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S4E4 Transcript: How to Thrive in the Digital World with Susan Reynolds

Cathy Curtis: Susan Reynolds, thanks so much for joining me on my podcast. I’m excited to talk to you about LookUp.Live.

Susan Reynolds: It’s great to be here, and chat to a different audience. Because I’m usually speaking to teachers and students themselves. But I think speaking to those in the workforce, but as well as any parents or people that work with gen z. It’ll be really relevant.

Cathy Curtis: Susan, you’re making such a good point, thank you for bringing that up. So my audience is other financial advisors like me, mostly independent advisors who run their own businesses. And then also, my clientele is mostly women.

Cathy Curtis: And I have to say that a lot of us advisors use social media in a big way, including me. I started using it back in 2008 to market myself, that was important for me because of my age. It wasn’t to connect with my friends necessarily, it was to market myself.

Cathy Curtis: And I have to admit, as I was getting ready for this podcast, I can relate to so many of the things that those kids are talking about. Because I’ve been using social media for so long. So I know my audience is going to have a genuine interest in what you have to say.

Cathy Curtis: So with that, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How you founded your nonprofit? And I think it was with your mother, is that right?

Susan Reynolds: Yes. So going back quite a while, I was a middle school English and social studies teacher for 20 years. And sort of, I mean I started self-admittedly my age, but I started teaching in 1986, and ended teaching in 2006. So if we look at what happened in the middle there, technology came on the scene. And I had never really known anything about technology, but I was a curriculum developer.

Susan Reynolds: And so when the headmaster said we hired this director of technology, he’s crawling around in the attic, wiring the school, I need a tech plan. And I said okay, what’s a tech plan? He said go talk to Michael. And Michael was the director who was crawling in the attic. He said go on the internet, and I literally said, and this is 1997, what is the internet? He sent me to the internet, and the interesting thing that happened was I actually felt my brain speed up. I felt this change. So I dug into all this research, and the research literally was saying that, was predicting internet addiction. It was predicting the promise in peril in education for youth. So right off the bat.

Cathy Curtis: This was 1997?

Susan Reynolds: 1997.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: Tapscott wrote a book growing up digital.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: So right off the bat. I worked with it, I watched the change as technology came on the scene and the distractibility of it. And I would say that really started watching my students use AOLIM. So they were working on a computer, a word processor, writing a paper with the little box in the corner. And kids weren’t doing their homework. So that gives you a framework of the longevity of this.

Susan Reynolds: I ended up leaving teaching. I wrote a young adult novel, I became a yoga teacher, I became very interested in mindfulness. And I noticed that when I had my phone in my hand, I was not mindful, right? So I started digging in, what is going on? Like why can’t I teach yoga and meditate? But then if my phone is around, I’m totally out of focus, not in the present moment. And at the same time, I learned about the mental health crisis on college campuses.

Susan Reynolds: And for whatever reason I’d sort of missed it. And this was in 2014, and there was a sentence from the Stanford provost that said, college students have never been more anxious, depressed, addicted. I mean self-harming, lonely, isolated, I mean this really tragic sentence. And as I began to dig into this, no one was really talking about what it meant to live in the digital age. No one was really talking about the impact of social media in any causative way.

Susan Reynolds: There was correlative data out there, but there wasn’t anything specifically targeting it. It was just noticing patterns. And so I started how I think a lot of people in my field who were working on these issues start. You start talking to teachers, you start talking to parents, and you start talking from an adult perspective, what students, what youth should be doing.

Susan Reynolds: And I went along like that until I started really talking to college students themselves, and what I recognized is their lives on social media are really very different than our lives on social media. And the reason for that is as they’re developing their identity, their digital identity is woven right into who they are, and I’ll give you an example.

Susan Reynolds: A young woman at Princeton, she’s an athlete, she said Susan I’ve had my Instagram since sixth grade. And so if you tell me to put my phone down, I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself, right? Like I’m somewhat invisible, and that was this recognition of wow, adults are trying to solve the problem for youth, but who’s asking youth about their pain points and what their solutions are?

Cathy Curtis: She was a gen z age person, right?

Susan Reynolds: Yes, this was in 2018. I’m trying to think when I started really working on lookup gen z was really kids born after 1997. So 1995-97. So these youth are now out of college, so around 25. But at the time, it was really focused in on college students and high school students. The only reason I focused in on college students first was I felt like at least high school students had some sort of gatekeeper of their technology, whether parents, whether teachers, the structure of school with such that they could be told you can’t have your phone in a classroom, a parent could take a phone away to sleep.

Susan Reynolds: Now this is not across the board, this is not all parents, we are all teachers. But I felt like if students hadn’t had any sort of training or even thought about regulating their own technology. We were seeing at this time a lot of college students weren’t making it out of freshman year. So it wasn’t really common, but boys might play Minecraft and stay up all night and not do their work.

Susan Reynolds: And I heard about boys in that category coming home, not having have made it through the freshman year. Girls on the other hand, and these are very stereotypical but very general. Social media tended to be what captured girls, and so they could stay up too late. I mean, it interfered with sleep, and then we can get into all of the things that can happen on social media. But just the fact that there was this distraction that was very hard to control.

Cathy Curtis: And this is college-age students like you’re saying, they grew up with it. Maybe they had some parental control maybe as teenagers. But then they get to college and there’s no one supervising them. It’s almost like an extension of themselves, and they’re full on into it.

Susan Reynolds: Right.

[12:04] Why technology is so addictive and how it’s contributing to our mental health crisis.

Cathy Curtis: And it is addictive, right? I mean, if there’s research science whatever that says yes this is an addictive behavior.

Susan Reynolds: Well, and it’s an addictive behavior because more and more research has come out of the algorithmic design of it. And this is a big piece of the whole issue around this is tech companies concerned more about profit than the impact on people. And the algorithms being designed by brilliant neuroscientists.

Cathy Curtis: Right.

Susan Reynolds: But it’s just gotten more and more, the algorithms are smarter.

Cathy Curtis: Well yes, and there’s been leaps and bounds made in brain research in the last decade or two as well. And all those firms are appropriating research to create profit.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: I mean, wouldn’t it be great if they could turn the algorithms around where it created a good healthy environment, instead of the environment we’re in? And I’m sure that’s possible too.

Susan Reynolds: There is a call for it. There is. I don’t think a profit-based model, which I think is why regulation is so needed. Because I mean, tech companies well, any company, right? I mean, any public or private company needs to have earnings. And so the problem, there’s that conflict between the business model. And it’s become, some people call it the attention economy, where our attention is actually the commodity.

Cathy Curtis: So yes, and unfortunately us humans are attracted to scary, sensational things more than we are happy, benign things. Look at the evening news, why did they do that? Ten stories about crime and bad things, before they ever get to one good story, there’s a reason for that.

Susan Reynolds: Right, absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: That’s the way our brains work, and how detrimental when it comes to young people who’s they don’t have the maturity level. But I have to say it’s not just young people, I think older people can get just as addicted.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely. And I think the question, I mean in looking at the mental health crisis, I mean there’s a mental health crisis across the board, so it’s not saying just youth. But the specifics and the statistics of the mental health crisis among college students is really frightening, and it was frightening in 2014, it was frightening in 2018, and now, this was all before the pandemic. So the pandemic just added to an existing problem. But it also raised the awareness around the impact of living in the digital world, and digital overload was not something I needed to explain. Whereas before, I might need to explain what digital overload and digital addiction was.

Cathy Curtis: Right, no, everybody knows that now. When did you start your non-profit then, in what time frame?

Susan Reynolds: So the example I gave you of the young woman who said Susan, our identities are woven into our phone, it isn’t. It isn’t sort of something outside.

Susan Reynolds: And because if you think about all the socialization in the community and everything that teenagers go through to create a network, to create their friends’ groups, peer pressure and their self-esteem all woven into the digital. So that was a big clue to me. And at the same time my mom, Anne Reynolds have been very involved in non-profits in the bay area around education and mental health.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: And we have many conversations about this, and so when I said I think I have this idea that what I’m doing educating teachers and parents isn’t really what I want to be doing, I want to be working directly with college students. And I went to Dartmouth college, and Dartmouth’s entrepreneurship center, the Magnuson center for entrepreneurship at Dartmouth, they are open to alumni as well as students and faculty.

Susan Reynolds: And so I spent some time there talking about the issue, talking to students at Dartmouth, hearing their pain points of what it was like living in the digital age, as well as framing it around the mental health issues that they saw on campus. And it was then that Jamie Coughlin, he was the director, he said well, we give founders grants, why don’t we give a grant with a specific question around solving this problem.

Susan Reynolds: And so it all sort of came together, and we used human-centered design and design thinking, and actually ran a design-a-thon at Dartmouth, which asks for identifying the problem and creating solutions. And that’s really where it came about that we offered a grant to students who could solve for digital addiction, digital overload to create more tech life balance.

Cathy Curtis: Oh, that’s fascinating.

Susan Reynolds: Yes, really fascinating. And then we reached out to other universities, and we ended up working with university of Arizona and San Diego University, and the universities worked with us, ran this different design, challenges. Had this big plan to bring all the youth together at BlackRock in San Francisco, because I had given a talk there and voila, the pandemic hit. So we did what everybody else did, right? We brought the whole idea of look up to the digital world.

Cathy Curtis: Okay. And now you have a summit in October, right?

Susan Reynolds: Yes. So it was one of these, I mean it’s sort of any career path or any company or decision you make, all these things just lined up. So the pandemic hit, which made our plans to do everything in person impossible. But we could reach a lot more youth being virtual and we could bring experts and sort of what we call adult allies together with the students, to hear their ideas and give suggestions.

Cathy Curtis: Because the positive side of the internet and digital connection.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely. And there’s this promise in peril and tech life balance, and it’s not all bad, right? I mean, there’s so many positive aspects of social media and living in the digital world. And I think for students themselves, that was a really important point for us to make.

Cathy Curtis: Yes.

Susan Reynolds: We’re not saying it’s bad. But it’s this constant message and task of how do we take advantage of all the positive aspects, and mitigate the negative.

[20:04] How digital wellbeing relates to self-care.

Cathy Curtis: So, it’s kind of like defining what is digital well-being.

Susan Reynolds: Well, I think it’s in multiple arenas if we just take sort of the work environment right now, the virtual work environment. Digital well-being is managing the digital world in a balanced way. And I mean, it can fold over right into self-care, right?

Susan Reynolds: Some people schedule meetings where they have a 15-minute break. And they don’t use that 15-minute break to check up on emails or check their phone. But they get up and they walk outside and do all these things that boost resilience, boost happiness. And actually, in the long run, make you more productive. So that’s an example.

Cathy Curtis: You can turn on your internet. You can tell your phone let me know if I’ve been on here for too long.

Susan Reynolds: Exactly.

