Angie: Things that I love and that I get so excited about is that between two people, I come with my stuff and you come with your stuff, and we have whatever, however many years of experiences, and thoughts, and assumptions, and stuff we’ve done. Then we come together and we start to talk and we are creating a thing that has never been there before, which is like, am I allowed to cuss? That is fucking magical.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I talk with movement enthusiasts to learn who they are, what they do and why they do it. This is episode number 89, Angie Flynn McKeever Intention, Communication, and Storytelling. Although she is officially an expert in communication, Angie Flynn McKeever simply considers herself constantly fascinated by it. She discusses intention, what it is, coaching it, and practicing it. Angie shares her own stories of intention, coaching, and travel and gives advice on finding your guiding stars. She unpacks her thoughts on the power of storytelling and how to use your intention to chart your course.
Craig: Angie Flynn McKeever is a communications expert theater director and business woman based in North Carolina. As the founder of Ignite CSP, she uses her theater experience to coach others in effective and intentional communication. Angie and her husband are also the founders of the North Carolina Stage Company, an award winning theater in its 19th season. For more information, go to Moversmindset.com/89. This episode is also available as a video stream from our forum. No hooks, just free content. Go to forum.moversmindset.com, bringing you ad free Movers Mindset takes us a ridiculous number of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation in what we create, please consider supporting us on Patreon with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing between a cup of coffee and a good dinner. Thanks for listening.
Craig: Hey, welcome Angie. Super excited to get to talk to you.
Angie: Thank you. Yes, me too.
Craig: Let’s start by saying, I always hate to pigeonhole people, but I’m going to pigeonhole you and say you’re like the intention person. If I had to pick, I don’t know if I could pick one word, but if I had to say what is it that Angie would love us all to figure out, it would be intention. I wanted to start there, because I think my guess is that that color is going to color a lot of where we go when we talk about things. Because I don’t want to say I’ve only recently discovered intention, but I’ve only recently discovered intention. I think that that’s so important to your work and your through-line. Can you tell me a little bit about what you think people get wrong about intention?
Angie: Yes. The short answer is yes, I can tell you but I [inaudible 00:03:08].
Craig: Oh, a fellow grammar geek, I love it.
Angie: No, no, no, but I’ll give you, I am having this moment of so many things rushing into my head that I would love to say about this. When I talk about the idea of intention and communication, as you mentioned in my bio, it really comes from this idea of how we create authentic communication on stage in theater. This is really where my interest in this way of approaching communication skills came from, and this isn’t how I explain it to everybody. I have a shorthand, but I would love to dig into it a little bit here because it does come from the way that good actors approach their craft of acting. A lot of people think that acting is about feeling, right? That I need to feel a lot of big feelings and I need to feel a lot of emotions. I’m going to feel sad or I’m going to feel happy, or I’m going to feel in love.
Angie: Actually, what actors are doing is they are trying to figure out in a scene, how do I get what I need? That’s where intention really lives. That’s only true for actors because that’s true for all of us. To start from that place of, okay, what do I need in this moment? What do I need from, oh, what’s an example? I want to get my spouse to take out the garbage. All right. There are a lot of ways that I can talk about that. Right? I can try to shame him into doing it. I can-
Craig: A long list of don’t do the following, right?
Angie: Well, exactly, exactly. I can hint that I did it last time. I can make him feel like he’ll be my hero if he does it. Right. One thing that these things all have in common is that they’re all active. It’s how am I going to try to make the other person feel, what’s the impact I want to have on them? Then that really informs how I’m going to show up my intention. What’s the bridge between this need that I have and the outcome that I’m hoping to see on the other side.
Craig: You’re talking about actors, and I’m like, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about, I mean, I can imagine an actor needs lights and the actor needs a stage. There’s a couple of basic things, but what would an actor actually need in the 37th performance, 10 minutes in?
Angie: Oh gosh, well the character, it needs the same thing every time. Right? The character needs to squash the insurrection or to get everybody on their side or to, I mean, think about, the thing that’s coming to mind for me is the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry the Fifth, where Henry the Fifth is like “Once more into the breach.” Right? He’s really trying to rally these people who are outnumbered, looking death in the face. Right? He is inspiring them to follow him into probably certain death, right? No matter how many times the actor playing Henry the Fifth has done that speech, he’s got to summon that same need, because it has to feel like in the moment that those troops might turn around and get on their horses and go home.
Craig: Yeah [inaudible 00:06:36] could fail.
Angie: Yeah. There’s something at stake. Because there’s something at stake for all of us all the time. Most of the time, thank goodness, it’s low stakes. Right? We’re not doing what Henry the Fifth is doing, but sometimes we’re asking somebody to be our life partner or we’re asking somebody for a raise.
Craig: Yeah. It can totally feel like it’s that scale. I mean, I’ve never led troops, but I don’t know if I have a specific example that pops to head, but I bet I could think of one where I was like, I really feel like this thing that I’m trying to accomplish is life or death or it feels that way.
Coaching intention [7:14]
Craig: Yeah, there’s that, that lesson would, seems to me, that lesson would apply widely to a wide number of people. Do you find, there’s just so many places to go, I’m personally curious about theater direction, but I don’t know that like, so sometimes people ask me who listens to the podcast. I’m like, I have no idea. I mean, I know what the numbers are, but I have no clue. It could be my mom pressing download on 15 iPhones she hid from me that I don’t know about.
Craig: I think the question in my mind is I started, so like seven or eight years ago, I began my personal rediscovery of movement. Like I just had gotten to a point in my life at like 40 something that I wasn’t moving very much anymore, you get to a place where you don’t have to move and you don’t have to carve your way through life as much. Then I kind of rediscovered movement. That’s a great long story. Anybody listening to the podcast is like, “Please don’t tell this story again.” I didn’t come back to movement thinking about intention or even thinking about having a coherent story that I was trying to craft or myself. I was just like, “Wow, this is cool. I’m going that way.”
Craig: I think that looking back, I was like, “Oh, I realize now that I have found a line.” I don’t want to say I found my intention, but I feel like I’ve found an intention and then things got easier. What I’m thinking is it seems to me like people who are probably further along in a movement journey than me, but a lot less further along in age might not have thought about this. I’m wondering what your experience has been. When you’re coaching people, it sounds like you generally coach people our age cohort and people who are in professional capacities, but have you ever tried to coach intention to people who are much younger?
Angie: Oh, interesting. Yes. I have. It’s interesting, when you’re a coach, it’s hard to shut that lens off. It comes up a lot, whether I’m on the clock specifically or not. I will tell you, I have two kids, both teenagers and they’re intention gurus. Not because, I think it’s really osmosis and so much more self-reflective than I certainly was at that age or for years afterwards. I think, the thing I haven’t really touched on, but that you alluded to here is that we are always operating with some kind of intention. I think what you’re describing is what I would call a deliberate intention. It is I have found this thing that is propelling me, that I feel positive about. I’m putting words in your mouth. That’s what I got a little bit from what you’re say.
Craig: Yeah. Like the default, because I know you’ve talked, you and I have, I don’t know if we’ve talked about it, or if I’ve heard you talk about it, about the difference between deliberate and default intention, I’m like, oh yeah, good point. I missed that because obviously everybody has an intention, I think, but anyway, sorry.
Craig: Keep going. Keep stuffing words in my mouth.
Angie: Well, but because I think for me the biggest piece of the, like, we can all kind of go, “Oh yeah, I’m going to set a good intention for myself.” Or, “I’m going to motivate myself. I’m going to find an inspiration. I’m going to put that quote up on the wall from fill in the blank.” What’s harder work, I think, and messier work, is identifying where our intentions lead us when we’re not being so deliberate when we’re not being so intentional, frankly. What’s that more reflexive, that more reactive place that we can be.
Angie: It’s interesting to me that you, I’ve been thinking about the intersection between intention and movement a lot, because like you I really found an intentional movement practice, I mean really within the last eight years or so. It shows up, intention shows up so much in that for me. Am I going to, is my default intention going to kick in because we’re doing something I don’t really enjoy and so my intention is going to be to get this over with, or to get through it. Or, am I going to find that moment, that inner, that little crux of a moment and go, oops, okay, I caught myself, I have an opportunity here to choose something different, to choose a deliberate intention of working on one specific thing I want to get better at, or the intention could just be I’m just going to stay fully present for this.
Craig: Yeah, presence or self-awareness.
Angie: Exactly, exactly.
Craig: What movement practice?
Angie: I do yoga and CrossFit
Craig: At the same time? That’s ambitious?
