Episode 80: Drop the Ball

Published February 17, 2017.

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda we have Cheeto Watch featuring the crumbling of characters like Mike Flynn and Andy Puzder and the decline of Kellyanne Conway plus a powerful handshake with Justin Trudeau. We also have an interview with the incredible Tiffany Dufu who is a writer, a speaker, an activist, who has written a book called Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less which don't we all want that?

[Theme Song]

(1:55)

Ann: The Cheeto is crumbling. That is like the headline. The headline. Orange dust has fallen all over America. We are like still in resistance mode but some things are maybe starting to give. I don't know. That's the headline of what I've been paying attention to for the week, I'll be frank. There's some like B-level news but that's the headline.

Aminatou: Here's the problem with all the news is you literally step away to do like your real work or, I don't know, take the train for 30 minutes, and some like big news has happened. I just . . . the pace is unsustainable.

Ann: Did you see there's a website called What the Fuck Happened Today? that aggregates it all?

Aminatou: Yes.

Ann: There are some things like that that I appreciate but it doesn't actually reduce the overwhelm for me to read it all in one place or read the news at night and check back. I went to the spa for four phoneless hours yesterday and still felt overwhelmed when I checked in.

Aminatou: And the government had crumbled, like literally. I mean we had pledged allegiance to Russia and the government had crumbled and all you did was get a body scrub.

Ann: It's true, I didn't even get a body scrub. It was like a quick spa trip. I mean, oof.

Aminatou: That's crazy. I mean let's just put it in context this way: yesterday two lady assassins, one wearing a t-shirt that said LOL on it, assassinated the stepbrother I guess?

Ann: Stepbrother? Half-brother?

Aminatou: Half-brother. The half-brother of the North Korean dictator. And that was not the craziest story of the day. It wasn't even like top ten.

Ann: I know, but you should really check out the screen grabs of the security footage of the women in the LOL shirts because if you are going to be a repressive regime's hired assassin you definitely are wearing a LOL Shirt. What? It's mind-blowing.

(3:45)

Aminatou: I know. Here's the problem with these lady assassins. I was honestly really disappointed because I feel -- one of them got captured today at the airport.

Ann: Oh, really?

Aminatou: So they assassinated him at the airport, right? And then she showed up at the airport again. Like they don't have CCTV with her face on it. Here's the problem: in the movie version of this, right, you run to another terminal and get on a plane to like Switzerland then nobody ever finds you.

Ann: Yes, immediately. You don't put on your WTF shirt and go back to the airport the next day only to be caught.

Aminatou: I know. I'm embarrassed for lady assassins everywhere.

Ann: Yeah, but it's totally crazy. And so, you know, the news -- obviously like everyone watched our Cheeto president absorb this news, because guess what? One of his supporters was taking photos at his private resort that he's using for personal enrichment while he's president. I mean every part of this is crazy. Even like the way it's filtered through and into American politics.

Aminatou: Right. It's like they're out there sitting at Mar-a-Lago which I get so angry when they call it the winter White House. I'm like I'm sorry, first of all that's garbage and second of all that's just another one of your get rich quick schemes.

Ann: Yeah, especially when it's . . .

Aminatou: They're just sitting there talking about secure stuff in front of everybody, right? I'm just like this . . . it's like people who are in the spy business, you've just made it too easy for them.

Ann: Yeah. I mean I guess if the spy business is like LOL t-shirts, show up at the airport the next day, maybe they needed to be . . . maybe that's the lesson of like he's meeting them at their level.

Aminatou: Incompetent spies everywhere.

Ann: Oh my god. But, well, we did get a spy-related resignation this week as well. Sort of.

Aminatou: Oh my God, are you talking about Mike Flynn, Sr.?

Ann: I am. Wait, is he Mike Flynn, Sr.? [Laughs]

Aminatou: Well yeah. Oh my God, do you not know about Mike Flynn, Jr.?

Ann: No.

Aminatou: Who is one of the biggest ringleaders of pizza gate.

Ann: What?

