Find balance in high-stress times | 360 degree leadership

Feeling stressed out? Join the club. Americans today work longer hours, across multiple projects, with un-relenting deadlines, and little patience for failure. We live for the weekends, run on coffee, food, and alcohol, and sacrifice health for corporate America. Does this have to be our reality?


Work-life balance isn’t a myth, but to get there you’re gonna need some help. These 12 tricks and steps will help equip you to regain your own balance, commanding the self-respect you deserve, the confidence to know you’re doing what’s best for everyone, and the peace of mind to let it go.

Join Jessica Stoddard and Kyle as they talk about what it takes to find your workplace Zen and to create safe spaces for leading your co-workers no matter what your title or position.

In this episode, Jessica and Kyle discuss:

  • How to find balance in work when you’re stressed
  • 12 tricks for establishing balance.
  • What does practicing mindfulness really mean
  • How to lead without power or authority -360 degree leadership
  • What does real leadership look like



Kyle Hamer: (00:06)
Hello and welcome to the summit, the podcast where we bring you knowledge and insights from industry leaders and professionals. No fluff, no double digit overnight growth schemes. We’re having real conversations with real people to get you answers on how to elevate yourself in your career path.

Today’s guests in joining us on the summit is my good friend Jessica Stoddard. Jessica, how are you today?

Jessica Stoddard: (00:27)
I’m doing great. Kyle, how are you?

Kyle Hamer: (00:30)
Me? I’m fantastic. I uh, it is a beautiful afternoon and in love and September’s weather. So how are things in Cincinnati?

Jessica Stoddard: (00:40)
Oh, also beautiful if you all, yeah, like we’re doing pretty well weather-wise now that we’re into a false fall is what we call it in the Midwest.

Kyle Hamer: (00:49)
Yeah, that’s the head. September is the, is the head fake in middle earth. Uh, I am actually very excited to have you on the show today because this was about a year ago, maybe, maybe less. You put together a presentation for a professional association you’re in and it’s titled wellness practices for creative leaders. And I just thought that it was really, really interesting how your story and this particular topic can you give a little bit of background about, about you and how this topic came about.

Jessica Stoddard: (01:21)
Sure. Um, Avesta gives us a presentation on a national level, um, because I am one of only three wellness directors in the professional organization across the country. A IGA, which is the largest organization for creative professionals in since in the United States, is exploring the idea of wellness as something that designers could, that designers can do for themselves as well as director. I’m responsible for organizing programming.

And what I found as a, as a leader in the creative community is I was actually using wellness practices as part of my daily routine and it was helping me not just lead other people and not just take responsibility for projects and things that I was passionate about, but also helping me keep my mental health in check. So it’s something that AIG is usually passionate about and something that I’m hugely passionate about as well.

Kyle Hamer: (02:19)
There’s been a pretty big assault on creatives, creative types, and then this thought of creative leadership. And even wellness, you know, it’s, it’s interesting that AIGA is taking a, um, I wouldn’t call it a leadership position or a thought leadership position on the positive impact that wellness and mental health or mental wellness or overall well-being can have [inaudible] creative output because it’s probably not something that most creatives would naturally gravitate towards or even even think about it. Is that, is that true or has that been your experience?

Jessica Stoddard: (02:53)[inaudible] um, it’s definitely, it’s been my experience that we all need reminders that I, you don’t go into a creative field. You usually don’t go into design without being passionate about design. And sometimes you can let those passions override the kind of common sense things that we could get into and talk about things that you know are good for you. Things like getting enough sleep or drinking enough water and how that kind of impacts your mental health.

And the truth is, and one of the things that we’ve also talked about as an organization is that you’re actually better at creating creative output or making creative output. Uh, when you keep the rest of your mental health in check. The metaphor of the tortured artist I think is something that a lot of creatives fight with. And certainly in design school, they encourage all nighters or do they encourage [inaudible] Mmm. Drinking or other substances to kind of get the quote unquote juices flowing.

But the truth is the statistics bear out that you actually do better when you kind of lead a cleaner life. So pay attention to what is right for you. Um, and what makes you feel healthy every day makes you productive every day. And I think that’s something that designers do care about, but we don’t always, if you’re not paying attention to it, you stopped pretty quickly. I know I, yeah, I buy a box of cookies. I eat a box of cookies type thing

Kyle Hamer: (04:23)
for, for folks that push, push the creative limits or push to procrastinate to, to wait for that, you know, that brilliant creative spark. There are probably, uh, habits that have been created that just needs some, some coursing or correcting to help even further find that, that creative utopia or, or Nirvana.

Talk to us a little bit about this, this program that you’ve put together, what the elements are and take us through, you know, what are the things that as a, as a creative or somebody who once to be well but also wants to be seen as a leader, how to put those together as the, at the program you built.

