top of page
Podcast Transcript

Big Rocks Revisited

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, welcome back yet again, if I can get my words out. Sorry about that.

Marsha Clark  0:27  
All good.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:29  
I'm feeling, you know, all the positive energy. I think that's why I was just stammering. I'm feeling all the positive energy from our conversation with LeeAnn and last week's focus on beginning again. And I mean, what a great way to kick off the new year.

Marsha Clark  0:45  
Well, welcome back to you, as well, Wendi, and I couldn't agree more. I mean, reflecting on our intentions from 2023 and then setting some new intentions for this coming year is certainly one of my favorite traditions. And, you know, I also just have to say it never astounds me how quickly a new year comes around and all that that means.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:05  
Yeah, how quickly it comes around. And I don't want to sound like an old fart when I say that. Can I say that on this podcast? But I'm also really happy with how we're lining these episodes up, helping to gain clarity and alignment early on in the year in different domains of our life. And so I feel like I'm getting such a strong foundation set for this new year.

Marsha Clark  1:32  
Well, I agree. And that's definitely the goal that we have for these first few episodes of 2024 and why we wanted to revisit an important topic this week. And I think about our previous, for our longtime listeners this will be a reset. For our first time listeners on this topic, it might be some new insight, some new thoughts, some new intentions and ways of setting intentions, giving everyone a chance to do some additional reflection and priority setting.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:00  
Exactly. So some of our longtime listeners may have picked up on the reference in the title of this episode, "Big Rocks Revisited". We originally did a show (it was Episode Number 42) titled "Big Rocks" back on July 6 of 2022. And so what we're going to do today is build on those concepts, add some new data around how we're spending our time, and then work through the process of establishing our new "big rocks" for this new year.

Marsha Clark  2:32  
I think that's a great setup, Wendi. And let me also add that our listeners may have have some old big rocks right from a year ago that are still holding on. And so it doesn't mean that they necessarily go away or get replaced. You may want to continue to prioritize those. And I don't want anyone to feel like this is only about new rocks. It can certainly also include recommitting to and completing, if you will, some of those quote unquote "old rocks".

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:59  
Or even ditching some old rocks like, just, you know, throwing those over the fence.

Marsha Clark  3:04  
Wendi, just as an aside, I always tell my clients, if you've had it on the list for a year and you haven't done it, is it really still a real deal? I mean, is it still worth the effort to keep it open and let it swirl around in your head? And so don't automatically renew and don't automatically throw away - thoughtful and intentional.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:26  
Great points, great points. Okay, so we're looking at possibly some new big rocks, revisiting some old big rocks or even getting rid of some rocks. So let's do this. All right, I know many of us have heard the analogy about the big rocks, either from our previous episode or from a couple of other dozen sources. But for those who thought that they wandered into a geological lecture here, or need a refresh on the concept, please give us the 30,000 foot overview of what we're actually talking about with big rocks.

Marsha Clark  3:59  
That's right. Okay. I include the story of the 'big rocks' in my book, "Embracing Your Power", and for those of you who are keeping up with this, it starts on page 180. And I hope if you don't have the book, you'll go get that book so that you can have the full story. The analogy is most often attributed to Stephen M. Covey from his book entitled "First Things First". And as we mentioned in our Big Rocks podcast, this story is in a variety of online videos, including one of Covey himself where he actually is demonstrating the activity using real rocks, and I strongly encourage our listeners to go back and listen to that podcast, or even do an internet search for a video of the metaphor that this represents to help with the context. So in the meantime, here's the spoiler version, if you will. The big rocks that we're referring to are your major significant priorities. And so for the purposes of today's conversation, we're going to talk about big rocks over a specific timeframe, in this case a year. And you might have a couple of big rocks related to work, whether it's hitting a specific goal or getting a big promotion or raise or achieving strategic targets, whatever it might be. And you could also have a health related big rock like training for a marathon or hitting your 10,000 steps every day kind of thing, as you track that. And big rocks might be around relationships, or continuing your education, or even a major vacation. So those are all broad and wide variations of what big rocks are. And the point of the metaphor of big rocks, is that you have to make room, whether it's on your priority list or your calendar, for the big rocks first. The illustration is trying to fill a jar with the rocks. That's the whole metaphor piece. And if you don't put the big rocks in the jar first (in other words, if you don't prioritize your big rocks) then all the little rocks, the pebbles, and the gravel, and the sand, and even water, you know, of life, if you will, each of these representing smaller things, you know, the distractions, the endless list of to do's, if you put them in first, then once it's full of all that stuff, you no longer have room for your big rocks.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:32  
Well, great 30,000 foot version of the metaphor. And I know one of the things we talked about doing today is a reflection exercise looking back over last year's big rocks in order to help us get clarity on our big rocks for this coming year. So I feel like this is a good spot to do that. So now that we're actually talking about this, I'm curious about what your process is, Marsha, for reflecting on the previous year. We touched on this a little with LeeAnn Mallory, but I feel like it was a bigger picture reflection on our intentions. So do you sit down in a quiet spot with a glass of wine and do some, you know, kind of written inventory on your big rocks or do you have some kind of ceremony for commemorating or celebrating progress or completions? What does that look like?