Aminatou: I'm not going to explain pizza gate on this podcast because we don't have time.

Ann: Google it.

Aminatou: But do yourself a favor.

Ann: I did not know that.

(5:50)

Aminatou: Also Mike Flynn, Jr. is kind of part of the reason why Mike Flynn, Sr. got fired because he tried to get security clearance for his conspiracy theory mongering son. And also he like committed treason with Russia. 

Ann: Right. Side note, committed treason.

Aminatou: I've been dying to say treason on this podcast so I'm happy. Literally our government has like pledged allegiance to Russia. It's nuts.

Ann: This is where the kind of screaming fake news false equivalencies start to really -- like their strategy can really pay off, right? Because it's like oh, when the truth sounds this absurd and you've done all this work to discredit real reporters who are breaking this then . . . I mean it's already hard enough to sort of say "Look, here's real reporting that supports a thing that sounds so nuts, it sounds like a conspiracy . . ." Like i.e., pre-Internet scandal Watergate, you know what I mean? [Laughs]

Aminatou: Well, I know. And the whole thing is a mind fuck, right? Like it's really hard for me to sit and watch Republicans for example really pretend that this is not the biggest scandal since Watergate like what is happening right now with Russia. It's really weird to me that everybody is rooting for the deep state, you know? On some level I think it is fundamentally really scary that our intelligence agencies are reporting on private conversations that people have and they don't tell you what the content of the conversations are but we're supposed to believe that they're nefarious. People are just rooting for the wrong thing left and right. It's like no, none of this is normal and none of it is good. Like the FBI is not the person to root for. The government is not the person to root for. And at the same time everybody is terrible.

I was watching, I think it was like on . . . I watch too much cable news these days. It's already on in the background. But somebody asked one of the Republican no-name congressmen, you know how there's always one guy from nowhere?

Ann: Sure.

Aminatou: One of them, they were like "Why do you think the GOP is really quiet on this?" And literally his answer was "Well, it's Valentine's Day. They're probably having breakfast with their wives."

(8:00)

Ann: Shut up. No.

Aminatou: I was like, hand to God, that was the quote. And the part about this that's nuts is I'm like oh my God, you people are all liars. You just didn't want a lady president and now you're in bed with Russian intelligence. Like this is insane.

Ann: I know, every new development in this Russia story I picture a majority of Americans screaming "But her emails!" in unison. "But her emails!" Like seriously I just can't even . . . I don't know. And that's why I said the thing about sort of like this false equivalency between scandals that they have managed to create by discrediting everything, and also by like, you know, having people interview Republicans who say with a straight face "Oh, because it's Valentine's Day." I hope whoever was hosting that news program looked into the camera and apologized for all the viewers.

Aminatou: No. This whole thing is crazy, but it's also just realizing, you know, it's like obviously everybody knows that Congress is partisan and everybody is partisan. But it's a huge scandal. This is actually serious. Regardless of your party affiliation everybody should be really shocked about what is happening here. Never mind, I take it all back. You elect a reality TV personality, you're going to get a reality TV presidency.

Ann: Ugh, yeah. I mean and along those lines not our girl Kellyanne QVC Conway, also on the out, although not officially resigned as of this recording . . .

Aminatou: People are saying, Ann -- a lot of people -- that he unfollowed her on Twitter.

Ann: No! Wait, shouldn't we be able to check this?

Aminatou: Yeah, but I mean I'm not going to do the work when there's just rumors out there. Please.

Ann: This is a completely verifiable rumor. That's all I'm saying.

(9:45)

Aminatou: Yeah. So she's -- also like she changed her picture to some fake empowerment shit and she changed her header. It used to be like a Trump thing and now it's not and I was like uh-oh, what's going on here? What's next? An iOS press release about how you guys aren't friends anymore? What's going to happen?

Ann: I can't wait to see her make her speech about being a powerful woman outnumbered in the White House. Like what the hell? That is like the pivot is ready. She's ready to do it.

