Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Lois Kelly author of Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word of Mouth Marketing, Be the Noodle, the gold medal recipient of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Award for best marketing/advertising/public relations book and the 2008 finalist in the Berry-American Marketing Association Book Award, 50 Ways to be a Compassionate, Courageous, Crazy-Good Caregiver, recently named book of the month by the International Association of Hospice & Palliative Care, co-author of Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within, and her most recent book of personal essays, Naked Hearted.
Lois describes herself as a positive rebel at work, speaker, and strategic change consultant who has found joy and meaning in helping corporate teams create ways to achieve more than they thought possible.
Norm: Good day Lois and thanks for participating in our interview.
As noted above, you describe yourself as a strategic change consultant. What does this mean and why have you been fascinated with change?
The pace of change in the world is getting faster and faster and people are having a hard time learning how to adapt– whether it’s to new technologies, ways of working, or ways of living. Many are checking out and becoming complacent saying, “what’s the use?” Some are resisting and fighting to keep things the same. Others are becoming increasingly isolated and fearful. My work is helping people in organizations figure out how to introduce new approaches and hospice out-dated practices. I do this through facilitation, coaching and teaching.
I’ve always been fascinating with emerging trends and their potential. I see things early and get fascinated with what’s possible. About a decade ago I realized ideas are easy. Helping people to embrace new ideas – and let go of comfortable habits -- is very, very difficult. And yet it’s necessary for personal, business, and societal growth.
Norm: Do you feel that most business owners don’t use their imagination when it comes to change? If so, why?
I think most business owners crave certainty and predictable outcomes. This is understandable because running a business is fraught with risk, cash flow demands, and capital pressures. Interestingly, humans also wired neurologically to crave certainty.
So to reduce risk business owners look at what other companies are doing, worship “best practices,” and hire people with experience in their industry. But by insulating themselves they actually increase their risk of falling behind.
Though it’s uncomfortable, the greater the cognitive diversity and experimentation in a business, the more likely the business is to adapt to change and create better ways to serve customers and run the business.
Most people are imaginative, but the desire to avoid discomfort smothers imagination.
Norm: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what do you see as the influences on your writing?
I started writing for a respected Boston-area newspaper when I was 15 years old. The editor taught me newswriting and interviewing, and then encouraged me to research and write feature stories about people. It was thrilling to get paid to learn about people, ask unusual questions and see my by-line in print.
Writers who write about people and life’s inanities have also had a big influence on me. Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, Anne Lamott, Molly Ivins, Ann Randolph. I was attracted to their humor, honesty, empathy, and positive, though realistic, lens on life.
Norm: What motivated you to write Naked Hearted? As a follow up, what purpose do you believe your essays serve and what matters to you about the essays? Did you write the essays to express something you believe or was it just for entertainment?
A friend whom I hadn’t seen in years basically told me I had changed, and not in a good way. He thought I was posturing and putting on a persona to impress him. This led me to some soul searching and writing. Why do so many of us hide from showing up as ourselves? Why do we find it easy to talk about superficial topics and difficult to have honest conversations about the real issues affecting our lives? Why are “vulnerability” and “authenticity” lauded but not embodied? Can we grow personally and deepen our relationships if we don’t acknowledge our fears, secrets, shame and insecurities? Are these fears, secrets and vulnerabilities, in fact, our most important teachers if only we could listen to them?
So to answer your question, Norm, I wrote the book as a dare. A dare to reveal parts of myself I’ve kept hidden away. And a dare to others to do the same. If more people knew one another’s life experiences and vulnerabilities, we would have less judgment, fear, and divisiveness in the world.
Norm: It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the Naked Hearted that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
Most of my lifelong writing has been reporting on events or writing about business topics. Very rational and tidy. Telling stories about myself felt very uncomfortable. I kept worrying, “Will these stories help anyone or are they self-indulgent?” Because, good grief, we don’t need any more self-indulgent books in our ugly, reality-TV self-indulgent world.
I approached the writing by writing fast and from my heart instead of my head. Though I have been writing all my life, I have never written with such abandon, joy and speed. I had to turn the judgement brain off, and accept that what flowed out was the real deal.
Norm: How did you go about deciding on which themes to include in your collection of essays in Naked Heated?
I asked this question: Would this story serve anyone who has -- or is -- experiencing a similar situation? I challenged every beta reader and my editors the same question. If a story or theme didn’t pass that filter, I omitted them. There were many stories that I loved writing that didn’t make the cut.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing Naked Hearted and what was it?
Shared pain and joy brings people together. We think people will judge us negatively, but brutal honesty usually engenders compassion and intimacy.
I also learned that liberating our secrets frees us. It’s like breaking loose of emotional handcuffs.
Norm: What has been the reaction from your family and friends to Naked Heated?
The book has provoked fascinating conversations, some uncomfortable. My stepson was upset that I would befriend an old lover, thinking I should get all my emotional support from his father, my husband. My husband talked with his son about trust, love and friendship in a way that took my breath away.
A friend from my book club whom I’ve known for 25 years said she didn’t like the book because “If those are your naked-hearted stories, you’ve had a pretty good life. I’ve had real naked hearted stories,” she said. Wow, I’ve known this friend but haven’t really known her. She’s writing one of her own Naked Hearted stories to share next month. I know that listening to her bare her secrets will be a remarkable experience, deepening our friendship. She may not have “liked” the book but the book did its job – daring her to reveal the real her.
Norm: Do you worry about the human race?
I worry about raging fear and anger in so many people, which is leading to violence and complacency. Both are dangerous. I also worry about the number of people suffering from loneliness, which is leading to obesity, depression and other health issues.
The older I get the less I know. But I do know that becoming better, more compassionate human beings is the solution to most of our problems, small and large, at home and at work, in government and in schools, in our communities and in our world.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Naked Hearted?
You can find Naked
Hearted at Amazon and other online
booksellers, and more about the book at www.nakedhearted.com.
Norm: What is next for Lois Kelly?
Three things are important to me. Helping more people be seen and heard at work so that they and their good ideas can thrive. Creating clarity from complexity, especially for issues that effect many people’s lives. Feeding my soul so that I can infect people with honesty, optimism and joy. (Oh, and one more, learning how to be a DJ.)
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
What songs would you put on a Naked Hearted playlist?
“You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals
“Love and Hate” by Joan Osborne
“Among Angels” by Kate Bush
“Dare to Be Different” by Donovan
“Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn
“Wild Thing” by The Troggs
“Be What You Want, Be What You Are” by Hall & Oates
“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors