Survive and ThriveEvery Friday in Survive and Thrive, we talk to communicators who are not just surviving, but thriving. Between COVID-19, reopenings and then rolling back, kids home from school…maybe forever (?), working from home, and not touching another human being for months, most of us are surviving, at best. But what about those who are surviving AND thriving? Perhaps they added a new revenue source or followed a passion or are taking a sabbatical or discovered they actually love homeschooling or completely changed careers. We’ll talk to people around the globe who are making the best of the worst crisis in a century.

I am going to personally kick off this series. Check back every Friday to learn about a new communicator and how they’re surviving and thriving during this crazy time.

On June 6, I retired from teaching first grade…with the full intention of NOT teaching second grade. Things are still up in the air when it comes to that, but I have plans this time around. I will not go into second grade thinking I can work full-time, keep a clean house, prep and shop for and cook three meals a day (and provide multiple snacks), and work full-time. 

Ain’t happenin’. 

But what will happen is getting help and finding creative ways to manage it all. They say it takes a village and never has that been more true. My village may be non-traditional, but I will not do second grade alone!

This year has NOT gone as planned. I mean, we launched the PESO Model Certification with Syracuse University two weeks (TWO WEEKS) before everything fell apart. That was supposed to be our big push this year. Ha! Hahahahaah! Ha ha ha!

But it also has been incredible to take the “great pause” as I’m seeing it called.

The Client Work Was Sorely Missed

Let me clear about something: I was barely surviving at the start. It’s only been since I retired from teaching that things began to get better. And then it was incremental.

I was definitely a hot mess at the start and, if I don’t figure out second grade, I’ll be back there again.


The great pause allowed me to consider what kind of work I love, how many (ridiculous) hours I was working, what is important to me at this stage of my career, and how I can mold my business to fit my new priorities.

When Ahava Leibtag and I hung out for her video podcast (video series? vlog?), we talked about how crazy we both were. Planes, different cities every week, hotels, speaking engagements, and client meeting after client meeting after client meeting.

No. Thank. You.

You could not pay me a gazillion dollars to go back to that life.

What I discovered, almost accidentally, is that I sorely missed doing the work. I missed crisis work and strategic planning. I missed crafting a PESO Model program for a new client. And I missed brainstorming with clients during weekly meetings.

Yesterday I wrote about how I had a business coach who told me I had to choose between between being a communications professional and a company grower. I chose the latter.

I didn’t know I missed being a communications professional until all of this.

It feels like a weight has been lifted and I’ve rediscovered passion for my career.

As soon as I decided I was going to go back to doing the work and building a team that allowed me to do that, things started to click.

While the clients we lost in March and April haven’t been back, we have new clients and are doing really heady, strategic work.

As well, the PESO Model Certification is coming along. It hasn’t done as well as we anticipated, but it is nothing to scoff at.

Buh-Bye Treadmill of Life

I’ve also devised a work schedule that I love. I’d like to work just a tiny bit less (wouldn’t we all?), but the 80-, 90-, 100-hour work weeks are gone.

Heck, even the 60-hour work weeks are gone.

At first, I felt guilty about that. I got over that quickly.

Turns out, the business makes more money and is more profitable when I work about half of what I was working pre-pandemic. And I’m far happier and less stressed.

I stopped getting up at the crack of dawn, I break many times during the day to play with my kid, we spend A LOT of time outside, and because of all the work she and I have done, our yard looks like a beautiful, quiet oasis in the middle of the city.

It’s not a perfect life—I can still do better. But I stopped getting up at at the crack of dawn and can now stay awake late enough to catch fireflies at night. I added strength training and long walks into my cycling schedule—and my arms and abs show for it. The work has gotten more plentiful and more interesting. And I get as much—if not more—done now than I did when I was on the treadmill we called life.

The New Normal Is Great!

I won’t go back to that life. I like this “new normal”. A lot.

If it means I’m not as popular because I don’t speak live at events or we don’t win new business because I won’t get on a plane to spend days or weeks with a client or we make less money because I’m not willing to get back on that treadmill, so be it.

The Great Pause has allowed me (and I’m willing to bet many of you, too) the time to be with my thoughts and truly undercover what’s important to me.

If I can figure out what the heck to do about second grade (pandemic pod, here we come…hopefully!), this will be a great life.

Of course, if the past five months have taught me anything at all, it’s that this can all change on a dime—and being quarantined in my home during the winter months in Chicago may prove more challenging.

But right now, I’m at peace…happily doing work I love, serving an industry of communicators with the Certification, and being with my family (even if I haven’t been alone, not even to pee, in 138 days).

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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