6 Cool Things I Found in February

I’ve been immersing myself in fresh topics and materials – mental, emotional, physical, and business-related – each month, and here is what I’m currently digging in one orderless list. Pick through it, or read it in its entirety. Discussion always encouraged – comments or @courtneypong.


1. (Only) Fruit Before Noon

I learned about this during an interview with Jesse Itzler. The idea that the body is working hard to digest in the morning aligned with what I’ve been feeling for the past year – I noticed that after years of experimenting with different breakfasts – sardines (yeah), turkey meatballs, overnight oats, soft boiled eggs –  I’m typically tired after I eat in the morning. So I’m giving it a try. Observations:
  • I’m on day 15, and noticed if I stick to 2 servings of fruit + a cup of coffee (black or with a blop of heavy cream), my mind feels a little electric and I do not get sleepy.
  • My tummy gets a little hungry-rumbly, but I’m experimenting with observing that feeling, rather than reacting to it.
  • A whole banana + cup of blueberries is about 29 grams of natural sugar. That amount means something different for everyone, but my glucose/hbA1c and insulin levels are already pretty healthy, as is the bulk of my nutrition 80% of the time, so I’m not terribly worried about spiking insulin —> creating insulin resistance.
Current favorite combos:
  • fresh blueberries + fresh banana slices
  • fresh papaya or mango
  • frozen papaya and frozen banana chunks blended with some water
I’m removing the coffee this week to see if I still feel the same alertness. This is not a perfect “experiment” because the quality of my sleep has been pretty poor, but it’s something I can play around with right now.


2. Book: “Why Leaders Eat Last”

Simon Sinek’s book that has been on my list for a year. It’s easy to digest and is helping me more rapidly connect dots back to why teams I’ve previously worked with just didn’t pull through (and of course, the requisite introspection on where I could’ve had more positive impact).

It’s been enough to tip me over the edge I was scanning for to remind me of my calling and purpose: To put to rest trying to impact organizations from the inside, as an employee. At least for the next 6 months. I need a break. There is a pull to focus on using my strengths to make organizational impact my sole business.

In my travels, I’ve observed that few CEOs/leadership teams are interested in hearing what a 30-something year old within their organization thinks about leadership skills or how they can improve communication or strengthen relationships and group mind internally. And that’s ok – if I was in your spot, dear CEO Grasping at Straws, I can imagine it’d be hard for you to commit time to anything but what yields you short term gain (i.e. revenue, funding, profit, fresh talent). I’m the last person you want to hear from, I get it.

Sinek’s recent commentary on how the companies of today have the opportunity – nay, the responsibility – to set this generation’s workforce up for success rings true. It is this generation’s responsibility to re-socialize workplace culture and habits. People before profits.

Invest in your people, any chance you can. It drives a few different types of folks nuts because you “can’t quantify it” – but I’ll take an empowered and inspired team over a “compliant” team any day of the week. It’s a blend of art and science.

For my own journey with CSz Boston, I don’t want to just raise talented improvisers – I want to raise healthy improvisers, that regularly have the opportunity to develop themselves personally as much as professionally and are accountable to each other. Talent and skill can can be nurtured and cultivated. But creating a solid team that has each other’s backs at 3am because they want to and inherently believe it’s the right thing to do? That can not be done through a single access point. Your most technically talented team is not immune to the act of throwing each other under the bus – and when you’re at that point, everyone suffers.

My favorite takeaway so far: An organization too busy managing internal conflict is not equipped to attempt overcoming external conflict.

3. An Indefinite Break from Alcohol

Drinking competes for my energy. At 34 and launching CSz Boston into the community for the next generation of CSz’ers, I will take every advantage I can get, at whatever the sacrifice.

For the past 8 years, I’ve been simultaneously engaged in 3 industries that have a culture increasingly centered around alcohol: Tech/Tech Start Ups, Dating and Comedy. It’s too much – happy hours, Nearly End of the Day happy hours, company get togethers, networking events, first dates, third dates, too many dates, and post my show/your show/everyone’s shows.
For my health, weight, and goals, it just wasn’t a sustainable part of my life – if something has to change, and I see myself being capable of change much faster than those cultures, then it’s time for new habits. So I slaughtered the sacrificial lamb and am excited to be taking an extended break with an indefinite timeline. If you need a sparkling water buddy to high five at the next Thing we’re at, feel free to tap me on the shoulder. If you want a reading resource that could kick things off for you, I recommend this book by Jack Canfield. If a 1-hour podcast is more your speed, check out this episode on Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness interview.


4. Way Fewer Things

Fewer Things = Less Time Spent Managing Things = More Time Doing the Things I Want to Do. I cut down my clothes significantly when I left San Francisco by using Marie Kondo’s method. After taking the Minimalist approach here in Boston, I pared down my clothes even more by skimming an entire trash bag full of clothes, and will deploy my own Project 333 next month, keeping my choices to 33 pieces of clothing for 3 months. I believe the widely touted stat is that most women wear only about 20% of their wardrobe. That feels true for me, so off I go. The further I dig into practical minimalism, the happier I feel inside. Excess and things in excess give me a level of anxiety, so doing that work has been well worth my time invested.


5. Dr. Bronner’s + Coconut Oil

In the journey to scale back and purchase/use/waste less, I eliminated about 90% of the make-up and skin care/beauty products like shaving cream and lotions rolling around my bathroom cabinet.


I went back to the two multi-purpose items that are simple, cost effective and natural: Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (I like the peppermint one) and Coconut Oil. My skin and my daily routine are enjoying the break. These items also travel well in a small container (instead of bulky tubes and pots) and coconut oil scooped into an unused contact lens case was delightfully durable and compact, and lasted me all 4 days in Seattle. Also learned on the trip: Coconut oil mixed with a sugar packet from the hotel room is a perfect face exfoliator.

6. Theory: Asset vs. Threat

“The best organizations see their employees’ outside interests and passions as an asset, not a threat” – a hypothesis I’m consistently testing.

The interpretation I’ve observed is that outside interests compete for your attention and loyalty.

I’ve been performing and teaching improv longer than I’ve been in the career I went to school for (Public Relations). This means that every company I’ve ever approached, I’ve been transparent about my background and skill set in improv and improv comedy. It has taken finessing to learn how to communicate and distill the advantages, but nevertheless I’ve been transparent that it’s a foundation in my life.

Companies that saw it as an asset: They leveraged it to lift the organization. I taught, coached, created and administered professional development sessions, and introduced culture-focused and culture-appropriate activities that sought to elevate. I was trusted to work from home, earned and afforded autonomy, and continued to build relationships long after we parted. They simply got better return out of me.

Companies that saw it as a threat: Hard work was gauged via hours spent physically in front of your desk; Presence was gauged by 24/7 connectivity and availability (one CEO went so far as to forbid us to use the Out of Office notification), and loyalty was challenged with ultimatums. I had no autonomy, and they had done nothing to earn my trust, so I had no interest in seeking out ways to elevate the organization. Why yell upward?

In short: Some companies benefited exponentially, and others got Only The Job They Paid For. In the latter, everyone loses – the team, the leadership, the employee, the customers.

If you happen upon a leadership team that believes and acts as if they own you, run away now. That is a company that will teach you to identify with them, and your job is not your identity. You are you. And you are unique in your background and vantage point. And you choose to spend your time and talents there. Don’t let fear tell you otherwise. Fear is how your company arrived at the decision to treat your outside interests as a threat rather than an asset, and why it’s stifling what you could potentially bring to the table. Don’t do like they do. Do better.


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