Marsha Clark  7:25  
Yeah, and I just want to say to our listeners, we're all going to do it differently. There's no one right way. So for me, I keep a running list in my head. I think about these, you know, I'm not gonna say every single day, but pretty close - almost every single day. And then throughout the year, things come to me sporadically. And so I think about them for a while. And I do write them down and I share them with my team because I think that's a big part of. What I'm usually thinking about in big rocks requires my team to go make happen. And so I naturally think and decide in terms of ideas. So I'm an idea generator, and I ponder my different ideas and I narrow the list by really looking at and considering my overarching mission and vision. So the question I ask myself, will this help women be clearer about defining and achieving success on their own terms and will it be accessible to women? And I don't just mean women in my neighborhood, I mean women in the world. And so those are my two big decision criteria for identifying and prioritizing my big rocks, and it's a dynamic process. So what about you, Wendi? Do you have some kind of year end review or reflection process and what does that look like for you?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  8:41  
Yes, I do exactly the same thing. And it starts around Thanksgiving. So I give myself plenty of time to let my mind kind of sporadically come up with new things in the shower, or you know, as I'm having the second glass of wine I tend to get more creative when that happens. And so I keep a journal of just random writings and then I transfer those over into kind of a formalized document that I can easily pull up like a bulleted list of here's big rock number one, here's minor rocks that are going to support big rock number one, here's big rock number two, minor rocks. And then for me the water of life that I, that I started doing this a couple of years ago, the water of life is keeping connections with not just business associates but with friends and family. So I make it a priority. Like I have a list of okay, here's family. Here's friends, close friends. Here's the next layer of friends. Here's business connections that I want to keep in contact with. And I make it a priority to hit a family member, a close friend, and then that next layer a friend, one of those three groups every single week and I make a plan around that because otherwise you look up and you haven't talked to so and so in six months. And so that's kind of my water. And that's, that's kind of like that last layer that comes in that is constant throughout. And I like to view it as encapsulating all the rocks and the sand.

Marsha Clark  10:31  
You know I love that and the structure, right, is what we need. We need the prompts, we need the reminders, we need to get it out out there into the world to improve the probability of it happening.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:43  
And if it's not in my calendar, like if time isn't blocked for as even on a particular day, there's a task - email so and so, plan to get coffee within next two weeks. And then that task gets done. And then coffee gets booked. But if it's not in my calendar, it doesn't happen.

Marsha Clark  11:01  
Well, this is a quick little aside again. I used to put special birthdays on my calendar so that I could wish someone a happy birthday. Well, for those I want to send cards to I have now put prompts in my calendar, you know, a week to 10 days ahead and said 'send card to'. And because it gets me in a more timely way. So this idea of putting it on the calendar, prompting us to then go make it happen and then you put a second thing on the calendar. And that's not complex calendar management. It's just building a structure that reinforces what your goals are and what your intentions are.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:35  
Right. Exactly. Okay, so let's check in on 2023's big rocks. We're going to look back. And I propose that we use the three learning agility questions you introduce in "Embracing Your Power" on page 14 - Embracing Your Power book on page 14. Okay, say the questions, Marsha, for those of us not grabbing the book off the shelf.

Marsha Clark  11:58  
Well, and I mean, these I say at least once a day. "What did I do?" - question number one. "What did I learn?" - question number two. And third question is "How will this help me going forward?"

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:12  
Okay, all right, then your first question for you in terms of your 2023 big rocks, what were they and what did you do?

Marsha Clark  12:21  
So I finished writing Book Two, which will come out in mid 2024. And you know, just getting all those first thoughts and ideas down on paper. And that was a big accomplishment for me and certainly a big rock. My second big rock was to be a guest on others' podcasts and I had an opportunity to do that several times. And then also to get speaking engagements in front of large audiences based on Book One, often trying to provide copies to those audiences of the book itself so it can be a long standing reference tool, if you will.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:59  
Perfect, perfect. I love that. Okay, all right, my turn. What did I do? I formed, officially formed, Cassandra Capital got all of the legal paperwork, all of the stuff done to form that, got the website out the door, started marketing the venture capital firm, started getting on the radar here locally in the North Texas area in front of potential investors and other people who can make introductions to that. So that was number one. The second one was joining a very long time colleague friend at his consulting firm as the head of one of their business units and the reason why I chose to do that is number one, that's just kind of my background and my happy place. It's been my professional spot for my almost my entire career. And it's giving me access to interesting investment opportunities for Cassandra Capital. So it's a nice marriage there. And then the third thing is I lost 15 pounds Yeah, I finally dialed in the hormones and the the food intake and the alcohol intake and the exercise piece and all of that kind of stuff. So I've done that and been able to keep that off outside of a few trips yes to countries that value their bread and their pastries way more than I do in normal life. But those were, so those were the three big things for me.

Marsha Clark  14:42  
I mean, that's huge - two professional and a personal and, listeners, there's nothing magic about three. You know, typically our brains can hold three to five big things at any one time. When you start getting more, it gets harder to hold on to them, but I love that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:00  
Okay, second question. And for the sake of time, we'll just focus on maybe one or two, if you really want to, for this question, Marsha. What did you learn?

Marsha Clark  15:10  
So we'll go to my first big rock about finishing Book Two. I wrote it much faster than I did Book One. So I was testing out different processes when I was in Book One. And so I applied what I learned in 2022 to what I was going to do in 2023. And that process that works for me, and it reduces, I'll tell the truth here, both the time required to write the book and the stress of writing because I, and I just got my first, there's four kinds of edits and the first is what's called a substantive edit. And it had really, there was very little editing done. So that tells me that I did learn something from Book One and I got the opportunity to apply going forward.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:58  
That's fantastic.

