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Change To Grow: Be Alive With Aden Nepom, President Of The Art Of Change

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Why do you need to step into change to grow? Because nothing alive is stagnant. Corinna Bellizzi welcomes Aden Nepom, the President at the Art of Change Skills for Life. Aden talks with Corinna about how you will encounter change at every stage of your life. Change can be uncomfortable because you need to move out of your comfort zone. But it’s the only way for you to set out on a new path. To push yourself and learn a new skill. Learn to befriend change and use it as an opportunity to grow. Tune in!

About Aden Nepom

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Aden Nepom is a pragmatic and playful advisor on communication and change. She’s a TEDx speaker, a Senior Facilitator at On Your Feet Improvisation for Business, President at the Art of Change Skills for Life, and host of The Changed Podcast. Aden is also an award-winning performer and has taught and performed improv theatre skills around the world.

She works with passionate leaders who want to positively impact their work, teams, and organizations. She helps her clients develop powerful, flexible, and sometimes (gasp!) fun communication skills that build massive trust, increase motivation, and increase your influence up, down, and sideways.



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Additional Resources:

Time Stamps:

00:06:55 – The Impact Of Your Words

00:11:21 – Bringing Improv Into The Business Space

00:21:31 – What Our Government Needs To Improve On

00:29:26 – It’s Harder To Influence Someone Opposed To You

00:34:23  How To Best Act On Social Media

00:43:53 – How Young Children Experience Shifting Dynamics

00:49:41 – Change Is Beautiful: Embrace It

 00:54:14 – Grieving Process

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Change To Grow: Be Alive With Aden Nepom, President Of The Art Of Change

I created a five-step guide to help you unleash your inner activist. It’s available to our entire community. All you have to do is go to and sign up for our newsletter. You’ll get it as your welcome gift. We’re going to have a little bit of fun as we’re joined by someone skilled at thinking on her feet and navigating even the toughest and most difficult conversations using skills that come from theater and Improv, Aden Nepom.

She is a pragmatic and playful advisor on communication and change. She’s a TEDx speaker, a Senior Facilitator at On Your Feet improvisation for business, President of the Art of Change – Skills for Life, and Host of The Changed Podcast. She is an award-winning performer and has taught and performed improv theater skills around the world. She helps her clients develop powerful, flexible, and fun communication skills that build trust, increase motivation, and increase your influence up, down, and sideways. Aden, it’s so nice to have you here. Welcome to the show.

How are you?

I’m doing great. I want to know how you support people up, down and sideways. That’s a creative way to explain it.

A lot of the work that I do is inside of large organizations. Building your influence and your credibility isn’t just about managing people. Sometimes, you need to manage up. Sometimes, you need to manage cross-functional relationships or outside partners, so the communication tools, skills, and practices that myself and my colleagues bring to these organizations do help people in all of those directions with their collaboration, getting by on what they need, helping get clear on priorities and all of that good stuff.

I think about some of the difficult conversations I’ve had over the years, and I think that’s something you and I were talking a bit about. I had an earlier episode with Genevieve Smith where we talked about having a conversation with your racist uncle at Thanksgiving as an example. I wonder if you have an example like that of something either politically charged or that was difficult to navigate through to help showcase for our audience what that could be like and how we can have moreover this course.

Be aware of how your words impact the person receiving them.

When you said racist uncle, I immediately thought of an experience that I had as a teenager, which is not related to what I do. I guess it’s all related, but it’s not specifically the tools that I do now because I was twelve. We were at an anniversary celebration for my grandparents, who are no longer with us. We were at this resort in Virginia, I think, and all of the waiters at this resort were Jamaican.

I don’t know what that deal was. I don’t know if it was one guy who hired his friends, but everybody that worked as a tableside server was a Jamaican native, and their English sounded like it was Jamaican English. It was noticeable. Our waiter comes to the table, and he is this very tall man. He greets us with that thick Jamaican accent. The very first thing my grandmother says is, “I love you, people.” Even at twelve, I had a deep visceral response to her saying that. I wanted to crawl under the table and die because my grandmother said that.

