Dec 22, 2021

Reflecting on 2021, with Josh Dougherty

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Josh Dougherty is the CEO and a co-founder of A Brave New, a Seattle marketing agency focused on helping businesses accelerate their growth through inbound marketing, branding, and web design. He specializes in working with clients to identify barriers to their growth and overcoming those barriers with strategic content and marketing tactics. He has more than a decade of experience in digital marketing and branding.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Get to know Josh and Polly a little better as they answer questions about their year in review - the good, the bad, and the delicious
  • Why 2021 was overwhelming in both good and bad ways - personally and professionally
  • Why identifying your limits and when you need a break is necessary
  • Why it’s still important to focus on the fundamentals
  • How to show more empathy to clients
  • The importance of clear communication


Show Transcription:

Intro: Welcome to A Brave New Podcast, the podcast all about how brave entrepreneurial companies are unlocking their business potential using inbound marketing. Here is your marketing expert and host, Polly Yakovich.

Polly Yakovich: Welcome back to the A Brave New Podcast. This is our last episode of 2021. Josh is back with me to do something a little different.

Josh Dougherty: Guess what? You made it.

Polly Yakovich: You did.

Josh Dougherty: If you thought 2021 was still 2020, it is not, and it's also about to end.

Polly Yakovich: I actually wrote that several times as I was doing this. What was 2020 like? Oh, that was two years ago.

Josh Dougherty: Exactly.

Polly Yakovich: We are usually talking about hard-hitting B2B marketing topics for tech and healthcare, as you well know, but we love to show our softer side. We thought you might like to get to know us personally a little better. We always love all the [inaudible 00:00:59] end of the year reflections.

Polly Yakovich: And so, we collected some of those typical reflection questions from the year, and our team also submitted some questions they wanted us to answer. Today, we're going to do a little Q and A with each other, look back at our year, look forward to the future, and just share what our year's been like.

Josh Dougherty: It would be funny if we treat this like a mail bag and then use people's Twitter handles for each question, but maybe we won't do that.

Polly Yakovich: Next year. You know? There's always room for growth.

Josh Dougherty: Next year goals.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. What do you think about 2021, Josh? Good year? Hard year? What's your high level, one word takeaway?

Josh Dougherty: A lot. I think it was ...

Polly Yakovich: Some people think that is one word, so there you go.

Josh Dougherty: I'm a writer, by the way.

Polly Yakovich: Not an editor, so still allowed.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah. My high level takeaway is, as I was reflecting back and prepping for this conversation, it was just like there were some really, really high highs, there were some really lows, and it just felt overwhelming in good and bad ways.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Well, let's dive right in. Some of these I think are standard. Josh, what would you say generally was your high of 2021?

Josh Dougherty: This is the podcast you're going to hate me because there is going to be ...

Polly Yakovich: Me, personally, or all of the people listening?

Josh Dougherty: I don't know, maybe both. I have trouble choosing one thing.

Polly Yakovich: Oh, gosh. Here we go. What's your bulleted list of highs from 2021?

Josh Dougherty: I have three highs.

Polly Yakovich: Okay.

Josh Dougherty: They're usually threes. First, inauguration day.

Polly Yakovich: Oh, yeah.

Josh Dougherty: As you know, I was ...

Polly Yakovich: Gosh, that was good.

Josh Dougherty: This was pretty early to choose, January 20th, so I didn't feel like it could be my only one. But if anyone knows me ...

Polly Yakovich: I remember nothing that happened in the first half of last year, so I've made all my selections in the last few months.

Josh Dougherty: There you go. If anyone knows me, I'm rather politically inclined and also rather ... It's not conspiracy theorist like defeatist about it. Inauguration day was ...

Polly Yakovich: It's true. You didn't think we'd have another inauguration.

Josh Dougherty: Yes.

Polly Yakovich: You said that to me four years ago.

Josh Dougherty: I feel like inauguration day was the day I finally breathed a sigh of relief that even though it may not have been the exact president I would have hoped for, it was a different president than he who shall not be named here because I don't want to bring the vibe down.

Polly Yakovich: Democracy prevailed.

Josh Dougherty: Democracy prevailed. The other two are just I think my family took the pandemic and isolating pretty seriously, so the day we got our vaccines was a pretty big day.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: And then also, going to vacation in Hawaii on a real vacation this fall was amazing.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Those are good ones. My high from 2021 is similar, but you may or may not know that my husband is English, and obviously for many people throughout the pandemic, seeing your family was tricky, but when your family lives in another country thousands of miles away, even harder. We were able to go back to London for the first time ... Well, my husband hadn't been home in seven years. For him, it was the first time home in seven years, and more importantly, we haven't seen his folks in two years.