Marsha Clark  15:59  
It is. And second thing I learned was that I have a lot of experiences and along with that tools, concepts and frameworks to share. And you know, not just in capturing those in book two. But there's a lot more things I want to write about and that's also going to fuel my 2024 big rocks. And then I enjoy, the third thing I learned is I really do enjoy sharing my work with new audiences, introducing them to the body of work that I've spent the last 25 years creating.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:32  
Watching those 'aha' moments happen I'm sure is incredibly rewarding.

Marsha Clark  16:37  
So what about you? What did you learn?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:39  
Okay, so I'm going to only talk about one. I'm going to focus in on Cassandra Capital and forming that. And what I learned was, I can do hard things. I can, you know, I learned that you don't have to necessarily be an expert in a new thing in order to bite it off, take it on, and do it. Like it was really a feeling from within me that I needed to do this for the North Texas area, and obviously, it will expand beyond that. But it was kind of a "if not me, then who" kind of situation for me. And so what I learned was, as long as you ask the right questions to people who can help you and help you pull things together, like find those people who can be of help and of service and they will jump in and help you. If you have a passion and a mission about something, then you can do it. You can do hard things. So that's what I learned.

Marsha Clark  17:43  
Yeah, I love everything about that. I mean, you are, in my mind, the two words that I would attach to you, Wendi, are creative and conceptor. And you can develop, generate, ideate, brainstorm ideas, ideas, ideas. That's the conceptor part of you. The creative part is really matching those ideas to a need, whether it be a need of a market, a need of a community, a need of a single person, a need of a single business in your consulting work, and so on. And you're really good at tying those things together.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:45  
Thank you. Okay, we can end the episode now.

Marsha Clark  18:17  
So, I will start with you this time on the next question. How is all that going to help you going forward based on what you learned?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:27  
And you know, for me, I don't know that it's necessarily helping me as much as it's helping me with my need to help others, my drive to be of service, my drive to leave something meaningful behind, not just for myself. You know, I don't know what that is about me. But yes, I do. I recognize that I have been very, very blessed in my life. I have had an incredible upbringing. I have parents who love me, I have parents who are still married and love each other. I have been fortunate enough to be in a very secure space for all of my life. And my recognition that there are not a lot of people who are like that, and some of that comes from traveling, some of that comes from obstacles in work life and you meet damaged people and you have to learn how to deal with them. Going forward I recognize that I am going to continue to seek those things where I can light up other people to the extent that I can light them up.

Marsha Clark  19:46  
You know, I think about what you're doing with Cassandra Capital and funding women. And we often talk about some of us have headwinds and some of us have tailwinds. You look at women as a group around the world we have headwinds. And they're in varying speeds and degrees around the world. And what I love is you're generating some tailwinds, right, because when you give some financial possibility to launch a great idea or for a person to have an entrepreneurial experience to to offer their gifts and talents to the world, you're a tailwind for others and I love that. I love that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:22  
Thank you. All right. So you're up, Marsha. How will what you did and what you learned help you going forward?

Marsha Clark  20:32  
Yeah, I will tell you, as I mentioned it earlier, I'm clearly more on a writing push right now. I have this list of topics and they come from, like you say, the shower, I just heard something on the radio, I just read something in a book, I just talked to someone, the coaching conversations that I have. What are the struggles that people are working with or are challenged by or facing and how can I offer something to them? So it goes back to the service to others. And so the writing part for me is how I want to really, because that accessibility has more options and opportunities. And I hope that when the new book comes out that I'll have more opportunities for guesting and podcasting. And I'll be smarter on how to do that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:21  
Absolutely. Okay, well, I am so glad we followed all of that process to reflect on our 2023 big rocks. And that feels more meaningful and relevant than just a year end review. And I know we've done that episode also, but this feels like a year end review in a different way.

Marsha Clark  21:40  
Well, to me, there's more qualitative here and more humanistic here. You know, when you do year end reviews and you give a lot of metrics or stats or quantitative stuff, it's like another PowerPoint slide. Right? When you get to tell some stories about what it means to you and what you're trying to accomplish to me, there's a depth to that. So I do, when you think, I want our listeners to think about this in terms of this isn't an audit or an inventory because that's what I mean when I say it's much deeper and it's a story and it's a story that now resides in us. And I'm look, I'm not saying it's not important to know the status and location, if you will, progress along the way of my big rocks. But if I want to truly reflect, I'm going to ask myself questions about how things went along the way as I was working on those rocks. And of course, that's why I love those learning agility questions of what did I do, what did I learn and how will this help me going forward because it helps us deepen the experience.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:41  
Absolutely. Okay, I do have one more question before we start looking forward at our 2024 big rocks. Something you said a few minutes ago was about how big rocks emerge, which sounds really gentle and calm, and nothing about like how we think of big rocks showing up in life. And I don't know that I'd say they emerge as much as they kind of fall out of the sky, sometimes on our head. And, you know, sometimes I wish I had one of those "Caution: falling rocks" signs on me. But what do you think?