Jessica Stoddard: (05:03)
What I did was I built the Cincinnati wellness programming around 12 behaviors that are not just continually identified but identified in the same way in every study article and book that I read [inaudible] like it’s, it’s kind of interesting how psychology, neurology, sociology, and even physiology. Um, I’ll come to the same conclusions.

Um, and these aren’t like anything that I think are revolutionary. These things include doing physical activities and getting outside, getting enough sleep, de-stressing your diet, meaning eating kind of fruits and vegetables, uh, eat plants, not a lot. Uh, is my metaphor limiting alcohol and caffeine. And that’s another one that I think is rough.

When I say substances are we not all guilty of abusing caffeine, treating yourself well, cultivating and maintaining a positive attitude, which I think is something that we’ve covered specifically as creatives. Talking to other people about your problems, scheduling downtime, keeping a journal, focusing on what you are good at and asking an offering help and learning how to practice mindfulness. Those are the things like if it’s 12 and that was kind of a long list [inaudible] none of them are really surprising when you think about it. You’re not like, Oh man, I’m cultivating a that positive attitude I never knew that would help me feel better.

Kyle Hamer: (06:37)
Well, I mean, but some of them, some of them are easier to identify in others, right? Like for example, Hey, it’s pretty obvious if I look in the mirror or step on the scale or just deal with my own Catholic guilt about being physically active enough versus you may not have the context of am I cultivating a positive perspective?

What are some strategies around helping begin to, to look at these 12 and manage these 12 on a continual basis that is, that is effective or make sense.

Jessica Stoddard: (07:10)
You’re right. Like a, there are things that are easier to identify as others. And when we’re talking about as leaders, I kinda, you can leave it up to yourself that a little facts like I’m, you’re supposed to get eight hours of sleep a night and you know, you know, you shouldn’t eat the entire point of cookies and, but it’s the ones that are harder to define and ones that we need reminders of is, for example, focusing on your strengths or cultivating a positive attitude is not beating yourself up. Um, or not letting that Catholic guilt get to you if you do eat the plate of cookies, you know, if you start with the most active ones out of these principles, I think one of the first ones that I gravitated towards and I started putting into practice was journaling.

And the journaling is basically by, it’s, it’s something that you can do to focus on your strengths. Then it’s something you can do to cultivate. And maintain a positive attitude. And I think it’s also because we are born story storytellers, creatives especially. Mmm. If you start a journal focusing on what you are thankful for, you become a more thankful person. And that’s kind of what the studying or what studies have shown is journaling has the power for you to start telling your own story that you can make a point of being grateful and recognizing how much could you have to focus on, tells you that you are living a good life, which I think most of us are. Right. So that would be kind of the first strategy.

Kyle Hamer: (08:51)
So, so I have a question about that. You know, you the, one of the strategies, one of the elements here is, is being mindful is the self-awareness that led you to go to journaling first. Would it, would it actually be categorized if you were being mindful of, Hey, this feels like the most natural first outlet or this feels like the one that would bring you the most joy?

Were you being mindful before you started journaling or was it, Hey, you just sat there and you’re like, look, I know that I need to get some of this stuff out. I’m just going to write. And then eventually it kind of led to this self-realization of, Hey, this is something that brings me a little bit of joy. This helps me tell my story. And this was a really good place for you personally to start. Which one was, it was a chicken egg. What, what kind of led to that? I need to journal moment for you.

Jessica Stoddard: (09:35)
Oh man. Okay. So it’s actually, it’s probably, it’s definitely journaling was one of the last things that I came to, but I think when we’re discussing things that we can start doing, like it’s always better to have Mmm. In my opinion, if I’m giving reminders, it’s, this is a thing you can do versus this is a mindset you can cultivate.

And I think I, uh, went through a particularly stressful period at work. And I think one of the things I started asking myself was, why am I getting so upset in the moment? And how can I stop myself from getting so upset? And, uh, one of the things that came out of that was listened more and talk less and Mmm. In order to be a better listener, I’m writing more things down. Um, and then kind of reading studies about gratitude and what the story telling my how’s storytelling mind works.

Jessica Stoddard: (10:40)
Um, that the story I want to tell myself, Mmm. If it’s a good one, then what my brain can do is it can constantly rewrite a situation. Um, I think probably the first one I went to. Was actually, uh, practicing mindfulness. And what does that mean? Because that is so hard to try.

And I’ve downloaded half a dozen apps and I like some more than others, but a lot of times for me I’m like, well, I’d like to be able to turn my phone off. Um, so learning exercises for practicing mindfulness was probably the first one I went to. Um, and journaling was something that came out of that. Um, if that makes sense. Can you talk a little bit more?

