JoAnna Brandi, 54 Ways to Stay Positive on The Writers Hour - Creative Conversations with Janine Bolon

JoAnna Brandi – 54 Ways To Stay Positive23 min read

Host: Hello, and welcome to the Writers Hour Creative Conversations. Today I have a wonderful guest, Joanna Brandi. And one of the things that I really enjoy about Joanna is she is one of those positive customer caring types of people, she helps people thrive. Not only is she a consultant, and I know a lot of people say, “Oh my gosh, everybody’s a coach or everybody’s a consultant.” Let me just tell you, this lady started her business in 1990. So she’s not a newbie or a new but some people say to this, she is lively, she’s enthusiastic. She has an energetic style of teaching, she encourages people to find that use for their own inner game of caring and connecting to others. She helps companies focus on positivity. And she assists leaders in building positive capacity. So that’s something that a lot of people don’t know that much about. So as a writer, one of the things that really attracted me to her was her book, and she sent me a copy of this as a gift. One of them was the 54 ways to stay positive, in a changing, challenging, and sometimes negative world. Not only is she a graduate of Dr. Martin Spiegelman’s authentic happiness coaching program, one of only 850 people that have been trained worldwide. She is also the founder of peace, positive workplace International, a group of happiness coaches, who develop practical workplace applications from the latest scientific findings in positive psychology. So she is now a certified chief happiness officer and has certified by the Florida Atlantic University, giving her even more of a broader background to draw from when she’s working with her clients. So I just have to say, thank you so much, Joanna, for joining us, considering the fact that you are incredibly engaged not only with your business, but you’re doing business to customer, so B to C, but you’re also doing B to B. So you are highly engaged. Thanks for joining us.

Joanna Brandi: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me, this is gonna be fun.

Host: Yeah. So thank you. First of all, one of the things that I also want to share with people is it was before the pandemic, that you wrote this book on changing, challenging because this was not a book that was written during the pandemic. And so this was stuff that you’ve been talking about for years and years. And what I’d love to learn is, talk to us a little bit about your story, like why on earth write a book regarding 54 ways? So where did that all come from?

Joanna: Well, actually, it’s a funny story, because it actually started, in the middle of doing a workshop on customer care, I was up in New Jersey for a long term client that I had, and I did, I did training for them, I did up to date myself audiobooks for them. And, yeah, there was a large shipping company business, a business shipping company. And so I was up in New Jersey, I was talking to people about the fact that sometimes as a customer-facing person, you have to be really careful how you respond. Because sometimes a customer is negative, sometimes a customer is yelling something, whatever. And I must have used the phrase positive in a negative world somehow. And a woman raised her hand stood up to ask a question. And she says, “So Joanna, what do you do to stay positive in a negative world?” And she said it with that kind of a strange attitude. And I took a deep breath. I shared a few things with her. One of which is to take a deep breath. And, and then I said to her, “You know what? That’s a super question. And next month, when you get your audiotape, in my section of the audiotape, I’m going to give you 13 ways to take care of yourself to stay positive in a negative world.” And so it began, I just started collecting different ways. And all of a sudden, I realized maybe I had something there. So I called a friend of mine who was a publisher. And I said to him, what do you think? And he said, “Sounds like a good idea. But this is the kind of book where you need pictures.” So I figured out I was I went way over 54. I just kept going and going. I went off in search of an Illustrator. And you have to remember, this was long ago, enough that there was no Upwork, there was no Fiverr. There were none of these services that we’re used to having at our fingertips. Now. There was only networking.

And so since I was still at that particular point, going to a lot of marketing meetings, that’s very often how I met my clients. I kept looking and asking and I found a guy that was reasonably good. I gave him the manuscript, he gave me back that the drawings and I happen to be with my daughter who lived out of town and she was around for the weekend, we were staying in a hotel. And I showed them to her, I was very excited. And I showed them to her, and I watched her face. And then she said to me, “Mom, this is not the right style, it’s just not the right style, you’re gonna have to wait until the right person comes along.” I’m telling you, it was years they’ve been dragging his manuscript around. And not too long after that, I was at a direct marketing meeting here in Florida. And I sat down next to a woman who identified herself as a branding expert and an illustrator. So my eyes perked up. And I said, l”Let me show you what I have in my briefcase.” And I showed her the manuscript and she took it home. And she started meditating, every single one of the pictures in the book was meditated. And we finally were able to put together the book. And then just before publishing it on a very different who’s no longer with us, I gave her the title, I said, “54 ways to stay positive in a negative world”, and she just reared up and she said, to me, “The world isn’t always negative, sometimes it’s negative, change the title.” So lo and behold, that’s how the titled 54 ways to stay positive in the changing, challenging, and sometimes negative world began. And the number 54 is a sort of a magical number, the woman who and has illustrated that book has also now passed away, she was Jewish, and she loved the combinations of the number 18. She said that was the high that was giving it life. So that’s how we ended up with the number. So, there’s a whole little history there about that book.

