The following is a transcription of Voice of Bold Business Radio Program 38: Thrive on Stress and Deadlines

Program Notes Can be Found Here.


Transcript of Program 38: Thrive on Stress and Deadlines

Jessica: This is The Voice of Bold Business Radio and I am Jessica Dewell of Red Direction, your host. This is Program 38, Thriving on Stress and Deadlines. What came out of the conversation that you are about to hear is incredibly interesting because there are people who think that they thrive on stress and deadlines. What you will learn from Susan Finch and Howard Strauber is that we kind of build these veils, these places of comfort around thrive, stress, deadlines, to make it work in whatever we’ve agreed or not agreed to, and we either like it or we don’t like it in respect to that. When we are talking through this conversation, we are talking about boundaries and how do we decompress… to stress is a bad word and what does that mean today… to our mindset and what we’re doing when we fail, or are we really failing unless we are giving up and stopping? We talk about some really important skills and how Howard and Susan really think these skills look and feel and they are experienced by us and those we are working with. Those are the skills of accountability, responsibility, and respectfulness. So take a listen. I know you are going to enjoy this conversation.

Announcer (amid background music): Welcome to The Voice of Bold Business, the show that provides everything smart leaders need to evaluate situations, build relationships, and create solutions. Jessica Dewell candidly talks about the skills necessary to build tenacity, and do more with less. And now, here’s Jessica:

Jessica: Before you listen, I’m going to introduce Susan and Howard to you. Susan Finch creates the most efficient use of your time regarding social media or helping you when you are too slammed to do it yourself. Her custom training videos are becoming more popular to teach your regular tasks to your staff and cut down on consulting time. She has worked a lot on custom word press sites and various customer management platforms. She has also assisted clients with things like email campaigns, and pnline event strategies to round out and reach maximum benefit.

Howard Strauber is a financial professional with over 30 years of experience in the financial field, encompassing financial advising, business development, and brokerage trading. Consistent record of exceeding sales goals and organizational objectives through strong networking, negotiation, and follow through are his core strengths. Solid reputation for his high sense of urgency organizational skills and building relationships through a desire to help others is what Howard is all about. Hey Howard, so how do you thrive on stress and deadlines?

Howard: My background is in financial services, and I was a shooter options and futures broker on the floor either or in an office for 22 years, and I kind of understand stress and what it does for me, or not do for me. I think part of the aging process is that I really don’t care anymore, I just want to get the job done. When I’ve had setbacks, I’ve had plusses, I’ve had minuses, and it’s really my performance that’s important, and what I need to do and what goals I’ve set, and to understand that setback and recovery is a part of success in itself. The first thing is showing up, the second is being asked to perform, and what I am supposed to perform, and the third is to execute.  The other things, what people care or what people say, I care about less and less as I get older. I think there is a reason why I have an expanding bald spot. I don’t care.


Jessica: How about you Susan? How do you think about stress and deadlines and thriving?

Susan: I think those are two different topics. I don’t want to survive stress. I don’t want to thrive in stress. I want to convert stress in to more a motivator, a learning process, something else, because stress has such negative connotations, so do I want that word, which can be pretty strong because it surrounds us all the time. ‘Stress, stress, stress… you don’t want stress, stress will kill you, stress will this…’

Well we don’t want stress then. Stress is bad. We talked about this in church the other day. If it’s not going to matter in 6 months, so what? Most of our stuff doesn’t matter for two days! People want to get us ramped up and wound up because they have their own internal stress going, and I think part of dealing with it, and thriving in those situations is not plugging in to it, and refusing to make that be mine. Because it really isn’t. It’s like ‘Oh my gosh I have 15 things I need to finish today’. So okay, starting tomorrow, and it will be ok. Prioritizing has been my savior. What things truly truly have to be… what fire drills are today? How can I best accomplish that? And do I need to bring somebody in to help me accomplish it so that I’m not taking it all on as mine and flipping out and being stressed at home and projecting on to my family and projecting on to my clients or anybody else. Because who wants to work with that kind of person?

