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Think of a time when you struggled, when life was hard, when going to work seemed almost impossible because your mind was somewhere else.
Did you ask for help? Did you even know how?
Ronnie Ashline, Technical Business Developer – Enablement at AWS, shares personal stories of times when she struggled.
She shares lessons that she’s learned from these hard times with RevOps Therapist and founder and CEO of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser.
They talk about identity, community, help, being social together, drawing boundaries, and what goes into setting yourself up to be okay.
Hello everyone, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this episode, we’ve got Ronnie coming in from AWS Partnerships. Her and I worked together back in the Outreach days. And we’re talking about how to manage work and home when everything goes wrong. And if this is less of like a self-help, how to do these six things; it’s more just about recognizing, “wow, like sometimes things really go wrong.” And, man, it impacts things like identity. Like you need a community to survive. Where do the boundaries come into this? Can you ask for help? Like everybody says you should, but like, how do you… not even how do you do that, but just what’s the process there? Anyway, this is a really interesting episode; Ronnie’s gonna share some pretty important stories that happened in her life, not necessarily the most fun things that she’s ever lived through. But lots of good, lots of good just mindset shifts and things internally kind of happened with her that I think we can all learn from. So I’d encourage you, as always, to lean in, listen up, and enjoy.
Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.
Hello, everyone. We’ve got Ronnie with us today. Ronnie, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Hi, Jordan. It’s great to be here. So I’m Ronnie; I work at AWS managing our partner enablement team.
Nice to have you on Ronnie. And for everybody listening, I always like to tell origin stories. So Ronnie and I were early members of the Outreach education team. And man, that was a whirlwind. Not only was it fun working with Ronnie thinking about instructional design and how you land trainings. I still, like Ronnie is, I’m just gonna say this… Ronnie, you’re what maybe 5’4” coming to work one day with this huge black eye because… coming from the roller derby and whatever. I mean, like Ronnie is just this powerhouse in anything that she does, isn’t afraid to get into the dirt with things. And so I always love… What’s your handle there? It’s Grinds.
Grinds. Yep. Shortened from pork rinds, which I’ll still eat pork rinds. But…
Yeah, I think you told me that earlier, and I was kind of poking at you a little bit, seeing if you’re the vegan version of your roller derby self.
Right. In Seattle, you gotta you know, lay off all the, all the meat.
Yeah, you gotta lay off, settle down a little bit. So let’s jump into the topic today. So today, we’re talking about how do you manage work and home, when everything goes wrong. And so when I reach out to different podcast guests, I always talk about like, hey, what’s something you’re actually really passionate to talk about? And Ronnie’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a doozy for you here.” And I think just about everybody in the last few years has had this topic top of mind. So Ronnie, what was it about this topic that you’re like, “oh, yeah, I’m ready to go with it”?
I think that it was two things. One of them is I have a lot of disasters that I have, I have somehow managed my way through. And the other one is, I feel like if you were, if you were to Google how to how to survive when everything goes wrong, you’re gonna get a whole lot of, you know, self-help: take a bath, ask for help… you know, you’re gonna get the advice and you’re like, “Well, I know I’m supposed to do all that stuff. But like, how do I do that?” So I have some answers.
Well, so let’s hear about them. First off, walk me through… when you say “everything goes wrong,” is there a certain situation that comes to mind right off the bat that you’re like, “Okay, here’s what happened”? And I don’t know if you want to say you survived or thrived through it.