Cathy Curtis: There are tools, I want to tell you a little personal anthem here. So I use Instagram, I have a personal account and a business account. I didn’t know there was an upgrade, because I guess I don’t pay that much attention. So I was using the old version of Instagram for a long time. And I noticed the app got kind of funky, it was hard to use. I thought there’s something wrong here, there’s got to be an upgrade. So I upgraded. And I upgraded to this weird new format that you click on something and then you get all these videos all of a sudden.

Cathy Curtis: And I said oh my gosh, this is what everybody’s talking about. The old platform all you saw was who you wanted to see, this new platform you see who and also all these other people and it scrolls and scrolls and scrolls, that’s done on purpose, right?

Susan Reynolds: Oh, absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: And probably the other app didn’t work, because they really wanted you to switch over to the new app, and now I’m wondering is there any way to turn that off and I just found out there is from another Instagram user that’s frustrated by this new interface. So I mean, I’ve personally experienced this, and I found myself watching these videos, just getting entranced by them. Some of them are really funny, and you it’s an addictive thing, there’s no doubt it.

Susan Reynolds: Well, it’s interesting too, because this is where the profit model comes in. So Instagram is miming itself after Tik-Tok. And one of the problems of these videos is they’re getting shorter and shorter and shorter, and so we’re not able to attend to lengthier videos conversations, right? Because the brain gets trained in needing to switch all the time. So that knowledge of what you can do, what?

Cathy Curtis: Do kids read books anymore? I mean, do they have the attention?

Susan Reynolds: It’s really hard, it’s really hard. And then yes, and if you think about everything being online, your textbooks and reading. I mean, one of the common digital well-being tasks is print out a reading and pick up a pencil and take notes on that hard copy, because that physical act increases your comprehension and ability to focus.

Susan Reynolds: So part of digital well-being is knowing these strategies that help with attention and focus and productivity, so that’s one whole side of digital well-being. And then there’s the whole mental health aspect of it, is not just how long you’re on social media or Netflix or whatever is grabbing your attention, that you don’t intend to be grabbed, I think is one way to think about it. But then what you’re actually seeing on Instagram and Tik-Tok and social media.

Susan Reynolds: And I think for youth, the comparative culture is huge. And even thinking about comparing a curated, right? Totally altered photo of a friend, because a celebrity is one thing, but if it’s of a friend. And then if someone just turns around and looks at themselves in the mirror no makeup, right? No curation, that just that feeling is, so youth don’t feel as good about themselves.

Susan Reynolds: Their self-esteem is really severely impacted. And the other piece that’s really very interesting and probably we haven’t heard of before is quantified personality. So quantified popularity and personality. So what you think is you’re popular by how many likes and followers you have, which is going to lead to more comparison culture, right?

Susan Reynolds: And more not feeling good enough, and FOMO and fear of missing out, keeping you on the devices longer. So that all of the things that you would be doing if you weren’t on the device that would make you feel better is not really happening.

Cathy Curtis: Right. And then the influencer culture, which I’m sure a lot of you think that’s easy to get to and it’s not, and it takes tremendous amount of hours online. But everyone’s following those people.

Susan Reynolds: Right. So what’s been interesting for us with, because this is our third year. The first year, we worked specifically in colleges and then we had sort of an open call for solutions from students, and during the pandemic, it was a little different. We still had digital overload and tech life balance as a question, how might we solve for. But we really asked the other questions where how might we solve for social isolation and loneliness.

Susan Reynolds: Because of the pandemic, so much of this was such a big problem, but also digital activism. So more on that positive side of how might we use these devices, and this was really during the whole Black Lives Matter movement and youth were really feeling very empowered. Because you could be a change agent and you didn’t need transportation, you didn’t need funds necessarily.

Susan Reynolds: So really, listening to students and what they saw were the struggles, and then also talking about what they were doing. And I think it’s very interesting if we look at gen z as a group, they’re very committed to social change and political change, and creating solutions for climate change.

Cathy Curtis: In my work, they’re ESG investors, environmental social governance investors almost 100 percent, they really care.

Susan Reynolds: Right. And gen z is really, they’re also growing up in an era where there are a lot of problems to solve. So it’s so many choices, and they really feel committed to do that. And some leaders, because it’s not everybody, but these amazing leaders out there say it’s really not cool if you don’t have a cause. So there’s a positive, it’s always this positive and the negative.

Susan Reynolds: So the new change agents because we’ve really seen is a potential for regulation and legislation. Because when I started this work, people would sort of say oh yes right. Legislation, you’re not going to get in, that’s not possible.

[28:33] The pending legislation around digital wellbeing at the state and federal levels.

Cathy Curtis: Yes. Didn’t Francis Haugen cause a big shift in that? Because I know legislation has been proposed for years, and there’s been some past, but nothing about this issue. But since she testified, it seems like there’s more and more, and there is a bill pending right now. I would love you to talk a little bit about the legislation that’s pending in California and at the federal level.

Susan Reynolds: Yes, absolutely. So what Francis Haugen’s research did, and the research all the way up into that point. There was a lot of correlative data. But there was arguments or disagreement on whether it was really truly causative. Like whether social media was actually causing harms.

Susan Reynolds: Francis’s data because it was research done by Facebook secretly within Facebook. Where they came out and it was a direct causative relation, that a third of teenage girls were suffering from self-esteem issues, and body image issues from Instagram. So there it was, it was directed. And I think the other thing that happened was in the UK, they passed a bill, an appropriate design code, which I can talk about.

Cathy Curtis: Yes.

Susan Reynolds: They passed it in the UK, the arguments from tech companies was always or often number one, it won’t make a change, and number two, it will take away innovation.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: What happened in the UK was they found that it did not take away innovation.

Cathy Curtis: In what way? What did they mean by that?

Susan Reynolds: So that those regulations and those strict rules around design, would sort of hamper technological process, and would actually hamper the ability to create better platforms for people’s well-being.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: But in the UK, they actually saw that it increased innovation, and the changes were having an impact. And so Google let’s say would have to change something, the way they designed it for the UK. But it would fold over into the other design aspects.

Susan Reynolds: And one of the big things is, social media let’s say is designed for a 12-year-old the same way it is designed for a 40-year-old. And so if we think about other products and other regulated laws in the U.S or in the world, that’s not the case. And so the call really was to change the way things were designed for children.

Cathy Curtis: Under the age of?

Susan Reynolds: Under the age of 18.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: It started with under the age of 13, and these bills are calling for under the age of 18 saying they’re still minors. And a lot of it is privacy, children’s privacy. And what they call the dark box of the algorithm, that there’s no transparency, the companies don’t say how these algorithms are working it.

Susan Reynolds: So the baroness diver came to the U.S herself and helped write a California bill, it’s called the California age appropriate design code. Based on the same issues of designing technology that a child would be likely to use. So likely to use, so even though a 12-year-old is not supposed to be using Instagram, because it’s 13 and up, they are. So how might we design these platforms to be safer.

Cathy Curtis: So let me ask, so in the UK, 12 years and under aren’t supposed to be using Instagram?

Susan Reynolds: That’s across the board, social media is 13 and up.

Cathy Curtis: Okay, that’s it.

Susan Reynolds: I mean, that’s the rule, it’s not followed. And it’s becoming increasingly younger and younger, I mean eight and nine-year-old are on Instagram and Snapchat, and they’re not designed for youth brains. So that’s a big piece of this.

Susan Reynolds: So the California age-appropriate design code has made it through the assembly, two committees in the assembly, the assembly floor, and it just passed through the senate judiciary, and is on its way to the senate appropriations, and then the floor. And this was the first time we as LookUp was asked for youth advocates.

Susan Reynolds: So in our third iteration of the work we’re doing with LookUp, we now have a question about advocacy solutions. And some of the student’s advocacy solutions are involved with storytelling and filmmaking and podcasting, to raise awareness and reach forward. But we actually had youth testify in committee, as well as write petitions and get their peers to sign petitions. And recently, so that’s one California bill.

Cathy Curtis: Is that called the kids online safety act or is that different?

Susan Reynolds: So that’s the senate bill, that’s the federal bill.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: There’s another California one called the social media platform duty to children act. I mean, we walked around calling them 2273 and 2408.

Cathy Curtis: I bet.

Susan Reynolds: But that one’s very different, that one allows parents to sue the companies for the addictive nature of social media.

Cathy Curtis: That is a very serious bill, isn’t it? Will that pass? I just can’t imagine that, but what are the chances.

Susan Reynolds: Well, they both made it all the way through senate judiciary, and now they’re going on to appropriations. I think they’re both going on to appropriations. But the interesting thing about these bills, not in the assembly floor, but in committee, they’ve passed unanimously. And they’re bipartisan bills as well, that’s really exciting.

Cathy Curtis: Authored by both republican and democrats initially, right? Yes.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely, yes. So it’s not a polarized issue, it’s coming across both parties. The big opponent is the tech companies themselves, because they don’t want this. But from LookUp’s perspective, it’s a whole new arena for us that youth are really powerful.

Cathy Curtis: It must be so exciting, for you, your organization and everyone else involved in this.

Susan Reynolds: Yes, it is.

Cathy Curtis: It must be, because it’s kind of coming to a head in a way.

Susan Reynolds: We think it is, and the idea of California, is if California passes these bills, it just leads the way, not only for other states to pass it, but internationally. Because a lot of countries the European union, Australia, a lot of countries have bills pending. So all it’s going to take is a certain amount, and then the tech companies it’s just going to make sense to just do it across the board.

Cathy Curtis: Right. Going back to the California bill, describe it briefly the main points in that bill. If it passed, what would happen? What would change?

Susan Reynolds: So it would require tech companies to design social media differently.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: It would, to work on the algorithmic design and explain, to work on taking away some of the addictive nature. Not to save data of youth, not to provide, to keep adults who youth don’t know away from them. So it’s really thinking about the health and safety of children

Cathy Curtis: Okay. So taking an example of a young girl for example, that in this Instagram thing, where their self-esteem gets affected by what they see. Will anything in that bill help that situation? As for in the algorithms or what would happen then?

Susan Reynolds: Well, I think the first thing they would have to do is be transparent about how the algorithms work, and change what youth see. So more body positivity. But also, I mean there’s a whole sexuality piece and sextortion, and the ability for adult predators to contact youth. I can’t tell you how many, particularly young women say they have been propositioned or contacted by men seeking.

Cathy Curtis: If you don’t have a private Instagram account as a woman.

Susan Reynolds: It’s shifting those things and putting pressures on the companies.

Cathy Curtis: Okay, gosh and August 1 is the vote, is that correct?

Susan Reynolds: The appropriation, it might be next Tuesday, for the appropriations.

Cathy Curtis: Could be in August one, yes. Could be August on the articles, but that’s already passed.

Susan Reynolds: Yes. Up until appropriations Cosa, the kids online safety act, that’s the national bill with similar privacy laws. Again, from my perspective, the fun thing was there were 28 senators, so 28 states. What we’ve started to do is build a database of youth in California, trying to figure out what counties they’re in. So that was a piece of it. We as adults learned this whole legislative process, but youth are learning it too. And seeing that it matters and that they can actually make a difference.