First for me, is coming up with the true list of real priorities. I’m not going to call them stress. But it’s how to tackle that, and the rest of the stuff can just kind of wait. It really isn’t that big of a deal. You’re right, as we get older… I just giggle when I watch younger people stressing out ‘Oh, it has to be done.’ Why? It will be there tomorrow. It’s okay. Let’s just do it better today and take what we can. That’s kind of how I do it is take away some of the power of the word stress and converting those situations.

Jessica: “I don’t care I’m just going to get the job done!” Laughs  I want to know more about that Howard.

Howard: I’m more the person that will work until almost exhaustion. I’ve always worked odd hours. When I was on the floor I was on the 4:30 train downtown, and I’d be done at 1:30 in the afternoon. It’s really the stressful part of the day, and then you have to figure out what to do with the other part of the day too. It’s not just when you’re on… it’s how do you get off. How do you get off the train?

Jessica: My question then to both of you is, what could we do to better understand how we decompress ourselves so that we can create a boundary that’s supportive of allowing our decompression to happen?

Susan: I’ve learned to take a tip from babies, and puppies! Routine. A routine is critical, because it gives us that order to things. It allows us to really lock it in… at this time, I’m off my computer, at this time I need a half hour whether it’s to exercise, take a walk with the dog, or something. First thing in the morning I need ‘rev up time’ and what do I do for that piece of it? But the more I stick to that kind of routine, without being rigid or crazy about it, I find I sleep better, I function better, and I handle situations and plan B’s much better. When curves are thrown at me, it’s not nearly as jarring because I’ve been able to maintain it up to that point, and I have learned too to actually plan in my routine for Plan B time. How am I going to handle it if it doesn’t go this way? It’s like this show day… if for some reason my computer was down, what’s my Plan B? How would I still be able to do it without being a total nutcase, flipped out and freaking out? I knew I had my phone. There’s my phone backup. If I had to show up that way, I can show up that way. There are just different ways to do it. I find planning ahead for things to go awry, and incorporating that in to the schedule and the routine saves me almost every day. When I don’t, I can feel it, and everybody around me can feel it too. It’s like ‘Oh my gosh you’re so grumpy. You’re so…whatever’.  It’s because I had a curve thrown and my little delicate balance is gone.

Jessica: Alright, what would you add to that Howard?

Howard: Susan said something that I can totally identify with. The importance of how I ease in to my day. I think I need that time and how I do it to ease in to that day. Whether it’s a half hour or an hour. Today it’s meditation or reading, it’s a peace of mind sort of thing, and centered. If I start an hour later, I find that to get a balance, it might be 12 or 1 o’clock. I’m a very structured person. I love structure. I almost crave it. It’s an advantage as well as a disadvantage at the same time.

Susan: You just reminded me of, I love structure too. But I’m so structured that I actually schedule spontaneity.

All Laugh

Susan: When all this is done, then I have this period of time that I can do whatever.  Whatever comes up. Whatever the kids want to do, whatever I feel like doing with my husband, my friends… I let myself off the hook from the routine at this point, and then from 4 to 7, anything goes.

Jessica: I can do structure, but that is not where I live. I live in action. I live in actually taking the action. So, to ease in to the day… when I thought that I had to get out of bed because my alarm went off, and then I had to do this thing and then I had to do this thing and then I had to do this thing because I’m supposed to. Ending with making your bed and brushing your teeth to get out the door to keep doing the stuff you’re supposed to do because it’s all planned out… I think that’s really draining. You’re perfect for this conversation, and anybody who’s listening that’s a little bit more like me that you just get a little bit down, just know you’re not alone. These are just great ideas because they’re helpful. Think back to when you were a kid, or the last kid you saw when they would wake up in the morning. What’s the first thing they do? They roll over and they stretch this really great big stretch and they actually get back in their bodies before they jump out of bed.