Polly Yakovich: He hadn't seen his parents and also they haven't seen our four year old child since he was two, which just is heartbreaking, and I know many people in the pandemic have ... I'm trying to make this a high and not a low, but many people in the pandemic have also experienced this. But we got to go home and see them. Seeing them all together was just so joyous. Being out of the country just felt so momentous. We're vaccinated, we're able to travel, we got to go abroad.

Polly Yakovich: It just felt like such a celebration after a really hard couple of years. I know that things are open, shut, open, shut, but we hit a great window and it felt incredible, and it just felt like it's not all totally over, but we're getting back to some of the things that are really important to us. That was our high for sure.

Josh Dougherty: Awesome.

Polly Yakovich: Also, side note, traveling internationally with a four year old after having ... The last time we traveled internationally with our son, he was 14 months. Night and day. It was like, "Oh my God, we've made it." This kid slept on the plane, easy to travel with, watch some movies. We were like, "This is different. This is much better."

Josh Dougherty: Yeah, it's so much better. I don't know if we should talk about lows. We all know, but I think maybe we should. I guess pandemic hangover for me was the lowest. It's like a dream I can't wake up from.

Polly Yakovich: 100%. I think we all expected last year to be like, okay, it's over. We did this almost a full year, let's call it a day. I think the fact that it didn't really stop just felt exhausting. I think that almost made 2021 harder because you were expected to feel bad in 2020, and 2021, you wanted to feel better and didn't.

Polly Yakovich: Adam Grant wrote this amazing article that we'll link in the show notes, and he did a follow-up about languishing. I think it just really sums up 2021. I think it's the word to sum up 2021.

Josh Dougherty: Totally.

Polly Yakovich: We're still just slogging. We want to feel better, but we don't.

Josh Dougherty: Totally. Yeah. 100% [crosstalk 00:06:36]

Polly Yakovich: What's the best thing you ate last year, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: You know for me, probably the better question is what's the best thing I drank?

Polly Yakovich: That's true. Look at you, you're always changing the questions.

Josh Dougherty: I changed the questions.

Polly Yakovich: If that's not summing just up as a concept, I don't know what is.

Josh Dougherty: I'm going to do something like it's different, so when I talk about what I drank, it's about wine. The direction Polly at least won't expect is the three best wines I drank in 2021 were from the New World.

Polly Yakovich: Whoa, that is shocking.

Josh Dougherty: I had a couple mind-blowing cabs from Hall, an amazing dessert wine. I think Polly and I had this when we were at Vashon over Labor Day. We had the dessert wine made out of Mission grapes, which are the grapes that the Spaniards brought over from Spain when they colonized [crosstalk 00:07:26].

Polly Yakovich: Where are those Spaniards from?

Josh Dougherty: Gosh, I don't even know. And then, a really good pinot noir from a winery named David Bruce down in California that was from 2009. But it was one of the wineries that won the decision at Paris, which was this epic battle in the 1970s about wine and wine-tasting American versus French wines when American wines won. I'll link to all those wines in the show notes. You can go check them out.

Polly Yakovich: That is obviously hilarious. Do you have a journal or does your mind actually remember what you drank?

Josh Dougherty: I have a journal of every single wine I've consumed, which is terrifying. I like to collect them.

Polly Yakovich: I don't remember one single thing I drank last year. I'm sure I drank a lot of water. The best thing I ate, St. John in London is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It depends on who you ask, but I would say it's unassuming. It's very traditional English fare. You are not going to see fancy schmears of puree on your plate. It's going to be a plate of brown amazingly cooked English food.

Polly Yakovich: I just dream of their bone marrow. When you dream of something like that, you always wonder if it actually still holds up to the memory because it's been a few years since I had it. We went and it was just better than ever. Just bone marrow on bread. The restaurant is incredible. If you haven't been and you're going to be in London, make sure to hit up St. John. Classic English food.

Josh Dougherty: I'm embarrassed to say I've never been. I've been to so many restaurants. It needs to be on the list.

Polly Yakovich: It can be on the list. You're never going to get them all. You always have to leave some on the to-do list. What song was on repeat for you this year, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: I couldn't narrow down to a song, but I could narrow down to one genre. I've been listening to a ton ... This is definitely a last three months answer, a ton of Argentine reggaeton.

Polly Yakovich: Oh yeah.

Josh Dougherty: Which is so weird. I studied in Latin America, as you know, as in college, and so I listened to a Spotify podcast about the history of reggaeton in the early fall, and that's been on repeat for me ever since. I'm not sure I'm proud of it, but it's true.

Polly Yakovich: I'm definitely a creature of habit, so all I listen to is things on repeat for the last few years. I don't think I ever mix it up. I will say, because I have a four year old who also shares my obsessive tendencies, the song I remember listening to on repeat, so much so that literally my child knows every single word to This Is Halloween by Danny Elfman.

Josh Dougherty: I love that.

Polly Yakovich: It transcends holidays, but obviously heavy-hitting in the last couple of months. Yeah. He just wants it all the time.

Josh Dougherty: Is it still playing post Halloween?