Kyle Hamer: (11:32)
Yeah, no, I, yeah, I think it makes perfect sense. I think that’s, for those that are listening, you’re like, well, journaling, I don’t like to write or I definitely don’t like to exercise, so there’s no way that I’ll ever achieve wellness. And I think at least to having, having known you through this journey, your earliest part of the journey and then having heard you talk through this, I think it feels like the first step is self-awareness in that mindfulness of, okay, I realize what I want and what I’m getting are not equal or I’m not sensing, feeling, experiencing what I would expect. Why. And in your, you know, your checkpoint of 12 pieces becomes somethings very interesting to start working through.

Jessica Stoddard: (12:20)
Definitely. Definitely. And the, the, the dissonance I think between, yeah, what you want, which is to be happy most of the time or at least content and seeing myself be unhappy, I’m like, what can I do? You know, if you Google, how can I be more happy? I think practicing mindfulness and I mean like for practical terms, um, I think it’s important to say that mindfulness just means paying attention, you know? And I think that started with walks.

Um, and I found, uh, origami particularly helpful and any of those things, when someone says mindfulness, what they mean is focusing on a singular task. Um, that doesn’t take, um, the amount of conflict. There’s no, when you’re walking and you notice the things on your walk and you notice a tree and you notice the leaves, you don’t have time to debate whether or not that tree has given you an assignment that makes sense as a creative or whatever other conflicts you’re feeling. So it’s really focusing in on the individual moment.

[inaudible] and there are exercises that you can go through that help with those. And so then it was, um, exercises that help with those that leads you to journal writing. And it leads you to understanding that cultivating a positive attitude is something you try and do.

Kyle Hamer: (13:49)
See, it’s, it sounds like you didn’t arrive at journaling right away. It was something that happened in, evolves for you through experiencing and the things. So first thing you said is, is Hey, I’m not happy here what I want in what my reality are. They’re not lining up.

Step two was as you said, Hey, I’m going to the walkaway or I’m going to find something to focus on, like work to create moments of clarity and then either get introspective or outrospective as it relates to what’s really happening in this moment. What are, what are some of the other things that you began exploring in NBN experiencing in your own personal journey for figuring out that, Hey, these are the elements.

Like if you, if you figure out there’s, there’s a, there’s a formula that works for everybody. What are some of the other areas that you experienced and in and you’re like, yeah, no, this isn’t going to be something that I’m going to spend a lot of time in.

Jessica Stoddard: (14:42)
Yeah, no, that definitely, so some of those came from reading. Um, but I think another one that I really got a deep personal connection with, um, was asking for an offering help, um, because I’m a huge believer in building community. AIG a is a volunteer organization. Um, if you’re going to serve on the board, they asked for a certain commitment of time. Um, but it’s really, it’s a belt building community among other creatives. There was something I was already passionate about.

Jessica Stoddard: (15:16)[inaudible] I think I always assumed that the offering help was, uh, more important then asking for help. And when I kind of went through crisis, it was yes, first that, okay, I need to walk away. Oh, look how pretty this tree is. And that gave me enough clarity. But in asking for help, um, what I learned was [inaudible] it breaks down a barrier that I had previously thought of hell thought of asking for help is something that [inaudible] other people do.

Um, and I judged myself pretty harshly if I couldn’t do something or I can do something without help because asking for help is kind of a sign of weakness. And I think a lot of creative struggle with perfectionism, um, that they also don’t want to ask for help. But criticizing and criticizing yourself doesn’t actually help you get better. It just leads to making you feel resentful about responsibilities you’ve turned on.

Jessica Stoddard: (16:28)
So when I did have to ask for help, what I’m doing, what I realized I was doing and what studies have confirmed that you’re doing is I and confirmed them with the person that I’m asking help of, I trust you. And it’s that rewriting that story of I’m with someone I trust. And even if it’s a small ask and you get me a glass of water type thing and bringing it into larger asks, Mmm, what you’re doing is you’re asking for what you want and not only are you hopefully getting what you want.

And I will say I don’t always get what I want [inaudible] but it’s been life changing in terms of realizing that I can judge myself less. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s realizing that leading a community is more than offering help and solving other people’s problems. But it’s understanding that my shared humanity means that I can ask for help too. So that was another, another aspect that I’ve experienced personally that I can say helped me beat a more wholehearted life. Um, certainly very helpful.

Kyle Hamer: (17:42)
If I, if I can, if I can ask a couple of questions related to that moment for you. You know, you, you talk about trust and you talk about this, this moment of being in a space as a creative and as this person who’s in a prominent position where there’s a high level of criticism, what does it take for you to trust in, in what was the moment where you realized you’re like, Hey, I need to change something because this isn’t working for me.

Was there something specifically that was going on at say work or a project or what, what was the moment for you where it was like, ah, I’ve got to get over my fear so I can, I can get through this particular moment?

