Survive and Thrive: How Laura Petrolino is Expecting GrowthEvery 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.

Admittedly the pandemic has been easier for me in many ways than others.

I don’t have kids….yet (#babyonboard).

I live in a state that was barely hit.

And most of my free time in the spring and summer is spent outside hiking or playing at the beach anyway. I mean has it been pretty stinky to not really be able to see many other people or leave the state or see my parents at all while I’m pregnant or you know….the grocery store.

Sure, but compared to most I’m lucky and I’m grateful.

So my biggest obstacles to work on during this time have been internal. I call them the four Es: extroversion, empathy, expectation, expecting.

Extroverts In Quarantine

Ahhh…to be an extrovert in quarantine is not really a fun endeavor. But as Gini has pointed out, being an introvert in quarantine isn’t that swell either.

People say “just Zoom with your friends…” but that doesn’t work for me. I get my highs from actually being around people.

Face-to-face contact is required.

I like to hug people and be close to them. That sounds creepy, but my extroverted friends get it.

And not just people I know. I like strangers. I NEED random conversations with strangers.

Thank goodness I have a husband or else I would have surely perished.

So what this left me with was feeling very alone. But it also showed me clearly how important this human-to human interaction is for my mental health. And in turn, how crucial it is I prioritize it.

The People Priority

In the past as much as I’ve wanted to see people I’ve been very guilty of letting my job get in the way of going to any event that was on a weekday evening (because in Maine most of these start early and I normally work until 6:30 or 7pm).

Or I’ve not worked hard enough to cultivate friendships I really wanted to grow.

And finally, because I have a lot of very close, very dear friends who live in different states, I’ve not done a good enough job cultivating friendships near me. That kind of sucks when you can’t travel.

Do you know how excited I was that Portland started two direct flights to Chicago and had big plans to go and play with Gini on several weekends in 2020? Yeah, that worked well.

People ARE the Fuel…For Every Goal

That’s all changing.

One thing I know about myself is people are what fuel me as a person. And whenever I prioritize people despite any other demand or responsibility I’m my happiest and most successful.

Spoiler alert: the theme of this post is going to be “self-care helps you better care for others.”

Empathy Pros and Cons

One way my extroversion expresses itself is through my extreme need for humans.

Another way is how much external events and the emotions of others around me affect my own.

With everything going on in the world in the collection of bombs we can call the months of 2020, I’ve had to work really hard to only allow myself to filter in what I could handle.

With an activist type of personality by nature, this is challenging. But what I’ve found is if I don’t protect myself and build a bubble that I control what permeates, I’m not useful in any way to help the world or the people around me.

So during a time where the world is feeling and living extreme emotions, I’ve had to learn how to manage my response in a way that fuels my goal: to help others as much as I can.

How to Be a Sane Activist

Here are some of the things I do:

I need to be active and feel like I’m contributing.

Again, in the past, I’ve let my work get in the way of my extreme need to be an activist in one way or another. But I’ve learned that taking the time to give to that part of me makes me better in all ways and thus I can give more to my work.

I need to focus on the micro.

This is something I’ve worked on for a while. I ebb and flow in how successful I am.

I’m an Aquarian; we want to save the world. Because of that we can get overwhelmed and feel helpless and frustrated.

Because in case you didn’t know, the world isn’t an easy thing to save.

We can also sacrifice ourselves for causes. But if I focus on the micro of what I do each day it helps me feel like I’m making progress.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Guess what I’m bad at setting realistic expectations for myself.

I bet you are too. In fact, most successful people are. Hence why they’ve reached a certain level of success.

You push yourself, you set your sights high.

But then you can also reach a limit that this skill backfires on you and starts tearing you apart.

I fight that demon constantly.

As many of you know I started as CMO here for Spin Sucks shortly before the pandemic started.

I had plans, big plans (sing that to the tune of a heartbreak country song).

And the….COVID. And Gini and I both had to double down on the roles we played.

This made my plans impossible to accomplish in time and place (not to mention in many cases not appropriate).

This lead to a situation where I felt like I was failing at every single thing I did. Both my work with clients and my work for us.

Just failing. And it was crushing because I felt like I was letting everyone down, including myself.

So I finally had to learn how to set realistic expectations for myself AND become much better at filtering the “nice to have” and “crucial for our goals.”

Do Less Things. Do More Important Ones.

As mentioned in my post last week about marketing tactics, this was a challenge because I am a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy. So even though I know better I often will get stuck in a cycle of doing things that aren’t the “air” of my goals.

Now I ask myself “do I need this to breathe?”

As in, do our organizational goals (and those of our clients) need this to breathe.

If not, I move it down on my list.

Don’t get me wrong. I still beat myself up, but I now also have the self-talk to combat it and say, “Back up sister, you are doing what you can right now.”

And Now I’m Expecting Growth

Need something to really kick you in the booty and make you get hyper focused on what is most important to you and how you want to impact the world?

Get pregnant.

All the things I mentioned above? ALL of them are areas of self-growth I’ve “dabbled” in for years. (Meaning I’ve worked on them when I had the time.)

But nothing tells you, “Hey sucker, the time is now to really work through your issues,” than knowing there is a little life who will soon be dependant on you being a somewhat functional human being.

Fetuses man, they call you out big time.

Puppies Fix Everything

On a final note, we got a puppy near the beginning of quarantine.

Not only did he help repair a big rip in my heart from the loss of the love of my life, my old man dog (who we lost in March) but he just put a shower of rainbows on everything.

Puppies and babies put life in context.

COVID had given me the space to understand what context I want my life and career to grow in.

(P.S. Get it? “Expecting growth”?)

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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