“Weird” Teaching Helps Businesses – Episode 59

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Sought after speaker, author, TEDxalumnus, and creative studio owner, CJ Casciotta joins Sarah to dive deeper into his book and real-life business results he’s seen helping teach businesses to embrace their “weird”. 

THIS EPISODE AT-A-GLANCE

  • Reaction when asked to embrace their weird
  • The myth of the caterpillar
  • Being weird to drive business results
  • How to retain the courage to be weird
  • Steps for putting this in action
  • CJ’s key takeaways

LINKS MENTIONED

Full Podcast Transcription

CJ Casciotta:
That’s your greatest source of creativity. If you can learn to have a conversation with the person you were before the world told you, we don’t want that person. That’s the most creative person you know.

Sarah Panus:
Hi, my name is Sarah Panus. I have spent the last two decades driving digital content for billion dollar brands. Now I help content marketers build winning brand storytelling strategies and reduce feelings of overwhelm and confusion. Join me as we discuss strategy, creativity, confidence, and building a better connection with your audience. Think of this as a creative content marketing jam session mixed with chicken soup for the soul. This is the Marketing With Empathy Podcast. 

Sarah Panus:
Hey, Hey, Kindred Speakers. Welcome back. Today, I’m really excited about the guest I have on. I first heard CJ Casciotta speak at the story conference in Nashville a few years ago, and it was there that I was introduced as well to his book called Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference. Well, I’m super thrilled because today we get to speak with CJ. We get to speak with the author and expert himself to hear how being weird applies to business, your career, and your life. And how the heck do we find the weird in all of us?

Sarah Panus:
So for everyone listening, I recorded a short review of CJ’s book in episode 54 here on The Marketing with Empathy Podcast. In it I top line some of CJ’s advice with a strong recommendation to read the book yourself. It is so good. Today, since I have the honor of speaking directly with CJ, the author, we’re gonna go deeper into his experiences with brands, the people who’ve embraced their weird to see and unpack like how it helped drive business results. So if you are enjoying today’s topic after you listen, make sure you hop on over and listen to episode 54 afterward, but don’t go anywhere. Cuz we gotta hear this conversation first. So before I dig in, though, who the heck is CJ Casciotta yet? So let me tell you a little bit more about his background. CJ runs a messaging and production studio called reculture, where he brings more than a decade of experience as a result driven creative strategist and producer. Seen by many as a trusted voice on 21st century cultural shifts, he’s consulted and developed campaigns for presidential candidates, IPOs, startups, and Fortune 500s, partnering with notable brands such as MGM Studios, Delta Airlines, Sesame Street, Lululemon, and The United Nations Foundation. An accomplished media producer, he’s collaborated on projects with leading culture-makers like Ira Glass of This American Life, Seth Godin, and FoodNetwork‘s Maneet Chauhan.

Sarah Panus:
A sought after communicator and TEDx alumnus, he’s traveled globally speaking to creative professionals at venues like Creative Mornings, Charity:Water, and STORY, which is the conference that I saw him at. In addition, CJ’s work has been featured by Forbes, Salon, CBS, MTV, and TechCrunch. And, as I mentioned, he’s the author of the book Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference, which we’re gonna dig into more today. Um, also for anyone listening, CJ’s living in the midst of a renovation, right? So if we hear any background noise, that’s why this is life. It’s all good. But I just wanted to call that out in case you were like, what does that sound, what is that? So welcome to the show CJ.

CJ Casciotta:
Thank you. Thanks Sarah for having me.

Sarah Panus:
Absolutely. Well first I just wanna say how honored I am to have you on the show. I literally am not lying at all and I’m not just blowing steam up you, but I absolutely adore your book. It is so well written. You are like a very, very talented writer.

CJ Casciotta:
I, I really appreciate that. You know, it it’s, it’s cool that it has found its people, you know, that’s been, that’s been the, the most interesting part about like writing a, a book for the first time. It, it’s found who it’s found its weirdos. And I mean that as, as you know, from reading the book as, as a compliment.