Jessica Stoddard: (18:30)
Um, well, I do have to give a ton of credit to Bernay Brown here, um, because I think it was, uh, she’s a thought leader in wellness. Um, she’s written several books most recently, uh, dare to lead, which as you said, I think came out around this time last year. Um, and she said, uh, that when you think that you are not allowed to ask her help, what you’re really doing is silently judging everyone else who does ask for help. And you know, like I kind of, I was like, Oh my God, I do that.

Oh my God, how did you know the person who’s written this book? You know, clearly for millions of people. Um, and I was like, that is exactly what I do is I don’t ask for help because I’m afraid of the criticism that I’m going to receive. Um, and so from there, I think it was asking for more help from the leaders in my life.

Jessica Stoddard: (19:37)
And if I’m going to ask for help, I think that led me to giving feedback and how I need that help. Um, and looking at other talks on leadership and that really is where leadership is, is, um, taking responsibility for other people. And, um, when I started asking for help by, I have occasionally not asked the correct question or not asked, um, for help in an inappropriate manner. And then that goes into your revisiting.

How I’m giving feedback. And that led me to the practicing gratitude and taking time, uh, at least weekly, if not daily, to say I’m grateful for these things. Because then when I’m taking stock of what I’m grateful for, I know who I can ask [inaudible]. Building that level of people I can trust and having more people on your side I think is always a good thing. And that mental story that you tell yourself. Yeah,

Kyle Hamer: (20:45)
it is really interesting to look at the parallels between leadership without authority, right? So in the, in the thing that we have to be careful with is sometimes in American society specifically, Oh, if you’re a manager or a director or an executive, you have, you’re a leader. Nope, you’re a manager. Right? You, you’ve been given some level of authority.

But true leaders are folks that build trust, they communicate well, and then they instill some sort of common vision or collective, uh, community from those around them. Whether they are like-minded or not that they, they have been bestowed this because there’s a level of trust. And I think it would be really hard for, for creatives to expect to be able to lead or expect to be able to be in a leadership position, even even without a title, if they can’t trust others and they can’t trust themselves.

Was that kind of your experience? Did you see your, your position as a leader or your position inside your, your work environment change as you began embracing these, these different principles and as you began trusting more?

Jessica Stoddard: (21:53)
Um, I definitely saw my position changing. Um, and that was some taking on more responsibility but then also leaning harder on my teammates. Um, and I think it’s interesting that you mentioned that and I was like, Oh, right. I also noticed, um, we’re, we’re dancing around a difficult topic and we’ll continue dancing. Um, but you know, that there was a difficult position that you came into how we met. And I also remember a moment of clarity that I was like, Oh, tile is actually nice to us.

And, um, I think there were some people in the office who are like, he’s just putting on a show. And I was like, no. And also if he’s just putting on a show and being nice, well what’s the point of the show that that seems like a ever, you know, leadership style. And I think that’s an excellent point too.

Jessica Stoddard: (22:48)
You’re leading versus managing is we had had a couple of managers who were maybe not as well suited because they had gotten the role, but they weren’t Mmm. Talking or they weren’t backing up their actions with the role they had gotten.

And so that was another kind of, if I’m generous with compliments and I’m generous with my gratitude, I think that was something that started helping me lead other team members, even though I’m not in an official leadership role, I was taking responsibility for the projects and I was taking responsibilities for the people around me.

Um, and I think that’s really what influenced a lot of this talk was these are the things that I’m seeing and maybe I want a leadership role. Um, and that was certainly very helpful as well. So thank you for that. I forgot and I’m sorry I forgot. Like, man, this guy. Yeah. [inaudible]. Yeah,

Kyle Hamer: (23:48)
look, I, I, I appreciate the compliment. I’m not great at thinking them. I think every person is on their own personal journey and, okay, well I was happy to be a part of it. I’m very, very glad that you found this space and I’m happy that we can share it with other people because I think that’s the, that’s the trap. The trap is, is that I am stuck in my station.

I’m stuck in a position where I have to be a perfect, I’m stuck in my station where I have to deal with the sore throat authoritarian or this dogmatic manager that’s driving me insane. And as a creative, that can feel very stifling and very emotional because, because there’s so much emotion moving through a creative and a creative idea and, and, and being able to express it and get it out.

And that’s, it’s challenging, right? Because you express something and it doesn’t come out right and they’re like, Oh crap. Well now I’m being judged for it being incorrect, but I didn’t deliver it the way I want it to. Whether that’s visually or from a, from a, from an audio standpoint or the way that it was written.

Kyle Hamer: (24:50)
You being able to go on this path and figure out how to trust yourself and B, um, introspective enough to, uh, be mindful of the things that were important to you. Got you to a spot where you’re like, Hey, I realized that I don’t have to be confined to my unhappiness.

I don’t have to be confined to what is my station. As a matter of fact, I can see a clear path to how I lead others. If anything, I think this is a story of hope four for people who are, who are out there that are listening as it relates to their own situation. You don’t have to be confined by what your current station is.