To be fair, at twelve years old, it didn’t take much for me to feel that way, but that one felt pretty intense, and it was quickly chased by another family member at the table saying, “You look like that one basketball player.” I was like, “Give me a shovel. I’m going to keep digging.” He replies, “Clyde Drexler, ma’am,” and she goes, “Not that one, but the other basketball player.” He goes, “People tell me all the time I look like Clyde Drexler.”

It was one of those experiences that stays with you. There is no happy ending to that particular story. There wasn’t an intervention at that moment. Time passes, and our understanding of the world around us shifts and changes. My relatives who operated in that way at that meal haven’t changed tremendously, other than my grandparents are no longer here. My other relative has been up there for years now. I think that she’s less inclined to tell people, in general, they look like other people. That feels like dangerous territory to her now, but at the moment, both of them were coming from this place of wanting to relate to this server, to be friendly with this server, and to build a relationship with this server. I think that’s the part that translates to now.

People’s intent in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s counted for a little bit more. I’m not saying it’s harmless. The impact is there, but we breezed right past that part where it’s like, “I could tell you’re trying to build a good relationship here.” That’s an important thing to acknowledge when you’re talking to somebody, but we may not be aware of how your words are impacting the person who’s receiving them. Do you want to talk about that? Can we have that conversation?

It’s interesting to reflect back. It’s one of many stories in my personal journey, and I think we all have stories like that, whether they’re about people who look like other people, people with accents, trying to understand the world around us, or whatever it is. I think we all have stories that remind us of times when we were like, “Something in this conversation didn’t sit right with me, and I didn’t know what to do.”

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Change To Grow: We need to see the needs and issues of our audience before our own.

For me, it brings to mind something that isn’t race-related at all but more class-related, and by class, I mean income or access as opposed to what other definitions might be. I worked for somebody for years, and she would famously come into the office and talk to all the other ladies there and say things like, “You have to go to the spa. My Pilates instructor this, that,” and the next thing. I’m like, “Do you understand that you’re not paying these people enough to be able to go to that private Pilates instructor or go to that spa, and it comes off as tone-deaf?”

I think being perceptive about your audience and understanding that each person comes from their own truth is where we need to be and where the current moment is asking us to be, but it’s hard, I think, for people to get used to it and to say, “I’m going to clam up because I don’t know how to respond, and I can see their eyes glazed over as I was talking to them, so now I’m not going to do that anymore. I shut down, and the conversation stops,” which doesn’t serve anybody. For somebody who might be tackling that in their own small way, what would your number one bit of advice be for them?

It’s complicated because we’re constantly running everything that we experience or think. We have our filter that the world passes through, and then we put stuff out there. What I see is people having two main knee-jerk reactions to what the current climate is asking for, and both are very reactionary. One reaction is to, as you described, clam up. I’m afraid I’m going to say the wrong things, so I’m not going to say anything.

The other thing that I see happening a lot is people having what I would call polarity response, where they’re going so far to the other side, things that they wouldn’t have said in the past because they might have been offensive, they’re now saying with more frequency. They’re like, “Don’t tell me how to think. Don’t tell me how to behave. We’re all taking things too seriously. Let’s all listen up and joke in this way that we weren’t joking years ago.” I think neither is ideal.

Generally speaking, when it comes to communication, proceeding with curiosity first is going to be a great strategy no matter what. I think when it comes to worrying about saying the wrong thing. There are one million things you could be worrying about at any given moment. The universe is going to continue to provide things for us to be vexed by.

I would suggest that, again, even though the current moment isn’t prioritizing intent over the impact the way I might want it to, I do think that your intent when you communicate with people doesn’t come through particularly when your intent is coming from a place of wanting to build a relationship. As long as you’re clear about why are we engaging in a conversation in the first place, then that can help show you even when you miss-step, as long as you correct quickly and move forward, you’re going to be in decent shape, so proceed with curiosity.

When it comes to communication, proceed with curiosity first no matter what.

I also think humor can help. Joking aside, perhaps that’s part of how you work with Improv and get people to loosen up a little bit. Talk about that. What led you to bring Improv into the business space, and how does that work?

