already resolved the issue or determined its no longer urgent. This helps me to have some boundaries and free time. It also helps my team to stretch their skills and grow.

To answer the question, should we take vacation, I say “YES!” I was hoping to do so this month, but it’s looking more like November due to some unforeseen circumstances. I am always waiting for the right time, and there probably isn’t going to be a perfect time, so I might just pull the trigger. Maybe Molly and Trish can write something about us while we are gone, what do you think?

Molly & Trish on vacation



Do Nothing

Originally published on LinkedIN on 9/27/18 see it here

By John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

Topic: Do Nothing

John:  I get so focused when I am in the office – all I want to do is get things done. But during a recent weekend, I didn’t do much of anything. I got up regularly, pet the dog (I love him so much), made a sandwich, watched the rain. Yet I felt like I got a ton done; my brain recharging more than anything. It is astonishing how much you can get done when you don’t really do…anything and just stare out the window. I thought about new things, such as writing topics, or improving methodologies. I reflected, I cried, I purged regret. Working from home was amazing for me, as being in a different environment stimulated my thoughts. Originally, I was thinking that being home will be so difficult, that it was going to be an unnecessary hardship. Actually, it wasn’t the chore I thought it would be. Now looking back on my time at home, and saying let the world pass by, is a smart move. It was research in a way – research being me-search.

Question for my three friends: did you ever have a time where you didn’t do anything, just let life pass by, and the synapses fired in a way you did not expect?

Jen: I try to ‘do nothing’ every day if I can. It’s something I do purposefully so that I can be alone, uninterrupted and completely unoccupied and free to think. It’s the best thing I do for myself on a daily basis. Every now and then, I get a chance at a lengthy “do nothing” block of time. It’s usually on a weekend and my husband, knowing I get such a boost from it, will take both of our children off somewhere for the day or overnight. These are the times I keep a certain notebook and pencil nearby wherever I sit or walk and ideas come faster than I can write them down. The notebook is almost illegible to read (being a pharmacist helps decipher later) and an unorganized mess of words and phrases. I can take those random notes and thought and translate them later into tangible goals, actions or creative future plans. This time is so sacred and coveted by me that whenever I get asked “what’s your favorite thing to do,” I quickly answer “absolutely nothing” – I’m sure you can imagine the looks I get after that!

Molly:  Fall 2014 was a stressful time. I was burning the candle at both ends with a demanding job and family responsibilities. I could feel myself closing in on my breaking point, so I took an unplanned vacation by myself to visit my parents. For five days I was responsible for absolutely nothing. I took naps in the sun listening to the waves crash on the beach. I ran for the pleasure of running and not for race training. I sat on the dock breathing the fresh fall salt air; enjoying the water-colored sunsets with a glass of wine. I ate delicious meals planned and made by my parents. I read books with no value other than just being a light story with a predictable happy ending. I didn’t wear any make up, use a hair dryer, or dress in anything other than work out clothes and pajamas. It was the recharge I desperately needed before hitting the ground running on my return. Even the memory of the peacefulness I felt during that time brings a smile to my face and that is priceless.

Trish: It takes a huge effort for me to “just do nothing” on a regular basis, but I realize it is very important for me to do so. I know that if I take time for myself to breathe, to just sit, clear my head, and recharge my batteries, I am rejuvenated and have great clarity. My method of doing nothing actually takes a good bit of effort. My perfect “do nothing” scenario goes like this. Step one: Check clock… is it time yet to do nothing? Step two: Decide that it is time to do nothing. Step three: Finish out work for the day by rechecking work calendar for the next day, did I reply to all the emails/calls I planned? Yes? Okay, log off computer and walk out of home office! Step four: Go grab the essentials: outdoor speaker, glass of Bourbon (neat), a chocolate truffle, Marty, and the dog. Step five: Assemble all required essentials on the outdoor patio, assume the “do nothing” position- on a patio chair with my feet on an ottoman. Step six: Breathe through my first sip of Bourbon, turn on music and look at nature. We both may sit for a while and say nothing, pet the dog, and sip on our Bourbon. At some point, Marty and I will begin discussing our day, a plan, or an idea. Some of the greatest discussions have turned into ideas that have turned into reality have happened on that patio. Peace brings clarity. Clarity brings forth ideas. I’m looking forward to my sip of Bourbon and chocolate truffle this evening. What will you do to bring you peace and clarity this evening?