Cathy Curtis: And when you say youth, these are your staff [Inaudible 00:37:21.06]

Susan Reynolds: So youth I would say is anywhere from 13 to 25. I think in some situations, an op-ed written by a 16- or 17-year-old is even more desirable. But a 24- or 25-year-old talking about their former self, and talking about the harms to them and mental health issues or other issues that have come up is very powerful.

Cathy Curtis: It is, I’ve watched several of them. I’m really intrigued by this your staff, your executive director is very young, right?

Susan Reynolds: She’s pretty young, she’s in her 30s.

Cathy Curtis: Okay, she looks younger than that, okay. But still, you have an extremely youthful stuff.

[41:38] Susan Reynolds describes some of the work her nonprofit LookUp.Live is involved with.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely, and that’s really a real mission of ours. My executive director before was a friend, we’ll just say in the baby boomer generation. And what we really see look up is this infrastructure to empower, embolden, support financially and with mentorship their innovations, their advocacy, their campaigns for a healthy and safe digital world. I mean, that’s sort of the framework we really look at. And actually, all of their innovations are advocacy. A lot of, well, when the Netflix documentary the social dilemma came out, we were really lucky to have a contact and partner with them.

Susan Reynolds: So our first as we were mentioning our youth for youth summit, we’re coming up our on our third one in October, was partnered with the social dilemma. And so the social dilemma was one of the, was sort of the precursor to Francis Haugen. It revealed a lot of the harms in a documentary that just in a viral way went all over the world. And in our summit, we had the director, Jeff Orlowski, he was the keynote and he really spoke specifically to the youth, and really talked to them about how important they were to the movement, and how to be a change agent.

Susan Reynolds: So it’s been this constant life events happening that really coincided with what we were doing, and brought us in many ways to the next level, [Inaudible 00:40:02.09]

Cathy Curtis: You’re really focusing on that now.

Susan Reynolds: On the advocacy?

Cathy Curtis: Yes.

Susan Reynolds: I think in the beginning, we had a lot of students from an entrepreneurship standpoint create an app, a digital well-being app. We have moved, it’s very difficult to get a startup like that off the ground, and our programs are.

Cathy Curtis: Nobody would know about that have got off the ground, that were developed?

Susan Reynolds: By us, no. What ends up happening is, so we have had this amazing group of young women at Stanford, they created an app called ASMBL, they created it during the pandemic. It was to be a non-addictive platform for all types of social change agents. So they worked on it, got their MVP, their most viable product out.

Susan Reynolds: And just they were going to Stanford, they were competing tasks. And what ended up happening to two of these young women is they said we have to put ASMBL on the shelf, but they are advocates for the movement. And Chloe Schrager was able to go to class with Barrack Obama. So Barrack Obama came and spoke at Stanford and he really spoke about the digital movement in general, and Chloe was able to sit in a class with him, they chose 10 students.

Susan Reynolds: And so she is still a spokesperson for a safer and healthier digital world. So from an app perspective, I don’t think any have really gotten off the ground. And one of the problems with it as well is there are companies working on these digital well-being platforms, and they’re having a hard time as well, right? Just from again because you’re in that profit model.

Susan Reynolds: So an example of an innovation that’s continuing to grow is a young woman Maddie Freeman interviewed Jeff Orlowski, she made her own 15-minute documentary and tied it to a digital detox program called no-so November, so no social media in November, she’s in Colorado. She started this because she saw so many friends and peers die of suicide, so it’s a very mental health focus. But she has developed this campaign that she is promoting and schools are taking it on.

Susan Reynolds: And she learned very quickly that no so November doesn’t mean no social media November. You could take the whole month off from social media. But she gives tips for different ways to take a break from social media. So that’s an example of yes, it’s using a technical platform in the sense of she’s made a film that’s embedded in a website. So it’s a digital solution to spread the message, but it’s not a specific app.

Cathy Curtis: Right, yes. I can imagine developing an app will be tremendously hard.

Susan Reynolds: Well, and I think the other thing they’re finding is, particularly the students that started during the pandemic, that all of a sudden, these apps aren’t needed as much. Because they were developing them for a need that was occurring because we were living through a pandemic.

[47:29] The effect the pandemic has had on technology and social media habits.

Cathy Curtis: Now that the pandemic is waning a bit, what do you see trends changes happening? I’m sure kids were on social media more over the last few years, right? I mean, it didn’t spike in some tremendous amount, thirty percent usage or something?

Susan Reynolds: Yes, and so the problem is changing that habit, getting back in person, getting back outside. I do think one of the debates has been what do you do about schools? Like do you allow phones in schools, how do you do it? How do you regulate it? And I was just speaking with a school in Massachusetts, who it’s a K through nine school, five through nine, has some boarding students, and they’re actually instituting the yondr pouch, which is way y-o-n-d-r.

Susan Reynolds: Which is a pouch that you put your phone in and it locks it up during the day, and then it unlocks it when you leave school. And I was speaking to another middle school teacher, which is really interesting the way it circles back to teaching middle school. She said Susan that is so draconian, don’t you think that they should be learning to regulate it, and I said not in middle school, no. Because if nobody has their phone, no one has their phone, you’re not missing out on anything. One person has their phone and is checking social media, then the rest of them, you’re missing out.

Susan Reynolds: And I also think one of the reasons this is so powerful is when kids go to camp, they go to camp and there’s no phones, many camps say just absolutely no phones. I asked a group of seventh graders, and have any of you gone to camp without phones, a bunch of them raised their hand and tell me about it, oh so much better, so much less stressful. I had so much more fun with my friends, I had better relationships with my friends, and this is middle school and high school.

Cathy Curtis: Yes, so I believe that.

Susan Reynolds: I mean, we can’t live like that, so the trick of digital well-being so to speak is how do we create an environment enough, so that we don’t lose those in-person activities, right? The things that actually boost our mental health I mean.

[50:08] Susan Reynolds shares her vision for the next five years.

Cathy Curtis: Yes. And you don’t develop those addictive behaviors where you don’t even want to talk to your parents at night because you have to be on your phone, I’m sure that happens in a lot of families, very painful. So well, a lot of what you’re saying is very positive. What do you see, I mean as far as the work being done. What do you see, like what’s your vision for the next five years, and what could change and happen?

Susan Reynolds: Well, someone had said what’s your vision for LookUp? I mean it’s not very realistic, one of them is that they don’t need us anymore, right? I mean, I think it’s growing a movement, and allowing more youth, when I say youth, really we work with 18 to 25. High school is just more difficult, because under 18 requires different types of parental permission. And so we’re working, actually we are, youth catalyst is another nonprofit in Oakland, and seven of their youth from actually seven bay area high schools have an internship with us, and they are our marketing company. Are the marketing firm so to speak for the youth for youth summit, that this will be October 15.

Susan Reynolds: And the youth for youth summit is a great way for adults to see what youth are doing, because it’s all run by youth, moderated by youth, youth panels. And it’s really exciting to hear what they’re doing around advocacy, their solutions for mental health. And so one of the things that’s really new that we’re doing this year is we’re bringing in speakers, these amazing sort of awarded mental health advocates in high school and college, to have them discuss the mental health issue, introduce the concept of digital well-being in the digital age, to this group of youth, bringing in that perspective.

Susan Reynolds: Because mental health advocacy has been around longer than digital well-being advocacy, or just because. And so what can these youth learn? What can our youth who are just beginning this advocacy work, particularly when we think about legislation. What can they learn from the mental health advocates? So as we move forward, I keep coming back to my original concern, right? The mental health crisis among college students.

Susan Reynolds: The only reason I say college students and not middle school and high school students, is that’s a population that we can work with in providing solutions and innovations. And they are the biggest speakers for high school students.

Cathy Curtis: Okay.

Susan Reynolds: Sort of this trickle down the peer mentor, right? Just a couple years younger is easier to listen to than someone much older.

Cathy Curtis: Yes, that makes so much sense to me. So how do you define the mental health crisis with college students, talk about that just a little bit.

Susan Reynolds: So it was interesting. I was just listening earlier today to a webinar by Laurie Santos, Professor Laurie Santos who has the happiness lab, that some of you may have heard of, she’s out of Yale. I hadn’t heard statistics recently. But the concern is that, many colleges, I mean over 50 percent, I didn’t write down her current statistics, feel stressed and overwhelmed. Many feel depressed and anxious so much that they can’t get up and do their work.

Susan Reynolds: One in 10 college students has contemplated suicide. So there’s just a trend of having a really hard time in day-to-day life. And so Laurie’s came from college students from schools like Yale, but it’s not specific to high-powered universities, it’s pretty much across the board. So this sort of lack of hope, and I do find in working with students who are working on a problem, they are more hopeful. But all of the self-care processes of exercise, right? Spending time face to face with friends without devices, spending time in nature, right? All of these things that we know we’re good for us, they’re really good for us.

Susan Reynolds: And so youth and adults who spend time on technology, we sort of like we still have this human body. We still have the ancient brain, we still need people. We still need our tribe, we still need our in-person community. And keeping that alive for the next generations and providing that is just so important to being a human being. Because interestingly enough, our brains have not really changed. We still live in, with the sympathetic nervous system and a parasympathetic nervous system, and our sympathetic nervous system goes into fight, flight or freeze. Technology creates fight, flight or freeze.

Cathy Curtis: Well, what you just said was so beautiful. I think that’s a good time to end our podcast, that statement about how to live life with friends, nature, giving attention to things that make you feel good is so important.

Susan Reynolds: Yes, it’s so important. And so people who say what do I do first? I said well, I just call it the three S’s. Can you study without your phone? Can you sleep without your phone? And can you socialize without your phone and try one. Like the sleeping without your phone just changes everything, especially for kids.

[57:30] How people can get in touch with Susan Reynolds and become more involved with the digital wellness movement.

Cathy Curtis: Yes, that’s good. The three S’s. I like that, perfect. Share with the audience, well, how can we as adults help your advocacy in this movement for digital wellness.

Susan Reynolds: Well, I mean, right here with this group, I mean mentorship for, because each team that gets a grant from us, we provide them with a mentor. And it’s interesting, one of our mentors is a life coach, and it’s been really helpful for her to help them prioritize, they are working on an advocacy campaign, and organizing youth that are interested in working with them. Different types of financial support, project management support. So mentorship is just a one-on-one.

Cathy Curtis: Okay. So tell us how that would work, what would someone need to do to become a mentor?

Susan Reynolds: So they would just reach out to me, Susan@LookUp.Live. I mean, we have a newsletter. Our website is LookUp.Live, which was interesting when you’re getting a website, I mean LookUp is the white pages and the yellow pages, right? So it was hard to get a URL for that. But it really sort of is Look Up and live your life. I mean, it’s the first step of looking up from your phone or your device, or your technology.

Cathy Curtis: Okay, excellent.

Susan Reynolds: And I think the other, we have been really lucky in getting grants from some family foundations.

Cathy Curtis: When you say lucky, I bet it’s not all luck. I bet it’s not all luck, I’m sure you write a really good proposal with really good reasons why you should have grant money.