I feel like there’s a caveat here around improv and humor. Improv and humor have also been used to justify the horrifying behavior of people. Great power comes great responsibility, so in and of itself, it’s not like telling jokes is benevolent by itself, or that being playful in the moment, which is what Improv gives us is, is the answer in and of itself. There’s mindset stuff you’ve got to get in the mix. There is a lot of stuff that goes into the mix, so I do feel like I have to give that little bit of a disclaimer because how many of us have been somewhere where somebody said something so horrible to us directly?

A lot of us have been in this situation, and that’s met with your disdained expression on your face instead of being met with, “Did I say something wrong? You look like you didn’t find that funny.” You get a big slap on the back like, “Lighten up. We’re just joking around here.” As I said, with great power comes great responsibility. The truth is most of us have spent the majority of our lives improvising. Show me anybody who hasn’t, but specifically, I’m in Improv theater and teaching improv skills.

I used to work in software, and in the careers of my colleagues and friends, those of us who hire are well-practiced in some of the principles that guide improv on the stage and have greater flexibility in the workplace, so the skills that are beneficial, I think, in communication and the workplace are the skills of noticing all of the offers around this principle. I’m going to take and do something with the offers that show up.

“I’ll be mindful of when my partner in a collaboration looks good. That’s going to reflect well on me, so I want to set them up for success,” and seeing your audience’s needs and issues first. All of these principles that guide how we behave on the Improv stage are incredibly helpful in the world of business, so I’ve been bringing these tools into the workplace since 2009 or 2010. It started as an extension of the improv school, Merlin Works, in Austin, Texas, that I was teaching for.

We were doing team building and playing improv games, and it evolved into more of a facilitator role, where sometimes playing a game is the right move to help illustrate a tool. Sometimes, performing an improv scene is a great tool for bringing an idea to life so we can look at it and reflect on it, and sometimes, there are other communication tools and techniques that are more helpful in that particular moment. At this point, I’m using a lot of the skills and training tools from Art of Change along with my background in improv, where I’m able to do both, which is cool.

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Change To Grow: How government systems work is different from your assumptions.

I think in the workplace, my only real exposure to improv is related to sales training when you are roleplaying either the customer or the salesperson. It can get a little tedious, so how do you keep it interesting?

That was going to be my question to you. How did you feel about doing improv as part of sales training?

I often had to lead them as part of my responsibility set. I was close enough with a lot of our salespeople that they would be frank with me, and the feedback I often got was that they felt uncomfortable, that it felt too canned, that didn’t feel natural, and that because it didn’t feel natural, it was harder to engage in the process. It felt like it was tedious.

In some cases, I would bring other professionals in to support the sales training, and in some cases, it was somewhat architected by me and another leader within the company. I didn’t have a right answer for them if there was a correct one, and I felt like I understood where they were coming from because I’d also been on the receiving end of that. I’d say it was poorly led workshops.

Thank you for sharing that with me. I find that perspective is more common than not. Again, it’s that intent versus impact thing. We fall in love with this art form, and we immerse ourselves in it. It’s easy to go into an environment where people have little to no experience with the art form and forget that we can, at times, come across like aliens landing on planet earth for the first time. It can feel intimidating, scary, or out of place, and I think it’s the job of a facilitator coming into a workplace to practice what we preach.

In the Improv stage, we see our audience, so when we go into a workplace, we need to see our audience on that. We need to see their needs and issues before our own. Just because I think Sound Ball is super as a game to play, it doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for this particular audience and this particular moment for the challenges that they are facing.

We need to communicate with each other about the beliefs that we agree with.

Sometimes, when people come to someone like me or any of my colleagues looking for, “We want a fun improv training,” it’s important to ask, “What about an improv training specifically are you looking to bring to this team? What about that is intriguing to you? Why now? What’s currently happening on that team? What is it that you want people to walk out being able to do, say, or think differently about?” I’ve seen an ambush improv show as a training tool, and I’m not a huge fan of that strategy simply because it’s the opposite.

What is ambush improv training? I’m having a hard time even picturing this.