Polly Yakovich: It is. It is.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah? Nice.

Polly Yakovich: He's trying to convince me that it's also a Christmas movie, which is actually true. It's tough. I guess I have three months of watching/listening to that particular song, but the whole soundtrack, really.

Josh Dougherty: There you go.

Polly Yakovich: Okay, this is a question from our team. On average, how many days a week did you wear sweatpants?

Josh Dougherty: I'm going to go with 3.7.

Polly Yakovich: 3.7? Did you keep a journal about that, too?

Josh Dougherty: No. I was just thinking, I still haven't gotten over my fear of wearing sweatpants in public ...

Polly Yakovich: In public.

Josh Dougherty: So I don't wear them out. On average, I was probably [crosstalk 00:10:46] ...

Polly Yakovich: If you're a lady, you can just wear leggings and call it part of the fashion.

Josh Dougherty: It's true. I thought 0.7 is a nod to every night when I immediately get home and put on sweatpants.

Polly Yakovich: Yes. Yeah. Mine literally, if you count coming home at night, is just literally seven days of the week.

Josh Dougherty: Jealousy.

Polly Yakovich: Funny story is that I put on jeans just this last Monday, and literally my son was like, "Mom, why are you wearing jeans? Why'd you put those on?" Totally concerned. That's when you know you've gone too far on the sweatpants, is when you're child feels like maybe you're leaving the state because you have hard pants on.

Josh Dougherty: Yep. My son's at the same place. He's also at the same place for him. We're always like, "Maybe we should put on jeans right now." He's like, "Why? These sweatpants are so cozy."

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: I'm like, "Okay, whatever."

Polly Yakovich: Fair enough. My kid has one pair of jeans, and we did make him put them on last week, and he said, "What are jeans even for?" As a concept, he doesn't even get it. If he can wear sweats, why bother?

Josh Dougherty: They were originally for something. For working in? I don't know.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Probably not getting dirty on the ranch.

Josh Dougherty: All I can picture is the old Levi Strauss commercials of two horses [inaudible 00:11:59] and pull apart jeans.

Polly Yakovich: The jeans. There you go.

Josh Dougherty: All of our jeans would fall apart now. The Spandex stretches just far enough and then they tear.

Polly Yakovich: What would you say is a lesson you learned in 2021?

Josh Dougherty: I had trouble answering this question. I think something that I am learning, because I don't really think I'm good at learning [inaudible 00:12:25] and then not having to learn them again, is that I really have limits and I need to choose to step away from things. My natural tendency is to push and push, harder and harder.

Josh Dougherty: It turns out that's rarely the best choice to do for anything. Stepping back, taking a break, taking a breath, taking a moment, and then coming back is one of the most important things that I learned. I'm still not great at it, but I am at least aware of when I'm not doing it now.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Mine is totally similar, and also if you're listening and suspect that we've colluded ahead of time, we did not share our answers with each other. But I continue to learn this lesson, as well. I will probably never fully learn it, but this is what stood out to me about this question, is just that I can't do it all.

Polly Yakovich: Similar to Josh, but the other part of that is when I try, the cost to my mental health is higher than I'm willing to pay. Just accepting that that's true rather than pretending it's not has been a helpful part of trying to move forward on learning this lesson. I'm trying to move forward and prioritize my mental health, but that's really hard because I feel like I should be able to do lots of things that I am no longer able to do.

Polly Yakovich: I also think, in this regard, you've heard me talk about this a lot before, but loving the book, Essentialism, and one of the things in Essentialism, if you haven't heard of it, encourage you to look it up, I'll link it in the show notes, is just the real cost of saying yes or no to things, and then weighing that cost up front.

Polly Yakovich: I'm always moving that cost to the back. I'll say, "Yeah," and then I'll deal with that in a week, or a month, or whatever when I get there and I have to do the thing that I never thought through doing, and now I don't want to do. Or, takes me away from my family, or extends me, or stresses me, or whatever it is. That's a lesson I'm continuing to learn as well.

Josh Dougherty: Look, we've gotten 15, 20 minutes in and we haven't even talked about work.

Polly Yakovich: I know.

Josh Dougherty: That's amazing.

Polly Yakovich: This is the first work ... Well, we talk about work adjacent, but what is something new you learned about work this last year?

Josh Dougherty: I would say I learned that being data driven is so important. This seems like a cliché, and it's something that I know for the marketing we do for our clients, but I feel like as we are entering year eight of our business, we've allowed ourselves to grow and be driven by impulse on how we run the business.

Josh Dougherty: We've been served pretty well by our gut through those years, and I don't this is saying negate that, but for the waters to be smoother for everyone, for us, for our employees, for how it feels to be growing, how it feels to be profitable, we really need to use data better to guide us for decisions around staffing, utilization, when to bring in freelancers, when to do all those things instead of thinking we can be stronger.