Marsha Clark  23:14  
Well, I have to laugh when I think about that. You and I are both ideation people. So yes, we can we can relate to that. And I, before I even start on my real response, this will let our listeners know, when we've taped this, that we went to see the MJ musical with Michael Jackson and all of his music. And it was such, so well done, but the impact of the music, the intensity of the music, the volume of different music throughout the production, I mean, I literally jumped in my seat several times. And that's those big rocks emerge from nowhere because you're rolling along and your mind is thinking, 'Oh, I remember when that happened, oh, I remember that song', you know you're doing all that and then bam! You get to connect what that song meant in the life of Michael Jackson. And all of a sudden, it takes on another thing. And that's what I even think about when it comes to big rocks because, again, I'll divert from our notes in the script, but when I've tried to rush big rocks and say, I need to do this now because somebody else is doing it and, you know, I need to do it too.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:29  
Shoulding on yourself.

Marsha Clark  24:30  
I do, and then I realize when it's meant to happen, it will happen. And I've learned the patience of that. That's why even when I think about if you've still got things on your 2023 big rock list and you haven't done them, it's just not time yet. I mean, that's what I've learned in my own life around this as well. So, you know, whether they emerge or whether they fall in big chunks from the sky, it's probably a 'both and' phenomenon. And I do think that some big rocks form over time and that's when eventually they become so large that you can't help but take notice. And then you have to make a conscious decision on whether you're going to pursue it, place it in your jar, so to speak, or set it to the side temporarily or even smash it to bits, thinking about breaking it into smaller parts that are more doable, digestible, and so on. And I'd also offer at certain times in our lives, I just think we're more attentive. So we're noticing, or even just looking around and observing more diligently. And I often find myself noticing something and I share it with someone else and they say that's been there forever, you know, like, 'Where have you been', or 'duh', you know, kind of thing. And or 'I noticed that months ago'. So I just offer to our listeners, my phrase for this is 'notice what you notice', right? Because it's telling you something at whether it might not be at the conscious level, and it might just be being tucked away so that it grows and accumulates and percolates and all those kinds of things. And also be open to that some rocks are just going to show up, and they're going to be big, and they're going to come out of nowhere. And you have to make choices on how to proceed with all that, really contemplating and really being discerning about what you choose or what you might have preferred because sometimes things land and you can't ignore them as well. So I just offer that as all the ways that these these rocks or possibilities or intentions can show up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:36  
Exactly. And sometimes I feel like my new big rocks show up like a meteor. I mean, it's just unbelievable.

Marsha Clark  26:44  
It's powerful, it leaves an impression. Yeah, yeah. And there's so much to unpack there. It makes me wonder, not only for you but for our listeners as well who are really relating to your example, what might be happening that attracts these meteors to you because they don't come to everybody. We don't all get the same things in life. And they could be huge, unexpected opportunities that show up and need almost immediate attention. And I mean, whether you believe in the law of attraction or it's part of the 'be careful what you ask for or pray for' but it might be worth reflecting on the question of why do I attract big rocks in this way? Because to me, that's much deeper. What are you doing? How are you being? It's like you're a gravity field for these kinds of things. So what is that about? I think that's a, I think that would be a very significant conversation to have with yourself as well as others.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:48  
And I'm going to just go off script here a little bit and say I think it's reflective of what you say no to, to some extent. Like if you say, if you're saying no and you set boundaries on things that you don't really want, than it leaves the room for the things that you do. But if you're constantly working in that place of obligation, or 'should', then all you're going to do is attract more of what you don't want, and focusing on it, too. I mean, if you're focusing on what you don't want, then you're gonna get more of it.

Marsha Clark  28:25  
Yeah. It'll consume you. I love the idea of we can make room for meteors, yeah, good ones, when we're not consumed by the gravel, the sand. Yes. I like that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:42  
Yeah. Okay. So where are we? I mean, I feel like I just went through a therapy session.

Marsha Clark  28:49  
Well, yeah and I'm guessing there may be some of our listeners out there who have had an avalanche of big rocks land on them. And, you know, they're just trying to figure out how to sort through them all. And if you're someone that keeps this keeps happening to or you know someone who's having a hard time sorting through all their rocks, maybe 'that' becomes a rock to work on. A new rock is figuring out a good prioritization or a good time management system that works for you and having conversations that say. . . I guess the thing that gives it distinction for me or whether it's a big rock or not 'Will it matter a year from now? Will it matter three years from now?' Because item number 12, gravel or sand, on my today's to do list I won't even remember what that is tomorrow much less a year from now, three years. So that's what I would offer to our listeners as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:43  
Great points. Yeah, I know that in 2021 one of my big rocks was getting clarity on exactly what my  big rocks were. And, you know, I just turned 50 and it was like, 'Okay. It's time. It's running out. I'm running out. I only have so much energy and bandwidth left. What are we going to do here?' So it was very satisfying to work through that and give myself the gift of clarity.