An intact team is brought together, and they’re told they’re going to do team building. Some high-energy improvisers show up and are like, “We’re going to have some fun, and you guys are going to put on a show at the end of the day. We’re going to teach you some improv games, and then you’re going to get up on stage for an audience of a full house with people you don’t know. It’s going to be great.”

For 10% of any given team, that’s super awesome, and they’re like, “This is so cool. I’m going to learn so much.” For the majority of that team, they’re going to feel put on the spot in a way that makes them feel all of the feelings you’re trying to mitigate by going through the experience in the first place. The intent behind it is to teach confidence, to show you you’re capable of surviving and handling more than you know, of having some fun, some laughs, and make some memories, and to create something with your team together. There’s a lot of good intentions behind a design like that, but the delivery on something like that can be counterproductive to all of that good intent.

I’m very lucky to have had my early start in delivering any improv related facilitation to have come through Merlin Works for that because the principles I learned as a teacher at Merlin Works, even just teaching improv classes to people who want to be performers, was first to create a safe space, get to know the people in the room, what they need and where they’re at, and this resonates well with what I teach now to coaching clients and when I’m speaking to audiences about how to bridge the communication gap.

You got to meet people where they are. This is true about conflict resolution as well. When you try and yell from across the room like, “It’s amazing over here. Come join me.” People get freaked out. They don’t want to come over there, so you got to meet people where you are. You got to walk to them. You got to energetically go to them. If their energy is squashed, closed and down, and you come in with energetic guns blazing, it can be off-putting. What you want is to create relationships, not push relationships apart.

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Change To Grow: Ask yourself the question “is the assumption I’m making about the person’s point of view helpful?”

I’m thinking of another example. I went with the NNFA to lobby congress in Washington, DC, a couple of times, and in each case, they wanted to give you the things that they’re hoping you’ll cover in a bulleted list with anybody that you might meet. I’m thinking from an activist perspective that this could be very important for them, but luckily for me, I was already fairly comfortable meeting with people that were at the CEO and higher level, like company owners and founders. Sitting down with somebody I didn’t know across the table and presenting an idea to them was something I was already pretty versed in, but I saw a lot of people who are well-intentioned with me get very uncomfortable and nervous.

You could tell the sweats were starting on them. They’re like, “I feel all clammed up, and now, I’m going into a situation that I don’t understand because I don’t work in government. I don’t know who I’m talking to and what their role is.” The mistake that I would say that the organizers made in that case were that they didn’t prepare us for who was on the other side of the table, what their role was, and what type of effect the message that we were giving to them would have.

I think if we’d gone in with a clearer expectation, especially those individuals who were more nervous, we might’ve felt a little bit more at ease. It’s not like they’re talking to Dianne Feinstein. They’re speaking to an aide below an age, generally speaking, who might be in their 20s and not have a whole lot of experience in politics yet. To be quite frank, doing the glad-handing is their job.

That’s right. I’ve worked as an intern for a lobby when I was nineteen years old. One of my jobs as an intern was to collect pertinent news off of the AP and create a daily briefing, which I then run-up to the hill and deliver to the offices of our congressmen and senators. It was interesting. I learned so much in that process that the majority of Americans don’t learn. It’s not part of any of our standard education about how our government works. It’s the education of having done activism firsthand or having worked for a lobbying organization, or even working for the press. What you learn about how our systems work is different than what our assumptions are about how these systems work.

It’s as naive the way we think about how our government works as the way video game players think video game designers live. Video game players are like, “This so cool. I’ll work for a video game designer, and I’d play video games all day.” It is part of that process to play through what you’ve done so far to catch bugs, but that’s a different experience than sitting on your couch and playing games. It’s a valuable education to have spent time going to these offices conversing with the aides. Sometimes even as an intern, I did get to interact directly with a congressman or with a senator, but most of the time, as to what you’re describing, you’re just talking to the aide of an aide.

You’re not talking to the person who’s going to make the difference or cast their vote at that point. They’re hopeful that they can influence, and educating people who work at that level is very important because you never know what the effect is going to be long-term, but I think it would have put a lot of people at ease if they understood the system, and there was no effort spent on that.