Josh Dougherty: This is a continuation of my lesson. Get the inputs that you need to be smarter about how you're doing things, not just pushing.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Yeah. I would say ...

Josh Dougherty: How about you?

Polly Yakovich: Mine is a continuation a little bit, as well. This sounds like a little bit of a cop-out, but I really feel like it became really important last year, particularly with the pandemic, but it's still all about the fundamentals. It's still a direct response world. It's still about consistency over time. It's about this boring stuff.

Polly Yakovich: I think as marketers, we always want to move on to higher level things, that we want to be educating you, we want to talk about higher level needs, that we want to be a little bit higher up the chain, but it really still is about everyone's lizard brain and meeting them where they're at.

Polly Yakovich: Particularly when everyone's home and online, and digital messages and social media posts are coming at you faster than ever, it's still really a direct response world and all about those fundamentals, and about embracing that people are inundated and what cuts through that clutter. I feel like that's a big lesson. You've heard us talk a lot about it last year, but that just felt like a really big lesson from last year.

Polly Yakovich: Which is also freeing, because all the other stuff we want to do is great and good, but what's really going to move the needle are those fundamentals. And so, if they're not dialed in and you're looking at them all the time, you have no business moving on to that other stuff, which takes a lot of discipline, which I don't care for, as you know. What's something new you learned about yourself?

Josh Dougherty: I learned that it's okay for me to be me. This is probably very deep-seeded, need to deal with all the stuff, I'll reference therapy later. I think specifically I learned I'm not just my work, which seems like a simple thing, but it's hard for an entrepreneur to separate and that maybe ends up part of my identity, but not my identity. Does that make sense?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, I think it does.

Josh Dougherty: Still a lesson I'm learning, but it's hard to just say it's okay, this is what I want.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. What I wrote down is something that I'm grappling with at the moment. I have long suspected but got actually diagnose with ADHD this year, and so that is something new I learned about myself. I had a sneaking suspicion, but there is just something different about actually knowing something versus suspecting it. That's actually been nice, because I think that while I'm still grappling with it, it also gives my brain a little rest from working hard to overcome something that I didn't actually look at in the face.

Polly Yakovich: It's very common, I found out, for women to get a diagnosis of ADHD into their 40s. I've probably had it since I was four years old. It is nice to learn those things about yourself and then actually start to learn to embrace new strategies to make me feel like I can be more productive rather than blaming myself and knowing why I have some of the tendencies that I have that keep me from getting things done.

Josh Dougherty: Totally. What do you think you couldn't live without, Polly?

Polly Yakovich: What couldn't I live without? Two things I don't think I could live without, to borrow from Josh's expanding of the question ...

Josh Dougherty: More is coming.

Polly Yakovich: These are really practical when you think about ... Well, for me, personally, I'm a double entrepreneur. My husband and I own another business. I have a child. There's obviously household responsibilities that I'm sharing. I am juggling all the time. I frankly could not live without my nanny, who happens to also be my sister, and is the biggest blessing and gift to my life and family, and keeps us functioning, and fills in so many holes for us, and is incredible with our son, and just always giving him the best of everything.

Polly Yakovich: They're out all the time exploring the Pacific Northwest. She just gives me such peace of mind for all the hats that I'm wearing. She is literally incredible. The other thing I would say, and fortunately for me, I know a lot of people have experienced this newly in the pandemic, but fortunately for me, I have a very long term relationship with my therapist and that was in place before the pandemic.

Polly Yakovich: I really couldn't live without it. I see a therapist twice a month. I have seen her varying from weekly to monthly for 10 years, and really just allowing me that time to work on myself, think about me, get into my brain, process my world, is such an invaluable part of my life.

Josh Dougherty: It's so good. Such an important thing to be able to step back and have someone looking from the outside ...

Polly Yakovich: What about you? Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: For me ...

Polly Yakovich: What couldn't you live without?

Josh Dougherty: Two things. This is a continuation of 2020 never ended for me, but I've realized the real importance of slowing down and having time with my family. My wife, Juno, was amazing, and is a constant source of joy and friendship, and then I've seen the world through new eyes with my son, who's also four. He is both amazing and frustrating, but I think seeing that different take or somewhat innocent look at the world has been so helpful in the last couple of years.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. [inaudible 00:21:27]

Josh Dougherty: And then, Evernote. A really practical note, keeps my life together.

Polly Yakovich: True. True. What did you do for fun last year?

Josh Dougherty: Man. So many things. I read a lot of books. I traveled again. Traveling was a big part of my life before the pandemic, and it felt like ... We were reflecting probably how we hadn't gotten on a plane for 18 months or something ridiculous.

Polly Yakovich: So weird. How did we do that every month?

Josh Dougherty: I don't know.

Polly Yakovich: Literally. Once a month felt like a step back. [inaudible 00:22:01] who asked, "Wow, we only travel once a month now."