Sarah Panus:
Absolutely. So, you know, before we, we begin, I just wanna, let me just do like a quick setup of the book and what get weird is all about based on how, um, you describe it. And then, um, we’ll get into my questions I have for you in, in how you wrote this and the, what the reaction has been like. So the quick summary, you know, is get weird is really this manifesto of about like the weird wild kids still inside us begging to make the difference they were born to before the world told them to sit down, shut up and fit in, or else. It’s a permission slip to quit checking off boxes, painting by numbers and conforming to patterns with strong evidence for why we can’t wait any longer to do so. And I wanna read one of the, um, reviews you got, uh, CJ, cuz uh, it it’s so great.

Sarah Panus:
I have the book here in front of me and this, um, review is from Brad Montague. Um, he is the writer, director, and creator of Kid President. Someone else I met at the story conference, love his work as well. And he says,

this little book will brighten bookshelves and the world because that’s what weird things do, whip smart and full of heart. It is a needed, wake up call an inspiring invitation to be unusual because this world can’t handle more business as usual. CJ’s mind operates in a wonderfully weird way and here he’s gracious enough to let us in on the fun. It reads like a manifesto from a friend who believes in you that’s because CJ really does care. I can’t wait to see all the goodness that’s unleashed in the world because of this weird and wonderful book.

Sarah Panus:
So what a, what a great, and you have so many of these amazing testimonials, but it really is. It’s such a, a very well written book. And I feel like for me, it just really spoke to my spirit, you know, as a creative person. And I know it’s going to help my audience of marketing professionals listening right now because it’s so imperative for us as people, but then also in our careers and for our businesses and all the things we think about. So that’s what I wanna talk about. CJ. We’re gonna get into that in your experiences. Um, since I’ve already done a review of the book overall, this is where we can get really deep and I’m excited about this.

CJ Casciotta:
I love it. And I love it.

Sarah Panus:
Okay, perfect. Okay. So my first question for you is what’s the reaction been to asking people and companies to embrace their weird?

Reaction when asked to embrace their weird

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. You know, it’s been a lot more positive than I thought when I first wrote the book, I was a little bit nervous that that word weird would sort of garner, you know, feelings of, uh, awkwardness and, and, you know, thoughts of like, I don’t wanna really, you know, even step into that reality. But what I’ve found is that most people and most companies alike sort of already know deep inside that they are weird and they’re sort of waiting for somebody to excavate that from them. And so it’s been like you, yes. We’ve been waiting for somebody to, to give us permission to, to do this now let’s, let’s figure out how to articulate that well.

Sarah Panus:
So that’s great news. Has anything surprised you then about input or insights that you’ve gotten from speaking about this topic?

CJ Casciotta:
Um, I think what’s been most surprising is the amount of people come up to me and say, Hey, how do I parent my kids? Or how do I talk to my students? Or how do I sort of help the next generation live into this reality? And they have such earnest sort of eyes when they ask that it, it puts me on the spot a little bit to go like, ah, I’m, I’m trying to figure that out too, as a parent and as you know, uh, an educator. Um, but that is really the question that seems to be on most people’s mind, whether it’s in a corporate setting or whether I’m talking to, uh, a bunch of folks, you know, after a conference or, you know, a virtual gathering. That seems to be a major question that comes up.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. It’s like, you turn into a bit of a parenting expert and that does put you on,

CJ Casciotta:
Right. Which I’m not.

Sarah Panus:
You’re like I’m figuring this out too.

CJ Casciotta:
Take one look at my kids. They’re amazing. But they’ll let you know, I’m not a parenting expert.

Sarah Panus:
I, I can see that being a question though, because as you talk through the book you’re talking, you know, about us and what we used to be like as kids and how we embrace that inner or child. Um, so it is natural to think, well, how do we kind of stop that cycle and get our, our kids now to not grow up, to be like a lot of us as adults where we’ve lost that. And we feel like we have to conform and fit in. So that, that definitely does make sense that that would be a question for you. What do you say? What’s a, a takeaway of like, how do we help channel that into our kids now?

CJ Casciotta:
Well, I’m, I’m learning that sort of in real time with my own kids. And what I say is, you know, can we start to do just two simple things in our schools, in our parenting? And that’s, one, can we help kids believe in themselves? And two, can we help them believe in others? I think sometimes we really complicated it. We, you know, try and make all of these sort of excuses for why this thing can’t happen or this thing can happen. But if we really just start to, uh, and, and speaking of Brad, I mean, he, uh, who, who gave such, such a nice testimonial to the book? I mean, he says, you know, something like be the, be the grownup you wish you had when you were a kid, you know, so can we think those kinds of people who, um, help kids believe in themselves, which, you know, I think we’ve done.

CJ Casciotta:
I mean, as a, as someone who sort of sits on the, the cusp of like gen X and, and millennials, I, I feel like our generation, our parents, for the most part did a really good job of helping us believe in, in ourselves. Right? And, you know, calling us special and all of that stuff. In addition, though, I think if we can help kids, uh, believe that those around them who may be different than them who maybe, uh, uh, think different, look different, act different, uh, help them believe in those kids as well. I think if we just solve those two problems, helping kids believe in themselves, in others, we’re gonna see over the course of maybe just a couple of years, one generation things dramatically, dramatically change for the better.

Sarah Panus:
So in chapter six of the book, you talk about the myth of the caterpillar, and this is something I personally heard you speak about at the story conference in Nashville that we both attended. And it was such a powerful visual that I’ve actually repeated it to my kids, um, several times, because it really makes a lot of sense. So tell us more about the myth of the caterpillar and how it was kind of an epiphany moment for you.

THE MYTH OF THE CATERPILLAR

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah, well, I think we live in a culture of myths that we’ve sort of just accepted as realities over the course of our lives and, and, and west culture is really, really good at this. I mean, we can talk about historical myths. We could talk about myths that have sort of gotten us into culture wars and the, a lot of the trouble that we, we find ourselves in, in a really polarized environment right now, but I’m gonna go all the way back to myths that we start learning as a kid. And one of the myths that I know I learned would is this myth of, you know, the ugly caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly, the ugly duckling turning into, you know, this beautiful Swan that there sort of had to be this transformation that needed to happen in order for the crowd in order for the audience in order for our peer group to accept us.

CJ Casciotta:
And I kind of woke up one day, I also liked it to, uh, to root off the red nose ring, India, that original, you know, 1960s Claymation story where it’s like, okay, you’ve gotta show us some giant, uh, reason for the thing that makes you weird. The thing that makes you different in, in Rudolph’s case as Chinese red knows, you gotta show us why we should accept this. This has to have some sort of empirical value that we can measure in order for you to be accepted into society. And maybe I’m just crazy. And maybe this is part of my weirdness that I just think about these things, you know, far too deeply and, and long and, and analytically, but I just think giving our kids that message over and over and over again, over time, that’s going to have an effect. And I realize that, that I had that message sort of, you know, again, not, not a sort of Inno innocuously, like it wasn’t, it wasn’t on purpose or be detrimental or anything, but that message has just sort of been given to, you know, me as a, as a, as a kid for so long that I eventually became an adult.

CJ Casciotta:
And that permeated sort of my, my thought process as to how I enter into society and how I enter into the workforce. And I think a much better message is to sort of understand that, um, that it’s, it it’s so false in, in many ways is, and, and what happened with the whole myth of the caterpillar, if you, you know, read the chapter is I was writing this book on my friend’s farm and she showed me this caterpillar, and I’m like, this is a really good looking creature right here. It had, you know, green speckles and, and bright yellow and, and jet black sort of, you know, at a, you know, adornments on it. And I’m like, this is, this is actually, this is not a feel good sort of moment here. It was sort of a moment where I felt like I’d been duped because I was conditioned to, to understand caterpillars as, as, as ugly.

CJ Casciotta:
And, and they’re not, I mean, some of the, I guess maybe are, but yeah, I think digging past some of these, um, these cultural, uh, myths will really, you know, start to help our kids, uh, and you know, and us, we can even start to, I mean, part of this book was sort of my own kind of UN unwinding of, of, you know, my perceived notions around weirdness and normality. Um, but I, I believe, you know, as we start to unpack those again, we’re gonna start to see, um, a lot of things change for, for the better

Sarah Panus:
And the big thing like with that caterpillars. Cause when you saw it and how beautiful it was with all those adornments, you were like, this caterpillar is beautiful and wonderful as it is. It doesn’t have to wait to transform into a butterfly. And I remember when you said that when I had heard you speak about it, and then when I read it in your book too, I was like, yeah. I mean, there’s so many different transformation stories that we, but we don’t that we hear throughout life. And sometimes we wait and we think we have to wait or we have to change to become those things, but it was, it was such a powerful visual to show being okay, and being embracing like you as you are now and what makes you different. Um, because that is beautiful and great and good in that time too