Deep polarization happens when people say they’re trying to understand your perspective when they’re not.

I feel like some of that stuff’s not as intuitive as you might imagine. The Art of Change, my company, was founded by my father, so I grew up with a lot of the communication skills in my atmosphere that I now teach to others. My experience going up to the hill on a daily basis in that intern role was I still was building relationships with the aide of the aide. I was building relationships with anybody that I could have that conversation with. I didn’t technically work for the lobby. I was interning for the lobby. It was more of a learning and mentorship relationship.

I was an errand kid bringing this briefing up. It wasn’t my job to read the briefing to anybody. It was to deliver it and to hand it off, but it was worth it to me to build those relationships with people because I learned from them. I could ask them out of curiosity, “How does this senator make their decisions on these types of things? How does this congressperson view this particular issue? What are the things that influence their decision-making?”

I can tell you that in 1997 maybe or 1996, it was a long time ago, but at that time, what I learned was letter writing was more influential than anybody ever imagined. I bet this is still true, but not in the way that you might imagine. We all think we’re special. Even when we don’t think we’re special or even when we have low self-esteem, we’re like, “My lack of specialness is the most special thing about me.” We have a lens to the world that works in this way.

When we write a letter, we imagine that somebody reads that letter, but what was happening was letters would get compiled into binders, and the importance of an issue as a voting issue for any particular senator on average was how many stacks of big binders did they have for or against a particular issue that was being deliberated, so it was the volume of letter writing, and that was more impactful at that point in history. It cannot speak to now. That was a more impactful choice than going to a protest or chaining yourself to a tree, which was a popular move at that time.

What struck me about that was that it can feel daunting, like, “My voice doesn’t count,” but when your voice is a drop in a bucket of many voices, every voice counts, because if everybody goes, “I’m just a page in a binder,” then you end up with the thin binder. What you need are all those people to contribute that tiny amount of effort to get their name in the binder.

That’s exactly how we give rise to new political parties too. If you think about the Tea Party, it was not a majority vote that has bothered them to succeed. It was the loud minority and gathering enough of those minority voices together to impact who got elected, which is amazing in a way. Especially in this political climb where we have polarizing space, it was seen forever as one or other, and that’s it. I think we’re proving that isn’t necessarily always the case. There are exceptions, and if you are able to grab hold with the arms of the people next to you that care about the same things, you can push for change. That’s the power of influence.

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Change To Grow: Be curious about people who have held a strong point of view on something and then changed their mind.

That’s right on. You can have a greater pool with people who are already somewhat in agreement with you. It is a harder lift to influence somebody who is opposed to you. Imagine everyone’s carrying around a pen, and what that pen represents is everything they’ve ever deeply believed and held to be true in this world. Let’s say you think that climate change matters that lives in this pen. Maybe if you’re a scientist, you’ve held this pen for a long time.

Everybody’s got a pen they’re carrying around with them that carries all of their views. You can see my pen has a shape. It has a color. There’s a lot going on with this pen, and you also have a pen. If your pen looks like my pen, we’re already close to being able to influence each other. We can communicate with each other about the stuff that we agree with, and we will feel like we are in unison with each other. It builds trust.

It makes us feel like we’re on the same page, so if I bring something to your attention, that’s like, “You should think about getting a pen that’s a push-button top instead of a lid.” You’re like, “That’s interesting because that’s not so far from what I already have,” but if I come at you and I’ve got this giant paint bucket, and that’s my version of a pen that I’m carrying that around with me, and you’re like, “I’m a little pen person,” I’ll be like, “You got to think about big paint.”

All of a sudden, we’re a little bit opposed. We’re not on the same page anymore. When I teach influence, the goal is before you start waving your pen around and preaching all of the amazingness of your pen, you should get to know the other person’s pen, so to speak. I don’t use a pen as an analogy when I’m teaching, but it seems pertinent at the moment because people have it.