Aminatou: She is such a snake. Like she always tries to use feminism in these ways that she thinks are really wily and smart and instead I'm like no, constant vigilance. Like we see you. You're a bad person.

[Music]

Ann: Speaking of wily figures I know you saw our Canadian trying to be feminist heart throb's visit to the White House, well-documented.

Aminatou: You mean Canadian Joanne the Scammer?

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Justin the Scammer?

Ann: Indeed. You know who I'm talking about.

Aminatou: I was so annoyed to see him come visit as he calls us his neighbors to the south.

Ann: I had the full spectrum of emotions watching the clip of the handshake, of the like . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs] The handshake was epic.

Ann: So I encourage anyone with a passing interest in various modes of masculinity and power and dominance to study this tiny clip. I want somebody to write a dissertation about different ways of trying to telegraph many, many messages to the world with like this one gesture because it was pretty epic. He had clearly reviewed tapes, like some kind of getting ready for a major sports event.

Aminatou: Yeah. He's like how do you neutralize somebody whose handshake you don't really want to participate in?

Ann: I know, but I was like he should've just led him down some stairs.

Aminatou: Because as we all -- because people are saying . . .

Ann: People are saying.

Aminatou: People are saying our president's afraid of stairs.

Ann: Or, you know, asked him what's the last book he read? Or try to make him something to read on the spot, like to be true to this podcast's favorite conspiracy theory. Obviously we are Trudeau skeptics in terms of him being totally perfect, but just in terms of if you're seeking to humiliate someone who is as boorish as the Cheeto it's almost like you play his game, you fall by his rules. Like it ends up looking like a weird masculinity-off no matter what, you know what I mean? Like it would've played differently I feel like if he were like a female leader. I don't know.

(12:20)

Aminatou: It's true. Well, one of my favorite things about this visit that was really weird is this is the visit they used to talk about lady empowerment.

Ann: Oh my God.

Aminatou: So Ivanka was there and then there was like a room full of Canadian business ladies who live in America. Like it was so strange. But the best part of all of it was all of the pictures of Ivanka just being so excited that Trudeau was there, some ladies, leave your man at home shit. It was so funny.

Ann: [Laughs] I mean he seems like he could be her type, you know?

Aminatou: I mean he's definitely her type. He's like her -- yes, no, definitely. But she was so smitten and it's like look at these signs of life. She laughs.

Ann: I know. Oh, what else? Any remaining items for Cheeto Watch before we move on?

Aminatou: I mean a lot of things. We haven't even covered the service. So it's like yeah, Kellyanne's bad, Mike Flynn hopefully will go to jail. Omarosa who definitely got hired because she's a goon, she threatened April Ryan who is this really awesome journalist lady and basically almost came to fisticuffs in the White House and other people saw this. And Omarosa was just like -- got in her face and threatened her with dossiers the White House has on journalists which seems really nefarious. But I'm like from observing this White House I don't believe that they have a dossier on anybody. I'm like you guys can't even fill out paperwork to keep the lights on in here.

(13:52)

Ann: It's like a Google Doc with three links in it that nobody remembers to update. That's like the dossier.

Aminatou: It's just like who almost hits somebody at work? You know what I mean? Like it's so disrespectful. Also April Ryan is an icon. Like don't comfort her.

Ann: And also what is Omarosa's long game? Like honestly that's what I just keep thinking about. It's like okay, Kellyanne, we see the QVC pseudo-feminist right wing exit plan for you, right? Like I can see it. But what is Omarosa's exit plan?

Aminatou: Just being a goon.

Ann: Well, and we haven't even talked about how Oprah factors into this week's Cheeto Watch news which is a gross oversight.

Aminatou: Oh my god, Oprah. First of all, happy Valentine's Day to my real parents, Oprah and Stedman.

Ann: [Laughs] We love you!

Aminatou: We love you. Thanks for your love and for making me.

Ann: Yeah, so the background is we have known for some time that Andy Puzder who is the . . .

Aminatou: Captain Hardey's.

Ann: Captain -- well, Carl's Jr./Hardey's. So . . .