Susan Reynolds: Well, I mean, we got a grant for advocacy and it just coincided beautifully that we could articulate a real need for it, because of these bills in California. But introductions in knowing organizations that give out grants for youth mental health. The digital piece is new, but it coincides so beautifully with any organizations that support youth, underserved youth just example of providing internships for high school students in the bay area from under-resourced schools.

Cathy Curtis: Right. And then the summit, talk about how you can attend the summit.

Susan Reynolds: So I believe the registration link is live on our website, it’s the Y for Y summit, and it is on October 15th. And it’s a great event that you can come to for one panel or you can hang out all day.

Cathy Curtis: Okay. Do you ever think you’ll go back to live, have you talked about that?

Susan Reynolds: The summit, probably not. But we did have an event in June where we brought five of our leaders together in the bay area, to meet other advocates. And then they spent the day lobbying in Sacramento together, meeting with different senators. So face-to-face is the best, I mean it’s absolutely the best. And so working on more local regional meetups.

Susan Reynolds: It’s amazing though when you bring youth together virtually, and it doesn’t cost any money. I mean, probably across the board for companies finding the profit margin, right? I mean, a virtual versus in person, because if you think about it, we flew five youth to the bay area. We had two others who lived here, but flew them to the bay area and housed them, and so really figuring out how to create more in-person events and locally.

Cathy Curtis: You mentioned BlackRock, were they going to sponsor?

Susan Reynolds: They were going to sponsor our collaborative summit. Yes, you’re right, that’s another example that we, I gave a talk to the women of BlackRock organization, and her name is Diana Angelini.

Susan Reynolds: She invited women from other companies, and I spoke in, they have a, BlackRock in San Francisco and maybe in New York too has as a floor that is like a WeWork. And so it was a perfect collaborative space to bring youth together with mentors, and have them share their ideas. So that’s another great, right? Providing a meeting space.

Cathy Curtis: Yes, I know that space in San Francisco, that’s a great space. Good for them for sponsoring.

Susan Reynolds: I know, unfortunately, the date was April 2020.

Cathy Curtis: Oh dear, well, maybe next year, right?

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: We don’t know, we still don’t know when this thing’s going to stop.

Susan Reynolds: Exactly.

Cathy Curtis: It really would be nice to have a live event, considering what you do.

Susan Reynolds: Very much so.

Cathy Curtis: Well Susan, thank you so much. Fascinating topic, and thank you for what you’re doing. I know my listeners are going to just enjoy this so much, and hopefully, sign up for the summit or somehow otherwise get involved.

Susan Reynolds: Yes. And if you have a 16- to 25-year-old that’s really fascinated with this topic, we would love for them to join. I mean, and our grant applications will be up soon and so there’s a lot of ways to get involved.

Cathy Curtis: Okay. Now what does that mean to join for our youth?

Susan Reynolds: So coming to the youth for youth summit, definitely. And we will be opening the 2023 applications to come up with solutions, we’ll be opening that up in September.

Cathy Curtis: Okay, good to know.

Susan Reynolds: And we are also building an advocacy branch that’ll be on the website probably in the next month, to create a database of youth who say I want to participate in the advocacy, I’ll write a letter to my senator, I’ll sign a petition. I want to do a little thing, maybe not a big thing, to be part of that.

Susan Reynolds: And the other thing we’re adding is community service hours for high school students, any work done with Look Up. So there’s another avenue as well.

Cathy Curtis: Perfect. By the way, I was on your website and there was a pop-up to contact your senator, you could fill out a form to contact your senator about this coming up bill in California. So that’s another way.

Susan Reynolds: Yes, that’s another way, absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: Yes, okay great. All right Susan, I could talk to you all day about this, we had a lot of things, but hopefully we got the message across odd and clear about what you do, and frame the problem and hopefully solutions will come.

Susan Reynolds: Absolutely.

Cathy Curtis: Yes. Okay, have a good.

Susan Reynolds: Okay, you too.

Cathy Curtis: All right, bye.

Susan Reynolds: Bye.

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Episode 6 Transcript: Social Media Therapy: Overcoming The Awkward and Vulnerable Feelings That Can Come With Posting


Welcome to episode number six of the Financial Finesse podcast. I’m Cathy Curtis, host of this podcast and owner of Curtis Financial Planning, a financial advisory firm specializing in the finances of independent women. My guest today is Courtney McQuaid. We are going to talk about social media. And specifically, those vulnerable feelings you get when you go to post something. We all experience it, but there are ways to overcome it. And Courtney is uniquely qualified to talk about this, and I’m going to take a moment to read her bio. Courtney’s a recognized social media expert and has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Courtney creates and implements transformative compliant social media strategies to teach individuals and organizations how to reach their target audiences and uncover untapped opportunities through social media. She builds confidence in her clients and counsels them through the awkward and emotional vulnerabilities that can come with posting on social media with a bespoke strategy to inspire and encourage growth. Right now, Courtney is a communications manager for Integrated Partners, a 7.3 billion hybrid RIA, and a social media consultant at City Wire USA. Hi, Courtney. So happy to have you on my podcast.


Thank you. It’s great to be here.


How are you doing today? Good, good. Good. I’m excited. Let’s get into this great conversation. I love social media. And I know you do too. And I just have a couple quick start off questions and wonders. Why do you think that for some people, it seems easy to be authentic and vulnerable when they’re posting and for others, it’s just a complete struggle and they don’t even know where to begin?


That’s a great question. You know, I, I can’t actually say for sure because everybody’s different. I think for some people, it just comes naturally. Maybe they’re just more open people, and they’re comfortable with the technology and the idea of social media.


Some aren’t.


Some people I’ve met are fantastic speakers. They can get on a stage in front of hundreds of people. But then when it comes to social media, they suddenly feel a little nervous, a little awkward, a little insecure. And maybe it’s because it’s the idea of it being out there to the universe permanently. I don’t know. But every everybody’s different.


Yeah, that’s a really good point. About being out there to the universe permanently. Because it becomes a public record. When you tweet or post something on Facebook, and we know it can never go away. Right? And I also think there’s something to do with this vulnerability issue. And this fear of exposure, that you’re going to say something stupid, people are gonna laugh at you. They’re not gonna think you’re witty enough or smart enough. I think there’s a little bit of that. And it’s almost like real life. Right? We feel that way in real life, too. And, yeah, and it gets exacerbated a little bit on social media, especially if you’re always comparing yourself to somebody that you think does it better than you.


Yeah, definitely. And, you know, there’s also that feeling of oh, I feel a little narcissistic. Everybody looked at me. Why does anybody care what I have to say? You know, am I being too pushy? Yeah. And so one of the ways I try to work through that with my clients is comparing it to how it really works in real life. So for example, I had one person tell me well, that he made a post, and a lot of people were commenting on it. And he wasn’t sure if he should reply back to the comments or not. And I said, well, think of it this way. If you’re walking down the street downtown, headed to an appointment to see a client, and you see a colleague walking toward you. And he or she stopped you for a minute to say hi and say, hey, congratulations on that award. Would you just keep your mouth shut? Smile and keep walking? Right. Do you say thank you, or do you say thank you? And he said, oh, okay, I get it. I get it. So he went back to his LinkedIn post and thanked people for their Congratulations. In their comments. So social media is designed to be social. It’s just like networking in real life, but online. So trying to think of it that way I think really helps people begin to get the idea for it and the feel for it.


That’s a really good point, it becomes like a conversation then instead of a one on one, feed, it dies. And the more you think of it as a conversation, probably the more successful you’re going to be.


Absolutely, absolutely. It just takes getting some used to, you know, one of my best tips for everybody if you’re unsure about it, is just to try to make LinkedIn or whichever social media platform you feel most comfortable with. Try and make it part of your daily routine. Put in your calendar 10 minutes every day, to just simply scroll your home feed. You don’t have to do anything. Just scroll your home feed, see what other people are saying, see how other people are using it. Make sure that you are connected with your target audience. And make sure that you’re connected with some of your colleagues that might do the same work that you do. I mean, I primarily work with advisors. But this advice can port over into any industry.


Really, let me ask you a question that you brought up something really important, that target audience term. So before you start using social media, and while you’re using it, you really should have your target audience in your mind, right? Absolutely. So you’re focused. It’s not just random conversation. How do you suggest someone go about doing that and also connecting getting followers from their target audience?


Sure. Well, there’s a couple of ways to do it. First of all, you want to do your due diligence, find out where your target audience are. And sometimes it’s on more than one platform. If you are targeting small business owners, depends on what they are selling. But more often than not, they happen to be on Facebook, and probably some on LinkedIn as well. So you’d want to use a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook. Retirees or pre retirees tend to love Facebook, but then some are also on LinkedIn. So you have to just do your due diligence, find out where your target audience is, and then post content that they want to read, that they want to see. What is it that they’re wanting, you don’t want to post selling your services, why you should hire me. I mean, maybe once in a while. You want to talk about what value you offer. But I know for me when I first began working with an asset management firm back in 2012, I was so disheartened looking for social media information geared toward asset managers, I only worked with financial advisors. So back in 2012, I ran for this asset manager, I’m thinking, gosh, how can I make this unique and I was researching all over the web, it was very difficult to find something geared toward asset managers. And so finally, I came across this FinTech company called Kurtosis. I had no idea what they did, what their product was that they sold, but they gave such great information about social media marketing for asset managers. I just I lived on their blog for months. And after learning so much from their educational information, finally, I took a moment to try and figure out well, what do they do, what value do they offer? And it turns out that they offer digital Fun Fact sheets for asset managers. So I was their perfect target audience. And they drew me in with content that they knew I would want. Never once were they selling their services, they knew what me their target audience would want. Right?


Okay, that makes sense. But it also sounds kind of intimidating for someone first starting out and really not knowing what their first through 10 posts should be. So what’s your advice to that total newbie? They open well, a Twitter account, and they start wanting to post.


Well, again, it would be part of doing your research and so to even take it a step back further, you don’t want to just start posting without a plan, right? Okay, number one, build, build out your social media strategy, and doing your due diligence, finding out where your target audience is, which platforms to work on, and what content that they want is all part of building out that social media strategy. I would suggest getting together with a coworker or other people in your team, sitting down together, making a list of potential topics and if possible, survey your target audience. If you already have existing clients, ask them what they might want to learn more about, ask them what intrigues them. Something that my friend Justin Castelli always tells his advisors that he works with is this, sit down and think about what are the common questions that your clients ask you in client meetings? There are your topics right there. Mm hmm. And then the next step would be to create your content.


Okay, well, you know, this type of social media strategy doesn’t sound vulnerable at all. It’s like, this is a well thought out, pre-planned strategy. So you could go on the platforms and start posting. So when you’re working with people, what makes them still feel hesitant about starting?