Everything’s an offer you can take and use, and that is that principle. If I get to know what you care about if I understand your fears, your motivations, and what you’re driving towards and running away from. When I talk to you about my persuasion proposition or the thing that I care about, I know what I’m talking about, because otherwise, I’m just shouting my views into a vacuum and waiting for someone to react. As we’ve seen, social media has demonstrated this for us very well. When you shout into a vacuum and wait for someone to react, the reaction is quite often negative.

If we want to have these conversations about the things that matter to us or if we want to inspire people to change their views who have diametrically opposed views, we don’t want to waste our time screaming into the void about what we think matters most. We want to get to know what matters to other people first and foremost, and then one of two things might happen.

We should separate the language of discomfort from the language of challenge.

You’d be like, “Maybe I’m changed. Maybe I learned something that shifts my perspective, and maybe that’s okay, but also, maybe in learning about your view.” I now know what part of my perspective is aligned with your point of view, which is a little bit different. It’s going to give me clues about how to bring up those differences and bring them to your attention and help you get curious about me in the way that I’ve been curious about you.

You brought up social media. I’m connected to many people with different political ideals than my own, and I pride myself on being able to maintain those friendships largely because I’m able to see past the rhetoric. I think it gets challenging for people, particularly when they have ideas that are opposite someone else’s. Masking is a big issue for people on both sides of the aisle right now. It creates, I think, more separation when in a way, I especially think now it’s important that we come together. I wonder, if you had one piece of advice to give people about their actions online and in social spaces, what might it be?

Here’s my favorite piece of advice on this. My favorite piece of wisdom on this is to pay attention to what you’re assuming. Get curious about your own assumptions, and ask yourself not if your assumptions are right or wrong. That’s a super unimportant question when you’re interacting with other people. Also, assuming there’s a right or wrong. Ask yourself this question instead, “Is the assumption that I’m making right now about the person’s point of view helpful?” That’s it.

You can make useful assumptions, and you can make unhelpful assumptions, and if you don’t make a conscious choice when you’re in opposition to somebody to make a useful assumption, your brain will default to you. Your brain is like, “Danger. We’re not on the same page. Cannot trust. Must unfriend.” Ask yourself, “Is the assumption that I’m making useful?” I’ll give you some examples of useful assumptions when you’re in opposition with somebody. They’re going to be useful when you’re in agreement with people too, but we don’t need as much help there.

It’s when you’re in opposition to something that you need that help. Here’s a useful assumption. It’s assuming that person has formed their perspective based on something that makes sense to them, that they have some logic or some reasoning at play, and that their values are at stake if it’s something deeply held that they have a great to them reason for choosing what they’ve chosen. That’s a helpful assumption as opposed to what I’ve heard a lot of people assuming about people with an opposing view, which is that they’re an idiot or uninformed. They’re not up on the latest science, which I hear from both sides of the aisle.

They claim ignorance. They’re like, “You’re ignorant. You haven’t read the science. Where are you getting your news? That’s not what my news says.”

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Change To Grow: Take time to thank the moment for what it can give you.

They have the wrong information. The reason that’s not helpful is because then even from a benevolent place, and then they can go like, “Poor dears. They don’t have the right information. I’ll send them the right information.” Assuming that somebody has a great to them reason for doing the things they’re doing, it gives you a direction to point that conversation in a genuine way, because the other thing that happens that causes that deep polarization is people will say, “I’m just trying to understand your perspective,” when they’re not. If you’re going to ask to understand someone’s perspective, it’s helpful to have that assumption in the back of your head that they have a good for them reason for choosing that, because then when you’re curious, you can be curious. “I’d like to understand how you came to this decision,” and mean that.

Let’s talk for a moment about your podcast. I’d love to know from your point of view how it’s working to create positive change for people.

I have to be honest. I don’t know if it is creating positive change for people. I would be 100% in assumption territory if I were to make a claim like that. What I can tell you is that those who have come on to the show as guests have expressed that the conversations that we have had have been very helpful to them because they’ve gotten to think about the topic in a different way than they were thinking about. They got to tap into stories in a different way than they remembered them. It has been helpful in that way, but I guess I should maybe back up because I don’t know if your readers will have heard my show. I’ll say a little bit about what the podcast is and what I’m doing there.