Yeah. Well, yes. There’s there’s actually one I think that I did not do a really great job with, and I think that surviving through that and reflecting on it taught me a lot so that I was able to manage the next crisis better. Yeah. So I was just out of college. I moved across the country to… I went to college in Illinois; I moved across the country to California, Southern California to teach, and you have to realize I went to school specifically to be a teacher. I’m not one of those people who, you know, tried to figure out what they wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a teacher. And so when we moved to California, I got a job in the public schools teaching high school. And I… being a green teacher, I think I was working like 16 hours a day, just trying to keep up, trying to write curricula trying to make my class interesting, trying to show like how good I can be. And then midway through the school year, I get a phone call, and my uncle died. And I was really close with my uncle because he actually lived really nearby the college I attended. So oftentimes, I would go to his house at the holidays, rather than traveling all the way home. So I was really devastated. But I also was really unsure of what to do. And I probably made the dumbest decision. And it was, “I’m so sorry; I can’t go home because I have this new job, and I don’t want to lose my job.” And so I was not able to go home and mourn with my family. And I felt really bad about it. And then a month later, I got another phone call. And it’s that my dad has cancer. And he’s gonna have major surgery. And again, I was making poor decisions and thinking, “I just have to work my way through if I, you know, if I work really hard, everything will work out okay.” So I still again, didn’t take time off didn’t go home, I found that everything just stank. My work was not what it should be. I was distracted all the time; I couldn’t get lessons done. And so of course, I one day get the news that my contract is not going to be renewed, which is the equivalent of “hey, you’re fired.” And I had never been fired before. In my entire life, I’ve never been fired from a job at this point. And I had no idea what to do because that’s what I went to school for. It was like my first foray into professional life, and I failed. And I, I look at that experience and even at that point, I don’t think I got it right away; I started applying for work. I thought for sure my life was over and that I’d never get another teaching job. And luckily, I was hired by another great school and ended up with a positive experience. But I didn’t do things right, and I paid the price for it. I think we think that working harder is going to solve a problem. Right? And sometimes you just really need to provide yourself with space in order to deal with other things. So whether that’s making sure you’re not so overloaded that when one thing falls, the whole castle collapses. Or it’s, you know, realizing I need to say, “I have to take time off because I’m distracted. And I can’t work really hard.” Those were the lessons I learned. But I still even then had many, many lessons to learn.
So Ronnie, I think there’s an important thing right in the middle of what you’re talking about, of like you, you were going through these difficult times. You poured yourself into work, and then work was taken away from you. And you know, thinking about someone coming right out of college, I think we all deal with this, but especially if that important juncture in your life, that really hits at identity, right? Your identity in some way is wrapped up as “I’m a teacher, I’m a good teacher, I’m going to be able to find my way through it.” And so how do you recover from your identity being shaken so much at the core there? Like, are you asking questions like, “am I Ronnie, the teacher? Am I Ronnie who just so happens to be a teacher?” You see what I mean? Like, like, what goes on right there?
Yeah, yeah, well, like I said, this was a fairly good example of me doing everything wrong. So I was shaken to the core. And I, I really didn’t know what to do at the time. And what I, I even still made mistakes. I thought I can teach; I got to work extra, extra hard, and this school is going to change their mind. Which is, you know, ridiculous. I don’t know how many people have ever been fired and then their boss is like, “oh, you know what? I changed my mind; you’re not so bad.” Never happened before. But I thought maybe it would. But I think it was almost exhaustion that made me realize that I, I can’t do it all. And I don’t think I was unshook until I started teaching at my second job and realized that I could do a good job. And so not, not the best lessons learned except for what not to do, I would say. But I do. I do learn lessons along the way.
Let’s hear about them. What do you got?
All right, 10 years later… this is, I think, the, the most fun story I think I tell at every party. No, about 10 years later, I am about to have my first child. And yeah, I know. And Greg, my husband, and I worked at the same job. And so we’re trying to figure out who’s gonna do part-time and who’s going to do full-time and figuring out like, how we’re going to manage having a kid and work. And I had six weeks maternity leave. Now, this was not six weeks of paid maternity leave; it’s six weeks of 60% paid maternity leave. So not the best deal. But at the time, I think people were, you know, impressed by me getting paid at all to take a maternity leave. But six weeks is not a lot, a long time. And the last two weeks of my pregnancy, I was put on bed rest. So I lost two weeks of maternity leave. And then when Haiti was born, we had all sorts of complications, and so we ended up in the hospital for another week. So by the time I get home, I have three weeks before I have to go back to work to bond with my child, and all was going great. And then my husband comes home one day and says, “I got fired. And because I’m fired, I don’t have any, you know, unemployment or anything like that.” And, and that just, you know, the, I felt like the world was gonna fall apart. And I think I’ve recovered from this because I learned that I need to do things differently than I had done in the past. And so I took one week, one extra week of unpaid vacation, to build a plan. And the plan was, I need community. I need to negotiate a better situation at my job. And I need to reach out to people, but I’m not a very social individual. But I literally started knocking on my neighbor’s doors that I know had kids about, you know, within a year of Haiti’s age. And I, I’d shake their hand and be like, “Hi, I’m Ronnie, I have a baby; you have a baby, let’s be friends.” So super awkward. This is, you know, not a lot of people are knocking on each other’s doors. But I built a community for myself that way, and we split, we swapped childcare so that I could work. I went back to work, and I said, “Hey, let’s negotiate my salary because now, I have extra commitments.” And they said, “No.” And so I did, I think the most daring thing I’ve done in my life, and I quit. And I think about that time now and what I learned, you know, about not settling and taking a risk and using my community to help me thrive. And I look at where I was at this job that barely got me groceries to where I am today. And I’m so glad my husband got fired, which is, I think, a crazy thing to say but I would not have been able to learn those lessons or, you know, really stand up for myself if I hadn’t had that happen to me.