Aminatou: So Carl Sr.

Ann: Carl Sr. was accused by his ex-wife of being physically abusive to her which came out during . . .

Aminatou: Side bar, so many of these cabinet nominees have been accused of beating their wives.

Ann: Well you know what? It's a strong predictor for terrorism so that makes a lot of sense. They're all . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, white male terrorism. Actually all terrorism. Never mind.

Ann: Exactly. Yeah, no, and then these men are just collectively terrorizing us. Anyway . . . so yeah, so we kind of -- we had known about this. It was covered at the time in the local press in Missouri and it was like, you know, made lady Internet and mainstream news outlets when he was nominated. But it didn't really seem to get much traction with Republican senators, i.e. the people whose votes matter most when it comes to opposing him, until a political reporter finally got the tape of his ex-wife's appearance incognito on Oprah's show to talk about these allegations.

Aminatou: Yeah, because Oprah turned the tapes over.

(16:00)

Ann: I mean this is a strong -- a strong possibility, right?

Aminatou: No, I think it was reported that that's actually exactly what happened.

Ann: Yes. Side bar . . .

Aminatou: People are saying. People are saying.

Ann: People are saying.

Aminatou: That's how I'm going to cover my ass any time I say something that I'm not willing to look up again.

Ann: People are saying, i.e., it might've been a tweet or it might've been a deeply-sourced article in a reputable . . .

Aminatou: People are saying. But you know Oprah does this shit all the time. This is the Duggar brother, the one who molested his sisters, that's how he got out of the paint is Oprah had the evidence and then she released it.

Ann: Oh my god. So after this footage released, which p.s. her incognito look on Oprah is really strong and I'm not only saying that . . .

Aminatou: I know. It's very strong.

Ann: I know, side bar, very serious issue, not to detract, but she does look incredible. And it's also worth mentioning that his ex-wife later retracted the allegations and so, you know, whatever. There's all of . . . there's all of that complicated mess going on. But the tape was sufficiently persuasive to a handful of GOP senators that he scurried back into his little fast food hole.

Aminatou: Yeah, that guy's such a piece of shit. My God. I'm glad that he's -- yeah, it's like get him out of here.

Ann: Yeah, the worst. So that is another thing that happened. That was like Oprah ex machina. Like every week a different black woman is saving the country.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: So good.

Aminatou: That's our gift for you for Black History Month. Don't worry.

Ann: Oh my God, so many -- Black History Month is the month that keeps on giving. This is like the month where we've started to see I think some real progress on like the resistance, so . . .

Aminatou: Give us a whole year. Black History Year.

(17:50)

Ann: I mean I'm willing to extend it for as long as necessary, i.e. decades.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Black History Millennium. Thank you.

Ann: That's a great project. That will be like your retirement career, Black History Millennium.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

[Music and ads]

(20:25)

Ann: Okay, so in a very non-newsy like exhale together break . . .

Aminatou: [Exhales] Woosah.

Ann: [Laughs] I interviewed the incredible Tiffany Dufu who is a writer and an activist and a speaker and someone whose work I've known about for a while but who I have never met IRL and she has a new book out this week called Drop the Ball, which listen to this subtitle: it says Achieving More by Doing Less.

Aminatou: Oh my God, sold.

Ann: She can sell this book to any woman ever anywhere with a subtitle like that. I'll let her explain it in our conversation, but I think she's sort of targeting it in many ways at women who have a lot of responsibilities with their families or at home and also have a lot of really big important drives and desires in their careers. However, there is a really important in this political moment lesson as well of like what are the things that you can kind of let go and let slide when everything feels big and pressing and important?

[Music]

[Interview starts]

Ann: Tiffany, thanks for being on the podcast.

Tiffany: Thank you for having me.

Ann: I'm really excited to talk to you in part because you are a woman who specializes in feelings of overwhelm. [Laughs]

Tiffany: Yes.

Ann: I think that . . . and I think that those are feelings that many of us are having right now. Maybe you can talk a little bit about your work and about your book and about what you do?