Craig: No, I’m just being trite. I’m going to say dabbled although I think I got pretty serious. I dabbled at yinn yoga, Y-I-N-N, for a while and that fit really well. Now I’m just like, eh, I kind of wandered away from it. Kind of worked out well, because then COVID happened. I’m like, I don’t know if I want to do a class through, yeah. Sorry. Off on a tangent. I can’t use the under caffeinated excuse because I’m sufficiently caffeinated. What about, so you didn’t quite, and not because I want the answer because I really am curious, you didn’t quite describe your, any specific examples of where you’ve run into coaching , people who are younger.
Craig: I think you did a nice job of like framing what I didn’t do, which is to point out the difference between intentional and default, but I’m just, I’m super curious about what is it about 14 year old kids that makes it so I always look at them and go, you guys are so unintentional. Clearly they have a default intention, but so I just want to poke back at, let’s go back to the coaching, seeing [inaudible 00:12:54] you have to coach them on the clock, but coaching intention in people who are younger.
Angie: I actually find it easier. As we, and I promise I’m not avoiding, I will come back to this. As a way of contrast, as we get older, and this is not going to shock anybody, our patterns become more solidified. Our ways of thinking about ourselves that we’re particularly invested in become very tough to break through. As we get older we get busier, and we’re more, and obviously I’m painting with a very broad brush right now, but we also are a little more interested in how am I going to get to these results quickly, right?
Angie: What I find a lot in my work is that people want to know what do I do with my hands? How do I get rid of filler words? How can I show more confidence? Those are the things that come up most frequently for me for people in my field. The answer to all of that is intention. The answer to all of that is actually you have to do some really deep personal work to figure out where you’re coming from and what motivates you and what things you’re trying to hide and what things upset you. Okay. Guess what? Nobody wants to hear that. Right?
Craig: Let alone do it right?
Angie: Let alone do it. Not nobody, but to get back to your actual question, younger people, particularly teenagers, people who are newly in the workforce, this feels like another tool to them. Talking about, “Hey, let’s really look at what your default intention may be in this moment and how you can strengthen the muscles of choosing a deliberate intention. What could that deliberate intention be?” They just have fewer defenses around that. It’s a little bit easier to break through.
Coaching your own team [14:58]
Craig: You mentioned workforce and before we started recording, I said, “I don’t have a list of questions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have 500 questions in my head.” One of the things I was thinking about was I don’t actually know the size of the number of people that you, I’m going to say deal with, I don’t mean it in a negative connotation, number of people that you deal with in a business context. I’m wondering about, so if we’re talking about younger people or we’re talking about workforce, what are your thoughts, your ideas, your experiences on trying to coach people who are working with you or for you directly to try and get them to set intentions that you think would, or help them discover intentions that would make the team work better or make you all move better in the same direction. That seems to be a whole different facet of the same thing.
Angie: Yeah. Are you asking, with the coaches who work with me at Ignite, how do we use intention in serving our clients?
Craig: That’s a good start there. I’m guessing that your coaches are the same age cohort as you, more or less.
Angie: Yeah. More or less.
Craig: Yeah, we can start there. That’s a good place to start.
Angie: Yeah. We’re intention nerds. We talk about this all the time. I mean, really, once you start looking at the world through this lens, I mean, it just changes the way you see the people around you. It changes the, there’s another level of, I think, understanding and empathy, frankly, of, oh, here’s where this person seems to be coming from or here’s … We talk about this a lot. We talk a lot about what intention do we need to bring to this workshop? Oh, crap. Something went wrong. Oh, there’s a funky energy in here today. We need to adjust. It is our primary tool for doing the work that we do, bringing that really deliberate utilization of intention so that it’s not just this fluffy ephemeral idea. It’s how am I going to use intention to actually change the way I am showing up and communicating with other people?
Craig: Do you set, so what do you do? I’m not like, I have a specific, I’m trying to get you to give me a specific answer to a particular problem. I’m also double thinking like, well, it’s probably going to be … What do you do when you’re in a situation and you’re like, “Okay, I’m not actually in control of the situation.” I mean, if you look at the org chart or you ask somebody doesn’t know what’s going on, they might say, “Yeah, you’re in control.” But you’re not actually in control of the situation. How do you decide how much time to spend doing the long detour coaching the person versus to put the fire out or work on the thing, because I’m guessing you’re going to say just fix the person and then … How do you decide how to balance that? Because if one’s own intention that, oh, it’s so meta, even this acronym is my intention to do the project or is my intention to help the person? Yeah, anyway.
Angie: Right. If I’m understanding your question correctly-
Craig: I don’t always ask questions. I tend to just stick words together.
Angie: Well, then I’ll navigate my way through what you said and I know that you’ll come back and ask another question.
Craig: It’s dangerous to go alone, take this. Yes.
Angie: If I feel like there are competing tensions in coaching someone, which there almost always are, right? In any time I’m coaching somebody, there is the immediate thing that they want to get better at. Very often, it’s a difficult conversation they have to have, like giving feedback to somebody. They need to make a strategic ask at work for something that they need. They’re giving a big presentation or a keynote, something like that. There is this immediate thing on the horizon that they want to get better at. We are great at, “Let’s reorganize your content. We’re going to video you. We’re going to put you through your paces. We’re going to look back at this. We’re going to give you feedback. We’re going to tell you what’s working well and what you need to do differently.” All have that tactical stuff is right there.
Angie: At the same time we want to give this, we want to do this intention work so that this isn’t a one-off, so that in the future, they can actually apply this toolkit of intention, alignment, and practice, which is our three-part process, to anything like this that may come up for them in the future. It really is a balancing act of I got to put out this current fire, or to put it more positively, I have to [crosstalk 00:19:44].
Craig: [crosstalk 00:19:48].
Angie: Yeah, well and I want this person to feel a short term win of like, oh my gosh, I stopped pacing madly around the room and just sent my energy in one direction and that transformed everything. I could see it on the video. I could see it in the faces of the people in the room. I understand that in pacing around the room, I’m actually hiding. My intention is to hide and so I can start to move that lever as well.
Craig: Right. For future issues and future projects. Sometimes I turn left. What’s something people get wrong about you?
Angie: In my work?
Craig: You can answer the question in any context you’d like, or you could probably just say pass and I’ll move on another question.
Angie: Well, the thing that came immediately to mind when you said that was that people usually think we are public speaking coaches. I was so thrilled when I got your invitation to speak and you referred to me as a communication skills coach, because that is how I think of myself. It is harder to categorize that. It’s not as easy to get your brain around what that means.
Craig: I wonder if that, does that self-select so that the people who get it are the people who approach you for work? Or do you find that people just, they don’t get it and they still approach it for work?
Angie: I think, that’s a good question. I think at the outset, when I first started doing this work, it was that people would, it was the second thing. That people didn’t get it and approached us anyway. Now, we’ve gotten better about our messaging and so it’s the second thing.
Finding your 'why' [21:35]
Craig: Okay then I’m on the right track. It occurs to me, who knows who’s going to watch or listen, but it occurs to me that people might think, now I’m going to put words in your mouth. People might think that you and I have it figured out like, “Oh, Craig’s a successful blogger and knows what’s going on. Oh look, Angie runs her own company and started a theater company. Wait, what?” I happen to know the story about coming from New York City and I’m like, “Oh yeah, and successfully navigated that transition from New York City.” I mean, it wasn’t anything untoward, but that’s not easy to move from that to a completely different, so people might think that Angie has it all figured out and I’m going to guess that, no, Angie’s just Angie and just gets up in the morning and says, “Let’s see, how do I move these chess pieces in the directions I’d like to move them?”
Craig: I’m wondering if there’s somebody who’s listening now, I don’t have a particular audience member in, like I don’t have a stereotypical audience member, but if there’s somebody who’s, oh, let’s pigeonhole, let’s say they’re in their 20s. Not in high school and still doing the hormonal thing, but somebody who is coming out of college and okay, welcome to the world. Out the door you go. I see a number of those people who aren’t sure how to make their way in that space. I think, and this is part of why I wanted to talk to you. I think that intention is like, yeah, instead of trying to figure out how to navigate the world, figure out how to decide what you want to do. Then, you’ll find that you were working on that and that you’re, recently I’ve been thinking about, you know what pointillism is?
Craig: … have, and that you’re… Recently, I’ve been thinking about, do you know what pointillism is? The painting with the dots.
Craig: Exactly. I have a blog post publishing today that’s got a Seurat reference in it.
Angie: Oh, cool.
Craig: An irreverent Seurat reference. But anyway, sometimes I feel like I’ve been painting that way. Not that I’m a painter. And then, I leaned back and, this is a new thing, glasses like, “Whoa, Oh, Oh, it’s people on a…” I get it now. That zoom in and zoom out thing. And if you’re, because I remember, if you’re at that point in your life where you’ve only got four dots on the canvas, when you zoom out, it’s four dots on a canvas. I don’t see it yet.