CJ Casciotta:
Well. And, and we can talk about this more in, in, in, in a little bit, but I think, I think there’s a cultural shift happening right now where people are sort of waking up to the outdated of these traditional stories, the, the, the, you know, the hero’s journey, right. I mean, and, and I’m not knocking the hero’s journey, obviously like Joe, Joseph Campbell had some great ideas that, that, uh, stand the test of time, but we’re also sort of entering into a more evolved type of society where everybody’s individuality and everybody’s uniqueness and everybody’s weirdness. So to speak together, sort of creates a new narrative. And, and, uh, my friend, Jeff Gomez talks a lot about this, uh, over the hero’s journey. We’re, we’re starting to look at something called the collective journey right now, if you start looking at different forms of, of storytelling and films and, and television shows, and even, you know, in advertising and, uh, and, and branding, um, the idea that all of our sort of unique, weird attributes combined together, tackling a problem, solving an issue overcoming something that seems to speed way more clearly and articulately to reality, or to least out reality right now than sort of this classic, you know, uh, usually male macho, you know, having the, the guy like, you know, having to, to sword fight a dragon, or, you know, somebody dressed in black in order to save the princess.

CJ Casciotta:
Right. I mean, the, these, these stories are, are becoming outdated. And so what’s, what’s it going to be replaced by? And I think what we’re starting to see is sort of the era of, um, the misfits banding together, the collective weirdos banding together to, um, overcome some of these age old notions.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah.

CJ Casciotta:
I’m trying to say is a meta conversation happening, you know.

Sarah Panus:
Definitely, definitely. And I think what’s so great about how you entered into that conversation with your get weird book too, is it really flips the notion of like the definition of the word weird, and that weird is a bad thing at all. Like we wanna be a bunch of weirdos. Weirdos is what makes difference weird is what makes us stand out. Um, so for me, like you personally completely changed how I define weird and how I talk about it to my kids. And now when my kids tell me, I’m weird, I always say, thank you. Like, thank you. I appreciate that. That’s compliment. So it’s,

CJ Casciotta:
That, that is fantastic. That makes my day.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah, no, you, you truly have, you’ve totally changed what that definition is for me and how I’m teaching that to my kids too well. So, you know, since my, as you know, my audience is a bunch of marketing professionals that are listening right now, we can talk about weird, but in our careers, obviously we have to tie it to some results too, right. Um, for our bosses and for the people we report into. So I would love to, um, get your help on connecting the dots for how being weird actually helps drive business results or helps someone advance in their career and in their life by digging into some of like actual brand that you, um, to illustrate a few different scenarios. And I know when we had chatted before you, you have a few different scenarios that I think are great because they cover, um, a multitude of different aspects that people listening right now may relate to, or be like, yep, that’s my company. That’s what it’s like. So I’d love to just unpack these three with you. So first tell us about, um, I know you have a brand that did two different ordinary things, but when they were combined, the, the combination of those two ordinary things made them weird and they just needed to be able to explain it. So tell us more about that brand example.

Being weird to drive business results

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. So I, I, I go around my, my bread and butter is doing messaging and production work for, you know, different companies. So we’ll, you know, do a workshop that we call weird thinking with them to really excavate, like I said, in the beginning of their weirdness. And then usually we’ll, we’ll end up producing, you know, content and, uh, and, and, you know, different forms of sort of that expression, uh, whether it be, you know, podcasts, you series, uh, you know, original, uh, video presentations, sometimes even internal brand activation stuff. Uh, so there’s one company that we’re talking about. I, I, I, I found there there’s usually three or four different kinds of companies and, you know, they’re, they’re either companies that need to find their weirdness, but are already sort of doing strange things and just sort, we need to articulate it. Then there are companies who, um, they’re doing two sort of ordinary things, two things that are, are very sort of run in the mill, but they haven’t realized that the fact that they do both of those things makes them interesting, makes them weird.