Tiffany: Yeah, absolutely. Well my life's work is advancing women and girls. When people ask me at cocktail parties "What do you do?" that's what I say. So my life is very simple. I already know what's on my tombstone and I'm just kind of project managing my life backwards.

(22:13)

Ann: Oh my god, what's the phrase? What's the phrase on your tombstone? I have to know.

Tiffany: "She got to as many women as she could."

Ann: Oh my god, I love that. Sorry to cut you off. Okay.

Tiffany: No, no. No, it's fine. But either way, you know, I'm just kind of project managing my life backwards and right now I feel really lucky that I get to execute my purpose as the author of Drop the Ball and also as chief leadership officer at Levo. And, you know, for most of my career I've been focused on collective solutions to getting more women into leadership which is one of the things I'm pretty obsessed about. And so I've been largely an advocate for equal pay for equal work, for public policies like affordable childcare, for corporate practices like flex work situations in order for us to create environments and cultures where women can bring their full selves to the table.

But I wrote this book because that wasn't necessarily what women were asking to talk about with me. So I have a public speaking practice, and particularly in 2013 because I was a surrogate for Lean In, I was on the launch team for Lean In, I did a lot of public speaking. And one of the observations that I made was that every time I would give a speech for 45 minutes or an hour about all of these collective solutions that I thought were really important the first set of questions I would receive immediately following in the Q&A would be what seemed to me personal questions that had nothing to do with what I had just spoken about.

(23:45)

So for example I'd wrap up a talk and a woman would raise her hand furiously and say "Okay, I have a question, Tiffany. I heard your talk about your daughter who's seven and your son who's ten and you said something about your husband and he's in Dubai right now. You're in San Francisco with us but you live in New York and tomorrow you're going to be in Baltimore. I really like your dress. Your shoes are great too and you seem really happy and perky and fit and you're into this career that you have that's all about your passion and purpose. And honestly I'm just trying to figure out how are you doing all of this?" And, you know, all of the other women in the audience would just kind of clap like yeah, we were kind of wondering the same thing.

And I would always answer that question with this one liner. I would say "Well, I just expect far more from my husband and way less from myself than the average woman," which got enough laughs that I could move people on to what I thought were the more substantive questions that they should be asking me about what we should do for all women.

Ann: Right.

Tiffany: But one day I literally stepped back from the podium and I had what I call a Tiffany's epiphany which was . . .

Ann: [Laughs] Oh my God.

Tiffany: Tiffany, it's not about you, honey. They're not asking you how do you manage it all because they care about you. They're asking you that question because they're trying to figure out for themselves how can I manage it? And the answer that you're giving them is not sufficient for someone whose life's work is advancing women and girls. You owe them a better answer. 

And you -- one of the things that Marie Wilson taught me, who is just my sage and my mentor and my sponsor which I hope we'll get to the importance of those people in my life, she taught me that Tiffany, if you ever want to create real change in the world you're going to have to meet people where they are.

And what occurred to me in that moment was while I was pushing women to aspire to be a CEO or a senator or an entrepreneur, they were telling me okay, that's great, but I'm just trying to figure out how to get out of the house with everyone at the right time with the right backpack. So can you just help me with that first?

(26:00)

And I realized over time as I delved into this work that it's very difficult to be ambitious and to live your ambition when you just have a lot on your plate and you're very overwhelmed and in fact the overwhelm itself can stifle our ambition. And that's why I decided that I needed to write something that in my opinion now in hindsight could've been a precursor to Lean In which is Drop the Ball First, Honey, so that you have the bandwidth to lean in.

Ann: You and I both live in a country that has pretty inadequate social policies to support women but, you know, people in general trying to sort of life a full life. So part of me is like this is a problem that definitely manifests itself among women who have a certain career aspiration or are devoted in a certain way to like a life passion. But it's also kind of an everyone problem, right? As I was reading your book, the thing -- I went into it with this number one question, which is dropping the ball sounds great. Achieving more by doing less sounds perfect. Like there's nothing I want to do more than achieve more by doing less. But which balls to drop? How do you start to really pick apart what that means? What can you let go of when there frankly are not that many external supports for a lot of this stuff?