Host: And that’s the reason why the writers had to come into being because I would be interviewing people that had written books, and we would talk all about the book. And then it was during the pre-production time or the post-production time that we’d they would start telling me the stories behind the books. And I was like, “Oh, these are the stories I want to learn about because I can go read your book.” But learning the story behind that story, that is the thing that really drives a lot of the writers and helps inspire them. So I hope this will be inspiring to writers who like, thank goodness, we don’t have to lug a briefcase around with our 200 pages of our manuscript, desperately seeking an illustrator who will level themselves as an illustrator to us. But yes, and then once again, we get a lesson and you always get there at the right time at the right place with the right person. But sometimes there is quite the journey to getting your book where it needs to be especially like with you, it has to be a book that has pictures as well as a word used to it. So one of the solutions I came up with is I learned to draw. Now I’m not saying I’m an illustrator, I am not those people are incredibly good. I do stick figure drawings. And I have some illustrations that I’ve done for fun kicks and grins and some people that say I’m good about it. But it was out of mother necessity, because like you said, you and I were we’re doing the self-publishing route. We were having to educate our population or our community at a time when we didn’t have all these software things. And so as a last gasp, and they were black and white line drawings, I mean, just a level or two up from stick figures, kind of thing is what I was doing it I still have people laugh, when they look at my pictures, they’re like, “Oh, my God, who was your illustrator?” They really need some help. I’m like, “Yeah, I know, I’m not Dr. Seuss”, and they were like, “Oh, my gosh, these are yours.” So it’s a lot of fun to look at that. But what I’d love to learn next about what you did is, with the ever-changing world, that title, being able to morph your title to what you did. The thing that I find fascinating is a lot of people like to throw out excuses for why they should behave in ways that are less than productive for them. The more positive you can keep yourself now this is big, what they call it the happiness cult, I was accused of being a member of the happiness cult one time. And I laugh at that, because I’m like, yeah, there are people out there that refuse to allow situations or circumstances to keep them down for long. And that’s where I like to say. So, talk to us a little bit about how you assist people when something has happened. Because it almost always comes out you’re sideways, right? almost always a brick to the head. I don’t know where you don’t see it coming. Something happens. Somebody barks at you a client snaps at you. One of the things I struggle with is having something like that happened, and then I still have to get on a call with my next client or my next referral. You say Take a deep breath, but what are some other things that we can do to kind of get out of that very Human negativity and get back into a more authentic positive self that we are.

Joanna: Well, there’s there are a number of things you can do, the breathing was really important, the breathing acts as a pattern interrupt. So it interrupts the cycle of thinking that you’re in, when you take the time to listen to your breath, not just, I’m done deep, right? That’s it, I’m done. But really taking that deep breath in, feeling the breath move in your body, listening to the sound of the breath, it doesn’t take all that long. But what it begins to do is to bring down the adrenalin that your body is attempting to handle at that point. Another thing that I recommend is to take a hand and put it on your heart. Because when you touch your heart, and, and then if you like to go into a bit of a state of appreciation, maybe just appreciate that it’s still beating, or gratitude for something, you literally change your heart rate variability, and you begin the flow of oxytocin in your body. What I learned in studying happiness is that it’s a chemical reaction. I’m not genetically a happy person, there’s a huge genetic component to happiness. I am not one of those people, I had to learn how to be happier, which I think makes me a better teacher than somebody that rolls out of bed in the morning, those other days, you’re so happy, there are people that are like that, that is not me. It needs work. So that gentle move to gratitude, that getting the oxytocin, which is the love that’s called the love hormone, or the cuddle hormone. Getting that moving in your body actually prepares you to have better interaction, especially if you’re on the phone all day at a call center. And I’ve done a lot of my work through the years and call centers. Another thing that you can do is name, what you’re feeling. So just internally say, “Oh, I am feeling angry, I don’t know why. But that person’s voice just really pushed my buttons.” And so when you have an intellectual understanding of what’s going on in your body, it’s easier to say, yes, and it’s my job to treat that person as if they’re my only customer today.

So I’m going to allow that mind shift to happen. It’s all up here. It’s really all in how we think about it. But when the body is raging with the hormones of anger, or danger, or any of those, we really have to stop and take a breath, do something to interrupt the pattern. Another thing that people must look crazy with some of the places that I’ve worked, I tell them to get up, get up out of your chair, shake it off, and literally move it. When you observe animals in the wild, you’ll see that the the the the lion goes after the antelope, the antelope looks like he’s going down and he plays dead. And the lion maybe says, “Oh, I’m not interested in that anymore” and walks away, you’ll notice that the antelope gets up and completely shimmies and shakes the adrenaline right out of their body. Well, we have these very human, very animal-based bodies. And sometimes we literally have to shake it off. So those are a few of the things that people can do. If they’re, if they’re not worried about looking a little funny, those are the few foods or things that you can do is really to remind yourself of why you’re here. What are you here for, and get things back into perspective for yourself?