Marsha Clark  30:13  
You know, '21 was the COVID and it was a forced time to sit with ourselves and contemplate and reflect. And to your point, it all starts with clarity. And I want to add one more point about the sorting process and this is,especially in the context of an avalanche or a meteor shower raining down upon us. And I mentioned this in our last podcast on big rocks, but I think it's so relevant, you know, the whole process of identifying and prioritizing our big rocks, and then how do we manage and deal with the gravel and sand and water and so on. This isn't a one and done deal. It's not I sit down in January and I either re-sort the rocks, and they're still in the jar, dump them out, start over some combination. But you sort first, and then you check progress and you check it frequently. It's almost like a, I mentioned earlier, it's a dynamic process. And, you know, I try to do this really on a weekly and at the longest a bi weekly basis. And I ask myself, if this is still a priority for me, because I can shift things around, I need to shift things around. And life shifts. The word 'pivot' was a big word over the last several years. And when that shift occurs, that new or altered reality can have an impact on your rocks, for sure. And so I just want to put out a bit of a caution that while you're studying your rocks and trying to decide which ones need adjusting or removing, my wish is that you're also assessing those changes in terms of staying true to your values, that you have some clear decision criteria because I think that's critical here. And, you know, I could be tossing important rocks out or shoving in new rocks based on an impulse or an emotion, or really even limited data. So, you know, my favorite, most reliable, and grounded decision criteria is my values. So every year, I even revisit my values and check to see that I'm making choices that align with them, those values, and I'm sorting rocks against that criteria. And that makes the whole process much less stressful, because our values don't tend to change. They're typically set by the age of 10. We may stray from those values, but we often come back to them. That's why the first 10 years of a child's development is so important. And, but my big rocks are changing all the time. So I know that I'm much happier when I'm making decisions in alignment with my values and so life's journey all along the way becomes less stressful and more meaningful.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:02  
Right. What a great reminder. Our values really can be a lighthouse to help guide us as we're trying to navigate through all the options and opportunities that the universe tosses our way.

Marsha Clark  33:15  
Yeah, and I do love the image of the lighthouse because it gives us clarity, and like you say, a direction navigating. So you know, also at the beginning of the year, pull out your list of values that you may have created through some values identification process or class you went to or, and if you haven't written your values down, do it now. And you know, then the alignment prioritization of our big rocks can click into place, and it goes much more smoothly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:44  
Exactly. Okay, once we have a chance to reflect on our 2023 big rocks, we can then use that awareness to help us plan for our 2024 big rocks. And I'm already seeing how the reflection exercises whether it's the learning agility questions or checking in with our values, that those can really provide some valuable intel as we move forward.

Marsha Clark  34:08  
I think so, too. And of course, you can use other data to help you sort through those rocks, I mean, hard data such as, how much time is it going to take me to do that? And what's the cost involved? Are other resources needed? Can I do it alone or where's the team that's going to help me? And so it's helpful to have all of that on hand as you're sorting those big rocks as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:28  
Well, what's an example of that, Marsha?

Marsha Clark  34:31  
Well, I'll use a real one for me. So I mentioned that one of my 2024 big rocks is to continue to ease into retirement and I've talked about that in previous podcasts and things. And I want to make time for life, right, because you turned 50 and it was big. I'm 71 and, you know, I'm even more mortal at 71 and my easing into retirement is, I know it aligns with my values around family time and relationships, traveling for pleasure and having new experiences with people that I meet, with institutions, with information and so on. And it would be pretty easy for me to just write, you know, retirement rehearsal or whatever, on my imaginary big rock but not really having any supporting data in mind. So, as a result, it's likely in my case, to sit at the bottom of my jar, and I never really pick it up. And it's because it's either too big or vague, or, you know, even too hard. So even though I say it's a big rock, it's really just landscaping. Thank you, Tracie Shipman, for that phrase because I love that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:57  
Yeah. This is another reason why you describe this as an ongoing process, not just a one and done.

Marsha Clark  36:04  
That's right and I start with a notion of what my big rocks might be. And it does include data from the reflection on my last year's rocks that are still relevant to me, and then I start asking those clarifying questions. So how does this rock align with my values? Why do I want to do this? What's the point of it, the purpose of it? What bigger, longer term goals does this rock support or advance, and this is also where I do some research into the proposed big rock. So I'm checking for things like how realistic this might be, or what it would take to make it realistically achievable.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:48  
You know, Marsha, I'm having flashbacks to pretty much the whole section that we did on setting your vision from "Embracing Your Power" book and those podcasts around that content. I want to say it's like Chapter Three of the book. And even though it's about setting a personal vision, so many of those exercises would be helpful with getting clear on your big rocks.

Marsha Clark  37:11  
Yes, I agree with that, Wendi. And certainly, if our listeners haven't had a chance to spend some time setting a personal vision, and that includes doing work on values clarification as well, then I do highly suggest that they make that a big rock for '24 because it just really sets the foundation and structure for moving with intentionality and confidence. And, I want to say mission, vision, you can often use those words interchangeably. But to me, a vision is a long term view of what I want in my life. So I'm imagining. It's the start with the end in mind approach. If three years from now I want to be doing X, then I've got to build my timeline over that period to make sure and my rocks are going to be the things that help me achieve that vision.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:03  
So I want to plug one more tool from the book, "Embracing Your Power" that I think is very relevant as we're trying to identify and sort through our rocks. And that's the matrix chart that you included in the section on setting and maintaining boundaries. So it's basically right after you tell the big rock story in the book, and the chart is called The Seven Ports of Life and it guides us through another inventory of sorts on how we actually spend our time versus how we want to spend our time. And that's a really big reality check.