Tiffany: Mm-hmm, absolutely. So the honest answer to the question that they were asking me, I needed to tell my own story which is the person they were seeing in front of the room with the beautiful shoes and the dress that seemed to have it all together, she wasn't always like that, right? There was a point in time where I quite frankly was a hot mess and the first step in me figuring out what balls to drop, because in the beginning I didn't know that balls could be dropped. I was terrified of dropping balls. I thought it was really important to have it all together in order to be successful so this was certainly a huge evolution for me personally.

(27:55)

But the first step for me was getting clear about what mattered most to me. And that is normally where I start with women because when I begin to just start with "What's on your plate? And what is it that you feel pressure to do? And what is it that you have to do?" a lot of what I receive back are often expectations that originated with other people, not with her herself.

And so, you know, the first step is really taking a step back and evaluating hmm, you know, what is it that I want to do in the world that's going to make a difference? What are the things that are important to me? Whether it is my family or my career or my friendships or my own personal well-being. And what do I hope to achieve in relationship to those things?

And one of the things that I started with is that my life's work is advancing women and girls. That's certainly one of the things that matters most to me. But two other things involve nurturing a healthy partnership with my husband and raising conscious global citizens. And on a daily basis I'm very focused on relentlessly figuring out what my highest and best use is to achieving what matters most to me because what that does is it creates a filter whereby you can do something -- you can prioritize or you can completely obliterate the things that are on your list.

And there are certainly some things that can be and should be delegated to other people, but the point of the book at the end of the day and the ball that I really would hope women to drop is the unrealistic expectation that we are supposed to do a lot of things that don't necessarily ladder up to what matters most to us or that don't necessarily reflect our highest and best use and doing what matters most to us. So what's where I begin.

Ann: Yeah. And that can be so hard, I think. Definitely speaking personally, but also, you know, based on conversations I've had with friends, figuring out what is just an external expectation of you that doesn't actually align with things that you care about. But I mean I know what you're saying sounds like really in a way simple, in a refreshing way. I don't mean that in a demeaning sense at all. But when I start to think about it for myself I'm like oh, do I feel better when my office is clean because that's an important thing for my work life? Or is that like an expectation that I've internalized? I mean that's a really minor example, but you know, I do think that it can be really difficult for women sometimes to separate external expectations from their internal desires and priorities.

(30:39)

Tiffany: Oh, it's excruciatingly difficult. In fact it's so difficult because we like to imagine and think of ourselves as empowered modern women who are our own change agents because that's who we were told that we were. So it's a very difficult pill to swallow when, you know, I talk to women who for example seem to have this very common expectation as young mothers that they're supposed to be there for their child's first steps. This is one of the responsibilities that's in a job description apparently for all very good, responsible mothers.

And I find it fascinating that regardless of where she came from or what her family values were or how she was raised she feels this pressure. And it ends up being this narrative often at the beginning of your kind of career. You're figuring out, you know, what your priorities are, what you're going to do about this moment where your child takes their first steps, and what you're going to do about it. And if you ask her she'll tell you "No, I want to be there because I think that's really important." And then when I say but I speak to women every week, like six or seven women a week. I don't say no to any woman that reaches out to me. I've been doing this for five years. And every woman when she gets to this point in her motherhood feels very strongly that she's supposed to be there. How can it be that it really came from you and it's really originating with you? Nearly every woman I'm talking to feels this pressure.

(32:08)

I surmise that it must come from something outside of ourselves, and for me that was the first step was really delving into why is it that I feel like I'm a bad mom if my child's hair isn't done? Why is it that I feel like I've committed some kind of moral transgression if the dishes are piled up? What is it about my connection, this relationship between my value and my worth and the roles that I'm playing and the performance of those roles that my husband doesn't seem to have it all? If our son needs a haircut it never would occur to him that he's a bad father because he needs a haircut.