Well, I think it’s like any creator. When you first get ready to actually make that post, a lot of times are thinking, well, what do I say? Is this gonna sound dumb? Are they gonna like it? You know, it’s really feeling like you’re putting it out there permanently almost like shooting your video. You know, I still get a little nervous. I was a little nervous before we did this. Yeah, it’s etched in stone, in fact, you know, it’s also not age related, which I think a lot of people think that. I had a friend just last week, about 30 years old, and lives on Instagram and Tiktok, who asked me for advice on how to post something on LinkedIn, because she rarely ever posts on LinkedIn and she suddenly got very nervous. So you know, I think it just takes experience, doing it regularly, trying to switch your mind to think about how it relates to these into real life. You know, what would you say if you were at a networking event? What If you were having a client event and your clients were there, and they were asking you questions, think of it that way, because you’re just putting it out there digitally. You know what the right thing is to say in real life? Right? So you can have confidence in the fact that you’re going to know what the right thing is to say, when you post on social media. Of course, there’s certain strategies for the way you word your posts, which we can get into if you want to.


Yeah, talk about that a little bit. What is a strategy? I’m still learning.


Well, when you’re talking to people one on one, you have more of their attention and it’s easier to maybe tell a bit more of a story. When you’re on social media. You’ll notice as people scroll through their home feeds, it’s not necessarily a one on one conversation. It’s you’re putting information out there into the public, and you’re hoping it catches your target audience’s attention, right. So as you scroll through your home feed, how do you get through that deluge of information? How do you get your post to stand out to make somebody want to stop and read it? So when you’re writing your hook, as I call it, I always say, trying to put your main point at the very beginning of your sentence, the very first few words. Everybody has ADD, you know, we just have information overload. And I’ve seen some people begin their hooks with something along the lines of last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with world renowned for that, and already you’ve lost the people, right? Because what’s in it for me? So whatever the particular topic is, you just want to get to that point, you know, five top tips and five top tax tips for small business owners and then you can say that I learned from my conversation with you know, this well-known CPA or whatever it was.


The number tip thing really catches people’s eye, right? The five number tips, best ideas and that, or like my target audiences is single independent women. And I might start a post bag lady syndrome, how to overcome it. Whereas where it hooks them in instead of, are you single? Or I don’t know something more mundane. You just want to get their attention.


Exactly what are their pain points? And what value do you offer to help solve for those pain points? That’s what everybody wants, you know?


Yeah. So when you’re working with a client, and they’re telling you oh, I don’t, I don’t get social media. I mean, I’ve had colleagues tell me, I think social media is stupid. You know, they go on for a while and they’re trying to get it. Get the rhythm. Understand it and they just don’t. Yeah, yeah, I should that person that just I hear that.


I hear it all the time. And first of all, you have to want to do it and you have to understand the value. So I oftentimes share success stories with my clients. Every year, for the last six years, Putnam has put out an advisor survey asking them how they use social media for their business. And if you want to Google it, and you take a look at this, you will see the growth and the amount of success that advisors have had over the last six, seven years, that Putnam has put out this survey. It’s really, really powerful. And that’s just for our industry. But for any industry in general. The statistics are there, it’s grown. So I try to show success stories and show the numbers and then it just goes back to what I said originally. Try to make social media part of your daily routine, just 10 minutes a day. Each morning, when you check your email, scroll your home feeds, check your notifications, start to get a feel for it, see what the current trends are. And over time you begin to get comfortable, then start with one post and see what the reaction is. And keep at it. It’s kind of like a slow drip campaign. So you just have to keep doing it. And over time you get comfortable. And once you see the results, then it’ll definitely inspire you to want to do more. But there’s a ton of people told me they think it’s a waste of time. And then 99% of the time those people end up coming around. I guarantee it. Well, I


started using social media in 2008. So you could say I’m sort of a veteran of the medium of it has been. You are a pioneer. Yeah. It’s been amazing for me, brought me so many opportunities above and beyond prospecting for clients, just connections and people I’ve hired and you know, you know, presentations, I’ve been able to make all kinds of things. But you know, back when I started, I didn’t have a strategy. I was trying to build my brand, because it’s great for brand building right, getting your message out there. But I just started having conversations with people and it was so exciting when people started to follow me and engage with me and you get hooked. And I think if you can get beyond that fear stage and get started, like you said 99% of the people are going to love it and find some benefits about it. There’s another little angle I want to talk about with social media and this is once you get more advanced in it is, is finding your true voice like really being yourself open vulnerable on these platforms. And I mean, this is hard to do in real life, right. But what I found is the people that are the most authentic, are the most popular. They have the most followers they have the most people want to hear what they have to say. That’s not an easy thing to do.


It’s not, it’s not and that’s why those people get so many followers, I think because all of us who are a little more nervous, maybe a little bit more shy to actually let it all out like that actually give a firm opinion on something that might make some people mad or that others might disagree with. We admire those people. So because deep down we wish, maybe there’s a part of us that wishes they could do that. So it makes us want to follow them and watch them and hear what they have to say. Now everybody has a different style. And so what some people might feel comfortable putting out there, you might not. And that’s totally okay. That’s also part of this getting used to social media and what to say and what you feel comfortable with. And your comfort level will change. I, you know, I’ve historically been more worried about my clients’ social media than my own. Until last year, I thought, gosh, I better really get more active on Twitter. I need to start posting more for myself and engage with our FinTech community. And suddenly, I felt nervous, and I felt awkward and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I know who I am. I feel like I know. But I felt weird and it’s taken, you know, over a year, but now I feel much more comfortable chit chatting on Twitter. I’ve built up a nice group of Twitter friends, our fin tech community. I’ve met so many great people really through Twitter. Yeah. Which is really, really cool. And thanks to Leslie Marshall over at Morningstar.


But just met so many. I met Leslie


Leslie years ago, like, probably 2009/10 because of Twitter.


So did I.




Leslie gave me advice on Twitter when I was at that asset management firm.


Right. You know, I noticed I think I started noticing you on Twitter about a year ago. So that’s probably when you started to really get into your own on Twitter, right. Like you said, you stopped thinking about your client. Well, you of course, you’re still thinking about your clients, but you will. Yeah, yeah. You’re developing your own presence. Yeah.


Yeah. Well, and the funny thing I think that really broke my nervousness was I’d written an article for City Wire RIA magazine, where I listed 10 RIAs to follow on Twitter. And that was kind of a hot topic that summer and I chose the 10 RIAs that I felt were most authentic and real. They didn’t have to have a million followers. But I saw them on Twitter. I’d never met them in real life. But the way that they came through was very authentic and they just seem like good people to me. So I listed these 10 people, and the magazine came out and one of them Nina O’Neill, tweeted, hey, thanks Courtney for featuring me. I’m so honored and she tagged the other nine advisors. Well, one of them Tyrone Ross said he responded and said, well, thanks Courtney. But you misspelled my last name. And because his name is Tyrone, middle initial V like Victor and then last name Ross with an R. And I don’t know why I just saw that the end for his last name. So I wrote it. This time was oh no, no, this is print magazines. I mean, they thought we fixed the web version. But here I am. I’m just getting comfortable with tweeting again, I write this article, I felt so good about it. And that had been Cathy, my heart went into mode. Oh my gosh. I thought, Oh my gosh, I want to die. And so I do. So to this, I didn’t really know what to say. So I just I responded to his tweet with the faceplant emoji, like, you know, yeah. And I said, oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry Tyrone. And he was really nice about it, of course. Oh, yeah.


Oh, you know,


print gets thrown out. So, you know,


naturally, but it actually turned into a happy accident like the painter Bob Ross’s because all the other advisors jumped in and they started making a joke about it. Oh, are we gonna call you Tyrone Voss now? Do you represent Voss water, and there were some pretty funny funny tweets that followed that I think all day long, probably 1000 tweets. Oh my god. But we had such a great time. It turned out to be so much fun, especially when the advisor sent me a case of Voss water.


That’s being vulnerable to mistakes. All those things don’t aren’t necessarily bad things right


now. Anyway, it was really a happy accident. And then when we all met in person, finally at a conference, we already felt like we knew each other. So that really, that really made it fun.


Okay, this is you just brought up another great, fantastic thing about social media, where you meet people online, and then when you finally meet them in real life, you feel like you’re friends already. And it’s just it’s actually easier to develop the relationship. Yeah,


it is. It’s really, really fun. In fact, I heard Nina O’Neill speak at a conference. And that’s what she said. She said, specifically when she meets clients for the first time or prospects. They all tell her that they feel like they already know her because of her social media presence, they know, she has two boys in baseball and it’s really it is a nice way of being able to build that comfort or like you said personal brand. Which, by the way, is the old school term for or is the new school term for the old school term reputation, right? Oh, yeah, personal brand’s, just the buzzword. And now you can build that reputation, aka personal brand through social media.


Right. So we’re gonna wrap up in a couple of minutes. So I wanted to make sure the audience gets like, your top three tips to being authentic and successful using social media and, you know, social media where it’s we keep saying this broad term, it’s actually a group of platforms that you post on, right? And one may be better than another for your purposes. So you might want to speak to that just a little bit too.


Sure, sure, sure. Well,


first of all, it depends on your bandwidth. And you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. So if you’re really a newbie at social media, I suggest choosing one platform to begin with. But save your name, and your company name on all the platforms, even if you’re not using them right now, just because you don’t want somebody else to take that handle that username, like on Twitter, you have a Twitter handle, Facebook, your company name, and on your LinkedIn company page, even Pinterest, even on the platforms you think you’ll never use, just because they evolve so much. They change the way people use them. You know, in the beginning, nobody ever thought Instagram would be used for business but now it really is. So save your name and your company name across all the social media platforms just so that nobody else gets it, right. But if you’re really a newbie, choose one, if you think you can handle it, do two, which usually are Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter is also a great way to network, check to see if your audience is there. But if not, it’s where the media is and PR, if that’s a goal for you, trying to get some PR interviews. And then just make sure you build out your strategy. Do your research, find out what’s involved in a strategy, you know, which is part of what we talked about before doing your due diligence so that you’re prepared, you have a content strategy, how often you’re going to post and you know what your target audience wants. And then really, it’s like, I call it nurturing your network. I think a lot of people call it that.


Every day going in and


being active, you can’t just post and disappear. You have to post, and you have to engage with your network. Comment on their posts, like their posts and be a part of the conversation. And of course, don’t forget to let everybody know you’re on social media. It always amazes me how many advisors take the time to build out their social media presence. But then they neglect to put their social media icons on their website, or their email campaigns, or in just talking to people, hey, by the way, are you on LinkedIn, let’s connect or, you know, have you followed my Facebook page. So make sure that people know that you’re there, the people that you’re speaking with directly, and that will help spread the word. Again, along with engaging and posting and commenting regularly.


Great. Those are awesome tips. I just have one other question for you. And that is, do you recommend people post themselves all the time, or use somebody else to post for them to schedule their posting events. What’s your thoughts


on that? That’s a great, that’s another great question. Um, listen, if you can do it all yourself, I highly recommend that because only you know, your connections and your audience the best. I’ve had people want me to manage their LinkedIn for them. And it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t come off as authentic. I can see what’s happening in their network, but I have no idea what kind of relationships they have with certain people. Maybe to a degree, maybe if I worked really closely with somebody, but it’s just never going to be the same. If you’re really busy, and you want somebody to help with the posting, okay, fine. Maybe they maybe you can do that. But you still have to go on there and engage every single day and respond to the comments and like the comments. It’s the only way to be truly successful, to be truly authentic. People can smell it a mile away. And while a few years ago, setting posts just can’t post me, it works, social media, the platforms themselves and the way we use it is evolving every day. And really, people are just being more and more authentic, and people getting sensitive, you’re not.