Marsha Clark  38:39  
Well, it is because someone told me a long time ago and I use this often is that if you really want to know what's important to someone, look at their calendar and look at their checkbook. Where did they spend their time and where did they spend their money? So that Seven Ports of Life is one of my favorite tools that helps me get clear on the reality versus that idealized state or the goal of where I'm spending my time in these seven key areas of life. And just for our recent listeners, the seven ports are sleep, work, family, social, spiritual, community and self. And in the book, and in the programs that I do, I ask participants to plot your hours in each of those seven areas over a 30 day period. And having done this now for 25 years in programs, it's a pretty eye opening exercise. And you can customize a couple of the categories to fit your life more accurately. So you know, in the self category, you might want to add something like education or fitness instead of just self. So the whole point is that doing an exercise like this can help you get that reality check as you were mentioning, Wendi, and if I want to add a big rock that says fitness or maybe even something more specific like qualify for Boston Marathon, something like that, my reality check is when I look at my ports of life chart and see that in real life, the most exercise I get is my 10,000 steps a day and I know I'm pushing it to make that happen. So is it really, am I willing to do the work and to give up something to get the ability to qualify for the Boston Marathon. So I also want to share a recent story from one of my coaching clients. We were working on boundaries and one of her homework assignments was to track her time over the seven ports. So after two weeks of tracking, she was doing her homework, she was both confused and, and these go hand in hand oftentimes, hyper aware of how she was spending her time. So the confusion came because there were several significant gaps where she literally couldn't account for her time. I don't know how, I don't know where the time went, I don't know what I was doing, you know, not tracking it in five minute increments or whatever. And then in turn, that made her hyper aware about being more conscious and intentional about how she was spending her time, which is useful information for both big rock prioritization and for setting and maintaining boundaries. And, again, you want to know what's important, look at your calendar and look at your checkbook.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:34  
It doesn't mean that I don't still make that marathon a big rock. But it does mean that I'm writing that intention knowing it's a big stretch. What do they call them? Big, hairy, audacious goals - B hags, or something like that?

Marsha Clark  41:50  
Yes, that's right. That's right. And it doesn't, I agree with you, doesn't automatically eliminate big rocks. It does help us with clarity on how realistic or what resources or what energy is going to be required to pursue it. And that's why I say it may be a two year process, not a one year process.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:09  
You know, Marsha, as I get energized and inspired talking about goal setting and identifying those rocks and all of that, I can also get overwhelmed or maybe even a little demotivated by it all especially if I reflect back on 2023 and realize I just had a bunch of rocks that I never really picked up and there was just so much gravel and sand and water that kept taking up space in my jar. How can we help those listeners who might be feeling that way, that they paid more attention to the water and the sand and the tiny gravel, you know, or they're just flat out tired? What words of wisdom would you give our listeners around that?

Marsha Clark  42:49  
I work with a lot of women who are exhausted. I mean, so I just want to acknowledge that in a most meaningful way. And my first words of advice, and I remember when someone told me one time, don't forget to breathe. And I thought, well, that's a stupid comment. I mean, that really was, you know what I think. But I just encourage our listeners to breathe. Just take a moment, you know, taking deeper breaths, centering, if you will. It moves the blood flow throughout our body. It gives us an opportunity to get clear in our thinking. And so periodically throughout the day, just stop and take some breaths. And when you start noticing the tension or the frustration or the impatience, whether it be with yourself or the process or somebody else, with that energy and of course I always say how fascinating, isn't that fascinating, that this whole big rock thing is maybe stressing me out or it may be making me sad and what's going on that I experience it in this way? You know, it might be true that what you prioritized last year didn't get done or maybe even get started. So what happened? Was there an avalanche as Wendi described of other bigger rocks that showed up and diverted your energy or attention and, but did you, is there also the possibility that you identified rocks that weren't really for you? You may have thought they were for you or it was what someone else thought you should do.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:28  
Okay, give an example of that. Now, I'm intrigued. Okay, rocks that weren't really for you, but you thought they were.

Marsha Clark  44:36  
Yeah. Okay. So running a marathon. Let's play with that example that we get. So it's easy to get all inspired and excited about new shoes, new outfit, crossing the finish line in a photo op moment. And so you may love setting those big, hairy audacious goals or intentions because maybe the new person you're seeing in your life as a runner and you want to do something that you can connect around and so maybe you can both dream together about the Boston Marathon. Or maybe you're planning to finish a degree program, you know. Maybe that's to please your parents, but your heart really isn't in it. And, you know, you don't have the time or the money to invest in that right now. So that's a part of that practicality or reality check around it. And are you doing it for yourself or are you doing it to please someone else?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:31  
Right. So rather than beating myself up for not completing all of my big rock items for last year, assuming they had that kind of timeline, instead I can dig a little deeper into understanding, were they really valid rocks in the first place?

Marsha Clark  45:47  
That's exactly right. And this isn't an exercise in excuse making. It's really an exercise in clarity, (which, again, is where everything starts) so being realistic about what got in the way with those big rocks, because if I'm clear about that I'm less likely to allow it to continue to block my progress. But it's like I can't manage it if I don't even see it or acknowledge it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:13  
Yep. Perspective setting.