This… you hit on a topic there of like the first thing you said is community, community, community, community. And this just makes me think of when, when I actually started at Outreach. I was living in Pennsylvania, and I was driving an hour to and from work. At the time, we had one car, and my wife and I, we had our first kid, and we did a home birth, okay, decided to do home birth. Without getting into all the details, it did not go as planned.
I was supposed to be a home birth too. That was supposed to be a home birth, and it did not go as planned.
It did not go as planned. And basically, it took my wife, I think, like eight months to recover, like physically recover. She had all kinds of postpartum depression that we didn’t, like, we didn’t even know at the time that that’s what it was. I remember thinking, “oh my gosh, we had this baby, and my wife is a fundamentally different person.” Like, I don’t know what to do with this. And we lived through that whole year as probably the hardest year of our marriage, hardest year of like her… She was alone a lot with this baby, didn’t have a community around her. We had one car; we lived in the middle of nowhere. And when I say middle of nowhere, I mean, like a town of 1200 people, okay, we were living in the middle of nowhere. And I remember when we moved to Seattle, just like switch flipped with my wife. And she said, like, “I’m not going to be alone here. I’m going to build a community.” And it just makes me think a lot of what you were talking about Ronnie. In our apartment, and this is like Seattle, freeze Seattle, right? Don’t go and talk to people. Like she would let… sit out in the lobby and wait for, wait for people to show up that would have kids, and she would talk to them. She’s like, I’m gonna meet you, right? Like the church we went to, this we went to, that we went… like she was everywhere, trying to meet people as much as… she would sign up for… I think Seattle is great about this, like, have a lot of mom groups; I can’t remember the names of them. But they were just like, like, generic, you’re in this neighborhood, and you’re a mom, do you want to come hang out? Like, she was everywhere trying to build community. And I’m telling you, Ronnie, it made all the difference, like, when she had a huge community around her. And you know, husband was also doing a better job of coming home. Like, my goodness. Like, that’s what helped prop her up. And that taught me a lot about, like, how important it is to journey together. You know what I mean?
Yeah, for sure. You know, and it’s, it has to be so purposeful. You can’t just hope that a community happens; you really have to put yourself out there, which is something I’m not great at. But I do have to say, it did help me learn how to actually network well, and so, you know, going from door to door, introducing myself to strangers, made it much easier for me to hop on LinkedIn and say, “Hey, I see that you have this job. Can you tell me about it? Because I’m interested in that field.” So you know that, taking that step made it a lot easier to take other risks. And then when somebody says no, here’s the really surprising thing. When somebody says no, they don’t have time. I didn’t, like fall off the planet. Right? Which I think people don’t ask because they’re afraid of no, and sales… that’s a huge, huge thing; you can’t be afraid of no, right? You have to take that and go with it and be okay with it.
Do you… everywhere you go, do you work? Like I know you were living in Georgia before you moved back to Seattle. Was that, like, a major initiative now everywhere you go, the first thing you think about is community, thinking about your planning days? Is that like, first on the list, or is it like third on the list?
No. Yeah, I think it’s absolutely first. And I think that now I’m at the point where I do it without really having to, to, you know, coax myself to go out there and meet people. I know all my neighbors. I don’t think I knew all my neighbors when I was a kid when they’re, you know, when that was easier. But I know, I have their phone numbers; we actually will hang out on Friday nights together. In Georgia, it was the same way. But yeah, it’s definitely, I think, the most important part.
So walk me through this concept, a lot of the things that we’ve talked about is how like, on the personal side, this was going on, and then it affected work in some way or life in some way. But in the, in the heart of this conversation of managing work and home when everything goes wrong, like when home’s a little bit of a struggle, like what are you doing over there at work?