Susan: That’s what I get greeted with every single morning after I say, “Good morning honey, let’s get up.” That’s what I get greeted with. I do everything I can to steer it towards the way I want it to go.

Jessica: Nice. I am a morning person. My husband and my son are not. So I face that too Susan. But I can tell you, I just tell Carter “Get back in your body babe. Start stretching” and he’ll wiggle around in bed for a little bit and roll over, and in about five minutes, sometimes nine minutes, he’ll be out of bed. But he’s happy when he gets out of bed, and I thought, ‘I think I can do that too’. I gave myself permission to stay in bed until my breath came in and my body wanted to stretch, and then I could move. It’s easier to jump in to the rest of the day. I gladly give up my five, seven or nine minutes of something else to be in a really great mood, because I know I’ll make up my five, seven or nine minutes from hanging out in bed a little longer. Giving ourselves a little bit of grace. Okay guys, I don’t know how I feel about Susan scheduling spontaneity.

They laugh

Howard: Well, I like that. I never use and alarm clock. Only when I’m sick will I use an alarm clock. I’ll just give myself a period of time, an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half that I know that I have to get up. It’s as simple as that.

Jessica: And you’re good with that?

Howard: I usually get up pretty much on a reliably regular schedule, unless I’m sick.

Jessica: Are you a morning person then?

Howard: I love getting up in the morning. I love watching the sunrise. I love creating, and I love doing it in the beginning of the day.

Jessica: Not only are the mornings then, exciting times because you are just up and ready to go, that’s actually when your most creative time is of the day?

Susan: It’s the most uncluttered creative time of the day.

Howard: Right.

Susan: I do simple things… really simple things in the morning, so that I know I have accomplished things. I don’t care how little, but at least I can say “I did five things this morning before anybody got up”, and it feels really good. If I have some idea that I had in the middle of the night, I put it down on paper and start to turn that in to action. Or wrap up something that was weighing on me a little bit even before I went to sleep. I come up with solutions in my sleep sometimes. I will just wake up and start doing it. Then once everybody’s gone, getting in to the routine of the day. I’m pretty strict on that. I don’t mind that, but by 8:00 or 8:30 I am at my desk working, where I am ready to engage with people.

Jessica: Unless we’re a monk on a mountain, or I guess maybe a monkess on a mountain in a cave by ourselves, we’re going to have stress! I want to talk about that. Let’s talk about stress as a bad word, and has it gone too far? Is it too far of a bad word?

Susan: I think stress has been lumped in too much to too many things. I think it’s a catchall. To me it’s urgency, motivation… there are other words, and stress is a single syllable so people like it and it’s short and you can write it and text it easily. ‘I’m stressed, I’m stressed, I have so much stress’. Rather than ‘I’m overwhelmed’, ‘I have that feeling of impending doom, I have big tasks, I have exciting agendas today’. There are all different ways to word it if you take the time to kind of define it better, which I think takes the negative power out of the word stress. I think stress can be a motivator, a taskmaster, whatever it is to get us moving on things. But it depends on how we take in that word in that situation.

Howard: Susan does something very interesting. How she creates a positive momentum in the beginning of her day, so she comes in to the day not being stressed. You can be stressed, or not stressed. It’s your choice. The environment is always going to be there. It’s how I react to this environment, where the rubber meets the road so to speak.

Susan: It’s a whiny solution, and it’s a very passive solution, to crutch on that word stress, and the emotion that’s tied to the word stress. It lets you off the hook a lot of times and has somebody else have to pick it up for you because you are weak.

Jessica: If you’re up for action, if you’re up for doing, and if you’re up for saying I can handle the problems that come along, because it takes all of us working together, you are in the right place my friends. If you’re kind of like ‘I’m going to shirk responsibility, I don’t really want that, but I kind of want to connect to you but not really’, you’re not all in! And get over yourself.