Craig: So I’m just wondering, if you have anything that you think would help someone who’s got four or five dots on the canvas, but doesn’t really know where they want to go, but it’s okay with, just how do I figure out how to keep putting dots on the canvas, or how do I get the motivation to… I don’t think it’s true. Follow your bliss. No, you have to have some bigger why, to steal Simon Sinek’s thing, some bigger why burning inside you.
Craig: So what advice would you give to somebody who’s 20, really into movement, would do things that you and I would go, “Oh, that’s really impressive,” but they don’t really seem to have a rudder on the ship yet. That’s a hard one.
Angie: That is a hard one.
Craig: Sometimes I just ramble on and then make a question.
Angie: Well, I want to go back to your entry point into what you were saying here, which is that when you described me as an expert, it’s so funny because I don’t think of myself that way. I think of myself who is in this space.
Angie: And to me, expert implies that I know all there is to know about this. And to me, what it really means is I think about this all the time and I’m endlessly fascinated by this topic. And so, I read other people’s work and I talk with my colleagues and we, like I said, we really nerd out about this idea of, “What happened in this moment and how does this work?”
Craig: Yes. I like your taxi cab blog post, by the way. I’m just going to drop that in there.
Angie: Oh thank you.
Craig: Because I know the context and you know the context and it’s like, yes, I agree with you.
Angie: Thank you. Well, I appreciate that. I was actually a little nervous to write that with the context being what it was.
Craig: And I have to figure out how to… Anyway, keep going. I just wanted to drop in there, “Oh, by the way, mad props on the taxi cab post.”
Angie: Thank you.
Craig: Not that I want to see you shoot slings and arrows at.
Angie: No, no.
Craig: But that one, I agree with you. Yes.
Angie: Thank you.
Craig: Sorry. I derailed your train of thought because I had to fanboy. Sorry.
Angie: But I guess this is a long way to get around to the meat of your question, which is that is the why for me. And so, gosh, when I was just coming out of school, I was very sure in the way of a certain stamp of 20-something year old, that I knew exactly who I was, exactly what I liked, exactly what I didn’t like, exactly how my life was going to play out, and shockingly enough, every part of that has been amended in the years since then.
Angie: Right. And in big ways and in small ways, right? So the thing though that has been a constant for me, that would have been those four or five dots when I was 21, 22 years old, is that, and again, this is my thing so I’m not suggesting to other 21 and 22-year olds that this should be their thing, but for me, it was a really deep interest in other people’s stories.
Angie: At that time, the way that looked for me was working in theater and figuring out ways to create those stories on stage and sharing them with other people, and working collaboratively with other artists. That was hugely important to me. And so those were a couple of my important dots.
Craig: Guiding stars, yeah.
Angie: Yeah. And so, at the time, of course, I thought, “Well, this is it for me forever and I’m going to be this kind of director, and this is going to be the ladder,” because of a number of things that happened and that I chose, that’s not where I am now, and who knows where I’ll be five, 10, 15, 20 years from now?
Angie: But I think at this point I can feel pretty confident in saying that those things are really important to me as yeah, guiding stars. And so, finding those things and, for me, those are really visceral. I feel like they really reside in me, right? I don’t have to find them. I don’t have to think to myself, “What are some things that might be important to me?” I know those. And so whatever those are.
Craig: I’m laughing. I’m laughing with you. Someone said, “Find your passion? That’s easy. What did you spend yesterday on? That’s what you’re passionate about.” And a great David Letterman quote is, “Everybody’s life has a purpose. Yours could be watching television.” And I believe he meant it sarcastically, like you probably have a purpose and it’s not watching television.
Craig: But I think you’re totally right about, I love the word visceral. The idea of, I think, embodied movement practices, that gets thrown around as a term, and people that I’ve talked to, when they throw that term out, it’s because they mean so much when they say embodied movement, they don’t mean what people have no clue what that is. They don’t mean, “Oh yeah, it’s just a grab bag,” where it’s like, no, they have a deep meaning to that.
Craig: And I’ve always liked the idea of visceral about the idea of physically experiencing, as well as conceptually understanding, whatever the event is we’re talking about. Yeah. And I had something, do you know the conversational tactic about make sure you repeat things that people say. So I had like a thing that I wanted to hold on to, and then I started talking and I screwed it up. Oh, there’s so many things. Is there, and this is when Craig panics. Craig goes, “Is there anything that was on your mind on the way to the interview that you’re like, ‘I want to make sure we get to…’?”
Angie: I will share this thing that may or may not be interesting to you, because this was the second thing that came up when you said, “What do people get wrong about you?” And it was that people often think I’m an actor, and I’m not an actor. And I had a very common trajectory, which is that I acted all the way through college, and then had one or two tiny forays after college, but I really have, since mid-college, been a director and that’s where my focus has been, but it’s very interesting. And I don’t know if people hear theater and they assume actor.
Craig: Yeah. I’m not denying that you’re right, but I’m like, “Yeah. Why would somebody…” Because for everything. I met you in a context of podcasting, so of course the first thing I’m thinking is podcaster, but just glancing at your website and stuff there, it doesn’t scream, “I’m an actress.” But anyway.
Interview style [30:10]
Craig: Yeah. That’s interesting. Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know. There’s so many millions and millions of questions. How about this? So let’s go a little meta. So you and I have talked maybe a few hours on video calls, but we’ve never met in person. And what are your thoughts are on how I do the, I don’t like the word interview personally, but this is an interview, what are your thoughts on how I deploy interviewing as a tool?
Craig: Not because I want free coaching, but because I’m actually interested to see how you’re… I want to pin you on the spot with something that’s really tricky, and then see what you do with it, not because I’m an asshole but because it shows people’s skillset, and here, I’m revealing, it shows people’s skillset and how they think. If you give them a really challenging task and say, “Here, could you do something with this?” So if I say, “What do you think about how I perform interviews?”
Angie: Yeah. Here’s what I love about your style, and I actually have listened to a lot of your podcasts.
Craig: Oh, oh.
Angie: No, no, no. What I really, and again, I’m an intention nerd, so this is what I think about when I listen to podcasts, when I listened to audio books, when I watch people on TV, I’m a very uncritical listener. I engage with almost everything from a place of, yeah, I want this to be great because I’m investing my time and energy in it, right?
Angie: And the kinds of interviews that I will find don’t work as well for me are when I feel like somebody is really locked into their questions, that they diligently sat down with their legal pad and they wrote out numbers one through 12, and then it doesn’t matter what I say or what the interviewee says, there’s going to be a little pause, and then onto the next question.
Angie: Right? Which I think is, again, if I can put words in your mouth, is why you don’t like to call what you do an interview, that it is a conversation. And that to me, and again, this is just my taste, it’s subjective, but except it’s not because I’m about to say…
Angie: I’m just laughing at my own mental machinations because one of the things that I love and that I get so excited about is that between two people, I come with my stuff and you come with your stuff, and we have, whatever, however many years of experiences, and thoughts, and assumptions, and stuff we’ve done. But then we come together and we start to talk and we are creating a thing that has never been there before, which is like, am I allowed to cuss? That is fucking magical.
Craig: Absolutely fucking not. Yes. You can cuss.
Angie: Do you know what I mean?
Craig: I agree.
Angie: That’s miraculous that we can do that. And so, that to me is, when you have an interview that is very scripted and very structured, when one experiences that, there’s no room for that serendipity. There’s no room for that magic. There’s no room for this thing to be created.
Angie: But the hard part of that, of doing what you do and the thing that actually think you do really well, is you allow yourself to walk into this space. I’d call it letting go of the trapeze.
Angie: You’re like, “I did all my work,” right? “I prepped over here. I did my stretches, and I did my whatever, and then I’d go up and I’d grab the trapeze, and now I’m going to let go and I’m going to trust that this conversational partner is going to catch me.” And that’s vulnerable, it’s present, that you can’t be anything but present when you do that.
Angie: Or you’re going to fall into the safety net.
Craig: Fall on your face.
Angie: But yeah, but-
Craig: Yeah, there is a safety net.
Angie: Right, yeah. That makes sense. But anyway, that’s my very long answer to your question.
Craig: I thank you for… I talk about the conversational baton sometimes.
Craig: And most human conversation, there is an invisible baton that most people, I was going to say, they’re passing back and forth. No, in reality, they’re grabbing it from each other. “Give me the thing.” Most conversations are antagonistic, people trying to only want to be heard, listening to refute versus listening to understand.
Craig: But what I’ve tried to do is, first of all, it’s been a lot to learn to not do that, but now what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to push the baton back to the other person. So I used to have to work really hard to shut up when someone else is talking, because I’m like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and I want to like grab the baton and then run with that same train of thought.