Ann: [Laughs]

Tiffany: You know, for all of us it's very different. For me a lot of it came from my childhood. It came from the model that my mom set and her expectations. Of course she didn't have a full-time career outside of the home. She didn't have a smart phone. She didn't even have email when I was growing up. Some of it came from popular culture. I grew up on the Cosby Show. I thought I was going to be Claire Huxtable. That was my model of a strong, smart, capable woman. You know, it never occurred to me as an adolescent watching the Cosby Show that the idea of a woman having five perfectly well-behaved children, a clean home, and making partner at a law firm was kind of ridiculous.

Ann: Right.

Tiffany: And would be a very difficult thing for me to achieve. So, you know, part of it is really separating what was the social conditioning? What were the expectations that we were taught to feel are ours? And what are the things that now in our current form in life we choose and we identify are the things that are really important to us?

Ann: So do you have exercises or tips for how women can start to unpack that for themselves?

(34:00)

Tiffany: Absolutely. So I really value an internal and an external approach. So I start with a woman really figuring out what is her relationship with herself? There are a couple of exercises. One of them was really cheesy but it works. It was made popular by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and it's a funeral visualization exercise. I don't know if you've ever tried it where you imagine -- although it sounds very morbid -- people eulogizing you at your funeral. So you imagine the future. You don't imagine a tragic death. You imagine, you know, you're in your 90s let's say and you die peacefully. What is it that a family member, a coworker, or a friend might say about you and the impact that you had on the world?

And there is something about shifting your perspective to really think about the end of your time and your journey on this planet in this lifetime that helps you to gain clarity about what really matters most to you and what you want to be known for and what really is important to you.

Sometimes when I'm coaching women I can guide them to another exercise. So for example a lot of people have vivid dreams but they tend not to write them down. Another way to really get in tune with your own voice and with what matters most to you is to just simply write -- like have a notepad by your bed, and as soon as you wake up just write down your dreams, everything that you can remember, and do that for a few weeks and go back and read it. And it's amazing the kind of clarity and the kind of imagery that comes forth.

The second half of the process involves getting feedback from people who know you and have known you in different contexts and in different times in your life and just asking them one simple question which is "When have you seen me at my best? Can you talk about when you've ever seen me at my best?" And to just listen. And after you do it with three or four people, as many people as possible, but even three or four, you can begin to circle the words and the phrases that are common.

(36:05)

And what it does is it gives you a sense of what are people's consistent experience with Tiffany? Or what is their consistent experience with Ann that's kind of the thread that's always been there that can help me to figure out when I mirror that with my own reflection upon myself and the impact I want to make, what really matters most to me? So that's where I start.

Ann: Yeah, and then -- God, I love . . . sorry, I'm already down the funeral exercise in my head. It's like you were talking and I was listening but I was also mentally sort of at my funeral during that part. It would seem like the next step is also sort of acting on that, right? Like then . . .

Tiffany: Yes.

Ann: And, you know, not to harp on this point about support. Like obviously you work -- you work on these issues so you know that, you know, sometimes whether it's cultural or whether it's economic or really concrete it is difficult sometimes to actually then act on the results of all of these conversations with friends and all of your dream journaling and all of that.

Tiffany: Yes.

Ann: So is this something that, you know, the next step of this is women doing that individually? Are there some collective answers to this too?

Tiffany: Well, you know what my collective answers holistically are because I feel like women need more support and families quite frankly just need more support overall with some of this. Women are not going back home. We are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households and we really do need systems setup in order for us to thrive.

I think the challenge for me was women kept saying "I get that, Tiffany, but I just need help right now. So what is a woman who is overwhelmed and has a lot of things on her plate to do in the meantime before society catches up?" And my answer is, well, she'll have to redefine what it means to be both a caregiver and a breadwinner for herself and for her family as opposed to adopting this idea that she's supposed to do that according to other people's expectations and that she's supposed to do that flawlessly.