Reinvent Yourself: Make Changes for a Better You

By John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour and Patricia Graham

John:    How someone can take this, one of the most ridiculous songs on the planet, and turn it into this, one of the most beautiful and brilliant songs ever, speaks to the power of re-invention. Major life changes are never easy, because your present self and its priorities, combined with the urgent matters of day, conspire to work against you. Choosing re-invention is never easy. When I graduated college, all I wanted to be was a disc jockey. I achieved that within three months of graduation. Little did I know that being a disc jockey meant eating potatoes, because that’s all I could afford with the meager pittance I was earning. Since that time, I have re-invented myself multiple times over. According to Webber (2014), many of dream of a future that’s very different from our present. We’ll live in Hawaii instead of Hackensack; abandon singlehood for family life; or paint murals for a living. But getting from here to there is hard, largely because some powerful psychological forces align against reinvention.

It’s in our nature, for example, to spend our energy primarily on today’s immediate concerns, to hold a distorted perception of our future, or, even if we’re future-focused, to keep chasing after what turn out to be the wrong dreams. Too often, we give up just when we need to push harder, and persist when we actually should quit. Yet without a more clear-eyed assessment of our present and our future, and a more effective approach to setting, pursuing, and achieving goals, we can end up with a future we really don’t want—in which we are sick, broke, lonely, or just plain unfulfilled. Major life changes are never easy, because your instincts and the urgent matters of the day work against you. But when you learn to focus on your future self, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

Question for my three friends: What is the best re-invention you have ever had, and what advice would you give someone who is looking to reinvent themselves?

Jen:  If I asked someone else what they think my best reinvention is, I’d probably hear it was the transition from pharmacy to administration because it’s something that sticks out in my career. I think my best example goes back much further and is something that I had not really thought of as reinvention until writing this. I can remember a distinct moment in middle school when I consciously decided that I was not going to conform with “the system”. I’m against most things that are inefficient, and I saw my school life as a complete waste of time. At first, I honestly did not know for sure what I wanted to do or become, but I knew I had to get to college ASAP and tackle it quickly. I also didn’t have any immediate ideas of how to do it but I did take advantage of every opportunity to pivot that presented itself (and still do, perhaps more thoughtfully). When people ask me “how did you do that”, I usually answer with something to the effect of being in the right place at the right time a whole lot of times.

Back to 8th grade, my family moved mid-year and I was at risk of losing the high school credit for Algebra I that I was taking. The new class was at a different place in their book and I was not able to pass their most recent test which was used to assess me. The teacher suggested I wait until 9th grade “like normal”. I went to the guidance counselor and begged (literally, pleaded- tears and all) for a chance to prove myself. I struggled thru, barely passing that first quarter because not only was I behind in Algebra, I had always missed being taught fractions due to moving 13 times previously. Try doing any algebra without knowing advanced fractions. Even so, I managed to make it thru and get the credit. Let’s not discuss the gpa impact, because it really does not matter.

That single credit set me up for success. I went on to do 2 years of highschool and then when I was 16 I was a dually enrolled highschool/community college student taking classes on the college campus exclusively. When I was 17 I enrolled at FSU and started my official college career. I changed majors early on, and schools, ultimately graduating from pharmacy school in my hometown of Atlanta, and later going back to get my MBA. I sometimes wonder what might have been if I had gone with the flow and not fought for that ‘next level.’ I believe not only would my timeline have been impossible, I also would have risked losing my self-confidence and tenacity. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m glad for how everything worked out. I’m grateful for the people who helped me along the way and gave me those second chances-there were so many more besides the Algebra. I’ve never forgotten them, and I try to pay the favor forward whenever I have the discretion to do the same.

Molly:  I have two good examples of reinventing myself. The first was an example of circumstances pivoting my path. The year was 2007. I was working full time as the nursing supervisor over the phase I oncology clinical trials unit while taking a full patient and clinical trial load. My oversight included the research nurses, infusion nurses, research lab techs, and research coordinators (~14 employees). I was working full time, working on my master’s full time, and I had 18 month old twin boys. My mother was in poor health, requiring frequent trips from Arizona back to Maryland. My husband and I started a major remodel on our house requiring the four us to move out with our two dogs and two cats to a much smaller space. I was burning the candle at both ends to say the least. Then I found out I was expecting with our third son, a surprise and also a complicated pregnancy requiring bed-rest at 16 weeks. This was the sign from the universe to slow down! I put school on hold and took a position as a part time clinical trials infusion nurse upon my return from medical leave. This pivot professionally gave me the opportunity to finish my master’s program and maintain my sanity. We often want to do it all, but sometimes doing it all right now doesn’t make sense.