Susan: It’s about being “all in”. 100%. Whatever it is. Whether it’s your health, your family, your work… show up, and be ready for all of it. That’s a mindset and an attitude. I know Howard has it… you can tell.

Howard: Being accountable and being responsible is not stressful. It’s a pass/fail exam. There’s nothing wrong with that, testing oneself.

Jessica: You are listening to The Voice of Bold Business Radio. This is Program 38, Thriving on Stress and Deadlines.

I’m going to challenge everybody to listen through this. Because we are talking about two really important skills here, and we don’t have to be born with them to learn them. They are responsibility and accountability. And this concept of pass/fail. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn.

Let’s talk about each one individually. Let’s start with accountable. In your own words, each of you, will you define what accountable means to you?

Howard: First of all, I blame Barney for people not being accountable and not being responsible.

Jessica: Wait. The dinosaur Barney?


Howard: Everybody’s not going to love me and I’m not going to love everybody else. You do learn from setback and you do understand that failure is an option, but you learn from that setback. I believe that being tested is important because I learn from being tested. That’s how I feel. Barney must die though.

They all laugh

Susan: Accountability and being accountable, it’s “putting on your big girl panties”.  It’s showing up all the way and saying, yeah I did that, or I didn’t do that. Rather than just wallowing in it. Being accountable isn’t just admitting… it’s also resolving. Or working toward the solution. A lot of people forget that. They say ‘Oh, I admitted that I did wrong, I’m accountable.’  Well, what are you going to do about it? Because I don’t want to clean up your messes. You need to help me clean up your mess, or ask me for assistance or something. But you’ve got to step in and do as much as you possibly can first. That’s accountable.

Jessica: Let’s move on to responsibility. In your own words, tell me what does the skill of responsibility look and feel like to you guys?

Howard: You ask others for help. I think that is an important aspect of responsibility. That I’m willing to learn. That I can learn from people that I might not like or care for, but that I’m open minded to get any sort of knowledge and power from any source of information.

Susan: I think that comes down to removing the ego from it. I know a lot of professions to be driven you have to have a big ego. You can still have a big ego, but when it comes to collaboration and getting things done, sometimes you have to set that on a shelf for a bit to focus on the overall goal. I think part of that responsibility is, like you were saying Howard, making sure that you are open-minded to everybody. You are responsible to look at everything that could get us to the solution that we all seek. If that means that somebody you don’t agree with, or somebody that you’ve had problems with, or that you don’t respect, you don’t know where the idea is going to come from, and you don’t know what idea that they might have might trigger a better solution from you either if you don’t listen. Like we’re doing here, as we’re having this conversation, Jess is like “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that! Let’s talk about that.” It’s because she is listening to other ideas than her own, and it can trigger those things. I get that all the time… I think “Oh yes, and then…” and taking it from there. That’s definitely how I operate is hopefully being open-minded as much as possible. I really don’t care about being right much… to the chagrin of my children, they think I do… I just care about getting it done so that it’s done, and done the best that all of us can do, or I can do.

Jessica: We have two things that we use in our house. We have the thing called the peace rose where you learn how to have disagreement in conversation and work through it. Now we don’t have a physical rose like my son’s classroom does, but we each take a turn. You can say whatever it is you want to say, and when you’re done you basically say, I’m done. Then the next person speaks, and when their lips are open, your ears are open and when they’re done, they say they’re done. We can go back and forth. Susan can actually articulate. Howard can articulate to me what I did that was not following through according to whatever we had agreed upon. Once that stuff is out of the way, and you’re going back and forth, and all of that ‘how I feel’ is out of the way, then we get to a place where it’s like ‘What can we do about it?’

Susan: I think a lot of people, their first instinct is to protect themselves and protect their interests, so you have to wade through the anger first and the fear, before they feel comfortable enough to trust you enough to share. They might not have ever done that, and that also slows down the whole process of responsibility.