Craig: And then, I got over that. People who are listening going, “Shut up, Craig.” No, maybe you should listen. Then, after I figured that out, then I wanted to always finish what you were saying. I get excited because when my train of thought matches yours, I’m like, “Oh, this is cool,” because now at some point you’re going to have a little zig when I was going to zag and that’s going to be a really subtle thing that I’m super excited about, and then I try and finish people’s sentences. So I had to learn to get over that.
Craig: And now, what I’m excited about is, how long can I shut up, and how long does this person feel so comfortable that they just get more and more excited because I’m obviously getting excited, but I’m also not interrupting them, so I like seeing people realize that they’re on a stage, not to make a theater reference, but that they’re on a stage, they’re in a space where if I was any more excited to be talking to you, the top of my head would fall off or something like that. That that’s the space that I try to create.
Craig: And we work really hard at that. Now, you’ve caught a teeny little glimpse of it and Melissa and I are always a little depressed because we get so much more chance to build that space when we’re interviewing in person than we do virtually. But I have terrible imposter syndrome about asking people for time.
Craig: So this interview that we’re doing is scheduled in a two-hour window, and for me, every time I’m like, “Oh, I hope they don’t go, ‘Two hours? Why would I want to talk to you for two hours?’” And then, in person, we ask for three and invariably it goes well and the time is always like, “Oh, time is up.” But to me, that’s always a struggle to…
Craig: I have horrible imposter syndrome about, yeah, nothing I do is worth listening to, so I wasn’t asking you because I wanted an attaboy, I was asking because I think your insight on the kinds of conversations that attract you, I think that’s the kind of conversation that attracts everybody, and if they’re currently attracted to other kinds of conversations just because they haven’t tasted enough things at the bar to realize that, scotch on the rocks, or whatever, is really better than a complicated drink with an umbrella in it.
Craig: Another random, if you could go anywhere, a vacation space, leaving out logistics of, well, am I bringing other people, but just if you go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Angie: Gosh, I’m torn between going back to one of the cool places I’ve already been I loved, or going somewhere new. And I think, go ahead.
Craig: That was, “Damn audio equipment.” I knew you would hear me make that sound because I was trying to shut up. I was going to say, why do you want to go back? Why would you want to go back to another place? Like, I’m sorry, I misspoke? Why would you want to go back to a place that you’ve already been?
Angie: Well, there’s some places I’ve been that I didn’t go with my family and I would actually really love to see their reactions and to experience it again with them. So that’s one thought that I’m having. I went to Alaska when I was in my mid-twenties and it was such an incredible trip on every front that it’s just something, I’d love to do it again, and I’d love to take my husband or my kids.
Angie: I’m going to answer the question this way. If I could just take a trip, I would go alone. I would fly, I think, to maybe Spain or possibly France, but maybe Spain. And then, I would get off the plane and I would just see what happened and spend maybe four or five weeks just going where the wind took me.
Craig: My brain jumped to, and I’m afraid to drop the name, because I’m going to get it wrong. There is a podcaster who talks about walking. Do you know who I mean?
Angie: Mm-mm (negative).
Craig: Yeah, I think it’s Diane [Wizgood 00:39:05] W-I-
Craig: Is that how you say Diane’s last name?
Angie: I don’t know, but I know exactly who you’re talking about.
Craig: And she talks about walking. I think she actually talks about walking in Spain, now that I think about it.
Angie: Oh, wow.
Craig: Yeah. I think she walked 500 mile something.
Craig: There’s a region. But we’re out where I’m going with this train of thought is, I’ve realized we’ve been talking about and around communication, but I often want to talk to people and I haven’t found a good partner yet to talk about, about perambulation. Walking and thinking.
Craig: I do that walking and thinking thing every day, and I think a lot of people who do movement lessons. We’re talking about parkour and Arthur [de Placement 00:39:47] and these other free running spectacular types of movement.
Craig: I’ve had people actually talk about jumping without thinking, jumping with thinking, and doing movement in order to have thoughts, and I’m just wondering, do you walk for the purposes of sorting your thoughts out?
Angie: I mean to. I mean to do that.
Craig: Oh-oh. Oops.
Angie: By which I mean, I have read a lot about people doing that and I have thought to myself, “That would be really good for me,” and I have yet to put it into practice.
Craig: Hmm. I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I’m just like, “Oh my God, it’s totally a thing, you really should totally do it.” And what I’m thinking was, you can spot people who are doing it. Sometimes they’re talking to themselves, this is usually me. Like I’m talking. The only thing that saves me is people assume that I have one of those teeny tiny little Bluetooth earpieces, and they just assume I’m on the phone.
Craig: But you can spot somebody who’s doing it because they walk at a certain speed. They engage with their environment a certain way. So if you’re within the sound of my voice, I highly recommend trying it. I listen to a couple of podcasts. I used to walk a certain, it’s not a loop, but walk a certain route listening to podcasts.
Craig: And then, when I came back, I’m like… I actually started, I usually listen one part of the walk, and then I put the audio gear away, and then I just, with no intention of thinking about anything in particular, I just start walking, and by the end of the walk, I’m running because I need to get to my computer to write stuff down and sort things out.
Craig: So it’s just perambulation sprung to mind when you were talking about wandering Spain, and now I’m thinking I should go wander Spain.
Angie: It sounds good, right?
Craig: Sounds good to me. Yeah, there’s too many things to do. I mentioned, see, I’ve been in all the podcasts. So if I say things like, “Angie, is there a story you’d like to share?”, to me, it feels like, “Oh God, this again,” but you haven’t had this experience yet. So Angie, is there a story that you’d like to share?
Angie: There’s so many stories. I’ll share this story that I think really can encapsulate what I mean about intention from a completely different standpoint. And this is a play that I was directing, this was a number of years ago. I was directing Tue West by Sam Shepherd, and this play takes place in this suburban home in I think it’s Arizona, and it follows these two brothers.
Angie: And the brothers, one is a ne’er-do-well, he’s been a criminal and a rogue, and the other is the fine, upstanding brother who their mother has asked to house-sit for her while she goes on a cruise. The ne’er-do-well brother finds out that the upstanding brother is alone at the house and basically crashes this time.
Craig: Scene is set, right?
Angie: Right. So that’s your exposition. And when you’re producing a play, one of the things that happens is, early on you have what are called design meetings, and this is exactly what it sounds like.
Angie: It’s when the director, and the stage manager, and all the designers, so the sets, lights, costumes, props, sound, sometimes fight choreography, if you have that, you’re all figuring out, what is this production, at this time and this place, for this community, what is this going to look like? What’s it going to sound like? What is the container that we all need to create to tell this story in the best way that we can right now?
Angie: So we were having these early meetings, and there’s a scene in the play where one of the brothers has gone out in the middle of the night and burgled every house in the neighborhood and stolen toasters, stolen the toaster from every house. So the lights come up on this scene and every surface is covered in toasters. That’s how it’s written, right?
Craig: Toasters, right?
Angie: That’s the stage direction. Right. Toasters everywhere. And over the course of the ensuing scene, the brother, and this is not the ne’er-do-well brother, by the way, this is the fine upstanding brother is the one who has stolen all the toasters, he is running around and putting bread in the toasters and toasting all of this bread.
Angie: So we’re talking about, in these meetings, okay, how are we going to do this? And an important piece of context here is that the North Carolina Stage Company is not a purpose-built theater. It’s a space that we reclaimed and turned into a theater and we have limited electricity, to put it simply, and so the lighting designer said to me, “Well, Angie, you can have lights or you can have toasters, and you can’t have both.”
Craig: Yeah, toasters are a large power draw.
Angie: Exactly, exactly. So we’re all sitting there trying to figure out, okay, how do we get what we want? And this is the kind of problem solving that comes up in theater all the time, right? So how are we going to tell this story? What can we do creatively, collaboratively, that is going to be able to really fulfill our contract with the audience, that we are going to bring them this thing that we said that we were going to bring them? We’re going to tell them the story in the best way that we can.
Angie: And this is really where the intention piece comes in, right? So it would be really easy to say, “Oh, okay, well then, obviously we need lights. That’s non-negotiable, so I guess the toasters won’t be plugged in or whatever,” right?
Angie: But in leading this team, part of the conversation I wanted to have is, how can we do this to the best way possible? What haven’t we thought of yet? How can I pull us towards solving the problem?", again with-
Angie: -us towards solving the problem, again with this idea of deliberate intention. We’re batting this idea around, okay, what are we going to do. We need to have the toasters, the toasters are important, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The lighting designer is literally doing math on the back of a napkin. Right?
Craig: If a toaster draws fifteen-
Angie: Right, exactly. He goes, “Okay, here’s what I figured out. It’s the heating coil in the toaster that’s drawing the power. I can take the heating coil out of the toasters, and then we can actually run the electrical impulses that fire each toaster through the light board.” Now, what this means is that I can create maximum comedic effect by choosing when each toaster-
Craig: Pops up.