The second example of reinventing myself was when I chose to leave my job as the clinical trials program director that I helped build. While I loved the mission, my colleagues, and the patients, it no longer fulfilled my passion. When I was notifying my contacts of my departure and who would be taking over my responsibilities, one of the vendors asked if I would ever consider joining their team. As a nurse, I had primarily worked in hospitals and direct patient care roles. This was really outside of the box and my comfort zone, but I was intrigued. After several conversations we put together a job description and business plan where my role was focused on helping clinical research sites be successful, thus ultimately helping patients. (I will always be a nurse at heart.)  This was new, exciting, and had so many opportunities; many are still being discovered daily.

Whether being forced to see the obvious setup for disaster or choosing to take a calculated risk, both reinventions worked out for the best. The last reinvention even led me to #FourFriends.

Trish:    I believe that a person doesn’t necessarily “reinvent” oneself, rather, that person discovers a new aspect of their qualities or talents that were untapped or underutilized or they change the way they’ve “always done” something. I also believe that in order to “reinvent”, there has to be a driver, a significant reason or challenge that brought the reinvention or discovery about and I’ve had a big one happen to me recently.

Since my teens, I’ve had difficulty in communicating with my mom (does this sound familiar to some of you?) and just learned to live with her forgetting a name or getting flustered when given too much information at one time. My friends from high school were always referred to as some other name or a new name. For example, I had a couple of friends named Mark. One she called “Pontoon Mark” (because his dad had a pontoon boat business she knew about) and the other she would substitute some other like sounding last name with his real last name, despite my correction of the last name over and over. As I grew older and my “more type A” personality traits came forth, trying to coax her how to give me the quick summary of a long story or how to use her smart phone became increasingly more difficult. She knows me more than anyone and knows full well that I am not the most patient individual, so she mostly approaches discussions with me in an uptight and nervous way, trying to be quick (but fails miserably), or tells me a story out of chronological order making it difficult for me to follow.

I am blessed that my 70+ mother and 90+ grandmother live two houses away from me. We lost my father almost 8 years ago and my mother is caring for my grandmother (who just turned 95 this summer!!). As you may expect at that age, my grandmother’s health is steadily failing and several weeks ago, I was with her alone and she asked me to be more patient with my mother. My grandmother said, “You know she mixes things up. She has that thing where you switch two letters or numbers around…” and I said, “Dyslexia?!!” and she said, “Yes. We had to go to the school when she was little and had to switch schools to get her better help and we had to work with her at home, too. But don’t tell her I told you because she never wanted to be labeled or be looked at differently…” Oh my goodness!!! Now I knew she mixed things up, but didn’t know it was due to dyslexia.

This revelation changed everything for me in dealing with my mother. Everything finally made sense. How my dad did all the math in the family, how she would suggest that I write lists, show her how to do something instead of providing her instructions, and she would repeat phone numbers back to me two and three times, “Yes mom, that’s what I said, Jenny’s number is 867-5309!”

This was groundbreaking knowledge that I wish I had YEARS ago. I knew that I had a huge driver to reinvent myself on one of the most unsolved and longest challenges in my life. I immediately changed the way I spoke to her. My language became simpler, slower, and with way less information. I showed her rather than told her and I began writing phone numbers down for her instead of repeating them 3 times over. Better yet, I just went ahead and put them in her smart phone for her.

I spent time thinking about how I’d been communicating with her in my adult life and came upon this…I figured out that many of us bring our business language in both content and speed home with us and expect that our non-hustle business-world families hear and understand us all the time. As leaders, we want the short and sweet, get-the to-the-point fast, and options as opposed to opinions. My mother is a phenomenal woman. She is smart, sassy, and funny as well as the kindest and most loving non-judgmental person I know. She well deserves my understanding and my “reinvented” self. I am still in the process of my reinvention and I think it will take a long time, but things are going great so far at a tough time. Maybe she thinks it’s the wine?! Who knows. The best part of my reinvention is that she has no idea that “I know” and I intend to keep grandma’s revelation a secret.

Oiginally published on LinkedIN on 9/20/18 see it here