Josh Dougherty: Amazing.

Polly Yakovich: How refreshing and easy.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah, every two months.

Polly Yakovich: Record scratch.

Josh Dougherty: What is this?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah. I think from traveling specifically, a really fun thing was I'm a big soccer fan, so going to World Cup qualifiers this fall has been really a life giving change to do something that only comes around every four years. We didn't have to skip it this time and do something really fun that is pretty responsibility free; just go and enjoy. The US has been good, which is countered to normal life, so double bonus.

Polly Yakovich: Shocking. They all just were working out during the pandemic.

Josh Dougherty: I know. Now they're so good.

Polly Yakovich: Mine is travel, too. I mean, really, honestly, I think those of you who have hard charging careers or entrepreneurs know that there's just not a lot of off time, and traveling really feels, particularly when you get out of the country, it just really feels like you can finally press the pause button for a little bit. I just missed it so much.

Polly Yakovich: Getting back to traveling for fun has been incredible. We've done some local trips. Again, we got abroad and have some trips planned coming up. It just feels like I need that to look forward to and I enjoy it so much.

Josh Dougherty: Totally. It makes such a difference to know that you're not stuck in the same place forever.

Polly Yakovich: I know.

Josh Dougherty: I don't know what that is, but to be able to look at ...

Polly Yakovich: We live in a gorgeous place too, but you just want to get away.

Josh Dougherty: My view of the [inaudible 00:23:32] Bridge is pretty stunning right now.

Polly Yakovich: It is. Gorgeous bridge.

Josh Dougherty: Gorgeous [inaudible 00:23:37]. Looking totally past the quaint fishing village that's right beyond the bridge. All I see is concrete.

Polly Yakovich: What piece of advice did you get last year?

Josh Dougherty: Did I get or did I give?

Polly Yakovich: Get.

Josh Dougherty: I think the piece of advice that I got from numerous people is to be more clear with people because they likely don't understand what I'm asking them to do.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, that's always a good one.

Josh Dougherty: I make so many assumptions about people, and it's just like, "Nope, spell it out and then spell it out again."

Polly Yakovich: That's a great [crosstalk 00:24:07].

Josh Dougherty: And this is not just at work, everywhere.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. It's so weird that people haven't learned to read my mind yet. It's such a clear and easy place to understand.

Josh Dougherty: Juno's always like, "I know that you've thought through these five things already, and you're just telling me the end result, but could step back and tell me two of the steps beforehand?" I'm like, "Oh, okay."

Polly Yakovich: That's good. That's some good communication skills right there.

Josh Dougherty: Good communication.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: She wins at that more than me.

Polly Yakovich: I get this advice a lot, and I don't listen to it enough, and it's still really good advice, and that's to delegate. My instinct is to do and just to think ruthlessly through should I be doing this? Is this the best highest use of my time? I'll be learning this lesson forever, but that's advice I've gotten this year, is keep delegating. The sooner you delegate, the more successful you are because things get bottle-necked with us, as we know.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Because we're aspirational, we want to help everyone, but we should be taking on less, not more.

Josh Dougherty: It's great feedback for anyone who's in a leadership role, a director of marketing, any of those people that are futurists or that think about the future. You're great because you have your 30 ideas. You're not great because your follow through, because you're not going to follow through on any of them if you don't.

Josh Dougherty: I say the same thing for me. It's hard to follow though on stuff you're thinking about, all these ideas. You need those people that are going to sustain the execution of stuff for you.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. What advice did you give last year?

Josh Dougherty: I think this is advice I've been giving more lately. This is where my three month memory of the whole last year. I think we've gone through a number of challenging conversations, especially at work with clients, where sometimes people are like, "This client is being unreasonable, or this, or that." The thing I've been continually trying to emphasize to the team is how do we show empathy to this person? There's probably something going on beyond this. They're usually an amazing person and you had one bad interaction. Let's look and be empathetic."

Polly Yakovich: And they're not trying to make your harder. That's not their goal.

Josh Dougherty: They're not trying to make your life miserable.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, that's good advice. All of my advice is recycled, so it's advice people gave me, and then I turn around and give other people. I think one of the things, piece of advice that I continue to give, but also give to myself, is just that everything is a moment in time. With kids, everything's a stage. With work, it's what's happening right now. Just lifting your eyes up and saying, "This is not forever." It feels like forever, but it's this is true right now. It may not be true next week. It may not even be true tomorrow. It may not be true next month.

Josh Dougherty: Totally.

Polly Yakovich: To hold it lightly, this is so helpful with parenting too, because it's stupid stuff. My kid's going to read this one book at night that I can't stand anymore forever, and I hate it. Then, two weeks later, they're like, "Next thing." Or, whatever it is. Everything just lasts that short amount of time, so to lift your eyes up to the horizon and think of the long picture and be like, "This is true right now."