Angie: Is going to fire, depending on where the actor is. I can choreograph the whole thing. I have to tell you, we did this play … god, 12 or 13 years ago, and people still talk about how hard they laughed at that toaster scene.
Craig: Toaster scene.
Angie: It’s because we were able to push through that obstacle of his ultimatum of, you can have this or you can have that, but you can’t have both, to finding that creative solution, which was actually better than if we had just been able to plug in every toaster. Right?
Craig: Make a whole bunch of toast, right.
Angie: Right. The coda to that story is, having gotten what I wanted, which was lights and toasters, I then said, “Well, okay. Can I have one toaster with a heating element?” Because I really want to be able to smell the toast, right?
Craig: Yes. You want to smell the toast in the theater, too.
Angie: It’s a small enough, it’s an intimate enough space that we can do that. People will be able to smell the toast. He did more back of the napkin math, he was like, “Okay. You can have one. One heating element.”
Craig: One assistant in the back actually making toast the whole time.
Angie: That’s true.
Angie: Anyway, that is one of those multipurpose stories that, depending on what I want to talk about, it can be sliced and diced and told in all kinds of different ways.
Storytelling and coaching [48:37]
Craig: Storytelling. That’s a really good story. I love. The day that somebody tells me a story that I go, “Eh.” I will stop podcasting. That’s a great story. I love it, I was there, I smelled the toast, I’m now hungry for toast, thank you very much. I love stories. I don’t need to put my two cents on why I like the story. I always say, when guests go, “Hmm, that’s a good question,” and then look up, which, I’m sitting here looking, and there’s a big window. I’m looking out the window like, hmm. Quick, think of something else cool to do with Angie’s time, before I run out of time.
Craig: Why … I’m torn between digging further into coaching, because I think a lot of people who are interested in movement are interested in becoming movement coaches, right? Literally, I would like to get paid to teach people how to jump or run or yoga or whatever. I’m torn between going more into things that you might have that would help people who are starting out to find their way. I’m torn between going there, and going further into the storytelling itself as a tool direction.
Craig: I often say, on the mic and off, that this is like strolling down a very large avenue. Maybe Fifth? Which, if you don’t know the story, I’ve walked from 89th down Broadway to Battery Park, but there’s a lot of side streets. Two side streets I see, one is talk more about helping people find their way coaching, and helping people use storytelling as a tool. Your choice.
Angie: I don’t know that those are mutually exclusive, actually. I think, well, at least for me, story and metaphor and example and illustration are a foundational part of coaching because it helps people see how they can bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to go. For me, that is what coaching is, right? Coaching is, “I’m going to meet you right here, right now, wherever you are. I am going to provide you with unconditional positive regard, I am going to let you know in every way possible that I am on your team, and I am going to help you get to your goal.”
Angie: Along that way, I am going to use all of the tools that I have to encourage you, to listen to you, and to challenge you, because that’s what a coach does. Right? I’m not just here to be your cheerleader and your buddy, the coach is there to say, “Okay, but you told me you wanted your outcome to be this, and I feel like we’ve kind of been stalled over here. Do you want to reassess your outcomes?”
Angie: That’s where, at any point along that path, I do think storytelling is important. Both eliciting stories from the person that you’re coaching, how does this feel to you, what is a time that you’ve maybe experienced something like this before, where you either gave up or you persevered? You can learn from either one of those things.
Angie: I do think, and I’m obviously way back when we were talking about my four points of pointillism, I said that storytelling and stories were a big part of this for me. Other coaches may not share that same viewpoint, but for me, it is a means of connection and a means of empathy and showing, “I’m here with you, and I want to help you get where you want to go.”
Craig: I am not a coach. I don’t play one on TV, but my mind jumped to … is it, my brain doesn’t work anymore. Who wrote the storytelling animal?
Angie: I don’t know.
Craig: Ugh, I want to say leopard, like the animal, but that’s not the right answer.
Angie: Can you really see that far? I can’t tell. My depth perception is not-
Craig: Oh yeah, no. It’s only, yeah, I can’t reach it. Normally I wouldn’t look at it, but I was like, “Goddammit, where’s the book with the?” Oh wait. Now we’re going to find it. It is Leonard, maybe? Or Melissa could save me by typing it in the chat.
Angie: I’m a big fan of Annette Simmons. She does a lot of great writing about storytelling, but I don’t think that’s her book.
Craig: Oh, I don’t know who that is.
Angie: She’s not saving you.
Angie: Oh, there it is. Jonathan Gottschall.
Craig: Jonathan Gottschall. Where did the leopard come from, Craig? There is a book called The Storytelling Animal, which, there are books that you can’t see. This is the … do you know what an antilibrary is? Like, A-N-T-I library?
Craig: The thing that would be the opposite of a library.
Craig: That’s an antilibrary. There’s a few books there that are not part of the antilibrary. That is all the stuff I don’t know.
Craig: Now the exception is, there’s a couple books over on the side which are repeats that I give away. There’s a couple things on here that I am currently reading, but generally, this whole bookshelf behind me is the “I have no clue.” Like, I don’t know.
Angie: Oh, wow.
Craig: What’s going on. I think I have it set just far enough that, even if you zoom in on the video, you really can’t read the titles.
Angie: Can’t [crosstalk 00:53:26].
Craig: The idea of having an antilibrary, which I got from somebody else. I’m going to come back to The Storytelling Animal. The idea of an antilibrary is that the first thing that you need to do is find the unknown unknowns before you can even try to learn. I mean, you can just go randomly learn stuff. I don’t recommend that, but if you’re going to try and reach some specific goal, or do something in particular, you’re going to have to figure out how to make the roadmap to get where you want to go. To me, that’s my antilibrary.
Craig: That’s the only way I’m comfortable with having 500 books I haven’t read. It gives me a chance to sort of literally stand in front of it, and go, “Hmm. I think maybe biochemistry would be the next thing.” It reminds me of all the things that I know that I was interested at some point. Interested enough to get the book. And I have a very large antilibrary of books that are on the “maybe.”
Craig: What I do is, the third time that I fall over the book, I go, well, that book, which I have been virtually, somebody says, “You should read that, and I have [inaudible 00:54:24].” Okay, fine. Bring the book into the house, put it in the antilibrary. I might never read it, but it reminds me I have six inches of stuff on the U.S. Constitution. I’m like, yes, I’ve read the Constitution. I understand it, but to really dig into what was going on, and okay, I can get to do more there. So I put that in the antilibrary as something to come back to remind myself.
Craig: When you were talking about story, I thought of The Storytelling Animal. My understanding about the book, I haven’t read it, because it’s in the antilibrary, is that it talks about our innate, hardwired urge to physically tell stories, urge to really sit around a campfire and listen to the stories. That all comes from, from what I understand of the book that I haven’t read, it all comes from the way that our mind creates narrative.
Craig: As a narrative guru, you would probably, as you’re nodding, would probably agree with, yeah, narrative is a big thing. I’ve heard a lot of coaches, and I was like, are the specifics important and useful? No. I’ve heard a lot of coaches mention storytelling and creating narrative, but I don’t think I’ve really, honestly thought about it as … I always thought of it as the thing that added balance to it all. I hadn’t really thought about it as, no, it’s actually probably the real main thread. It’s just co-create a story, and do our coaching.
Craig: That isn’t a question, but, just me riffing off. The book is one that’s been in the antilibrary for a while. I don’t remember who first recommended it to me. Anything else jump to your mind that you want to talk about, or ask about? You are allowed to ask me questions. I don’t refuse.
Angie: Well, I was going to say I, also not having read The Storytelling Library, I totally concur with that summary. That all you have to do is look around at how much money giant companies spend to tell us stories, to start to understand this is deeply embedded in how we make decisions, how we understand our places in the world, how we understand the way the world works. We deeply buy into stories that aren’t good for us. We deeply buy, you know, and we feel-
Angie: Very tied and invested to those. There’s the … like any tool power, or power-
Craig: It can be used for great-
Craig: Good or evil.
Angie: You saw where I was going. I couldn’t get it out.
Craig: I try not to finish people’s sentences, but since you were choking to death.
Angie: No, you helped me out. You bailed me out, I appreciate it. That’s the … it is a thing we take for granted, this idea of story. Commercials are stories, jokes are stories.
Angie: Tweets are stories. I mean, we are surrounded by aspects of storytelling all the time.
Craig: Yeah. My mind jumped back to New York City, and the stories that, even though I know it’s what I’m doing, the stories that I tell myself about what’s happening with that person, or with that driver. It’s almost like the only way that, it feels to me, I’m guessing it’s the same for everybody, the only way my brain can make sense of all this is if I can … taking a bunch of data points. Pointillism. Zoom out. Go yes, it’s people.