Jessica: It does. If we go all the way back to emotion management, both of you guys alluded to this, of… we lump everything in to stress, and all of these other words that mean overwhelmed, that mean urgency, that mean, my body is telling me that I need to slow down. All of the words that go around those, if we don’t take the time to practice getting them out, we can’t get better at identifying them to use stress as a more positive motivator.

Think about any change that occurs in an organization… like where we buy paper clips for example… that can be excruciating. People are like, “They’re paperclips! Why do we care where we buy paperclips?” Well, somebody does, and their emotions, and their interests are tied up in these paperclips. If we don’t stop to accept, and recognize that somebodies emotions are tied up in these paperclips, we might actually be doing ourselves and injustice by not listening to them.

Susan: You’re so much nicer than I am. I say “What the hell? Go get the freakin paperclips. I don’t care where! Why are we even talking about this?” That’s where I lose patience… because that’s dumb.

Howard: You know there are going to be people for whatever reason, they’re defensive or they’re insecure that it’s just not going to work. The only thing one can be is respectfully respectful, even though you want to tell them they’re dumb or they’re stupid or they watched a lot of Barney. My point being to you is… sometimes people don’t want to learn, and you’ve just got to move forward from that. You know what, sometimes I’m right and they’re wrong… well, it’s a lot of times, let’s be honest… sometimes you just have to say “I’m right, and I’m the one signing the paycheck.”, or, “I’m the one that’s the decision maker.”

Jessica: I want to talk about setbacks and resolutions. Because Howard, you said “I have setbacks and I recover.” Susan, you said “I want to figure out whatever happened happened, and we’re going to find a solution and move forward.”  I’m looking at this, and those have very similar traits and qualities about them. How do you deal with these setbacks?

Susan: Howard I think this came back to what you were talking about, because the word that triggered that for you was failure… and that wasn’t the word that you wanted to use. Because that also has that ‘give up’ off the hook connotation rather than, ‘yeah it didn’t work out’. I like to use the word botched. It just got botched up.

Howard: I also think, as long as I’m not dead, I can always recover from something. I always will have another chance. Now that might be a little bit arrogant. Maybe that’s not realistic. But I always feel that there always will be recovery, and I’ll be given that chance. But I have to give myself that chance too. To be open-minded to change, and to say ‘I made a mistake, I am accountable, and this is how I’m going to rectify it.’

Susan: I botch things up, and I don’t want to repeat those things… but I can’t think of any time that I actually failed at something.

Jessica: Because you iterate through until it’s resolved.

Susan: Yeah.

Jessica: Is failure then the equivalent of giving up?  ‘I have failed, and I’m just not going to do anymore.’

Howard: Yeah, you know, you see failure in all places. There are quite a few homeless people, and you see failure in their faces, and you realize, it could be me but for the grace of God, and you understand it’s an aura. It’s a negative momentum just as well as a positive momentum. I want to recover from whatever failure I might have, and I believe that I can, as long as I’m not dead.

Jessica: When you guys find yourself in a place that’s slow, or stopped, from negativity or negative words, whether it’s your own or somebody else that’s given it to you. When you see it, what do you do?

Susan: Change it up. Because there is something that’s causing the stuckness. Even getting outside, taking a walk. Barbara Corcoran had that in one of her early books ‘If you Don’t have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails’. She talks about shifting it up, getting outside to shake it up, to shut down the computer, to maybe make a phone call to somebody else, to go get a bite, to have a conversation, to laugh…something to change it up. Sometimes that’s enough, because it gets everybody out of that stuckness. It’s almost like a loop, the record being stuck with the needle, that’s how old I am, where you have to put the penny on the arm so that it can get through the stuckness.

Howard: I think for me, as long as I’m not doing the same thing over and over again, the same mistake, creating the same insanity, if I need to stop whatever it is, and not do anything, I’m doing something positive. As long as I’m not creating more insanity in general too.