Polly Yakovich: Maybe you do need to change some things about your situation that you don't want to be true for longer, but everything's really just that moment in time.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Helps me feel more hopeful.

Josh Dougherty: I think what my therapist always tells me, when you were talking about that, of the only thing that's real is your response to this one situation.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, that's good.

Josh Dougherty: That's a similar message, but so hard to learn, but it's a really valuable piece of advice.

Polly Yakovich: Very hard to learn. What is a memorable book you read last year? Josh, this has got to be hard for you. Do you have a book journal? Josh is a prolific reader.

Josh Dougherty: I do have a book journal.

Polly Yakovich: How many journals is that?

Josh Dougherty: Of course I do.

Polly Yakovich: I have zero journals.

Josh Dougherty: It's a book app.

Polly Yakovich: How many journals do you have?

Josh Dougherty: Have you heard of Good Reads? It's not a journal, it's an app.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, I have. I've tried to use it, but then I also lose track of that as well.

Josh Dougherty: I'm limiting to one book. You'll be proud of me.

Polly Yakovich: Nice.

Josh Dougherty: My most memorable book, which I would say it's one of the most memorable books I've read in the last decade ...

Polly Yakovich: Oh my gosh.

Josh Dougherty: So I would say it's worth reading, is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

Polly Yakovich: Just a light read.

Josh Dougherty: It's not a light read, but it is amazing. It follows the invention, or from the discovery of the atom to the fallout of the atomic bombs in Japan during World War II. The thing that I think makes it fascinating is not only does it humanize the science that we all think is very hard to understand, which the first half of the book has a lot of physics in it, but it does this incredible job of painting what I think is one of the most difficult things that's happened in the 20th century of how did we do this to other humans? How did we create this thing? How did these people who weren't evil end up creating this bomb? Why did they do it?

Josh Dougherty: I think the fascinating psychology behind it and the ethics and everything in it is incredible, and it's just really well-written. I'll link to that in the show notes, too. You should read it.

Polly Yakovich: Mine is a slightly less of a PhD required to read it, but Adam Grant came out with Think Again last year. It is an incredible book. I am an Adam Grant super fun. If you don't follow Adam Grant, you totally should. He's a professor at Wharton, is it?

Josh Dougherty: Yeah, I think so.

Polly Yakovich: He is just an incredible thinker. His Instagram account is worth a follow. He's written a couple of incredible New York Times articles like that one I mentioned on languishing. This book, Think Again, was great because it really challenges how and why we think the way we do, and how we think about thinking, particularly beliefs that we hold, why we hold those beliefs, what's important about them to them, what we're willing to rethink and what we're not, when we're willing to accept new input or data and not, and why.

Polly Yakovich: I just thought it was such a fascinating book, and really, food for thought for a very long time. That's a book I read last year that's incredibly memorable. I know it's a book I'll go back to again, which is very rare for me to reread a book. There's a couple that are in that category and this is one of those.

Josh Dougherty: This is a book that I'm going to read that I will admit to anyone who's listening that I didn't read it for book club. We had it as a book club book. I didn't get to it.

Polly Yakovich: It's so good. Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: I really want to read it. I said I only had one, but to lighten, I also read a great 100 page book called In The End. I was all about love. It's written by Musa Okwonda. He is a soccer blogger I know, but he's English, he moved to Germany, and it's a story about someone of color living in Germany now with a family that's from Africa, and not really belonging anywhere. I think as a privileged white male, that was a very good eye-opener into what life is like for other people.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. We'll link that one, too. What thing did you do last year that scared you, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: I started going to therapy. I knew I should have for years.

Polly Yakovich: That's scary.

Josh Dougherty: It was really scary, but it's been the absolute best decision I think I made this year.

Polly Yakovich: That's awesome. I think, for me, this question is hard. But for me, when I was reflecting on it, I think the thing I did last year that scared me the most is I tried to let go of the things that I thought I should do as an entrepreneur, or a business leader, or a marketing person, and leaned in to how I actually felt about it.

Polly Yakovich: There's lots of things as a business owner. You should speak, you should this, you should this, you should be doing that, and I just didn't feel like any of them fit me right now. And so, even though I felt like some of them I might want to do some day, or felt like I might have some skill at, I just surrendered to how I felt about it. I'm just continuing to sit in attention of ignoring things, like some of the things that I think that I should do. What do you want to do more of next year, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: I think this goes back to the advice you gave, because I want to do ... I don't know. Sorry. I skipped ahead a question to what I want to do less of, so I'll both right now. Or, maybe I won't.

Polly Yakovich: Do it. Do more.

Josh Dougherty: More.

Polly Yakovich: What do you want to do more next year?