(38:13)

In the book there are women who I learned a lot from because they weren't partnered in a traditional sense and so they had to be much more creative in figuring out what their scaffolding was. Who were the members of their village? I interviewed two women who were single. They had both been divorced. They both had sons that were about a year-and-a-half apart in age and they had decided they would essentially become roommates and that they would share living expenses. They would share childcare so they would each take turns taking care of the boys and making sure they got what they needed. And their running joke whenever either one of them went out on a date was "Have fun but don't go crazy and marry him," because they had really figured out how to be all-in partners with one another even though they weren't married in the traditional sense.

You know, I come from a culture in which two people aren't completely charged with raising one or two women anyway. My parents were foster parents when I was growing up so I always had this sense that it's a village and it's a community that raises children and supports us in our lives. So it may be that it's a little bit easier for me to pull people into the circle, but certainly everyone from your mentees to your sage mentors to your neighbors can be pulled in in order to help you drop the ball.

Ann: Right. This seems like a really good time to talk about your day job and some of your work in terms of maybe in a little bit more active and concerted way trying to make these networks of support for women.

(39:50)

Tiffany: Oh, absolutely. My day job is, as chief leadership officer of Levo which is a platform for millennial professionals to help them elevate their careers, but more importantly just to help them create a life that they're passionate about. And anyone who's listening who needs support and wants it should absolutely go to levo.com. It's L-E-V-O dot com. And there are local Levo chapters and many markets around the world where you can connect with real-life people. But if you just visit the platform there are people -- mentors -- who are there to help you achieve clarity through guidance and encouragement which at the end of the day is what we all need in order to be successful.

I talked to so many women, Ann, who feel guilty. You know, guilt is this strong sense that you've committed a moral transgression. And I find it ironic and absolutely heartbreaking that the people who spend the most time caring for and being there for and trying to support themselves and others are the very same people who feel that they've committed a moral transgression in the process of doing that. And if there's anything that I've said on your podcast that can help a woman free herself from that, even if it's just a tidbit or a catalyst, that's basically why I'm here.

Ann: Yes. Tell everyone listening where they can find more of your work. Maybe shout out the name of the book one more time. Anywhere else you want to direct people.

Tiffany: Yes, absolutely. The name of the book is Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less. You can find it at tiffanydufu.com or you can go to droptheball.com. My message to women on Valentine's Day is to love yourself. Drop the ball.

Ann: Oh my God, that's so great. Tiffany, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Tiffany: Thanks, Ann.

[Interview ends]

[Music]

(41:50)

Aminatou: You know, this reminds me a lot of the book that I'm reading right now. It's called Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. I'm like yes, of course.

Ann: That is like a why wouldn't I want all those things?

Aminatou: Well that's exactly what it is, right? It's like you want every single one of those things. It's like so yeah, and we all know how much I love reading books by psychologists who know what they're doing. Yeah, so it talks a lot about self-doubt and failing and fear and how to really get out of that and deal with it in all these areas of your life. And so I think that I will be really excited to read Tiffany's book next because they kind of go hand-in-hand for me.

Ann: Yeah, and it's great. Like there is something about this particular genre of book that it feels really . . . it feels really necessary right now. Not that I'm not . . . I mean I'm always interested in issues of how women negotiate hard choices in their life, but I think I'm a little bit more interested in direct advice in this moment than I have been in the past if you know what I mean.

Aminatou: No, totally. And you know the thing I like about books too is I like that they're really specific. It's like everything's not an existential crisis. I feel like I can be really scatterbrained in these moments of like -- like especially right now, but also in moments of just really trying to actualize change or being really efficient. I think for me all of this boils down to being a very efficient, high-impact human being and I like that women are writing books like this.

Ann: Yes. 100%.

Aminatou: I'm going to go do the rest of my day and finish the work that I haven't done all day because I have not been an efficient, high-impact human being.

Ann: Technical difficulties. It's hard. I'm in the same place.

Aminatou: We've got this. We've got this. Okay.

[Music]

Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcast, or on iTunes where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us, callyrgf@gmail.com. You can also find us on Facebook or on Instagram at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.