CJ Casciotta:
Um, and then there’s that last kind of company, which they’re just sort of, um, they’re doing a couple of different, weird things, but they really need to make a choice over which weird thing they’re gonna do so that people understand it. They’re like they’re too weird for their own good. So the company I wanna focus on or tell a story is really that, that second company where they were doing two different ordinary things, uh, and combined, it sort of made them weird. They to just need to figure out how to explain it. So this was a, a Denver, uh, innovation firm. There were a management consultancy doing innovation, but they, they were from Denver. They’re from Colorado. So Colorado, the whole vibe of Colorado was sort of just like in their bloodstream. They felt really compelled to do a lot of corporate social responsibility work.

CJ Casciotta:
And they really helped companies, uh, and their clients sort of in innovate from a sustainability, uh, perspective, but they were just really good business consultants, management consultants. And so they were doing these two different things. They couldn’t, they couldn’t figure out, Hey, are we a, you know, an innovation company that also does some sustainability work? Are we sustainability company that also does some innovation work? So what we focused, most of our timeline was sort of drilling down how to articulate that you would want to bring this company in if you wanted to innovate, because they had this extra sort of competitive edge where they saw things through a Colorado lens, a sustainable lens. And that was, you know, easier said than done. But that is what we had to drill down is you actually do these two different things, need to figure out how to present those two different

things in a way that not only makes you weird, but makes it easy for other people to understand why that weirdness matters to them as a client, as a customer.

Sarah Panus:
Got it. That makes sense. And then another then example, another brand example you talked about, like, if you’re doing like two weird things and you need to make a choice between them because it’s confusing people, like, can you give us an example of that at?

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. So there was a relief organization in, uh, the middle east that, uh, I worked with and, um, they had a really great, uh, programs that they were running, but because, and a lot of people, I mean, you’re an entrepreneur. So, you know, this, the way you start off and start out, rarely becomes what you are known for. You know, you take so many people think success is sort of like this, you know, this, this linear sort of trajectory or trajectory. And, and in reality, you know, there’s twists and turns and discoveries and pivots. And so this organization has had pivoted a lot. And so they started off out doing a lot of this, uh, medical sort of relief work in other parts of the world. And that was sort of, uh, that sort of gave them them their start. But the, the, the core sort of founding team got noticed and really ended up loving, uh, discussing relief work in high conflict sort zones.

CJ Casciotta:
And so I remember our conversation was around, well, shoot, which one are we going to to platform? Which one are we going to message? And what we discovered out of that was we can still do all of this, you know, medical work in the background and, and, you know, provide us with, you know, the way they had kind of set up their business model was that was helping them, uh, sort of sustain, you know, their, their growth. But we can, we can spend this season where we actually have that sustainable growth due to that medical, uh, that, that medical program we can now sort to go, okay, we’re gonna focus 95%, if not more of our messaging around where we want to go and where we want to go is the thing that we feel makes us weird, makes us unique is we wanna be, um, experts in high conflict areas and bringing relief to those high conflict areas.

CJ Casciotta:
And again, as an outsider who, you know, sort of has been writing about weirdness and differentiation, that made really clear sense to me, but imagine just, you know, traveling over to the middle, middle east and getting all these, these board members together, and nobody could really quite figure out how to, how to articulate that. And so that was sort of the big aha moment from that working with that company, working with that brand was can we, do we have permission to go somewhere that feels a little bit outside of what we’ve normally been doing, even if we’re maybe not quite experts in that yet, but we wanna go there. And what’s interesting is once they sort of made the decision and stopped trying to beat everything to all people and start, you know, messaging all of different programs they did, and just focused on the one message that they really wanted to go after. They, I think like quadrupled in, uh, donations and in, uh, really their, their growth over that the next like five months.

Sarah Panus:
Oh, that’s great. And then you had mentioned then, so what about like the, the company that is just inherently weird, but they just need help explaining it. They don’t have like multiple things. They don’t have two ordinary things. They’re just weird. Like how what’s an example of that.