These, these elements for wellness can lead you to be very much a leader, not only of yourself, but of creatives and others around you. Just by kind of exploring, right? Cause it wasn’t, this was a, this was a two to three year process, if I remember correct. Not a, not an overnight thing.

Jessica Stoddard: (25:50)
Definitely not an overnight thing now. Um, and that is definitely, I think there’s, um, there’s a balance. Um, when you start taking stock, um, of, you know, as a creative, I’m naturally inclined to ask questions of why couldn’t this be better? Um, but the, you know, it’s kind of flipping that around when I did mine this research and not so much what, why couldn’t this be better? But what could I do to make this better? And

Kyle Hamer: (26:24)

Jessica Stoddard: (26:24)
there’s, um, I’ve kind of, you say we’re all on our own personal journeys and I’m like, I wholeheartedly agree, but I also am like, I don’t know that I could personally feel fulfilled as a creative if I wasn’t helping other people on their journeys because we’re all in this together. Um, very few people are a loan artists.

You know, it’s another myth of the lone Wolf who is a brilliant creative all by themselves. Um, by paying attention to my community and, uh, establishing that trust with them. It’s really, it’s enhanced my practice as a creative. Um, it’s led to me asking more questions as a critical thinker and certainly more challenges. But it definitely, I think it, it’s given me a greater level of satisfaction. Um, and of course also a greater level of calm because I think that’s, that’s the one thing, the other thing that we keep getting away from is like, Oh, we can be better leaders.

Jessica Stoddard: (27:31)
And I’m like, also though, scheduling downtime I think is something that I have, uh, still working on. Um, you know, it’s, it’s never, I’m not an expert. I am just trying to remind myself as often as I remind other people.

But, um, especially this, this past month, um, has been a revisiting of that and scheduling downtime and taking more walks. Um, there are so many trees and uh, my new neighborhood, I just moved and um, yeah, it’s that scheduling downtime and really taking stock of everything that’s outside of my creative practice that I think is helping me now. Mmm, sure. I bet.

Kyle Hamer: (28:14)
Well, congratulations on giving him that. No, you’re, I think you’re, I think you’re spot on. Congratulations on the new place. That’s, that’s exciting, right? Whenever there’s change, there’s always disruption.

And that disruption can mess up the, the Zen, if you will, or the, the balance that we have. And, and to your point, I think it’s the, you cultivating the skill of being mindful helped you find the, I mean my, my perspective may be wrong, but cultivating that skill of being mindful cause it’s not, it’s not, we’re not necessarily, we are selfish, selfish, selfish creatures.

Being mindful is a skill. It is not something that we’re innately born with. I don’t, I don’t care how you’re born. I just don’t think that that’s true. And you, you may, you may believe differently, but that’s, it’s something that you cultivated. Did you not cultivate it?

Jessica Stoddard: (29:00)

Kyle Hamer: (29:01)
This move would have been a whole lot more stressful.

Jessica Stoddard: (29:04)
Uh, yeah. And I think I probably put those practices by the wayside. And it’s that it’s forgiving yourself and realizing that cultivating a positive attitude means that you extend that generosity yourself and you say, well, I didn’t do this great, but I don’t need to be perfect in order to be a leader.

And I think that’s something, you know, that a lot of people who get really, really high up realizes perfection is never the goal. Um, it’s always doing your best and there’s, it’s kind of cyclical and I think, yeah, getting back into these mindfulness practices and paying attention to all the good things. Leave me energized, you know, for starting another round of, uh, wellness programming, um, in September and starting to do more good for the community.

And I’m sure I’m going to ask for lots of help of everyone in my life and I’m looking forward to it cause it gives them an opportunity to delight me. And I think I have a lot of people that I can trust to do that.

Kyle Hamer: (30:10)
That’s awesome. Well, you know, I think trust, trust runs both ways and that’s, it’s an important component. Um, you know, I think one of the things you touched on you, you mentioned that the Browns, uh, there to lead book.

And one of the things that’s probably the most poignant story, at least for me personally in talking about how we always have those moments of being mindful. And in the stress of life and the craziness of life can interrupt us.

Brene talks about coming home in the middle of a speaking tour or a, I’m writing the book that she was writing and there was no food and she yelled at her husband for something and he walked in and he looked at her and she was just super angry and, and there was a, there was a discussion back and forth and he asked her like four simple questions, a, you know, have you ever had to do this or has this ever been an expectation?

Kyle Hamer: (31:02)
Is this something that’s ever been, um, in, in all the time we’ve been together as a server, something. So where’s this coming from? And in the moment, in the heat, you have to read the book to get the whole story. But in the moment, in the heat of it, she, she had built the skill enough to be mindful and introspective and to look at the relationship with her, with her husband, for what it was, and look at the emotion for what it was.