Josh Dougherty: I think I want to choose the thing that is best for my mental well-being. I think some of the tools I've learned in therapy, which I'm just a baby in that process of being able to deconstruct a moment and be like, "What do I actually want to choose right now," is what I want to learn and grow that muscle in the next year.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I think I want to do a better job. I think that I fall into the typical category of I'm a mom, I'm a business owner, I'm a this, I'm always taking care of other people. I'm de-prioritizing myself and that sneaks up on me. This next year, I want to take better care of myself. Doing things that aren't productive and that just fuel me. Doing things that aren't seen.

Polly Yakovich: I'm not going to Instagram about them, but I'm going to spend more time thinking. I'm going to spend more time learning. I'm going to think about what I need to be the fullest me and that is what I want to do more of next year. What do you want to do less of?

Josh Dougherty: I want to do less social media. I've almost cut it out of my life already. It's always this tension. We're marketers, we should be on there, but I actually really think it's evil and detrimental to our well-being. I want to figure out how do I do that? I think related to that is just focus on the present.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: There's one moment I live in and so I want to be making decisions that way.

Polly Yakovich: I want to do less things that don't devalue. This is an ongoing conversation that I literally want to strip away things that aren't bringing things forward. Less meetings. We talk about this all the time, everyone in business talks about it all the time, but just ruthlessly stripping away meetings that aren't moving something forward for me.

Polly Yakovich: Less rote tasks that aren't adding value. Why am I doing things? Just thinking through the why of everything. I know that, again, not everyone might have the power to make all those choices for themselves. I have a lot of power of my day and life, so I can make some of those choices, but whatever small it is, I think just taking your power back on things that aren't adding values.

Polly Yakovich: And less letting other voices in when I know what I need to do for myself, or my family, or work or whatever. It's like if this doesn't work for me, then I'm going to listen to my voice.

Josh Dougherty: That's really smart.

Polly Yakovich: What's your wish for next year, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: I want a normal, post-pandemic year. It's not going to happen, so I will settle for a vaccine for my son and World Cup qualification for the US National team.

Polly Yakovich: That's awesome. I absolutely love it. I know our boys are both four and we're both playing this game of do they turn five and get the vaccine, or will it become available before they turn five?

Josh Dougherty: Please God, let it be sooner.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: That's a long time.

Polly Yakovich: My wish for next year is for all of us. This is what I wish for myself and people, generally. As hard as the pandemic has and continues to be, I feel like there's been a nice shift just in our cultural thinking about our lives. You see this with the Great Resignation and you see this with hybrid work. My wish is really that people find meaning in both work and play, and we get closer to a place as a culture where we're supporting one another's whole beings.

Polly Yakovich: When we think about people that are like, "I don't want to commute an hour to work every day and I don't want this, and I like being near to my kids' school, and I like these aspects," I just hope that we can incorporate our lives more in a way that's just healthier.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: I do think work is healthy and fun, it's just when we let things get so out of balance. I actually don't believe in pure balance. It's just, I don't think, achievable. When we let the scales tilt so far all the time in one direction, then we have a problem. And so, I just hope, my wish is that we can continue as employers, as a government, as a people, think about our whole selves more.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah. I think our friend Chris Eirich always talks about the portfolio of your life.

Polly Yakovich: Yes.

Josh Dougherty: Everyone has ...

Polly Yakovich: Brilliant.

Josh Dougherty: Balance is a myth. Right?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: Some people can do 70% of this and 30% of the other, but what's that portfolio that actually makes you fulfilled?

Polly Yakovich: Because your time is infinite, so how do you spend it?

Josh Dougherty: How do you spend ...

Polly Yakovich: My portfolio is about half sleep and that is important for me.

Josh Dougherty: I'm going to learn that one next year.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Add it to the wish list.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Okay. We're going to close how I normally close all interviews, but we haven't closed Josh and I this way in a while. And then, we thought we'd throw a twist into it as well. I always close in asking about people's super power. We thought it would be fun if we first said what we thought the other one's super power is, and then we can say what we think our own is. Who wants to go first? You want me to go first?

Josh Dougherty: You go first.

Polly Yakovich: This is hard. This is truly hard because I think Josh has so many talents and it's hard to think them up into an undergirding super power, like panic writing headlines and social media captions for me in 10 seconds is definitely a talent Josh has. I was like, "What is the super power that's underneath it all?"

Polly Yakovich: This sounds boring, but I really mean this in the truest possible sense. I know people want to think of themselves this way, but I don't think many people actually are true strategic thinkers, and I think Josh is. He is always getting things unstuck. He's able to synthesize. He's able to see through the clutter of the yarn ball and be like, "Here's the thread that keeps us moving forward."

Polly Yakovich: He's always able to pull everyone's attention up to what's important about this. Here's a lot of information, but here's what's important, or here's what we do next, or here's whatever. And so, for me, I feel like I categorize that under strategic thinking, but really, I think it's incredibly rare even though everyone wants to say that they're strategic. They're not.

Polly Yakovich: That's what I think is one of Josh's super powers amongst many other things. I think that at the core, that helps guide our team and is really super unique.