The Changed Podcast is an exploration of what do we mean when we use that word in the first place. We use the word change all the time in bajillion different contexts. We take for granted that we all know what we’re talking about. We talk about change as if it’s this like thing. We’re like, “Change is so hard,” or we dismiss it like it’s easy. We’re like, “I changed my socks this morning. That was a non-event.” It’s the same word. I wanted to invite people to come to share their stories with me of moments in their lives after they felt changed.

It’s these pivotal moments or fork in the road stories that we all have about things that happen to us, through us, or because of us, and I wanted to understand what do people think of when they think about change. How do they define it for themselves? What stories pop up? It came from that place of curiosity. My 50th episode goes out, and then I’m taking a little bit of a break, and then I’m coming back with a kid’s version.

I’ve explored this idea in a nice place. There’s a variety of stories and perspectives. I’m coming to the conclusion that change is hard and also easy. The only thing that we can say with any definitive truth is that we all go through a lot of change in a lot of different ways in the course of our paths, but what’s fun to think about is what would have happened if you’d taken the other fork or if that event had not happened. I think about a guest I had in the first season, Guillermo Martinez, who was the Head of Story on The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

You will encounter change in your everyday life because nothing that is living is stagnant.

He shared this story of how he went to go see a movie with his mom and went to the other movie theater. They used to always go to the one movie theater, and that particular day, they went to the other movie theater, and because of that, he connected with a person who had a roommate who was going to a film school outside of Puerto Rico, which is where he was living and where he grew up. He was like, “I could leave here and pursue my dreams,” and he did, and because of that, he made The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

I think about that story a lot. It’s a cool example of, “What if he had gone to that regular movie theater at the same one that they always want to? How would that story be different?” It’s an interesting, fun mind play area, I think, to think about those things. I think the question on my mind moving forward with The Changed Podcast is I am starting to get extremely curious about people who have changed their point of view on something, or people who have held a strong point of view on something and then changed their mind. I want to know about that. What changed your mind? I’m fascinated by that, so I think season three is going to be focused on that. That’s what I’m most curious about right now.

Many scientists will say it’s the constant state of being a scientist because you’re constantly changing your mind based on the information that you have at your fingertips. they go through a lot of that, but I also am curious if you’ll uncover something special from that perspective with young children who are experiencing shifting dynamics around them, and they might change their minds with more frequency because they’re less rigid. Their ideas are solidly formed, so it’s interesting.

It will be interesting. With this little miniseries I’m doing with kids, I think I’m going to cohost it with my stepdaughter. This should launch in the next couple of weeks. The cadence will be different. When it’s just me hosting, I’ll record a bunch at once and then release them as I go. With her, I think we’re going to record and release. It’ll be a little less regimented and scheduled so that she can learn the process as well and stay excited. I think I want to follow her lead a little bit and allow that to change how I think about the change show as well. It’s not as we age and get more rigid in our own thinking in general, but as adults, we tend to forget what it was like to be kids and how confident we were in our points of view as kids. I think collecting their perspectives will be a fascinating experience. I’m excited about that.

I think you’re going to have an incredible time. I look forward to listening to it. I think that there’ll be some incredible conversations. With my six-year-old, I have these incredible and intense sometimes conversations about his ideas of the world. It’s amazing to me, in some cases, how sure he is of something that is not true, and he won’t hear my perspective at all. I’m like, “I guess we’ll figure this out later.”

The Changed Podcast originated when my stepdaughter was little, and she wouldn’t wear pants. She was like, “Pants seem like the worst idea.” That was where this all started because I heard myself say the words to her, “I know change is hard,” and I’m like, “Am I giving her an unhelpful mantra to guide her through the rest of her life?” Approaching life as if change is hard because it’s a change is not helpful, because we will encounter a lot of changes, so having a more helpful mantra on anything matters, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t poisoning her future with that unhelpful mantra. That initial moment or conversation with her and my thinking in that moment was what led me down this path. That was my fork in the road to this podcast moment.

CMBB 64 | Change To Grow
Change To Grow: If we want to have a better world and not a bitter one, we have to take the time to have the difficult conversations with each other.

