work life balance

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Clown Class

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

I taught myself to juggle. Really juggle. Not because I decided it would be fun to frustrate my uncoordinated self by tossing, tracking and catching three beanbags through the air in a continuing circular pattern, but for a circus skills class I was taking. After weeks of what felt like constant failure, not only did I learn how to juggle, but I also learned how to take a fall and to ride a unicycle. Yes, those are all stunts, but the fundamentals of clowning taught me how to keep my cool and be ready for anything in my day-to-day life. Consider:

I’m fine. Totally fine.

I’m fine. Totally fine.

  • Pratfalls. How to get knocked on our keisters and get up again like nothing happened. The big secret is to remain aware: anticipate, relax and keep your knees bent. You get knocked down and you fall into it, and treat it like a bounce. Before you know it, you’re back on your feet. Sometimes you get a little bruised, but it’s nothing you won’t recover from. Real world application: If you anticipate change, you’re more prepared for it when it comes. So you fall into it. You make the necessary adjustments to deal with whatever happens, you “keep your knees bent,” meaning you stay flexible, and a great bounce back makes everyone think maybe you had it planned all along.
Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

  • Riding a unicycle. It’s all about balance, obviously, but it’s also about knowing the importance of support. Without my fellow clowns, I would never have been able to get on the unicycle in the first place, and without a nice strong wall, I wouldn’t have been able to stay up long enough to find that balance, let alone use it to propel myself down the hall and wobble make my way back up again. Real world application: Finding your balance takes time, patience and support, but it pays off big-time in team morale and personal strength.
I never did get to this level. Few do.

I never did get to this level. Few do.

  • Juggling. You start with one ball. You pop your wrist and send that ball from one hand to the other. Catch, release, catch, release. Add the second ball, repeat. Add the third ball. And fail for weeks while you try to keep all three in a rotation where you are aware – at all times – of where each ball is as you keep them in motion. The first time you get a good rotation going, you feel on top of the world! And before you know it, you drop them and you’re back to square one. This is the danger zone: you want that success again so badly that you get frustrated, push too hard and go too fast. The key? Focus and breathing. Recognize it is a process. You will drop a ball. Pick it up, start over and don’t beat yourself up. Frustration will only slow you down, and you want to get to where you can move from beanbags to hoops, to bowling pins, to steak knives(!). Real world application? Easy: focus, breathe and don’t rush. You’ll get there faster than you think.

No joke – some of the best experiences I’ve had in the professional world had a groundwork laid in clowning. So if you’re feeling frazzled or stuck, why not grab a few beanbags on the way home and teach yourself to juggle? Fine, maybe you already know everything about focus, breathing and patience; maybe you just need new way to de-stress that really works, and juggling does … Especially once you get to those steak knives.

 

Skills I use at work that make me a better parent

By Jo Trizila, TrizCom PR & Pitch PR, CEO & President

Yes, I will be the first one to admit that I feel the working mom guilt. I can’t tell you how many times I have to miss something, tell my six-year-old daughter to be quiet while on a call or send her off to a camp when school is closed because I have had to work. However, there are a lot of good things that happen too. My daughter has learned by seeing me that you have to work hard for things you want. She has learned that being on time means getting someplace a few minutes early. And, by running a firm and managing people and clients I have learned and perfected particular skills that have made me a better parent.

Below are few insights on how work has taught me how to be a better parent:

Scheduling

At TrizCom PR & Pitch PR, we have many balls in the air at all times. We have to juggle 10 hours a day, and if a ball drops, mass chaos is bound to happen – deadlines missed and upset clients. Needless to say, dropping a ball is not an option. Scheduling is everything. Same thing with parenting. Everything we do outside of school is on the family calendar in the kitchen – from a sleepover at her grandparents to her three days a week ice skating lessons to  parent-teacher meetings to play dates to brownies. If I have an after-work meeting, it’s on the family calendar too – and who is babysitting. We live and breathe by a family calendar as I live and breathe by my Outlook calendar at work.

Say What You Mean & Do What You Say

At TrizCom PR and Pitch PR, being direct, clear and precise with employees, clients, journalists and associates has served me well. There is no room for ambiguity. Get to the facts quickly, and if you don’t know the answer to something, ask. Same thing with my 6-year-old. There can’t be ambiguity because if there is, she will fill in the blanks for herself. She has a one-track mind. If I say go clean up your room, and on the way to her room she passes a pair of shoes that need to be put away, she will walk right past them because I was not specific in my request. I have learned to say, as I do in business, all the steps I need taken to accomplish the goal. So instead of “Go clean your room,” I tell her “Go clean your room, and pick up your shoes that you left in the middle of the living room.” My business motto as well as my personal motto is: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Choices Have Consequences

In public relations, everything we do for our clients has consequences – good and bad. If we decide to pitch an exclusive to one outlet, we can’t pitch the same exclusive to another outlet. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If I am always late to client meetings, that has negative consequences. If I put in overtime and work really hard on an account, it normally yields positive consequences. If I micromanage employees, that has consequences too. Just like parenting. It is my job to remind my six-year-old that every choice she makes has consequences – some good, some bad. If she chooses not to follow instructions at school, she is probably going to get a yellow instead of a green for the day. If she forgets her library books, she won’t be able to check out new ones until the old books are returned. If she makes her bed every morning, she gets an allowance. She has been known to flippantly say to me, “I know, Mommy – make good choices today.” The other morning when I worked very late and only got a few hours’ sleep, she asked me why I was so tired. I told her the reason, and she said, “Mommy, that was not a good choice.”

 Honesty & The Power of Words

While public relations can sometimes have the reputation as spinning the truth or spin doctoring, I have always practiced and instilled in my staff that telling the truth will get you further than spinning. Trust is given, but once it is broken, it’s very difficult to get back. Same thing when communicating to my daughter. Having to teach the value of honesty is a daily practice with her and with me. I just wish in business I could look at someone and ask – is that a truth or is that a lie?

In PR where we are paid to communicate, I know how powerful words are – spoken and written. In my line of work, I choose my words carefully – and as an extrovert this is sometimes very difficult. I may want to go off on someone for something, but losing my temper and saying something I will regret is not a good plan. It’s better to take a deep breath, and think it through before taking action. In PR, more so than other professions, choosing words carefully is vital, because what I say could end up in print somewhere for millions to read. As a mom, every week I have to remind my daughter that her words are powerful. Words can make friends or enemies. Words can be kind and words can hurt. One night, after she said something very mean to me in a moment of anger, she apologized and apologized profusely. She knew immediately that what she said was wrong. The next day I took her into the bathroom and squirted toothpaste onto the counter. I handed her the tube and asked her to try and get it back into the tube. She tried and tried to no avail. I explained that her words are very similar. Once they are out of her mouth, she can’t take them back. Once a client’s story hits the press, it’s really difficult to retract.

I have a million more examples for you of skills I use at work that make me a better parent – personal responsibility, the freedom to say “I don’t know,” the power of conversation, the strength of gratitude, the evils of the internet, the trick to writing and telling a good story, budgets and how to allocate finances (yes, I started teaching Kate this when she started putting coins in her piggy bank), negotiations (oh wait, she is six years old, she is already an expert negotiator) but I will stop.

Jo's contact information:
Phone: 972-247-1369
Cell: 214-232-0078
Email: jo@trizcom.comjo@pitchpr.co
LinkedIn: Jotrizila
Twitter: jotrizila