Host: Right. And sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re sitting there at that moment feeling very hurt or taken off guard or what have you. And I love the way you’re very compassionate. Take a deep breath, put your hand on your heart, just slow it all down. Because this was highly upsetting to you at that moment. Let’s fix that. And I think it’s important for writers especially because of the sensitive nature of being an author, you’re used to having your work criticized, you’re used to having things criticized and you’re, a lot of times you’re seeking it out even you want the work to really be better. So you want to be better at your craft. But when stuff comes at you unexpectedly it’s always nice to have somebody like Joanna in your corner to help you remember yes, you’re being a little too human. So let’s get down past the human so we can get you back into alignment with your positive nature. That really is what you want to be for your life.

Joanna: Absolutely. Because when you prime yourself with positivity and it’s actually pretty easy to do that especially now you’re just getting on YouTube to look at something funny. When you allow yourself to laugh. When you allow yourself to have a treat, something that makes you feel good. When you allow yourself to do that. You’re priming yourself for positive emotion, and when you get into that positive emotion, you think differently, your brain operates differently, you literally become three to 10 times more creative. When your brain is marinating in a lovely positive emotion no matter what that positive emotion is, and the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere begin communicating better together. So you get this larger, holistic view of things. And what some of the researchers have found is in that state, your peripheral vision actually widens. So you literally see more when you’re positive. So you’re going to get a different result.

Host: And as writers, we always love being able to have more perspective, having a larger perspective, being able to stand back from things and to see the bigger picture. Exactly. So just out of curiosity, when it came to writing the book, or in your writing that you do nowadays, right? What are some of the things that you find in your own mental headspace? What are some of the mental trash that sometimes still tries to rear its ugly head? And yeah, we all go through it. And so I love asking fellow writers, how do you get yourself out of your own head trash? I mean, that’s just something.

Joanna: It is.

Host: Yes, it is.

Joanna: The trashiest of trash. I’ve been blocked now for several weeks. Actually, I haven’t written a blog post. So it’s a great question.

Host: Take your own advice, because you give excellent advice. So I’m asking questions so that you can take your own advice. Janine is always saying to Janine herself here. Yeah. Good.

Joanna: Exactly. I truly just have to sit down and do it. And I have been struggling over a piece on emotional well-being now for weeks. My excuse is, I don’t have enough information. That’s always my excuse. So what am I doing, I’m reading every email that’s coming my way. I’m attending webinars, it’s like, there’s a little voice in here going, “You know enough, you know enough, just write the damn thing.” So in the end, if you… Honestly, I usually turned myself into a nun. I had a lot of Catholic schooling in the end, somebody stood over you and said, “Just do it.” And so for me, I can have all the self-compassion in the world. But that doesn’t always get me moving. So sometimes I have to do that sort of combination of, yes, I love myself. Yes, I’m going to be compassionate to myself, and get your butt in the chair and get it started. Because as a writer, once it starts, you’ve got the Muse moving in you. And I forget, sometimes that ritual works very well with me. But I honestly just forget. And now that I’m talking about it, I’m going, “Oh, did you write the candle? Did you say the prayer? Did you call in the guides of the Muses?” Because when I actually do that, I make more space for the possibility that they’re actually gonna show up.

Host: And everybody has their ritual. Like, if I’m really stuck, if I am really stuck in something, or I have a character in a story that isn’t doing what it wants it what I want it to do. One of the things I do is I stand up like you said, sometimes you’re shaking it off, but sometimes I stand up and I go make myself a hot cup of cocoa, I don’t care if it’s 97 degrees outside, I will stand up and make myself a hot cup of cocoa because there’s something about that ritual that gets the juices flowing for me sometimes just smelling it sitting there making it what have you. So like you said, it’s the physicality of lighting the candle and saying your prayer, and whatever each writer decides for themselves. It never hurts to have a little bit of ritual word I would love for you to kind of chat about from your perspective, is really being a writer is all about discipline, but discipline gets a bad rap. Okay, a lot of people think discipline is external that we get into like you brought up nun. “Hey, I’m a recovering Catholic. So here you go.” So you used to have the rulers and they’d whack your knuckles and all that. So, unfortunately, discipline, a lot of people will go there. But as a writer, the internal discipline is what gets the book finished. So I’d love your perspective. Talk to us a little bit about your own internal discipline.