That’s, that’s a good question. And so I’ve had a couple of situations where everything at home has fallen apart. And I’ve actually even had managers say, “Oh, just throw yourself into your work, because that’ll, you know, help you feel better.” And, and my answer to that is, “yes, some days, some days throwing myself into my work is the right answer. And some days it’s ‘I can’t work because I just need to take a mental health day.’” And I think having that communication and setting those standards with your manager is, is really helpful. When my dad did die two years ago, it was really hard, and my manager said, “Oh, I know you; you’ll be fine if you throw yourself into your work. You’re gonna be okay.” And I had to say, “No, I can’t. I, I’m gonna need time off.”
How was that received?
Fine. Again, it’s okay to ask for stuff. You know, it’s… I think there’s a part of me that’s still 21 and thinks that if I ask for something and I, the answer’s no, something’s going to explode. But nothing explodes. You can say no and, and move on.
I wonder how much… let me just backtrack a little bit like thinking about, I mean, I’ve read posts on LinkedIn; I’ll hear horror stories, so to speak of like, “I had a manager who did this and a manager who did that.” And I think there are certainly bad actors out there. Let me not like misconstrue this at all. I think there’s some folks that are like trying to squeeze every last piece of juice out of “Yeah, right, let’s get all the value we can until there’s nothing left and discard you” and whatever else. But I also think there’s a lot of managers that, like, they’re a lot like Ronnie, but they’re the manager, and maybe they don’t know what to do, too. Right? And so maybe their answer is “throw, like, I threw myself into work. And that’s how I got through it. Whether it was healthy or not, I don’t know.” Or this situation came up, I don’t know how to, like, if you think about it, think about your frontline managers, even your directors, like how much training does leadership get, in how to connect, and, and like, have those really delicate conversations with people? Like I can’t think of anywhere other than maybe one HR training that talks a little bit about, like interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Like, that’s all I can remember ever having. And so like, how well are we equipped, even as leaders to talk to, like, the folks that work with us on “Oh, man, this just happened. Like, what should I say to Ronnie here? Because I don’t know.”
Yeah, I think that we’re… I know that I’m seeing improvements in places, dealing with the empathy and interpersonal skills, and how you, you know, the diversity, equity inclusion movements has had a positive influence, influence on, you know, empathy training, as well. So I have seen managers improve over time, but you know, you’re right; a lot of times, it’s, if it’s not that they don’t want to do the right thing, but that they don’t, they don’t know how to, or they’re gonna take whatever you give them. You know, a lot of companies are like that; they’ll take whatever you give them, if you want to give them, you know, 60 hours a week, they’ll take 60 hours a week. But so it’s up to you to say, “I’m gonna give you this time.” And it’s managers… I’ve, I’ve run into a couple of managers recently, who do put that line in the sand for their employees. And but that’s a rarity. I think the employees do you need to still stick up for themselves.
Well, I think to your part point, by and large, you won’t be punished. And I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. I think there’s some places that it does. There’s some stories that it’s certainly the truth, and it’s unfortunate. But you know, famous saying, “don’t ask, don’t get” right? Like you might as well ask the question. But on the other side of that, like there is a responsibility as like leadership to think about how do you, how do you help folks that are processing not just work, but also life; even though it’s not really in the job title, it kind of is. And what I mean by that is, I’ll just give you an example. There was an individual in our team at one point in time, just really fantastic, super hard worker, had some stuff going on in the home. But like she couldn’t not do the work. Like it would just plague her mind to not do… So we started to meet every Thursday in the morning. And we would say, “Okay, what’s left on the list for the week? Let’s prioritize this from 1 to 10. We’re gonna say the top two and how much time is it gonna take? Get that done. And the other eight things? I give you permission not to do it, not that you don’t need my permission, you know, not that you actually need it.” But hear her hearing those words of, “hey, these eight things, we talked about it? You don’t need to do it. We’ll start that next Monday.” It was like that release point of, okay, “I can just let this go. Like it’s okay to let it go.”
Yeah, that’s fine on Fridays to go “you know what? I don’t have to do this before the weekend. And I’m, I’m going to put it away. And it’s going to be the first thing I’ll do on Monday” because it’s really hard to let that stuff go. And I, it, you have to train your brain to get into weekend mode, and not always be in work mode. And I think a part of that is you know, turning off your Slack notifications, turning off your email notifications. I, I still check I… Oh, you have a flip phone and that is fantastic! My old manager didn’t have email on his phone. And it taught me a lot because and that’s the other thing is if a manager sets that precedence, right, you have a flip phone, the people that work for you they can follow that lead and go, “You know what I know… You know, I know Jordan is not checking his email.” Right. Yeah. So you have to lead through example.