CJ Casciotta:
Well, those are really fun. I mean, they’re all fun kind of companies, but the, the kinds of companies that, that are, are somewhat, sometimes the most challenging to work with. Uh, but they’re really the most fun to is, is they are, they’re already doing such inherently weird thing, but they kind of wear that as a badge of honor. I’m probably like this, uh, to other people or, you know, to consultants and stuff like it’s like, Hey, don’t tell me how to simplify my message. Don’t tell me how to articulate what makes me weird. I just kind of wanna be in my own little weird. So I talk about my friend, uh, uh, Brandon in the book who started the David’s heart foundation, who it’s a nonprofit that is out of east San Diego, that trains kids, how to use production equipment and become producers and audio engineers and musicians, uh, who, and these kids are, are, are, are part of families who are struggling with housing and securities they’re in low income neighborhoods.

CJ Casciotta:
Uh, so it all started, uh, with, with brand and essentially, you know, war working as a producer outside of his, you know, in his home, in his garage and kids on the street coming up to him and going, oh, I wanna do this. I wanna, you know, I wanna help you out and kind of bugging him. And so he was like, Hey, why don’t you bring me some good grades tomorrow, get your grades up. And I’ll give you an hour of studio time. And that turned into this really amazing nonprofit, uh, that continue need to do a bunch of work today. And so I remember we worked together and they were just having trouble articulating all of the interesting stuff that they were doing and had to kind of simplify it. So I remember we came up with, um, a, a tagline for them and I have a mug at home, uh, that, that says it it’s, it’s, you know, David David’s heart foundation statistics defied by songs. Cause that’s all they do all day long is just produce songs and you know, these kids. So, and they’re, they’re helping to, to sort of change the trajectory of, uh, these kids’ lives in, in San Diego. These, you know, the other one would be statistics.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Those are three really great examples for people listening to think about. So I invite you all listening, where do you fall in that mix? You know, how do you feel about your organization or even about yourself, um, and your own personal brand. So stick around, we’re gonna take a quick commercial break and CJ and I will continue the conversation.

Commercial break

Sarah Panus:
Get ready to create a rockstar content team at your corporation. Today’s episode of Marketing With Empathy is brought to you by my Brand Storytelling Academy. Brand Storytelling Academy is an intimate five month group training program designed to help internal B2C and non-profit teams attract top funnel leads to drive bottom funnel results. For one-third of the cost to hire a person on the team or onboard a high level storytelling strategist, up to five people on your team can be developing and accelerating their brand storytelling skills. Learn to humanize your brand to connect with your audience, develop confidence in brand storytelling skills, frameworks, and strategic mindset needed to advance in your career and enjoy your job more. Seven X new and repeat engagement through empathy plus data-driven storytelling and improve your existing team strategic skills without having to hire more people. Think of it like a college certification program for your team, but you get the knowledge a lot quicker. And your professor, me, has 20 years of hands on experience in the field. In addition to hearing from me, I’ll have guest experts join and each week you’ll also connect and learn from other brand marketing professionals in the group. Curious? Fill out the application at kindredspeak.com/apply to learn more and I’ll be in touch to discuss if it’s a good fit for your organization. Go to kindredspeak.com/apply. 

Steps for putting this in action

Sarah Panus:
Okay. So CJ, we, we know it matters. We know being weird helps make a difference. What steps can my listeners take to, to put this into action for themselves? Like how do you figure out your weird factor?

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a bit different for, you know, for everyone. Uh, but if, if we’re talking on an individual, well, I, I mean, I think, I think it would be good to, to sort of differentiate between like, um, like on an individual level or like for the, their company or for their project. Like, which one do we wanna do we wanna tackle first?

Sarah Panus:
Sure. Let’s let’s um, tackle for your company first.

CJ Casciotta:
Okay. So for companies, I think the easiest thing to do is to look at your people. I mean, a lot of us, especially in the west, you know, seem to think or seem to believe that, you know, these companies are sort of this disembodied sort of disassociated things that we go and work for, but really, you know, a company organization is an organism. That’s made up of many, many living things, many, many, many different people who all bring their own uniqueness to the table. And I think so often we tend to kind of just glaze over that and try and find our point of differentiation and our point of, you know, uh, unicorn, uh, technology or whatever, you know, we have to, to, to sort of tout out there somewhere, you know, on, on a hill, you know, again, it goes back to that hero’s journey, but really looking within, at our people and capitalizing on the unique team that we’ve created over time. And it’s a really special thing. What

Sarah Panus:
Do you look for then within your people to help you get to, like, what makes us weird? Are you looking for trends and themes and, and feedback?