And she realized that the, the emotion and the anger and the response came from a position of stress came from a position of not communicating and not getting the things that she needed to be her best self and it was having an impact in that moment. And so,

Jessica Stoddard: (31:42)

Kyle Hamer: (31:43)
eh, I don’t know if you remember the story that I’m talking about, but it’s,

Jessica Stoddard: (31:46)
I do. Yeah. Um, it was actually, it was a moment in which she talks about, and I think that’s another tool here that, um, she’s confirmed. So I didn’t use it in any of my presentations, but it’s definitely something that I think is worth touching on. Um, that, uh, the tool she used was, the story I’m telling myself is that I’m not a good wife for having the fridge stocked and I’m not a good wife because I don’t have any food that’s ready for people to eat.

And I’m already hungry and I’m already an, I expected to be fed and I expected to do all these things. Um, and it was a load of expectations that she was putting on herself, um, versus asking for help. And she also, because she was not asking for what she said she was projecting onto her husband, was that he didn’t think she was a good wife.

Jessica Stoddard: (32:46)
And he, you know, and he was like, I, and she’s like, the story I’m telling myself is that you think I am a bad wife for not having the fridge stocked. And it’s a, it’s a layer upon layer of expectations. And I kind of, I think most of us have felt that way. I’ve certainly come home to similar situations and been like, Oh my God, I can’t get this done.

Why am I so bad at being human? The wives on TV, uh, you know, or the husbands on TV can keep their houses clean. Why can’t we? And it’s, it’s a layer of expectation and that realizing that sometimes we’re our own, our own worst critic. Um, and I think especially with, yeah, with creativity, you know, they encourage criticism because that’s how you get better work. [inaudible] we’re not projects. People are not projects. People are people. And we deserve to be treated, uh, a bit more graciously than, you know, the next sales slick you make.

Kyle Hamer: (33:46)
Yeah. You look and Horton who hears a, who dr Seuss probably said it the best. A person is a person no matter how small. And I think, you know, it doesn’t matter how large you are in an organization with title, what rank or how small you are or how you feel.

You’re right. You’re entitled to those feelings. You’re entitled to be trusted and you’re, you’re entitled to not be dealing with expectations that are unrealistic in a narrative that, that you can’t fulfill.

Jessica Stoddard: (34:13)
Definitely. Definitely.

Kyle Hamer: (34:15)
So if we walk it back, we walked back to the beginning and we kind of walk through, Hey, how do I, how do I begin on this journey? How do I, how do I start thinking about wellness in helping me achieve, kind of walk us through what you know, what, what are those steps?

What are those things that we need to be, I think it starts with mindfulness, but from there, what are the things that we need to inventory and tools that we can use to begin being our best selves as creatives?

Jessica Stoddard: (34:45)
Oh gosh. So, and I think that’s why we created some of this programming because, um, I, I’m a big uh, qualitative researcher. Um, I like comparing the results Of multiple studies and that’s where these 12 areas of overlap, like there is just, there is no disputing certain things. And I think, um, exercising is another interesting one because, uh, I think you mentioned earlier, um, if not during the podcast and when we were talking earlier that you were thinking about it during your ride.

And I’m like, yeah, because when you’re riding a bike, you have the focus on putting one foot in front of the other know that’s another, it’s a little bit of mindfulness and this way, you know, like exercising isn’t just good for losing weight and adding that on our model of perfection, you know, it’s exercising is good for your heart.

Jessica Stoddard: (35:46)
It’s good for getting those endorphins going. You know, and these are things that are just easy for studies to confirm that like you can get a dopamine high or runner’s high and that’s a nice healthy way to get your brain sort of addicted to dopamine while it’s good for your heart. And um, and then you have time to think about whatever is troubling you.

And even if you’re not, maybe journaling physically with writing things down, and I’m a big fan personally of post it notes and Sharpie markers and then just crumbled up at the end of the month. But if you’ve got that time where you’re doing this repetitive task of riding a bicycle or running or dancing is a, another thing that I do you, you’re having that time to run the stories through your head. And as long as you’re keeping track, I think that’s probably one of the first temps of keeping track.

Jessica Stoddard: (36:41)
If a thought you’re experiencing is negative, it’s helpful to identify that thought as that’s not a very nice thing to think. What would be a different way of framing this that would be more grateful? What is there to be grateful for in this situation? What is the positive side of this situation?

And it sounds a little, you know me pretty well, Kyle, I realize your listeners don’t know me pretty well, but I, I am not a Pollyanna, um, ever. And I think it, it sounds a little Pollyanna and I promise you if you start doing it though and you go actually, you know, like it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Like I’m like, ah, that lady who just caught me off was wearing a really pretty blast. It doesn’t work. Um, you know, like it is, it is, it has to be a little superficial and it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it starts getting you into practice, you know?

Jessica Stoddard: (37:40)
And that’s, that’s the practicing gratitude is really what you’re getting at when you say journaling. And I think exercising would probably be another big tip cause you know how much you’re supposed to, you know, that’s another easily Google, Google, like it’s um, two and a half hours of moderate activity a week is what you kind of need to keep your heart healthy and two and a half hours, uh, moderate activity is also two and a half hours that you can spend thinking positively. And it’s identifying a negative thought as a negative thought and trying to turn it around on a grateful slot. Um, as much as possible.

It’s not, Oh, I can’t, I can’t say that it always works for me. Um, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes to, and I think that’s a Dale Carnegie, a piece of wisdom from the 1940’s is, uh, you know, if look at everyone in the room and you think of something nice that you like about them, it makes it easier to get along with everyone in the room. And so you can turn up, treat your thoughts the same way.

Kyle Hamer: (38:45)
Well, it’s practice, right? I mean it’s, it’s, you’re building a habit, you’re building a skill. The first time you put a paintbrush to canvas or the first time you put a color to the correct coloring book, right.

There were no, there were no rules and it wasn’t the world’s greatest design or most colorful picture. But over time you develop that skill because you continue to stay at it. And the same thing is the same. It’s the same thing for your, your mind and being positive, being mindful habits of exercise, food, et cetera. [inaudible] yeah.

Just has to be something that you are intentional about. And then at some point it will start to create outrageous joy. And you do, you really not, I wouldn’t say entirely sure why, but you’ll, you’ll start to miss it when you stop doing it.

Jessica Stoddard: (39:35)
Definitely. Yeah. And eventually you will be like, you know that. Yeah, they did have a really nice pair of sunglasses on even though they cut me off and you’ll find yourself thinking that genuinely like, man, that’s messed up. So it’s also kind of cool. Right? Um,

Jessica Stoddard: (39:52)
yeah. And, uh, and then it’s, yeah, it’s um, I’d say yeah, the other I think other thing that I struggle with, but the more I practice at it is I’m getting a sleep schedule and getting enough sleep. Uh, and that means saying at this time every day, because I know I’m going to get up at the same time relatively every day, um, give yourself an extra hour on the weekends type deal.

Um, but saying I go to bed at midnight and if it’s after midnight, I need to start learning to say no. And setting boundaries is another huge part of this as well. Um, but setting up rituals where you can be mindful and I think a lot of people, I personally don’t journal at the end of the day cause I, I like to run myself ragged and then be like, cool, falling asleep.

It’s midnight. Um, but yeah, coming up with a bedtime is another one that I’d say is a, I think that you start doing and once you start doing it and yeah, bedtimes also seemed kind of like something that belongs in, leave it to Beaver. I think after design school I was like, well, bedtimes and sleeping, those things are for losers. Um, but it’s something that I learn.

Jessica Stoddard: (41:11)

Kyle Hamer: (41:12)
Yeah. Little kids, losers and little kids with mommy’s. I don’t have a moment. I’m not a loser, so I’m going to stay up all day.

Jessica Stoddard: (41:19)
I moved out of my parents’ house 15 years ago. Um, and now I no longer have a bedtime, dammit. And I can stay up all night, uh, drinking and eating popcorn. All I want to. But God, that did sound Pollyanna. Wow. They up all night.

Kyle Hamer: (41:41)

Jessica Stoddard: (41:44)

Kyle Hamer: (41:46)
So here’s what I have to say. And then,

Kyle Hamer: (41:49)
yeah, I’ll, I’ll comment on this right there. There’s a, there’s a lot of things that when you’re highly, highly driven, you’re highly creative. You’re a highly [inaudible] independent and you see the world a certain way. There’s a lot of things that you can do, but just cause you can do it.

Does it mean that you should? And that that is a, that is a lesson that I think for me has been one of the personally, the largest struggles because I, you know, for, for me, my big weakness as it came to things, um, in, in trying to figure out how to, how to lead even lead myself was putting too much on my plate. I can’t put that on my plate. I can do that.

What should I, and, and when I got good at saying no and trusting myself enough to say no, not being afraid that, you know, I was going to miss out on something or I was going to let somebody down, but trusting myself enough to say, no, no, I can’t do that.

Kyle Hamer: (42:48)
Or no, that shouldn’t be done. Or excuse me, my purse, pretty self purse permission to say that is not something I should do. That mindfulness in and of itself was a, was a huge revelation, an empowering moment where I no longer felt, um, I no longer felt the weight of every project that came across the board.

I no longer felt the weight of everything being perfect. I was, I gave myself permission to say, yes, I can do this. No, I should not. And to be okay with that and that, that I think for, for people as you start to move up into management, you start to move up into leadership positions. It can be very challenging. No is one of the most empowering words that you can put in your vocabulary as long as you have a huge trust relationship with the people you’re saying no to.

Jessica Stoddard: (43:45)
No, I think that’s, that’s definitely, I mean I almost feel like no is a version of asking for help and saying no, can you trust me enough that I will do this later or I will find someone else who can do it just as well. Um, and I think no is also, it’s part of setting boundaries.