Craig: In case people don’t know, the Seurat, one of his most famous paintings is, it’s in French, but it’s An Afternoon on Some Island, I think is the title of the painting. Zoom out, oh look, it’s people with parasols on an island. That lets me go, “Okay,” and ignore, for good or for bad, ignore the person on the street. Ignore the guy who cut me off. It just lets me tie up that data, or that experience. Lets me tie it up in a little bow, so I can go, “Yeah, I don’t need to think about that.”
Craig: Now I’m thinking, I only do these podcasts as a form of personal therapy because I’m too cheap to pay for therapy. I’m now thinking, you know what, I perambulate. I’m often thinking through some story, and going, “Is that really what happened?” I’m like, “Oh, crud.” I hear a podcast or something, that I’m listening to, maybe on the first part of the walk. Then I think about, oh. You know what, I always told myself this story about why I do something, or about why I see people doing something. Now, having listened to that, now I’m thinking maybe I’m telling the wrong story. I think story comes up, obviously a lot in my life, in everybody’s life.
Advice for intention [58:52]
Craig: Interesting. Let’s let everybody else get a breather. So, somebody’s listening, and they’re like, “Oh my god, yes please. I need to do more with setting my own personal intention.” Aside from what they should probably do, which is reach out to you, and hire you to help them. Aside from that obvious answer, is there something you could point people at? Like, if you want to learn to perambulate, go listen to Diane, I think it is Wyzga. W-Y-Z-G-A. I believe it’s called A Woman Who Walks, I think is the title of the podcast.
Angie: Oh, cool.
Craig: If you’re interested in walking, go listen to Diane’s podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use intention, or how to figure out what your intention is, what would you recommend people start with?
Angie: The place I like to start is really going inward. Right? The great thing about intention is that it is operating literally all the time. All you need, not all you need to do, because [crosstalk 00:59:54]-
Craig: For the purpose of this conversation, right?
Angie: Right, right. Easier said than done. But, find yourself. I like to do this at the grocery store. Right? Any kind of task like that, where it feels pretty transactional to you. You’re not navigating a bunch of new stimuli, and you’re likely to be in a default intention. Another good place to do this is your commute, if you’re somebody who is driving frequently.
Angie: We will often fall into default intention. I do this at the grocery store, I write about this in my blog all the time because I don’t like to grocery shop, and I am going to get irritated. That is my default intention, is that I want to get this over with.
Craig: We apparently were separated at birth.
Angie: I just, you know. Something is going to go wrong, something is going to. That’s all default intention, right?
Angie: If I get into this place of let me, I get into this line, I know I’ve chosen the wrong line. It doesn’t matter that there’s only one person in front of me and there are 15 people in every other line. This is going to be the wrong line. You know, it’s all that stuff, right?
Angie: In some ways, default intention becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Right? If all I can do is be anxious to get out of here, I’m going to get in my own way. The time is going to go slower.
Angie: I’m going to be more likely to be irritated by something that happens than I would be if I sat for five seconds in my car before I go in, and say, “Okay. This is a great chance to practice. This is a really good chance to practice. What can my delivered intention be? All right, I’m just going to be here.”
Angie: “I’m just going to be present, I am just going to do this errand with the minimum of irritation and frustration with other human beings who are actually not obstacles, but human beings in their own right.”
Angie: You know?
Craig: I’m interrupting.
Angie: I think that is, to me, that’s the place to start, is to start to see, ooh, gosh. This is where I can really get into a default intention. This is a set of circumstances that I will often behave in this way. Let me try to use this as a moment of practice, as a moment of self-reflection, as a moment of mindfulness to start to build up the muscle memory of shifting to default intention.
Craig: Sorry. I’m torn by, I think you meant to say shifting away from default intention.
Angie: Yes. To deliberate intention. Yes, yes, thank you.
Craig: Everything you said was so awesome, I’m like, “Yes, exactly,” and I heard the right thing, but I’m like, no actually I think you said default. Default is what we want to notice when we are stuck in. Sorry.
Angie: Exactly. No, thank you.
Craig: I hate to correct people, and that was important. First of all, yes please. And secondly, yes please for me, yes please for people listening. When I manage to do that, it’s often like a, I love words, fortigenesis, vertigo inducing, crazy, oh my god. There is a wonderful article by David Cain. I’m not trying to show off, I’m trying to get people to go find these things and read them. C-A-I-N, I believe it is. David Cain writes a blog called Raptitude. R-A-P-T-I-T-U-D-E.
Craig: He wrote an article called How to Walk Across a Parking Lot, which I love. It’s so full of metaphor, and it’s a beautiful story. There’s this moment in it where he’s talking about, he’s describing the speed that you should be walking at. He’s like, I can’t do it justice, but, it’s the speed at which you would walk across the pool deck, you know, like in your sun robe when you’re heading for the … it’s just this beautiful, colored, and I mean, most people have probably sat next to a pool at some point. I’m like, yeah. Why can’t I be that person while walking across the parking lot?
Craig: That’s a great article, if somebody is thinking, what are these two wack jobs talking about? Or, what’s this whack job talking to this nice person about? Yeah. Try looking up How to Walk Across the Parking Lot. I’d like to plug that one. Yeah, you don’t need to read it, you could write it. But everybody [crosstalk 01:04:00]-
Angie: No, I’ll definitely read it.
Craig: It’s wonderful.
Angie: This is just to jump in on this thought, too, though.
Angie: No, to go back to something that you said earlier. I have to practice this all the time.
Angie: In fact, the grocery store is easy. The places that are hard still, for me, are the reflexive reactions that I will have to the people that I love best in my life. Right? That’s a really good place to practice. If you know, oh this thing is about to happen. How do I want to make that person feel? How can I show up in this interaction to have the outcome that I want? This is a really big part of this.
Angie: You have to be so honest with yourself about what you’re actually trying to make happen. If you know I’m trying to make sure this never happens again, I’m trying to … right? I’m trying to make them feel bad for this thing they did to me. Totally human, totally natural, totally ordinary. We all do this, but you have to name that first before you can start to go, oh, that’s what default intention is. That’s where I went naturally in this moment.
Angie: Right? Then, and just to add another little dimension to that, to go, nope. That’s where I’m going to stay. Right? To choose that, to that actually becomes like, I don’t want to move away from this right now, or, I’m going to stay grumpy for a while, or I’m going to-
Craig: Yeah, there’s a reason I’m [inaudible 01:05:36].
Angie: Yeah. It’s actually so freeing in some ways, because you have choice. Right?
Craig: Yeah. I don’t understand how people can do interviews and just have something to say right away. Whenever I talk to another mind, like I’ve bumped into a few minds. I’m like, I need a half hour break while I go collect my thoughts and think before I know what to say next. So I just put filler in.
Angie: Maybe they just edit that part out.
Craig: Maybe. I feel like I can tell when people edit, no matter how well you do it, there’s pacing and things change. Anyway. Okay, so we talked a little bit about if what we’re talking about here interests you, that’s some ways to begin. There’s a metaphor about how to tear a barn down that I often refer to a lot. You can do it with a sledgehammer, but you don’t get very far before you’re exhausted. Or you can show up with a crowbar, and start prying boards off, and if you figure out where to put the crowbar, you can pry the whole barn down over the course of few days.
Mission, Vision, and intention [1:06:52]
Craig: That’s a place for people to put a crowbar into this. Wait, intention? What’s that? How do I? I have a default intention? Yes, you do. That’s a great suggestion for people to start. Just being truthful and observant. How about, do you have a personal … what do you think, sorry. I’m going to walk that back. What do you think about mission statements, just in general? I was going to ask if you have one, but just, what do you think about mission statements in general? Are these a good thing? Do they succeed? I’m going to judge you by the face you’re making.
Angie: I have a long history in non-profits. Quick sidebar, theater in this country is non-profit, unless you are Broadway. Anybody you know who is working in theater is working for a non-profit. Non-profits are famous for having mission statements, of course other people also have them. The ones that I feel like I come in contact with suffer from a couple of things. One is language that obscures the mission. It is focus grouped and committee’d into submission. Right? Until something has been created that everybody can sign off on.
Angie: I am generally not a fan of that. Then, the other thing that they suffer from, is that they are worked on diligently by the Board of Directors on a retreat, and then they are posted somewhere, and they are not an actual navigating document.
Angie: I think, in general, they could be great if they are plain spoken, and they are actually used as guiding principles of the mission of the person or organization that they’re for.
Craig: I was going to say, can one craft a mission statement without having a vision? I know what, grammatically yes, one can do anything. But is it possible to craft a useful, good mission statement if you don’t have a vision? I think that’s what is missing most often. People craft vision statements the same way, oh, we’re going to have a [inaudible 01:08:53], rainbows and ice cream for everybody. Okay, that’s a vision. But if the vision is completely artificial and forced, I loved how you said committee’d and subdued. Then yeah, you can generate a mission statement that would-
Craig: … [inaudible 01:09:02] then, yeah. You could generate a mission statement that was equally obtuse.