So if


you want to be successful, you got to be authentic.


Yeah, I’m saying that to more and more authenticity. So I guess that is the main theme of this podcast is, if you can strive to be as authentic as you can on social media, use it every day. 10 minutes is barely any time at all. Schedule it in first thing in the morning or in the evening before you close the day out. Right. Yeah. And hopefully have a strategy.


But yeah, you have to have a strategy.


Yeah. And it’s not too late to get a strategy right. Like I could have a new strategy right now. If I wanted to.


Oh, yeah, and that’s a great point. You know, Cathy, your strategy can evolve year after year. So you want to revisit it and it’s not a set it and forget it when you create your strategy, you need to go back to it, decide what’s been working, what’s not what you want to change or if your business goals change, so keep that strategy on hand and refer to it and updated as you need to.


Okay, great. Is there anything else you would like our audience to know about you? Let’s go over your Twitter handles and things like that.


Oh, sure. Yeah, I’d love to connect with everybody on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @CourtMcQuade and I’m on LinkedIn. So definitely feel free to link in with me.


And I’m happy to help answer any questions.


Great. And by the way, I hardly ever say my Twitter handle on this podcast is @CathyCurtis. A personal tidbit. I know you have a favorite food that you talk about quite often. I want you to share. Yeah. Well, this started is


Go for it.


Oh gosh, when I fell in love with buffalo wings.


Yeah. It’s been a long love affair.


And if you do follow me on Twitter, this is something that you already know really well about me. So I often get into Twitter discussions about it. I can’t remember the first time I had buffalo wings. Exactly. So I think I just must have been born with the love. But I love to try different kinds of buffalo wings and my favorite kind of buffalo wings. I don’t want to try lemon pepper. I mean, I’d like lemon pepper. I like the other ones, but my very favorite is the old school. tangy orangey Buffalo Wing sauce.




I don’t like the bread, just a little bit crisp and kind of meaty. Right now I live in the San Francisco Bay area near you. But I can’t, I haven’t found great buffalo wings in this area so if anybody knows of any in the area, I want to hear about it. The best buffalo wings I’ve had to date is in Cave Creek, Arizona at a place called Harold’s Corral. Their buffalo wings are perfect for me, exactly what I want. And my secret dream is to set up a little vacation to Buffalo, New York, and go to Anchor Bar where they were first invented a long time ago.


Oh that’s


when quarantine’s over. Of course, yes.


Do you ever make them yourself?


I did once, it’s not the same. I’m not the best cook so I’d rather leave that.


I was gonna say when this COVID thing’s over I want to come over to your house and have buffalo wings with you, but maybe we’ll find a place in the Bay Area that has awesome buffalo wings like that.


I like that. I’ve been considering getting an air fryer to try my hand at that. Some of my Twitter friends have been telling me that the air fryer works really well for wings. So I might try that. And if I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.


Perfect. Great. I would love that. Okay, Courtney. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed talking with you. Me too. Thank you


so much, Cathy. Okay,


bye. See you soon. Bye. All right.

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Episode 6: Social Media Therapy: Overcoming The Awkward and Vulnerable Feelings That Can Come With Posting

Communications Expert Courtney McQuade Breaks Down Social Media

Do you still feel vulnerable and unsure of yourself when posting on social media? Is imposter syndrome keeping you from even getting started? If so, you’re going to love this episode’s guest, Courtney McQuade, who shares her expert advice with me for overcoming the limiting beliefs so many of us have around social media and developing a successful and authentic social media strategy. 

Courtney is Communications Manager for Integrated Partners, a $7.3 billion hybrid RIA, and a social media consultant for Citywire USA. She has nearly a decade of experience helping financial advisors develop their social media strategies. In this episode, we discuss the fundamentals of developing an effective social media strategy, how to communicate on social media to get the best results, and why finding and using your authentic voice is so important for long-term success. And be sure to listen to the end, when we go off topic and Courtney shares her favorite spot in the U.S. for buffalo wings! 

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Episode 1: Life and Work During COVID-19

Get To Know Sally Kuhlman

In this episode I interview my long-time friend and a client of Curtis Financial Planning, Sally Kuhlman. Sally is the Director of National Programs for Beyond Differences, a non-profit organization that works to inspire students at all middle schools nationwide to end social isolation and create a culture of belonging for everyone. She is also the author of the blog Sally Around the Bay, where she shares her unique insights on a range of topics. 

Sally and I discuss adjusting to life during a pandemic and how we are finding balance while sheltering in place. Interestingly, writing has been therapeutic for both of us as we try to make sense of these strange and unprecedented times. We also discuss Sally’s book project Other Mothers, which shares the stories of women who became mothers through nontraditional routes. And of course, our conversation wouldn’t be complete without a good wine tip, which Sally delivers on early in the episode. 

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Episode 1 Transcript: Life and Work During COVID-19


Welcome to the Financial Finesse Podcast, where we’ll be discussing tips on how to handle your money and life with skill and style. Your host Cathy Curtis, CFP® has been helping make finance accessible and intriguing for women for almost 20 years. You’ll get savvy, actionable ideas, listening to her conversations with some of the coolest and smartest women on the planet. And now, here’s your host, Cathy Curtis.


Hi. I’m really excited to welcome Sally Kuhlman, the first guest on my new podcast. Sally and I’ve known each other since 2009. Or there abouts when we met on Facebook. And then we gravitated over to Twitter, and we’ve been friends ever since. Sally’s also a client of Curtis Financial Planning. Sally is one of the most joyful and soulful people I know. And I’m thrilled to be able to talk to her today. Currently, she’s working for Beyond Differences, which is a nonprofit based in Marin County that is all about social isolation and helping adolescents cope during their middle school years. It’s a really wonderful organization. And we’ll hear more about it. Sally is also a multi-talented person. She used to help small businesses, she’s great at project management, digital marketing, so many things. She also writes her own blog, Sally Around the Bay, and she started an autobiography, which we’re going to talk about a little bit later. So, before we get started, I want to welcome Sally and we’re going to, we’re at cocktail hour right now. So we both have a red wine that we’re drinking. So I want to say hi, Sally. And Cheers. And Sally, tell us about the wine you’re drinking right now. Okay, well


I’m happy to tell you about the wine. It’s a Pinot Noir. And it is actually made. Can you see this label? Eric Kent. It’s a boutique winery, UK friend of mine, and they feature artists on each label. So every type of wine has a different artist on the label. And then for instance, I’m reading the label right now it says retro whale calm that’s the name of this artist. So then you can go look up and learn about the artist and I


love it. I love that. It’s so cute. And they have so many cute bottles and


the wine is always good. It’s 100% I know when I’m getting wine from Air Canada, it’s


gonna be good. So even more it’s my favorite wine ever. So I’m gonna have to look at that. Definitely. Well, I’m drinking a wine called sin so which probably many of you don’t know. And the reason I’m not drinking Pinot is this particular winery Picchetti Winery down and actually Silicon Valley was out of their Pinot and they demanded this. I still prefer paid more. But that’s okay. I’m still going to enjoy my wine.


Well, then I’m going to introduce you to Eric Kent because seriously Pinot’s their specialty and they’re local. And you will love them. Oh, great. You know what,


I’m definitely going to buy some. I really like to support local people, food producers, especially right now in this crazy time we’re in where people can’t go visit wineries, they can’t shop at their favorite stores. It’s just crushing this small business and so anything I can do to support you send me that. Um, so speaking of that, this is a great, great segue. I want to know how you are dealing with this strange time we’re in and coping with work and home and just generally, how are you feeling during the pandemic and COVID-19 and how is it affecting you?


Hmm, that’s a very big question. I am I’m very lucky. I still have my job, which I love, and I’m able to do it remotely. We all are. So we’ve been spending a lot of time on zoom together. And but we’re moving forward. So that is great. I have to say I’m coping pretty well, but it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, sometimes I get sad. Other times, I’m just so grateful I can work from home and that I have my own home office. And, and then I also try to limit my intake of the news because when I spend too much time on social media or reading the news. It kind of brings me down really quick because there’s a lot of horrible stuff happening, but um,


yep, just taking it one day at a time. You know, I’ve been reading some of your posts. Um, well, I always read your posts, but I noticed one of them that really struck me recently was that you were a little surprised about how much the media does not honor the people that have died from COVID, like it it’s all about the politics of COVID you know, and I feel the same way and I feel so bad about that. And I surmise that, and you did too, that maybe it’s because of the mix leadership we have going on right now in the States. I don’t know if you want to add anything about that not to get too political. But yeah,


no, I’m not gonna get political. I think a lot of it is because of our leadership. But a lot of the responses I got privately and publicly were people just can’t handle it right now. It’s too much. Yeah. And so I get that, like, I almost felt maybe I was a little insensitive because some people are going through some really intense times economically, or they’ve lost people. And the public mourning. I mean, last time I looked, it’s over 90,000 people in this country. We can’t even come when that public mourning right now. I guess. It’s, I don’t even know what to say. I feel like I need that like seeing those videos and learning about these people’s lives, but maybe not everybody’s ready yet to deal and I understand that,


yeah, it is pretty shocking and tragic. And it’s so new to us now that that’s a really good point that it doesn’t mean that they’re not feeling about it. It’s more the way of coping about it.


I think people have to categorize they’re like, right now, I just got to deal with my immediate situation. And I will deal with that later is kind of I think, what’s happening, but what gets to me is all the political rants and that the lack of the comprehension of what it’s not just about who’s running for president or who’s not, it’s too tense. So that gets to me. And that’s what triggers a


lot of my posts. Yeah, no, I, I can see that I agree with you. So speaking about work. I know you work for a nonprofit. And I want you to tell us about that, because it’s a really cool and interesting nonprofit. And I know because I’m involved in some nonprofits as well that nonprofits raise most of their money through live fundraising events. And it can be sometimes a third to a half of a nonprofit budget. I’m assuming that’s right. To Beyond Differences as well. And I know they just did a virtual fundraiser. So just give us a little how is like there and how is everyone coping with this new reality of raising funds for your good work?


Let’s see well, right. We had our annual gala scheduled on it was supposed to be on April 23. And so we went on lockdown before that, as you know, we were already big into the plans and everything. So we had to have that really quick and stop everything. And it is about a third of our operating budget. So that was a very big decision to make, but it was the right one and we made it right away early when we showed up. And then we came up with the idea to have a virtual gala actually, our founder, came up with the idea and I was thinking that sounds ridiculous. Who wants to go to a virtual gala? And she was right and people came, we had almost 300 people sign up and I actually did not look at the numbers. This just happened on Friday night. But at one point when I was logged on, I saw about 200 people at least. And then a lot of them were in couples. So people came and it was amazing event. So thank you to everybody who came


how many people usually come to the live event?