Marsha Clark  46:15  
Yeah, yeah. And I will tell you something else I find helpful in setting perspective and especially around the reality of why I might not be achieving the goals that I had set for myself, is really a candid analysis of how and where I am really spending my time and I just want to offer to our listeners, at a granular level. Because those seven parts of life as eye opening as they might be, is really just a high level view of my time allocation. Because if I'm really honest with myself, and I do an actual analysis of where my time goes during the day, those nine plus hours that I spend at work might actually look like three hours of writing, four hours of coaching calls, two hours researching on the Internet including 30 minutes on Amazon looking for the perfect whatever, suitcase, you know, book, whatever, 10 minutes checking LinkedIn for comments on the podcasts that I've launched, and five minutes reading posts on Facebook about a new park coming to my community or catching up with old friends that I haven't connected with. So you kind of get, I hope you get that clarifies and you get the point of when I talk about the granularity of how I'm spending my time.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:28  
Exactly. And I think that type of analysis can also be very enlightening. I mean, it's easier, it may be even tempting to think about, or to think that I don't have time to tackle that big rock. But if I'm honest, like you've said, I could easily find at least an hour or two in any given week where I could have focused, re-focused my attention to my big rocks rather than surfing Netflix, surfing Instagram, you know, whatever.

Marsha Clark  47:58  
And let's be real. Sometimes that's just escape time. It's just dead brain time and I'm all for that, too. I play video games on my phone. I mean, and doesn't mean my mind has stopped working or thinking about it, but it's not up front in my brain. It's back in the back processing. And I'll reference the coaching conversation, too, that I shared earlier, which is another reason why I say revisit your rocks often. You know, if you don't check in on them frequently they're easily going to fall to the bottom of the jar and, quite honestly, they're going to get buried amongst the gravel, sand and water, and you can't even find them. And when you finally do dig through to the bottom, you don't have enough time or energy, or money, because we never have enough of that. Never enough time. Never enough money. Never enough people to complete something or never enough energy to focus on it because life's hard. And I want our listeners to know that we really do acknowledge and understand that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:58  
So this framework really helps provide some perspective, as you said, and hopefully helps with some of those feelings of frustration or futility that our listeners might be feeling.

Marsha Clark  49:10  
Yeah. And I want to also at this point, as I said earlier, we are tired and our plates are very, very full. So, many of us have been in some sort of recovery or survival mode for the past two years, making up for those things we lost, if you will, or couldn't do, what we weren't able to or couldn't do in '20 and '21. And some people were picking up second jobs or they're doing gig work to supplement income, expand skills and experience or even as you're doing, Wendi, building your own business for the future. And I'll share this bit of data research with our listeners. The U.S. Labor Department announced in November of 2023, so a little over a year ago, that the number of people working a second job has reached a post pandemic high of 8.4 million people. Now, just let that sink in for a minute. That's about 6% of all women in the work place that have need to have a second job. And around 4.7% of men, and to me this keys in on two things. Women aren't paid fairly for the work that they do, thus requiring a second job. Women are single heads of households, and a significant percentage of our population. And whether you can refer to it as a livable wage, or just hoping to create a life for my children that is better than the one I might have had. There's all kinds of reasons around that. But if just because you don't know someone who has a second job doesn't mean they're not out there.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:55  
Absolutely. And they may have them and you don't know it. So no wonder some people don't get to all their big rocks. They've got too many and they don't have enough time.

Marsha Clark  51:05  
Yeah, it can be too many and it may just be your work rocks because you know, we have processes in our organizations oftentimes that kind of not only invite but force us to sit down and set some big rocks, big priorities, big strategies. And when you bring in the data around how much time we spend outside of work for so many women like housework, childcare, aging parent care, and so on, it paints a more complete, dare I say, empathetic picture of why we don't get to all of our big rocks.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:35  
Yeah, I know the data always shows gender disparity around couples spend their time, especially in male female couples. Is that still the case?

Marsha Clark  51:45  
Yeah. And Wendi, I want to share with our listeners some research from the Pew Research Center, and they're one of my favorite sources for this kind of information. And the information I'm going to share with you is from an article that they published in April of 2023, and they showed a breakdown of how time is spent in opposite sex marriages, egalitarian if you will. And in this case, the egalitarian meaning that both the wife and husband earned between 40% and 60% of the couples combined earnings. So just to put that in context, so what they show is that in egalitarian marriages, the average number of hours spent (and they have four categories so I'll go through each one) for paid work men spend about 44.2 hours, women 41.1.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  52:40  
Each week.

Marsha Clark  52:41  
Yes. In leisure, men, that husband, spends about 25.2 hours, women 21.6. In caregiving, the proportion shifts. Men do 5.1 hours of caregiving, women 6.9 hours. In housework, men spend 1.9 hours, women spend 4.6. And, you know, amongst parents, because I know many of our listeners have children, and they may still be in an egalitarian marriage, wonderful. But with having children and being parents, and these are children less than 18 years old, men spend 44.3 hours in paid work women 40.8. In leisure, men are at 23.9 hours, women at 19.6. And that proportion speaks again, whether you have children or not women are doing the majority of, they're spending those hours differently because in caregiving, when you have children, men, 9.0 hours, women 12.2 And in housework men 2.2 hours, women 5.1. So do we wonder why we're tired? Yeah. Right. You just got to let it sink in.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:07  
Yeah, I think this data is not only enlightening to know that to see the gender disparity is still happening in homes. But I also wonder what kind of message it sends to the kids and how it might perpetuate these expectations into the future generation.