Angie: Yeah. I mean, I think I’m agreeing with everything you’re saying. I think, yes. I think, there are a lot of consultants-
Craig: Do you think it’s helpful … Sorry, go ahead.
Angie: No, I was just going to say there are a lot of consultants who-
Craig: I was just going to say like, this isn’t going anywhere. Sorry, I don’t know if that was a video lag on my end or yours, do you think people can sort out their own intentions just as a single thing? Can I just do that or do I also need to consider what is my vision? What is my purpose? Or can I actually make enough traction? This is why I’m grabbing the baton back. I’m like, "Grab-
Craig: … That was a dumb idea that I brought up. Let’s go this way." So we’ve been talking a lot about intention. Is that enough for me? Can I do that or do I also … Yeah, and you’re going to have to also figure out your purpose, and your mission, and maybe even your vision.
Angie: I’m going to go back to theater for a minute here, because when you’re directing a play, and this is really kind of inside baseball stuff, but essentially, a character has what’s called a super objective. It is the thing that they need to have happened by the end of the play. They need to … I got to get the girl to fall in love with me. I got to win the war, right? I’ve got to lead the troops to victory, so their super intention, right? The big thing they have to do, it could be their vision.
Angie: But in each scene and beat and exchange along the way, the thing that they need is going to be smaller, right? So they’re not thinking in every moment, “I must win the girl,” right? Right now they might be thinking, “I got to get the keys so I can take the girl on a date,” right? I got to borrow the car. I got to convince-
Craig: The car, right.
Angie: … my dad that I can borrow the car, right?
Angie: And I think that that’s analogous to what you’re talking about, right? So, there’s somewhere that we’re going. There’s a big picture, there’s the city on the hill, there’s the whatever, right? That we’re getting to. I think that can be overwhelming. It helps us chart our course, but the smaller steps in between requires, not smaller intentions, but more specific intentions.
Craig: It maybe easier to set intentions which are easier to set.
Angie: Yeah, and that are suitable to the moment at hand. I mean, we’re not charging the best deal in every moment.
Angie: I don’t even know if that’s a thing, we’re not storming with this deal.
Craig: I got you.
Angie: You know what I meant.
Craig: Yeah, storming with this deal. Yeah, I know what you meant.
Angie: It’s not always those high stakes vision moments that we’re having. What we’re having really 99% of the time is the smaller moments that are leading to the realization of that vision. But what the vision I think helps with is knowing whether we are on course. So is this intention that I’m setting for myself today, in this hour, in this interview, in this workshop I’m leading, in this client that I’m coaching, is it leading towards that? Is it leading towards that ultimate goal? Or am I going backwards? Did I take one of these side streets?
Craig: Streets. Yeah, there are so many, I was going to say, places in pop culture. I guess I’ll go with that. There’s so many places in pop culture where you’re the commencement speech that talks about … And the really good ones don’t do like city on a hill. Like, you have to have a big vision. But all of them, well, not all of them, a lot of them tend to set it up like, “Okay, now go and do your thing.” And that’s really hard. And I’m a big fan of getting things done, the actual capital GTD system, like Allen’s statement.
Angie: Yeah. David Allen. Yeah.
Craig: And I don’t push it on people, but I talk about it a lot. And one of the things that he also talks about, although I don’t think it’s mentioned much in the actual book, is that this is just one piece of what you’re supposed to be doing. The whole point of doing this is so that you can then do whatever you’re doing with your life. And this does come from, I think, a blog post. If you’re in the brambles, if you’re stuck in the weeds, it’s nice that you want to go storm the bastille, but you’re going to have the first like, what kind of weeds am I stuck in? And why am I stuck in the weeds? And, okay, what’s the best route out of the weeds? So I’m a huge … For me personally, I’m not stuck in the weeds. So I’m not day-to-day thinking about brambles and sticker bushes, but just because I say, “Yes, I’m working on this big thing,” doesn’t mean that I’m saying everybody else has to work on that big thing. And I’m going somewhere.
Craig: I think that people … I don’t know. Let’s put it right in a bucket, Craig. I think that people don’t spend enough time changing the levels that they’re focusing at. So, I certainly did this. This was me for many decades. But now I do, intentionally, sometimes sit down and do, all right. Do you know the joke? Like pick the lock, don’t look at the dogs, pick the lock. I told you not to look at the dogs guy talking himself. It’s an old [inaudible 00:05:22]. Anyway, sometimes you have to just pick the lock, pull the levers, push the buttons, do the things. And then other times you need to zoom way out and go, what’s the vision? What am I doing? And then maybe when I was 22, I’d zoom way out. I probably went, what the heck is that? I wasn’t doing zoom way back ends.
Craig: But I think a lot of what … Do you agree with this? A lot of what you were saying about intention and vision, it really feels like you’re suggesting that people learn how to zoom in, and then zoom out, and realize when is the time to zoom in and go, “No, the trash is taken, and the law needs to be caught, and the kids need to get to school, but I have to realize I spent all day yesterday zoomed in. Today I need to spend some time zooming out and read the storytelling animal or go listen to some of Diane’s podcast or whatever.” So I’m just wondering, do you intentionally … I mean, first of all, you seem to be agreeing with that. People who are listening can’t see that you’re nodding. So let the record show that Angie is nodding, but also, do you spend time yourself intentionally trying to balance that? Or do you just kind of go where you’re called?
Angie: I do a little bit of both. I have a big picture. I’m a big picture person. Actually, I’m not great at details. I love to delegate that stuff to other people, but there are also day-to-day tasks that have to happen, which kind of fall out of that purview for me. So I’m having many thoughts at the same time. Yes.
Angie: I definitely do that. So I have been saying for years that I need to spend the bulk of my time reading and writing, that that’s actually where the ideas of my work come from, that is how I generate new things for our clients, that’s how I figure out new ways to reach our clients, that’s the highest and best use of my time as this, the leader of my company.
Angie: Now, that being said, there are times when I have to pay people.
Angie: And there are times when I have to fill out contracts, and there are times when I have to deal with insurance, and there are times … All of that stuff. Because I don’t feel like those bits are me at my highest and best use of my time and resource, I tend to chunk those into specific times that I will deal with them.
Angie: And then I’ll do things like, okay, quarterly, I’m going to look at where we are. I’m going to do some math. I’m going to figure out what I want to have happen this quarter, what I want … I am not a big, what’s the five-year plan person, partly because I think certainly exemplified by the moment that we’re living in right now.
Craig: I’ve never executed a five-year plan. I thought I’ve tried that. I was like, I’m lucky if I can do three months.
Angie: Well, I mean, it just seems like, right, an exercise in hypotheticals. And while that can be fun and interesting, it hasn’t worked for me. But I do like looking at where I am now, what’s working really well. And I’ll also share that I had a moment. This was several months ago. And the metaphor that I used for this was the game Bananagrams. I wrote about this in my blog. And the game Bananagrams, which is like Scrabble without a board-
Craig: All right, yes.
Angie: … you’re making words, right?
Craig: We call it take two because you have to take, anyway, Bananagrams. Keep going. Sorry.
Angie: Yeah. So you’ve got these tiles, you’re trying to make words out of your letters, and you want to make the most, use it by your tiles before the people you’re playing with. And sometimes what happens is you’ve boxed yourself into a corner. And what you can do in Bananagrams at that moment is totally start over, right? And that can be scary to do. And I realized, and this was probably May of this year. I was like, this is a great Bananagrams moment. This is a great take two moment, right?
Angie: If I take what I know we’re great at, the assets that my company has in terms of intellectual property, and people, and all of that stuff-
Craig: Yeah, yeah. And some reference. Yeah.
Angie: … yeah, what happens if I mix this stuff up? What happens if I look at this from a different perspective? And that’s the zooming way out, right?
Craig: Mm-mmm. (affirmative).
Angie: That’s the taking nothing for granted about the way we operate. And in a sense, right? This goes back to what we were talking about in terms of a conversational serendipity that when you can zoom out like that, you can let go of the preconceived notions. You can start to see possibilities that were really invisible down in the weeds and in the brambles.
Book recommendations [1:18:58]
Craig: I would agree. Before we record, I wondered about it when I do this, it’s not because I’m bored and I’m like, okay, I’m watching the clock. And there’s only so much time. What’s the book that you’ve given away most often?
Angie: I’m a big reader and a big gift of books. So I’m-
Craig: I thought so.
Angie: I’m thinking really hard about this. Honestly, the books I probably give away the most often to literally answer your question are children’s books by Sandra Boynton, because when you have children and you’re going to be reading the books, you need to have books that you are willing to read them over and over and over again when she is-
Craig: Over in the same night, right?