I believe it’s 250 to 300. Oh,


you got a good turnout. Virtually. I was there. I was. I witnessed it. I thought it was very cool. And it seemed like you hit your fundraising goal, and


we did hit our fundraising goal. And that is not what our goal was. That night is not a third of our operating budget. But we you know, we changed it for the current situation. But we exceeded our fundraising goal for the night and we are so grateful because we have so many loyal supporters and they all showed up.


Oh, that’s great. And so when I left the video, you were like 101,000 raised what it is.


And last I know I’m not actually on the events team. So I was observing like you, but when I left, it was at 116,000. And I was like, I know and I believe more have come in over the weekend. I’ve kind of been not looking at my emails, but sort of looking at them. So yeah, it’s been amazing. And it went flawless. So I’m really impressed with my colleagues pulled off.


Yeah, it went really well, because I’ve been on some zoom things, you know, people not using it before and it can be a bad scene.


And they pulled that together in about two weeks the learning curve. My colleagues were like going to webinars figuring out how to do it. And they, I’m blown away by how they did it and I were you on when Michael Franti presented and he said, No. Oh, you missed that part. Yeah. Oh, that was amazing. I posted it on Facebook. You can see the video but he did a performance for us. It was beautiful.


Oh, here it was without the duo, the man


Was there my son?


Yeah, sorry, I didn’t catch the name, but I was there. It was a beautiful day. But that was really lovely. You know, and also our SF mayor who I really admire, I think she’s handling this whole thing. her speech was very


moving. And it’s right now during this Coronavirus time hearing a leader to speak eloquently and with compassion is, is huge.


Yeah, for sure. So, let’s step back a minute. Tell me in your words, what Beyond Differences is about because I mentioned it when I introduced you, but I’d love to hear you talk about it.


Okay, Beyond Differences, and our mission is to end social isolation in middle school and create a culture of belonging. You know, most adults can look back at middle school and remember, it wasn’t, wasn’t probably wasn’t the best experience. And we want to change that because middle school doesn’t have to be a bad experience. And so that’s, that’s what our focus is and we provide free curriculum and resources to teachers all over the United States and they just need to sign up. And we actually ship them materials. And we have a bunch of online materials too. And we have teachers and schools in all 50 states participating.


That’s incredible. And how old is the nonprofit?


This is our 10-year anniversary. So that was, it was sad to have to give up our gala was going to be a very big fan. Oh, yeah.


So you’re director of national programs, so you’re responsible for all those schools, right. And as I’m the


point of communication, and I talk to over 6,000 teachers on a regular basis, and I also do online community, like all the social media and a lot of the communications too.


And I know you’ve been doing that kind of work for years, because when I met you, you were like social media queen. And so I’m sure you’re even better at all of that now, and do you think that’s one of the reasons that you’re so effective at what you do because you have that skill set. Or is it something else?


I think we complement each other at my organization like I have the social media skills that so I bring relationships online and carry them and it’s amazing there’s a lot happening on Beyond Differences online at all our social media sites and then our founders. You know, they’re amazing with the networking in person and we just we have wonderful supporters and relationships that I feel like they’re family actually all our supporters I’ve gotten to know everybody and it’s just wonderful.


Yeah, I know because you do have a lot of personal connection like local Bay Area people right but then you with what you do you reach a much bigger and national audience.


Right so I mean, I talk to all the teachers in all 50 states and then also on social media. Yeah, we reach everyone. It’s complicated, I have to say to do Beyond Differences’ social media, because usually when you’re a social media person like I was in the past, it was very focused like for you. For instance, for your business I would be if I were working for you, I would be focusing on women targeting women of a certain age and certain, you know, income trying to get that kind of client. But Beyond Differences, we have such a span we work with middle school students, we work with teenagers, we work with the dome runners we work with teachers will work with volunteers. So the social media has been, I’ve had to use my creative brain a lot to figure out how to not overwhelm everybody and talk to my whole audience.


Yeah, I know, nonprofit that’s tough because you there’s so many audiences and people involved, you’ve got your board, you’ve got the staff, you’ve got keyboard, right. You’ve got the donors, you’ve got the people you’re trying to reach. I think it’s it would be really, really challenging. The campaign’s that I love sorry. One of the campaigns I love that Beyond Differences does is No One Eats Alone. Your campaign and I know it’s not an annual thing now or


it’s annual. It’s every February It’s usually the Friday closest to Valentine’s Day. Okay, that was the founding program for this organization. And it’s because our organization is based on the life of Lily Rachel Smith, she’s the daughter of our founders. And she passed away when she was 15. And but before that when she was in middle school, she had a cranial facial situation called apert syndrome. And so she was isolated a lot. She wasn’t bullied, but she was kind of forgotten about like, nobody invited her to sit with her at lunch, and nobody invited her to parties, and she was just very lonely. And so after she passed away, her mother was reading her journals and talking with other classmates. And she discovered just


she talked to the classmates


are like, what could we do? Like they weren’t even aware, you know, you’re a seventh-grade girl. You’re not even aware that you’re ignoring someone you’re just worried about yourself. And so that’s how this organization started. A couple of those teams were her classmates wanting to volunteer and make sure it didn’t happen to anyone else. And so it grew from that. And that’s where No One Eats Alone came from because Lily always ate alone, and she’d like go into the bathroom and call her mom and begged her to come pick her up because she didn’t want to deal with the lunchroom.


That’s so sad. That’s the hardest time that what 12 to 13. And if you’re not a popular kid, or something goes wrong, like you break out and bad acne or your whole life just changes. Yeah.


Like, everyone feels different. Even the popular kids they’re putting on the front, but there’s still my who knows what’s happening in their home. So it’s, we found it. It’s like it’s everybody, not even the people, not just the people that look different. It’s everybody. I know, personal feeling.


Yeah, even kids that seem like they’re from stable homes as suicide rate is high, right. I mean, if there’s so much angst at that age, I don’t know if it’s, I’m sure it has something to do with hormone levels, but all the growing pains that you’re going through at that time? It’s so hard.


It’s a hard time in life. Yeah.


Did you, um, in your own personal experience? Were you drawn to this organization for any particular reason? Or was it as an opportunity that you just felt you wanted to be involved in?


And yeah, I was drawn to it for a personal reason. That’s kind of intense, but I’ll give you just a brief overview. When I was in high school. When I was in high school, my boyfriend took his own life to suicide. So um, that’s always kind of driven my career path. It’s, I made this decision when I was 17 years old that I want to work to help. Back then I was saying to prevent suicide, but you know, it’s way beyond that is like just to be there for humans that are feeling alone and let them know they’re not.


So you get a lot of personal satisfaction out of the work that you do.


I do and when I get really stressed out because there’s too much going on. And then I get a moment to spend time with the teenagers. It’s so nice. I like remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. And then I’m like, oh, yeah, this is what it is because I don’t work directly with the kids, my colleagues do. But when they come into the office, I get to interact with them. It really reminds me of what I’m doing. And then I get re


energized. Yeah, kids are so cool. I know. You kind of have a history of working with kids like you started out as a preschool teacher, right? Is it?


Your beginnings?


I did. When I moved to Marin County right after college. I end up the early 90s. I taught in Mill Valley at a preschool


and then I know you’ve raised three kids yourself. Right? Not by yourself. But yeah.


So yeah, I have a lot of kid experience.


And I’ve seen you with the kids even though you say you don’t work with them and I think you’re you do a really great job with them. I think it would be so much fun. And I’ve been to some of the events and the kids are so inspiring. And, and surprisingly, articulate and well-spoken at that age. And I think that just really draws people in to support what you’re doing. It’s really admirable. I love it.


Thank you. And that’s part of what we try to do is give students a voice because we need to start listening to the young ones, because they’re there. They’re the ones inheriting the world. And I feel like they’re smarter than us right now.


Yeah. Well, isn’t your whole board teenaged kids?


Yeah, we, we have an adult board of directors, but we also have a teen board of directors. And they’re very involved. And it’s a very big commitment, and they volunteer and we don’t just take anybody, you have to go through an application process and you have to really want to do it. You don’t do it because you want something for your job. You do it because you care. And so that’s why we get these amazing


kids. That’s great. Well, moving on. I’m going to go back to a little more personal topic, and it’s Something that you and I work on because I mentioned you’re a client at my firm and it’s about money. And just how would you describe like, what your relationship with money is at this point in your life?


My relationship with money, um,


I feel comfortable.


I’ve really worked on not stressing about money. I’m in a position where I’m employed and there’s money coming in. And I’m just trusting and trusting you and trusting the world that it’s all going to work out. I’ve really been trying to focus on just living in the present moment and I’m in anxiety about what’s going to happen when I retire. I’m aware I cannot afford to retire right now. But that’s okay, too. So yeah, that’s where I’m at. I see so many people around me in the same about equal love are more money having way more anxiety? And I just, I wish people didn’t feel that much anxiety around money.


Yeah, I know you’re you haven’t been one over the years to stress about the stock market too much. I think you’ve got a pretty good grasp on that. It’s volatile. You have to hang in there for the long haul. And I don’t get the panicky. And I remember I worked in finance for about three or four years too. So


yeah, they got me the world and understand it from the other side, too.


Right. You’re very fortunate because I think the scariest part for a lot of people is they don’t really understand it. And, and the media has this habit of freaking everybody out. And part of it is the 24 seven news cycle. They’ve got to talk about something all those hours and I think they make it seem sometimes worse than it really is. Mm hmm. And But so are you do you think you’re going to be happy working for one another? You like working? I like working I do. What do you envision your years when you’re not working to be like, or have you even thought about that yet?


I have thought about it. I mean, I ideally, I would like to work less. Because I do work for a tiny nonprofit that does really big things. I work a lot. But what I envisioned I was thinking about that, and I was thinking, I actually enjoy my life a lot. I would just like to have more time to do what I’m already doing. Like I I’m loving being home. I’m loving my garden. Yeah, I would if I didn’t work so much. I would write more. I like to write and, but I need time to write and, like, my blog would be way more thriving. I might actually, you know, write a book and put it out there because I realized I really love writing and I’m a really good


writer. You’re really that’s so interesting. I didn’t realize that about you that you would like to have more time to write. Um, I love your blog and I also read the start of your book, Other Mothers, right?


Yeah, I think I was calling Other Mothers. It kind of evolved, I actually wrote the whole book but then I stuck it on the shelf.