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. I think asking questions too, and being curious and being empathetic with your people, um, you’d be surprised at the kind of invention and the kind of, um, innovation that that starts with just simply thing just, and, and, and, and being empathetic, uh, towards people and really getting to know who they are and what makes them tick. Uh, lots of times we just sort of especially, oh my gosh, with

everything being virtual right now, I mean, zoom and, and, and video chat. It, it it’s made this even harder. Right. Cause we kind of just wanna get to the point and make this as efficient as possible and go back to doing what we’ve, you know, been, been doing, but to take that extra moment to curate everybody’s individuality, everybody’s weirdness in our team. Um, and to be able to archive that, to be able to, to sort of know that about each other and about the team we’re doing this thing together with, um, it might be hard to measure, but I would say it, it it’s invaluable.

Sarah Panus:
And do I know you mentioned before that you do weird thinking workshops. Um, do you, do, can you do those remotely, um, with companies or is that more an in-person exercise?

CJ Casciotta:
No, I’ve do on it remotely. And, uh, it’s, it’s always better right. In, in person. Um, just cuz you know, we can sort of, uh, understand body language more and, and, and you know, all of those unseen things, but, um, and, and nuanced things I should say. Uh, but, but we can do ’em virtually and uh, we’re adapting just like everybody else.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s great to hear. Okay. So then that’s like some ideas on the corporate side then on the company side, how do you figure out your weird factor for yourself?

CJ Casciotta:
Well, yeah, again, I think it’s, it’s sort of realizing what narratives have you sort of just accepted over time. Maybe even since you were a kid that if you dig a little deeper realize aren’t, aren’t true. I mean, this gets a little bit into psychology and I’m not a psychologist, but it’s like what stories aren’t serving you anymore, you know? Um, and then working backwards from there. I mean, a lot of times the things that we believe about ourselves, um, that aren’t serving us start with somebody who kicked our uniqueness out of us often had an early age that could be a parent that could be a coach that could be a friend. Um, that could be, uh, anybody in your, your, your peer group. It usually starts from an early age. And so really trying to get to know that child, that six year old, that seven year old, that eight year old, whoever you were before that point, um, that’s a, that’s a, a conversation worth having.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. And that, that just takes that self work then to really ask yourself those questions, journal on it, think about it, um, to get to the root of that, doesn’t it.

CJ Casciotta:
Well, and, and often you’ll find that that’s to kind of bring it back into sort of the corporate, you know, world it’s like, that’s your, your greatest source of creativity. If you can learn to have a conversation with the person you were before the world told you, we don’t want that person. That’s the most creative person, you know, that’s the most uninhibited person, you know, that’s the most free spirit, an innovative person, you know, because they weren’t told no.

I love that. I love that. Who listening doesn’t wanna get to their most creative person that they are. That is beautiful, but so, okay. So then I have a follow up question then that’s a little bit deeper and I know neither one of us are psychologists or anything. So I have an observation that I’ve personally been struggling with. And I’m just curious to hear what you think, um, given your expertise in this topic, like in our current culture, it feels like we’re kind of living in constant contradictions when it comes to embracing our weird, because from my observation, like what I see on one is we have a lot more acceptance of people and things and ideas that are different. But on the other hand, I also see a lot of divisive actions and attitudes towards people who think differently than us. So how do people retain the courage to be weird, like to be themselves when they know that others might not agree with them?

How to retain the courage to be weird

CJ Casciotta:
Well, I think it’s a conversation about definitions and about language. I think we’ve confused over the past several years, at least the word identity with the word story. I think we love the word story. So, and we’re, we’re talking about creativity and marketing and branding and all of that kind of stuff. And so we live in the realm of story and I’m not trying to knock story, but I think when we start seeing ourselves and others merely as a collection of stories and we don’t value the underlying uniqueness, the under what I would call identity, I think identity is something that can’t be taken from you. It’s who you are before the world told you who you were before. The world told you a story about you. I’m not saying stories, aren’t important. I’m saying there’s something more important than stories. And so when we reduce everyone to a story, when we reduce our own self to a story, oh, I like this, I do this.