Marsha Clark  54:27  
I mean, just get that. Yeah, because people hear what you say and believe what you do, and if this is what people are actually doing, then this is what we're speaking volumes about without ever saying a word about it. So unless we're making the invisible visible, right, and talking about this out loud, we're definitely going to perpetuate the gender disparity and this is where I make my consumer warning public service announcement, if you will, about generalizing, and also generating hurtful, stereotypical stories based purely on the data, because you know what some women choose to prioritize their time this way. And I want to acknowledge and say hurray for you because you're clear. And so this is how they stack their big rocks on purpose. But if this distribution of responsibilities at home is not working for you, then get clear about your own data and identify the impact it's having on you, your household, your children, your marriage, and start working out a plan to make it different.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  55:27  
So I just want to call out something that happened this year. In October of 2023, a woman named Claudia Goldin won the Nobel Peace Prize for Economics, for the first time ever, a woman for economics, and she's from Harvard University. And her whole reason for winning was that she did an extremely advanced study on understanding the women's labor market outcomes, and key drivers of gender differences in the labor market. And her key finding was that parenting created a U shaped gap across a woman's lifetime, like she had the potential for high income early in her career. And then yet, as she reaches childbearing age that you dips down, and then later in her career, it has the potential to come back up. But that the reason for the 78 cents on the dollar disparity to men is because of that time out, the time in the bottom of the U and we never catch up. Right? Those are prime earning years, and we never catch up. So but that's a whole nother podcast and a whole nother topic.

Marsha Clark  56:43  
Well, but I think it does reflect the point that we're making here. And again, you might prioritize that and you're hunky dory with it. Great, more power to you. And yet, if it's not what you want because our systemic, societal norms or stereotypes are that women should do this, women should do that. It's others telling us. It's letting others define us. Anyone who's listened to me for more than five minutes knows that that's something I refuse.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:22  
Right. Right. Well, Marsha, we covered a lot of ground today. But before we wrap up, I'd love to hear just one or two of your big rocks for 2024. And, you know, obviously, we're all eagerly awaiting the publication of your next book, "Expanding Your Power". And you mentioned, you know, in the "Oh, What a Year" recap episode that we just did, that you're going to be introducing On Demand training this spring as well. So besides those two big rocks, what else are you going to be focusing on?

Marsha Clark  57:54  
Well, you know, getting Book Two launched and into the hands of as many people as I possibly can, as you said, and a parallel with that will be the On Demand training. And so those are the two big professional rocks, and then that in and of itself, even as I stop and pause here, that's going to require a lot of time, energy and focus. And my personal big rock, and we spoke to me easing into retirement earlier, in 2023 for most weeks I worked four days a week. And in 2024, I want to spend more weeks working three days per week and it's so that I can spend more time with my family. And you know, my grandchildren will be grown and on their own and not want to spend time with Mimi for much longer. And I want to make sure that I create the space in my life to take advantage of that at this time. And so those are mine. So, Wendi, what big rocks do you have planned for '24?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  58:58  
Yeah, I think a couple that I have planned that are new. Like obviously, I want to continue, you know, two of the big three that I did last year with Cassandra Capital and Inflection Point Group, the consulting firm, but I want to start moving into protecting my Monday and going into more of a four day workweek. But four days as in four days I have to put on mascara and a pair of shoes and leave the house and drive a car somewhere and have a meeting or whatever. I want to get to where I'm protecting my Monday and Monday is just a couple of zooms in the morning and then the rest of the day can be spent on writing, reflecting, future thinking, strategy, you know, all that kind of deal. I've always had this mental thing about Monday. And I want to start taking advantage of my own personal circadian rhythm about Monday to where I feel like I'm easing into the week better than just, oh my gosh, mock hair on fire, you know, that kind of thing for Monday. And because that just makes me groan when the alarm goes off.

Marsha Clark  1:00:15  
But again, you're clear about it. And it's a big rock you may have wanted and now you're willing to make room for it, to prioritize it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:00:26  
Yeah. Yeah. So are you thinking about, okay. So as you're thinking about everything today that we covered, Marsha, what's the one thing that you really want to emphasize, amplify, clarify for our listeners around the big rocks as we close this out?

Marsha Clark  1:00:42  
Yep. And it's that you have to take time to get clear, to be thoughtful, and to be intentional. It all starts with clarity, and it requires time because it's a de-layering, it's, you know, diving deeper into some of the granular thoughts. And I want our listeners to also hear, it's a gift that you're giving yourself. And more importantly, you are worth it. You are worth receiving that gift.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:01:13  
So once again, Marsha, thank you so much for your guidance as we reflect on the lessons learned and successes from 2023. And here we are looking forward to 2024 and getting clear on those big rocks. So thank you.

Marsha Clark  1:01:27  
You know, I love going through these because it is a structure that we've put in place now for two years running, have those moments to really get clear. And as you said, starting around that Thanksgiving time is when I want to start letting all the things that have been rolling around in my head kind of get organized. And these processes, the ones that LeeAnn took us through, this hopefully is an addition to that, or a refinement of some of the thinking that our listeners had the opportunity to do then. So I as always, Wendi, I love that you can guide us through this. We can go off script, we can be in the moment, we can tell a story or two. And you know, I learn something every time even though I'm the one who's answering a lot of the questions or offering a lot of the information. But I also learn from you, I learn from Tracie when she writes beautiful script notes for us and also when we hear from our listeners to get a reaction from them on something that stood out for them or something that was a new possibility or a new insight. So listeners, thank you very much. We're kicking off this 2024. I hope it's the best year ever for you in all aspects of your life. And you know, we can't do it alone. We need help. And so my never ending sentiment is "Here's to women supporting women!"

Transcribed by

bottom of page