So Ronnie, we have just a little bit of time left, I think we’ve talked about, you know, not big topics, right? Just like personal identity, community, setting boundaries. Is there anything else, as you think about navigating some of this work and home life that you’re like, you know what, like, it also matters?
I think it’s so easy for people to say, “hey, ask for help.” But it’s so hard to actually ask for help. And I think one of the lessons we can learn as people who watch other people go through situations is to not say, “Hey, do you need some help?” But say, “Hey, I’m going to pick up dinner for you.” Or, “hey, you should take the last half of the day off.” You know, I think we need to be really specific about how we can help each other out because if you ask somebody, “how can I help you? Or do you need help?” The immediate answer is going to be “no, I got it. It’s okay.” Right? So being specific about how you can help somebody is important. And then learning how to accept help is important.
Yeah, I’ve started telling people, like, let’s say there’s a life event that goes on. And usually, folks will ask, is there anything I can do? I’ve just started telling people, “Hey, Tuesday night, does that work? We’re gonna bring you food.” I’m still asking for permission, but I’m kinda not. And for some reason, framing it that way, folks are more likely to say like, “Thank you,” as opposed to “I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to burden you.” But it does. It makes a difference. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s one of the hardest things about COVID and how we shut down. And you know, Ronnie, I’ll sort of out some of my philosophy here. And now I’m not going down the COVID train for good or for bad or for ugly, I’m staying away from that. I’m simply saying, I think one of the sort of devastating impacts of that was that we couldn’t just be together. And as humans, we are fundamentally wired, designed, in my opinion here, to be like, we’re social creatures, like we are designed to live life together. And that’s what made that so hard. But it doesn’t… it’s not just like, COVID is the easy thing now. Right? Oh, Jordan, “COVID, we were all locked down”. But even when there isn’t a COVID and even isn’t, there isn’t a forced lockdown. Like there was still my wife, that went through postpartum, or postpartum depression, didn’t have a community around her. And like, she was isolated. That was you, Ronnie. You know, thinking about… that’s the situation when husband got fired. And you’re like, “Well, wait a minute, we got to start building some community here. We need to build an action plan,” whatever. You know, I think there’s a lot of folks that are kind of living in that isolation. And like, man, we’re designed to be together.
We are, and we have gotten so used to not being together, that it’s going to be really hard for some people to pull themselves out. You know, Seattle is a great, there’s a joke in Seattle… You know, because of the Seattle freeze, when COVID came around. There was like a meme that’s like, “okay, Seattle, we’ve been planning this, you know, we’ve been practicing this for a long time. Now, as you know, now’s our chance to prove ourselves, because we are not the most extroverted, you know, group of people according to, you know, whatever stereotypes you hear about Seattle,” but there are a lot of people out there who shut down, and it wasn’t so hard to shut down. Because that’s, you know, sort of their normal M.O. But now that, that the world is opening up, to get them to open up again, is twice as hard, three times as hard.
And it’s not, it’s not even necessarily about like, “oh, the whole world needs to be extroverted”. Like that’s not the answer, but it is like, whether you have 10 good friends or one good friend, right? I mean, there’s just, there’s a tremendous amount of value in having that person that says, “Ronnie, are you all right?”
Right. And when you, no matter what we are social, human; you know, human beings are naturally social. That’s how we’ve survived, right? So when you are introverted, and nothing’s forcing you to take those steps to talk to other people, it can be really, really easy to crawl into your little hole and, and forget the world exists and then you think about mentally what that does to you. Right? It’s, it’s really difficult.
Well, Ronnie, I think we’re actually coming right up on time. I think this is just, you know, a pretty relevant conversation at any point in time. I think we touched on small topics, like I said: identity, community, help, you know, being social together, drawing boundaries, like these are all things that these themes whether you’re 10 years old, or you’re 80 years old, like these things all matter throughout the entire journey. And so I hope that, for the folks listening today, that this encourages you in some way; it makes you, like Ronnie, start knocking on some doors maybe. Or even folks that you already know, just stopping for a second and instead of saying “how you doing today?” and they say “okay,” and you say “okay, whatever,” just stopping for a second saying “yeah, but how are you really doing? Really, like, you okay?” Even if we do a little bit of that, you know, this podcast episode today will serve its purpose. So Ronnie, thanks for coming on, and making us think a little bit deeper on how we interact with each other.
Yeah, thank you for having me. It’s been a blast.
Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.