Okay, cuz I’m reading excerpts it seems like on your blog, you have the excerpts, I forget what platform I went to,


you know, and I’m all over the internet but for so I used to put on Sally Around the Bay and then I think I actually got the URL called Other Mothers and I started putting pieces of the book on there. And then I stopped because I just that’s the thing I stopped my writing because I work so I’m so like, I’m dedicated. I’m not complaining. It’s just there’s so much differences and so much need and people I care about that. I’ve kind of put myself on the side, and I and I missed that, but I


noticed you’re starting to write again. And so I’ve noticed this about myself during this time, too. I like you and really enjoying. I mean, believe me, I, this is a horrible time. And I feel so bad for so many people that are affected in a bad way. But for me, I’ve had to work at home. And I’m finding, I’m making room to do more of the things that I want to do, which is really exciting. And I noticed that you have written a couple of blog posts in the last couple of weeks and you worked for a long time. So maybe that’s one of the positive outcomes that’s gonna come out of this.


I definitely feel that. I feel like this is the time


I’m, I mean,


despite all the tragedy that we’re talking about, and the lack of mourning and awareness of but personally, I think this is a call for all of us to take a little time and reflect. Like, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I know the Bay Area is like a rat race. And it was exhausting. And I was about to collapse. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one that was about to collapse. And just maybe that time that we were driving to work is where we’re finding time to write and be creative. Now it’s right. I don’t want to go back to the normal, I want a new normal and figure out what that new normal is for me. And I want everybody to figure that out. I mean, and this is not discounting all the unemployment and I know all that is horrible. So we do need to go back to people somehow being able to sustain themselves but for, for my personal situation. I’m not just sitting here waiting


for the doors to open, I can go back to my


life I want I want them grounded. I want to garden more. I want to write more. I want to do more, you know, and I just need to figure out the balance and also, I don’t know I’m really struggling personally right now with too much screen time.


Yeah, I don’t know


why they’re on zoom again. I know I’m on zoom all the time now to I don’t know how much more of that how many more hours we’ll be able to put on zoom.


I mean, and I’m actually this week I had so many zoom calls and events that I started having eye pain. I got really serious. I pained my eyes were on Friday, we had our gala, we had two other big events on zoom. I was icing my eyes in between events. It’s so stressful the screen is getting so this isn’t a sustainable way to live in.


Oh, it’s got into you have good I’ve noticed and I’m sitting on an exercise ball right now. Because when I’m sitting on a chair, my postures I don’t have a proper chair at home because that’s one of my problems, but I like sitting on


you’re silly. I checked my office I snuck in I have my mask on. I look like a burglar and I took my chair in my own personal chair and I was really missing, and I like was carrying on. Like, I look like I’m like stealing this China


mask on I’m carrying it.


But yeah, that’s important because we both of us have ergonomic chairs at work, but we don’t at home. So we’re sitting there on zoom all slumped over, you know, ruining our eyes and our posture. To your point about a new normal, um, and back to your books, I think this book, can you just talk about the book a little bit? It’s so well done the things I was reading. I love to see you finish that book. So


thank you. Um, I have to say the book worked like therapy for me. I started writing it right when the youngest child left for college. So it was an empty nest book. Um, and it’s called Other Mothers and I started interviewing women from all walks of life that weren’t your traditional mother. And because I’m not your traditional mother, so I was working on my own story because I’m married to a woman and she’s the biological mother. But I raised the kids with her, but always got discounted that I’m not the real mother. The bad now, but these kids are almost 30. So if you think about how it was 25-30 years ago, it was, it was a little rough. Um, and then I just started, I opened it up, and I met so many amazing women because I put it on social media call for women and I talked to so many women for various things. Maybe they adopted their child or they were an aunt raising their sister’s child because their sister died. I had all sorts of stories. And it was a beautiful experience. Yeah, it should be a book or if it should just be more blog posts. Because I’ve changed so much since I wrote that book. That was probably 10 years ago now. Oh my gosh, there’s you know,


it’s been that long.


One. Thank you because the youngest one is like married now. And so it was when she left for college so bad eight years ago, I think because she’s trying to Now so yeah,


see? Yeah, and it’d be interesting, maybe could turn it into a fiction novel or I don’t know. It’s just so I think so many women can relate to it on so much like me personally, I don’t have kids. And I still feel uncomfortable when someone asked me if I have kids and I say no. Um, and I feel almost shame still about it. Even though I’ve accepted a long time ago that that wasn’t meant to be for me. Um, it’s really hard. You think people think well, why don’t you have kids? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you like kids? So I can I can relate to that. Even though I’m not really, I’m not a mother.


Now, I remember talking to you about that.




I’m thinking the whole book and you and me and everybody else. It’s kind of relates to my work now. It’s like, I felt very isolated. Like I was doing a mommy role and driving the kids to school and the other moms like didn’t talk to me. They’re like, what is she a babysitter and lesbian I don’t know, it was like, there’s chitter chatter and, and it was very unaccepting. And back then the school databases didn’t even have room for me there was room for mom and dad. And so like, when they’re looking up at those little school phone books to schedule a playdate, and my


name wasn’t even there. And, yeah, it’s so hard because I know from the women I know, that are mothers, the community of other mothers is so important, because it’s so hard to raise from young kids. And you want to talk to other people and have a community around. It was


I remember me, it was very lonely because I didn’t have that support, like, and you’re going through stress of raising kids. I mean, I created that support. I have to say when I made friends like you and all our other friends that we met through Twitter and stuff, I found a community, but I didn’t have that community of moms when they were little. It was very low. Only and I also have my own shame because it was like, you know, the whole gay thing. So that was I could do it again now I would do it differently and I wouldn’t carry my own shame I just be like this is it you know if you can deal your problem not mine, I was so apologetic when I was younger, and I was very,


what I love about yourself and that’s what makes you, you. You’ve been through all that so much more than a lot of us have had to be because of the who you are and the life choices and the things that happen to you. And I think it makes you a better person. You have so much joy so much to give other people and so it didn’t I mean, I’m sure it was extremely painful at that time. But look at you now. What can I say?


You’re so nice.


Well, I think that is a great note to end this conversation on unless you want to tell us anything else or have anything else to share. I just enjoyed this so much. And thank you for being my first guest and I know people will really enjoy hearing about you, and I hope I didn’t leave anything out.


I don’t know if you have anything else, but I think we covered a lot and this was super fun.


It was fun. Thank you. So let’s have a toast. Thank you. Here’s to your Sunday evening. Hopefully I can gracefully exit this a zoom call without too much trouble.


Bye Sally. Bye.

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Women And Money: Primp Your LinkedIn Profile

Manage the Brand That is You.

Kim Kochaver
Kim Kochaver
Last night, I hosted a LinkedIn workshop at my home for members of the Hatch Network a modern business school for entrepreneurial women. Our guest speaker was Kim Kochaver, a Trade Marketing Manager for LinkedIn.

Kim gave a fast-paced, gem-filled presentation on how to nurture your LinkedIn profile, build your network and then leverage it. Because many of the women in the room were LinkedIn neophytes, we spent most of the time on primping profiles, which is what I will share with you in this post.

Why should LinkedIn be important to you?
Because 60 million other professionals are using it. It is THE social media site for business networking. And most importantly, (as Kim stated so effectively last night) it is a growing phenomenon that our career or business success depends on managing our own personal brand. LinkedIn gives you an excellent platform to do just this.

Start managing your personal brand with an optimized profile.
Above all, Linked in is a site meant for doing business and making professional connections. The profile layout is straightforward and simple with fields to let people know who you are, what you do, your professional  memberships and interests. The following are a  few tips to help you set up an effective, professional profile (click on “settings” in the upper right corner of the your LinkedIn homepage to start editing). Definitely post a picture of yourself.

Choose a head-shot style picture. This is not the place for a picture of you on a beach in Mexico. If you can afford it, hire a professional to take a head shot. You can use it many other places.

Write a summary that is brief and interesting. Write it in paragraph form, not bulleted like a resume. Cutting and pasting your resume is probably not a good idea – do you find resumes interesting reading material? Highlight your specialties… Choose the experience or personal qualities that most represent your brand. If you don’t like to write about yourself, enlist the help of a professional writer/editor to help you.

Choose a custom Public Profile URL.  Kim recommends using your name since your employer or business could change. You will always be you. For example, my URL is

Choose custom names for your websites by ignoring the default “my website”, “my blog” and choose “other.” By choosing other you can name your links whatever you like. Another great tip: rotate your links and websites depending on what you want your contacts to know about you. For example, Kim has a website link called Get LinkedIn’s Audience Stats and Follow Kim on Twitter.

Edit your Public Profile. The default public profile is too basic. At least include your picture, headline, summary, specialties, websites and interests. If you peak a viewer’s interest the more likely it is they will go on to read your full profile increasing your chances for a connection.

Use the Network Updates box to promote yourself and your business. Some ideas for effectively using this feature: post new blogs you have written; post event info, let your contacts know about special projects you are working on related to your business or job, if you are openly job hunting, let people know here. Network updates is a great tool to remind your network of what you are up to on a regular basis.

Take Advantage of LinkedIn Applications
LinkedIn has added several applications and there are more to come. Here are a few that are easy and fun to use and further the goal of building your personal brand:

Reading List by Amazon:   You are what you read?  Let your contacts know more about you by what you read. You can post your reading list and write recommendations for books you like.

My Travel by TripIt, Inc:  Fill in details of your upcoming trips. The application then let’s you know who lives or works in that area or if one of your connections is travelling there too. Think about the opportunities to meet business contacts while on the road?  Or solicit helpful comments about places you are going?

WordPress: This automatically syncs your wordpress blog posts with your LinkedIn profile. Expand your readership and contact list.

Tweets: Integrates your twitter account with LinkedIn and allows you to choose tweets for posting on LinkedIn.

SlideShare Presentations:  If you are particularly proud of a presentation you have created, you can now share with your connections. This is an effective way to highlight your particular knowledge or expertise and show off your slide-making skills. Think about the opportunities for connections with potential clients or employers!

Once you get your profile primped up to perfection, you can step up your network building activities and then start to leverage your network. In closing last night, Kim challenged us all to log-on to LinkedIn and spend a couple of hours carefully going through every section under “settings’:  Profile settings, email notifications, home page settings, RSS settings, groups, personal info, privacy settings and my network. There are many important choices within these sections that you won’t want to miss.

I’ve primped my profile, have you?

Primp your LinkedIn Profile:  Your Brand is Depending on You.

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

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I Will Teach You to Tweet – Women in Consulting Twitter Panel in San Francisco

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Get Twitterized at the Sir Frances Drake Hotel
Twitterize your business at the Sir Frances Drake Hotel / Sept. 23 5:30 pm!

Hi everyone! Public appearance alert. I’m honored to be part of a distinguished panel dishing about all things Twitter at a Women in Consulting event at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. This is coming up soon and I wanted to make sure you know all the details.

What:   Tips, Tools and Tricks to Make Twitter Work for Your Consulting Business.
Where: Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Second Floor, 450 Powell St. San Francisco, CA.
When:  Wednesday Sept. 23, 2009 5:30 – 7:30pm
Who:    My fellow panelists are Nancy Friedman chief wordworker at, and Irene Koehler, founder of Almost Savvy

Irene and Nancy are leading lights in the Twitterverse so you really should attend to hear what they have to say.
Eats: Light appetizers.

If you would like to register for this event, please go here>> See you there!

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Curtis Financial Planning