Joanna: I learned years ago, that discipline came from the word disciple. And that changed it for me because we’ve become a disciple of our own vision. So once you conceive of the premise for the book, or whatever you’re writing, once you conceive of the premise, the discipline comes from remembering what it is they’re to do what are you a disciple of? Well, as far as the blog goes and getting it out to my audience, I am a disciple of positive leadership, of a style of leadership, that’s compassionate, that’s deliberate, that is focused on making sure that the other person leaves an interaction, feeling whole, and in their strengths. So I have to constantly remember that I have a unique perspective on the topic. Because when people use the word happiness, your happiness officer and all that, but people have no idea what that means. And again, they layer their own, they layer their own ideas on it. So it could be that they go, “Oh, here comes Sally Sunshine and she is going to talk about all this happy crappy stuff.” And it just, unfortunately, it had a bad name, it’s getting much better. It’s getting much better. But I think I think they’re remembering, and it really is remembering I learned years ago, that motivation comes from only two places, either the future or the past. So if you use the future to motivate yourself, what you’re doing is you’re seeing the book finished, you’re seeing the article finished, you’re seeing the impact it has in the world. And that drives you to do it yet. And if you want to motivate yourself using the past, which is sometimes useful, think about a time when you did something like that, think about a time when you wrote a blog post, and it came with ease, or you finished a book, and it came with ease.

So I think we all have to learn our own patterns. And then, like right now, in my case, nothing seems to be working. So for me, a good long walk is usually needed there, because and then start asking different questions, what’s holding you back? Then if I answer with, well, I think I need more information, then allow that voice to come in and say, That’s crackable. Because you don’t need any more information, take, take a longer walk, and maybe you can find some insight. I’ve learned to talk to myself. I’ve learned how to coach myself, I don’t always do a good job. I will admit that I’m much better off coaching other people than me. But it’s my life is an experiment. Like for many of us, that book was an experiment, I’d never thought I’d had already had two books published. But this doing a book like this was very different. And then eventually, as I did that before I became a happiness coach. And then eventually that book went, it wasn’t relevant anymore. In the pictures where you walk in with a Walkman, you have a lot of people that don’t relate to that. So I went back to Joe and I said, “Joanna, we have to update this book.” And that came as a form of meditation, I was meditating one day. As if I heard a voice clear as day saying it’s time to update the book because the world needs that. And so I went back to her. And fortunately, she was able to be talked about what we needed. And she was able to make the changes in the illustration. I rewrote the whole introduction because lots of things had changed. And I had become a happiness coach for one of them. And so we were able to do the book. And when I found out sadly that she had passed away in July, it was a part of me who said, Thank God, you listened to the guidance you got in that meditation because it would have all been lost. Right and now it’s relevant, the book is very relevant now. And in an approach things in a very light-hearted way. So it’s not a heavy-duty, self-help book. There are some self-help exercises in it, as you know, but it’s not a heavy-duty self-help book. In fact, I know a lot of people that love it, because you can use it as a coloring book, because the line drawings lend themselves to wanting some brighter colors and, and, and some doodling, and things like that. So it’s what I love about it as you can crawl into it with your different color markers and have fun, and do some worthwhile exercises as well.

Host: Well, thank you so much for your help today, Joanna and also, for being so genuine and letting us know Yeah, I’m struggling right now trying to write my blog posts. I love the community of people that come onto the show as guests because they are very authentic. And that is such a needed treasure that we find in our guests here. So say somebody wants to follow you or they want to find out more about you what’s the best place for them to go.

Joanna: My main website is because there is a return on happiness. And I do a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. I’m having a lot of fun with posting on LinkedIn and the name is Joanna Brandi, so Just LinkedIn, I guess slashed Joanna Brandi. That’s a good way to find me. One thing I just did, which anybody in a leadership position might be interested in is over the last COVID period of time, I compiled a set of what I call Be-Attitudes. Because leadership is not just about doing it’s about being in a certain way. And their

Host: Okay, so those are some giveaways that are available to folks who may be interested and want to learn a little bit more about this wonderful, crazy, quirky, delightful hippie-dippie, as they used to call us our happiness coach, right? Definitely the happiness cult members, we’re definitely called hippie-dippie.

Joanna: 54 Ways book is available on Amazon and all the other booksellers. So that was easy. That one’s easy. It’s the second edition. And so it’s easy to find.

Host: Also wanted to share with folks that Joanna is more than happy to chat with you and get to know you better. But definitely, if you see her on LinkedIn, like and definitely let her give her some comments, let her know where she’s on track. And definitely give her some love when it comes to writing that blog post. So Joanna, thanks so much. Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Joanna: Oh, I’m so glad. I’m so glad that you’re willing to have me come on the show. It’s been so much fun. Thank you.

Host: You are most welcome. And this is Janine Bolon with the writers our creative conversations we broadcast every Friday. So definitely stay tuned. We’d love to if you have a favorite writer, definitely send them our way so that we can get them on the show and talk to them. Have a great day. Bye.