Angie: That’s right. And she’s really good at that. So I am a big fan of her books and Mo Willems’ books, because they are fun for all ages. But I don’t really think that’s what you were asking. I think you were asking something else. I have given a way a bunch of Seth Godin recommended books frequently. Beautiful Constraint is one that I’ve given away, which is not by him, but one that he put me onto an a course that I took. I have given away his books a lot. This is marketing. And it’s your turn. Is that the name of that book? I don’t have it in here.
Craig: Yeah, I think it’s like, when it’s your turn.
Angie: What’s to do when it’s your turn and it’s always your turn is the idea, right?
Angie: I am going to turn around and look at this bookcase and see if it gives me any ideas. You and I both love Cal Newport. And I have given that book away a lot, Deep Work, one of my favorite.
Craig: Yeah, I haven’t read Deep Work. It’s own-
Craig: … anti library. I know I’m a slacker. Do you have a copy of Dava Sobel’s Longitude on your bookcase behind you?
Angie: I don’t think so.
Craig: There is a rare, I mean, not rare, but like I haven’t said that. I was like, wow, if you read that one, it’s a wacky book recommendations on movers mindset. Dava, DAVA SOBEL, wrote a couple of books. And one of them is called Longitude, like latitude, longitude, and it’s just a story about how actually complicated it is to try and find your longitude when navigating before computers. And it’s the whole story about like, this is timekeeping. The idea of clocks comes from longitude because in order to compute longitude, you need to know exactly what time it is while you’re on a ship at sea. So try and make a clock that keeps accurate time for like three months on a ship. And that’s this whole long story about.
Craig: And it has a unique looking spine, which kind of goes like one of your books. I’m like, do you have a copy of Logic? It’s a total sailing geek book. Anyway, but thank you for sharing book recommendations because that’s one … I really, really want people who are listening, I’m talking to everybody else, I really want people who are listening to not just experience a conversation that I had the privilege and luck of having, but to walk away. I’m going to say change. I don’t mean like, “I fixed you.” I mean, like change in the sense of you went, “That I got to look up,” and then they go off and have some new experience, or read something, or talk to somebody, or reach out to you and hire you for that quarter, or go to the theater, if you’re a Nashville, or maybe go virtually until things are open again. Sorry, I forgot.
Craig: What the heck drew you to podcasting?
Angie: I am a serial taker of Seth Godin classes. So almost anything that he puts out, I will sign up for. And I’ve actually taken the podcasting fellowship twice. And it seemed like a natural outgrowth for me of what I’m interested in, how I want to reach people, all that stuff.
Craig: You’re right. I forgot about that. Did you spin up a podcast? And I wasn’t trying to put you on the spot about like you didn’t actually, but did you create a podcast? Is it a thing?
Angie: I’ve done … I mean, the short answer is no. I did-
Craig: Because I wanted to go like, why wasn’t it what you thought it was going to be? Not like the course, but like, what about-
Craig: … because a lot of people just, “Hey, you’re listening to podcasts. Maybe you wonder a little bit about, let’s get a little meta about podcasting.”
Craig: What wasn’t it so that you had thought it was going to be?
Angie: I mean, it’s very simple for me is that I have not come up with the actual idea yet of the thing that will bring me back to doing it every week or every two weeks or whatever. So I have not crystallized. I thought I had an idea and then I actually recorded probably five or six episodes. And then I was like, this is still pretty amorphous. It’s going to be really hard to tell people what this is about. It’s hard enough for me to know what this is. So that’s the reason.
Creativity and intention [1:23:29]
Craig: So I’m like, “Ooh.” Do you think that … I think that being artistic and creative is like something everybody needs to do at both needs. It’s really you have a need to do it. And also you really need to go and you need to do that.
Craig: Because the process of being creative and some of it is Steven Pressfield concept of the resistance. Do you have Do the Work?
Craig: And War of Art?
Angie: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: Great Steven Pressfield books.
Craig: And I’m thinking that facing the fear of the blank canvas, proverbially speaking, in the movement practice that I’m addicted to, we often talk about something like a breaking the jump. It usually is physically jumping, but it doesn’t have to be. And the idea is that, I think I best heard it summarized by a guy named Stefan [inaudible 00:15:29]. Look up Stefan’s stuff about this, but Stefan had none of this. I know I’m losing you.
Craig: But Stefan said that the way he describes Breaking the Jump is first, you hear the call of the jump. So something that you will grow by trying, you walk by it, like you don’t even see it. So physical jumps, I’ve never tried jumping from there to there, that’s just ridiculous. But first, you hear the call, the jump, and they’re probably going to scare the crap out of you. So in a creative context, it’s facing a giant 40 foot blank wall that somebody said, “Let’s put a mural on this wall. There is that.” You hear that call. You didn’t even know it was a thing before. Now you know it’s a thing.
Craig: And then there’s five more phases, which I can’t produce at the top of my head. But I’ll just say that they’ve really looked at, those people who were … I’m talking about Breaking the Jump, they’ve really looked at this as it’s a growth process. And I really think it’s the same process that creatives face. And you went there when you were talking about like, you took a podcasting course and people who can’t see the video, Angie knows what she’s doing. Angie knows and she has podcasting gear and good audio. And it was still like doing the thing is not the hard part. It’s that as you’re describing, I’m putting words your mouth, but facing the blank canvas of, well, why would I do this? What’s the point? Why am I engaging with it? So I’m wondering, do you find that people who don’t know what their intention is that, can I go at that by trying to do something creative? Like, okay, give up on intention, just go do something that’s creative. Does that help? Is that ever a modality for solving the problem?
Angie: I love that. I don’t know that I’ve thought about that before, but it very well could be. What I come in contact with a lot is people who say, “I’m not creative.” Just factually untrue. Everybody is creative. Everybody has some possible.
Angie: We all have that in us, or we can’t, we wouldn’t make it as a species, right? So figuring out what that expression is. And I think it’s interesting that you say that. So I started this fellowship last week that I was asked to be part of. It’s a two year fellowship. We’re meeting six times over two years. And this time, obviously, we were meeting virtually. And on, I guess, Saturday morning, we’d been doing all of this Zoom meetings and all this stuff. And they said, “Okay.” Saturday morning, they sent us a box. And in the box, there were a number of things, but one of the things was a pot of clay. And they said, “Go make a pinch pot.” That’s all the instruction you’d get, go make a pinch pot. When I say to you that I am intensely uncrafty, that is an understatement. I just don’t make things with my hands. I can cook, I can write, I cannot draw. And now I can already hear the people saying, “Hey, you can try, you can learn to draw.” Right. I can. You’re exactly right. I haven’t learned.
Craig: I [inaudible 01:27:21] draw books, they’d be here on the bookcase.
Angie: Right. But I’m looking at this thing and I’m like, they’re telling me I have to go make a pot. Like this is part, and I’m a rule follower and all that, so I’m like, I’m not going to not make the pot.
Craig: I got to do it. Right.
Angie: Right. I got to make it. So [inaudible 01:27:36], it was awesome. I had such a good time. Actually, I have it right here.
Craig: Yeah. I’m like, you’re going to whip the pot out. I’m thinking, about-
Angie: I am.
Craig: … looking at the last thing I sketched, which is [inaudible 01:27:47].
Angie: Read this. Look. And I made this little drawing on the inside. That’s cute, right?
Craig: It’s better than any pot I ever made.
Craig: That’s for sure.
Angie: Anyway, all this is to say, interacting with this idea of creativity, whether you think it describes you or not is another great place to say, what are the stories I tell myself about this activity? Where do they come from? Are they serving me? And all of that, of course, I did not use the word intention, but everything dovetails with intention, and intention infuses everything.
Three words [1:28:21]
Craig: Yeah. As much as I hate to do it, I’m watching the clock. I want to be respectful of your time. So I will just say, and of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.
Angie: I alluded to this earlier, the approach that I use with my clients on that, I really do genuinely think about all the time is intention. What am I trying to … What’s the outcome I’m looking for? What impact do I want to have? That’s intention. Alignment. How is what I’m doing in service of that intention? And again, that can be everything from, how is my body and my voice showing up in this keynote that I’m giving to? How is the choice I’m making to say yes or no to this opportunity right now in service of my big intention? And then the third one is practice. It is what am I doing on a daily basis to engender self-awareness and self knowledge to push myself a little bit further maybe than I really want to, and to reflect on how all of this process is working. So intention, alignment, and practice.
Craig: Thank you very much, Angie. It was a pleasure to finally get a chance to chat in a just open playfield framework. So I hope you had as much fun as I did. And I’m sure we will talk again. Thanks.
Angie: I loved it. Thanks.