CJ Casciotta:
This is who I want to be seen as. This is what, how I want to be seen. This is who I wanna, I identify with. This is who I want to be like. This is who that other person is like, this is what that other person thinks. This is what that other person doesn’t think. This is where I disagree. Agree with that other person. When we focus so much on these sort of narratives, that we’ve kind of placed around ourselves without first seeing the incredible miracle of, of unique life in each other. The fact that nobody can take that away. We start to have, um, the problems that we’re we’re having. And I think, uh, social media and a lot of the mechanisms that we have sort of created help to kind of put that space between us. It makes it easier to reduce someone to a set of 140 characters. I guess it’s not 280 characters or, or a square image with a little caption on it. Right. It’s, it’s easier to reduce a person with simply a, uh, a piece of content, a story. And they’re, they’re not that they’re an individual unique, miraculous statistic, odd defying collection of consciousness that coexist in the same sphere that you do.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. I keep, I keep going back when I think about it is I just always keep thinking, as you’re talking about just it’s the golden rule, like put yourself in someone else’s shoes we all have in individuals, we all like, you’re just talking about we’re all individually uniquely made. And what is that? And just remembering the humanness, which is why I love a lot of, like, I do love how storytelling it can help humanize brands like to better connect and engage their audiences, but like as professionals and as people, as people, we just need to remember what you just said. I think that’s really important.

CJ Casciotta:
Well, thanks. It’s I’ve been, I just been thinking a lot about it lately. It’s like, what story are, are you telling anybody can tell a story, but unless we’re asking some really pointed follow up questions, we’ve only done a little bit of the work and maybe we’ve even done a disservice in the first place.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. By focusing and fixating, sometimes I think like we just focus on the wrong things, you know, we get so fixated on materialistic or otherwise things. And then you do, you just kinda lose that sight of your identity. I like how you defined that. Okay. So then as we wrap up, what’s one takeaway that you wanna leave my listeners with before we end the show today,

CJ’s KEy takeaways

CJ Casciotta:
Create out of the self that you used to be before the world told you. You probably shouldn’t.

Sarah Panus:
I love that. I love that. I love that. And you know, if you’re listening and you’re like me and this resonated with you, I definitely recommend read his book. It is so good. CJ, your book is so good. And again, it’s called get weird, discover this, a rising secret to making a difference. I’ll put a link to it, um, to it in the show notes as well. So you can just click and buy, but otherwise just Google it and go online and, and, and order it. It’s a great read. So CJ, like how can people connect with you online? Where else can they find you?

CJ Casciotta:
Yeah. And, um, pretty much off social media for some of the reasons we talked about, uh, earlier, but I do have a LinkedIn, so just find me on LinkedIn. And my, uh, studio is called reculture. So if you just Google reculture it’ll show up. It’s uh, reculture dot, uh, well, it’s, it’s R E C U LT U dot E. Um, and you can find me there.

Sarah Panus:
Beautiful. I’ll link to that as well. Thank you so much. Um, that wraps up today’s episode. Uh, I hope you guys are gonna get your weirdo on. You’re gonna think about where you fall on the spectrum within your company, within yourself, and really being the creative self that you used to channeling and working to get towards that as best as you can. That is beautiful. So thank you so much, TJ, for coming on today. This was great.

CJ Casciotta:
Hey, thanks, Sarah. You’re doing some really great work and I appreciate the conversation.

Sarah Panus:
Likewise. Thank you. Okay, folks, um, chime in next week. Oh, make sure you, if you like this head over at episode 54, you can listen to more about the book. Look in the recap there. Otherwise we’ll speak to you next week until next time. Kindred Speakers.

CLOSing remarks

Hi fives for finishing another episode. When faced with an obstacle, you’re the type of person who gets better instead of bitter. I hope you feel creatively inspired and invite you to check back often for more goodness from me and my guest. If you want more actionable advice and inspiration head over to kindredspeak.com for show notes, all discount codes from today’s episode, and to sign up for my newsletter. Subscribe now to the Marketing With Empathy Podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify and wherever else you get your podcast. And if you’d be so kind, will you please leave me a review. This helps my podcast get noticed by others. Keep smiling.

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ABOUT SARAH PANUS

Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling.  Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations think like Editorial Directors for their brand to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more.  She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at www.kindredspeak.com. Follow Sarah on Instagram and LinkedIn.