And it was interesting while you were talking about that, I was like, Oh that is another check-in or another little mental check that I’ve learned to use is just because I can do it. Um, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it. And I think that’s very helpful. But the other thing I’ve started asking myself is just because I can do it now. Does this mean I wanted to be something I do in the future? Yes, I could redesign that PowerPoint. And that’s a bad example cause I don’t want to read an app PowerPoint.

Jessica Stoddard: (44:35)
But yes, I could take someone else’s work and spend 20 minutes making it just that much better in my opinion. Um, but is that something I see myself doing three years from now? Or would I rather get home on time and see my husband and you notice the trees?

Is it, what do you want from your life five years from now and 10 years from now? And just because you can do it right now doesn’t mean you want to do it for the rest of your life. Um, and I think that’s, that’s helpful for especially once you get into leadership positions, um, and management positions because yes, you can continue managing a team and doing all the work you used to do that got you to be the manager of the team.

But ultimately that’s so much work that wouldn’t it be better to hire someone else to do it? Um, yeah. That’s, I think that’s, that’s very interesting that yes, I can and I’m like, yeah, but do I want to be doing it five years from now is also a good metric that I’ve started using. Cool.

Kyle Hamer: (45:42)
Yeah. Well look and I, you know, just, we’ve gone a lot longer than I thought we went today and I promised you it’d be 20, 25 minutes and here we are. I love your insight and I love what I do with the AIGA. I said that wrong. What is, what is the association you’re a part of again?

Jessica Stoddard: (45:59)
Uh, is AIGA a more long time ago? It used to stand for the American Institute of graphic artists, but they’ve since turn their name into a symbol and here we are. Um, so they’re just the associates. Yeah.

Kyle Hamer: (46:15)
I love the work that you’re doing with that community. I love the work that you’re doing to help create new leaders, new styles of thinking in ultimately give people tools to find happiness. Last question.

Jessica Stoddard: (46:30)

Kyle Hamer: (46:30)
If, if somebody were starting out tomorrow and said, Hey, I want to get good perspective and help me cultivate mindfulness or get started on this process. Outside of maybe your slide deck in these following these 12 points or, or exploring these 12 points, what’s one book that every creative wood should read in your opinion?

Jessica Stoddard: (46:54)
Uh, I, I definitely, I still have to go back to Brene Brown and dare to lead was, it’s a practical handbook and I think her definition of leadership really helped me as well. Um, you know, she’s saying all of these things better than you or I can say that and that she’s, she’s able to get vulnerable and that’s one of her big things. But, um, she relates a lot of things I think a lot of creatives go through, but a lot of intelligent people go through, um, the cognitive dissonance of our modern world and she lays out some strategies for doing better. Um, in addition to some strategies for actually practicing mindfulness, I mentioned noticing trees. She actually goes through mindfulness exercises in the book and I, I’ve probably read it four times. Uh,

Kyle Hamer: (47:43)
that’s awesome. So

Jessica Stoddard: (47:44)
not recommended a book more. Yeah.

Kyle Hamer: (47:47)
Dare to lead by Renee Brown. Well, again, Jessica, thank you so much for being on the show today. Uh, really enjoyed the conversation. I think there’s a lot of really good stuff here and um, we just, we just appreciate you being willing to share your story and give tips to other people on how to begin their journey.

Jessica Stoddard: (48:07)
Oh, well, thank you for having me and sharing your insights as well. It’s always a pleasure talking to you and finding out something new that I was like, Oh, I didn’t think of it that way. That was good. It was good to reminisce and good to remember how far we’ve come. Yeah.

Kyle Hamer: (48:24)
Every day is, every day is a step baby steps. It’s like, what about Bob? And, uh, while that comedy was fantastic, uh, bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus, the, the one liner that I take from it is, is baby steps, you know, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. And for our listeners and folks that are here, if you haven’t started, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to be exactly where you’re at. But don’t wait. Begin taking step now of where you are in achieving happiness, because the only person that’s going to make you happy ultimately is you, and you have to find the form lineage. So thanks for tuning in. Looking forward to talking to you next week.

Jessica Stoddard
Jessica StoddardWellness Director
Jessica Stoddard makes her mark an in-house designer. More than just create print and web collateral, she is a brand standards guardian and a visual needs guide to her teammates. Working with Jessica is sensitive, collaborative, and the pace keeps everything exciting.

As the wellness director for the AIGA Cincinnati board, Jessica created mental health programming for creatives. She is always looking for new connections in the mental health and wellness sectors to collaborate with.

Experienced with both agency and in-house design, as well as working directly with small businesses, doing everything from marketing strategy and print design to web design and prototype creation. Especially interested in brand guardianship roles, opportunities to learn more about user experience design.