Jessica: Now we’re going back to some self-awareness. I’m either noticing a repeating theme or action, or reaction, a loop here, I’ve got a repeat. Then, that’s the only time you can move forward. Do you guys have external resources, somebody that can come along and poke you and say ‘hey, you’re in the loop!’

Susan: You’re right, we keep repeating this pattern and we end up in this same negative place every time. So what are we going to do that’s different? And I have to be willing to stop and take a breath and say ‘ok, you’re right! Can you help me change it?’ I find once I invite somebody else in to that, rather than dictating how it should be done, it diffuses it much faster. It’s a buy in.

Howard: I think forgiveness is very important here too. Whether it’s self-forgiveness or forgiveness of others, I think believing it for myself and for others second and third chances if your heart is in the right place, I think for me I have to be open-minded. Comebacks are wonderful. But you have to have failure before you can have a comeback.

Jessica: Yes! Yes!  Let’s talk about respectfully respectful. Can we agree to disagree?

Susan: My experience with that phrase, because it’s overused. It’s used as another crutch.

Jessica: Good! Okay, so tear it apart Susan, tear it apart.

Susan laughs

Jessica: What would you call it instead?

Susan: First let’s identify what the crutch is on that. It’s the stopper in the conversation when somebody doesn’t like what you’re saying. Rather than, well let’s dig in a little deeper, let’s figure it out, it’s like, ‘Well let’s just agree to disagree. Let’s just stop. We’re not going to talk anymore.’ Sometimes that’s good, because you are in a loop again, and sometimes it’s just another way to shut people up. I watch parents do it, I watch teachers do it, I watch peers do it. It’s when they don’t like the way it’s going and they want to stop it. That’s how they try and control it, with this ‘I’m being respectful, because we’re going to agree to disagree… and it’s my idea, so I’m the respectful one here, and you will shut up, and we will not talk about this anymore.

Jessica: Interesting. It’s a little bit condescending… you’re saying, hey I am using this in a condescending way, and it usually is some sort of authority to less authority situation.

Susan: Or trying to just get that upper hand.

Jessica: Okay, so doing the one up game.

Susan: There’s always a little bit of give and a little bit of take, so when it starts to do too much, and they don’t like it, that’s how they stop it.

Jessica: Interesting. If we agree to disagree… I am like ‘Okay, now is not the time or the place to have this particular emotion, and it’s not going to be beneficial for whatever else is going on around us.’ We have to agree basically to set this aside, and whether we come back or not, I have no idea. I love that you said, ‘Agree to Disagree’ is too overused also, and the downfalls. What would you add Howard?

Howard: I think to myself, “Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said by me? Does it have to be said by me now?” That has kept me out of a lot of trouble. I really should use it more often. If you have a motive that is veering towards political discussion, you’re not going to get the job done. I don’t care whether you’re a decision maker or not if you have that agenda. If you want to get the job done, steer away from certain topics. Whether it’s religion, whether it’s politics… just get the job done.

Jessica: Okay, say what you said at the beginning there again.

Howard: Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said by me? Does it have to be said by me now?

Jessica: You heard it right here! And we’re wrapping with that! My mind is reeling, and there are some conversational pieces that I’m going to go back and listen to again, because they are thought provoking. I want to look at myself through the lens that Susan and Howard shared with us, to just do a check on myself, and I am challenging you to do the same. Do a check on yourself. How are you accountable? How are you responsible? Do you name your emotions well? And can you use that to thrive?

You’ll find all the program notes at, or you can go to and search ‘Thrive on Stress and Deadlines’. Share your story and your experience, because it’s you, the leader in your organization, the leader in your life and the impacts that you’re making that keeps this conversation current and relevant. It’s what it means to be a leader today. Tell us, how do you thrive on stress and deadlines?

Announcer – Subscribe at and get more information, program notes, and past episodes. Bold leaders approach each situation and focus on action to achieve a higher level of leadership. Jessica Dewell, your business advocate is the host of The Voice of Bold Business Radio. Thank you for joining us.