Josh Dougherty: That means a lot. Thank you. For you, I think ... And this is, again, many different super powers, but the thing that I think is the most amazing that I get to see in the day to day, I think especially as you've gotten yourself unstuck a little bit from roles that you maybe were doing a job, which is a super power in and of itself when it's not in your core talents, is this ability to have a boundless curiosity about what if we step back and look at this in a different and actually try to flip the box and see if it came out different.

Josh Dougherty: That's also really rare. I find this really valuable in you, Polly, as a business partner because I do feel like I am able to navigate situations, but sometimes I get tunnel vision and you're the person who's consistently coming in and saying, "What if we connected this slightly differently, look 10 degrees different, and then we flip this over and did this another way, and then what if we ask this question, what do things look like now?"

Josh Dougherty: I feel like that's a real super power to be able to pull back and ask those bigger questions even in the midst of a ... It's not always in a crisis moment. Some of the times, it's just in the conversation, but even in a crisis moment when most people switch to problem solving and you're like, "What if the problem isn't the problem that we're solving?" That's, I think, really valuable.

Polly Yakovich: ADHD in for the win.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Thank you. That is really thoughtful. I appreciate it. All right. What do you think is your super power, Josh?

Josh Dougherty: I wrote down that my super power is the ability to navigate a situation with no preparation.

Polly Yakovich: That is true.

Josh Dougherty: Which is maybe ...

Polly Yakovich: Actually, I almost said that about you, too.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah. I think it's related.

Polly Yakovich: Total confidence.

Josh Dougherty: I don't know if that's always good because sometimes I'll fall and fail hard. I generally am willing to go in and just rely on this bank, and it's easier when, I'm now in my late 30s, than when I was in my 20s because I was maybe stupider.

Polly Yakovich: The bank has a few more deposits in it.

Josh Dougherty: The bank's a little more full, so I can navigate a little more and experience. I think it's that ability to synthesize through 50 things really quickly and be like, "Okay, let's take the next step this way." Maybe I don't know where we're going fully, but I can pick out that next step.

Polly Yakovich: I think that's very true.

Josh Dougherty: What about for you?

Polly Yakovich: I think a super power for me is activation or instigation. I think this is true for myself, but particularly for others or for other projects, I am very good at the things that are required to get something off the ground. I'm good at pushing through the hard bits because I think that I am super optimistic.

Polly Yakovich: If it's never been done before, I think I'm the person you want to call because I'm really good at mapping a path that doesn't exist, and getting that thing launched, or getting that thing started, or helping a friend start a new business, or get a product launched. Things that are really hard to do in systems because it requires thinking outside of the system to do it, and then once it's ready to go and it needs to be repeated, then you definitely want to kick me off the cliff because I will never be able to create the system that replicates it or keeps it going. I'm who you want, I think, in your pocket to get the thing born.

Josh Dougherty: I think that's really true, and that goes with that out of the box curiosity of you can ... For me, what I see in you, it's undaunted by the opportunity, and it's the opportunity is exciting. The hard stuff becomes easier. Right?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The hard stuff ...

Josh Dougherty: Because of the potential.

Polly Yakovich: It's just another obstacle to overcome.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Fun. Well, 2021 is ... Give it a C, just as a concept.

Josh Dougherty: I'm going to give it a solid B minus.

Polly Yakovich: There you go. That feels good. They're both passing grades.

Josh Dougherty: We live in a democracy.

Polly Yakovich: Yes. Yeah. Maybe I'll move that up to a C plus. We appreciate you all so much. Thank you for letting us share. We hope that you have a very happy holidays, whatever you are celebrating. We are always excited to turn the page and get a fresh start on the new year. And so, we want to say Happy New Year, happy 2022. If you're listening and you think, "I'd love to bounce something off of them," I love to help some new thoughts about whatever challenge I have.

Polly Yakovich: Josh and I absolutely love thinking about those kinds of things, and so hit us up. We'll put links to our calendars in the show notes. Whether it's marketing planning, or new product launch, or whatever it is, we just like thinking about challenges. We're grateful that you're here and we are thankful for you. Happy New Year and see you on the other side.

Josh Dougherty: Yeah. Thanks, everyone. And just to add to Polly of even if you want to just have another human to talk to. That's hard sometimes.

Polly Yakovich: That's outside of your sphere.

Josh Dougherty: You don't have to just hit us up about marketing. Yeah. Connection. That's why we're in the agency business, because we love the human business.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Josh Dougherty: Please don't hesitate [inaudible 00:44:54].

Polly Yakovich: If you need career advice, anything, hit us up.

Josh Dougherty: Cool.

Polly Yakovich: See you next year.

Josh Dougherty: See you in '22.

Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of A Brave New Podcast. Go to for more resources and advice. If you enjoyed this episode, show us some love by subscribing, rating, and reviewing A Brave New Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Polly Yakovich

Polly Yakovich



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