What would a more helpful way to talk about change be?

I think it’s great in general to separate the language of discomfort from the language of challenge. It’s not to say that change isn’t hard. Some changes are hard, but I think when we are saying they’re hard, I think what we’re saying is that it’s uncomfortable. Familiarity is comfortable. Unfamiliar territory feels exactly like that. It’s unfamiliar.

When I think about when we set out on a new path for ourselves to try and push ourselves to learn a new skill, for example, I often describe it as like “Here’s comfort town. I live down here in comfort town. This is where all the familiar stuff lives, or even the stuff I don’t like, but this is where I hang out all the time,” and then we set out on our path up towards this peak of discovery where we’re going to find our best selves, like how to crochet a sweater, have scuba diving skills, or whatever lives in the peak of discovery.

We set out from comfort town, and we head up the hill. This unfamiliar territory in between the peak of discovery, which we can see from comfort town, but we can’t get to, that’s the point at which we will head up into that territory and be like, “I didn’t pack enough snacks,” and go back or, “I don’t think I need to go to the peak of discovery today. I think there was a mistake. I’m going to go back into comfort town,” and even if we despise comfort town, we’re like, “Every day in comfort town is boring and sucks,” but we’ll hang out here because we’re afraid not of this, but of all of this unfamiliar territory. I think it’s fair to say that change is uncomfortable. Change helps us confront what’s unfamiliar, but change is. That’s the mantra that I use and this is a change.

What I will say, too, is I think a lot about language and the reality of a lot of leadership texts. They’ll say things like, “To find a leader or to find a leader, you want to hire somebody who seeks to struggle or who likes to struggle.” I don’t think people generally like to struggle. Even talking about it that way, the word struggle sounds very harsh, so if we think about it from a challenge perspective, a lot of people enjoy conquering challenges. I don’t think they think about it as a struggle. I think it’s a mindset that shifts when you think about things that way.

One of the things I’ve been reminded of, and this is by Paul Hawken and his work. He made a comment about life and every cell seeking to become two cells. When I thought about that, I thought, “This is a beautiful way to think about change.” Change is constant. It happens whether or not you want it to. Change can be positive or negative, but it is something that you will encounter in your everyday life because nothing that is living is stagnant. If we look at life as being something dynamic and ever-changing, then I think we can learn to embrace the things about change that bring us new opportunities, new perspectives, and new ways to see things.

CMBB 64 | Change To Grow

If we do that or if we can hold that at the center of our frame in our mindset, then I think our relationship to it shifts too, and that our experience living will be a more positive experience, generally speaking. That’s where my head has been, and I feel like I’m continually learning about change. It’s a different, more positive way to think about it so that I can adjust and be more stable and healthier in my daily life.

I’ll also say that a lot of times, we think about change in a reactionary way. We don’t think about change as often as I would imagine. When we’re thinking about leaving comfort town and heading up to the peak of discovery, we do that with some things, but when we’re talking about change, quite often what we’re talking about is being evicted from comfort town, and now, all of a sudden, we live in unfamiliar territory. “We didn’t choose to be here. I can’t see the peak anymore.”

The lack of choice is a big one when it comes to processing change. Something I got from Andrew Williams, who was a guest on, I think, the first season of my show, that changed my perspective on change was he brought up the point that even with positive change, there is a little bit of grief that needs to be tended to.

Even when it’s a change you’re excited about, there’s a little bit of grief that needs to be tended to, and maybe it doesn’t need a lot of attention, just a little bit. We certainly know that with being thrust into that uncomfortable territory when we didn’t choose it, there’s certainly grieving about leaving comfort town even if we hated it. Coming from an improv background, I didn’t use to say have a helpful mantra. I used to say have a positive mantra.

I was really of this, like, “Think about what you want in the future and move in that direction. Be open to what shows up and then move in that direction if you want.” It’s not the worst advice, but like most of us, I wanted to breeze past this piece where we have to feel our feelings a little bit and learn from them. Let them be teachers for us. Now, when I work with clients, who come to me specifically, and when I say clients, I’m talking about the coaching side of my business, if they’re coming to me maybe in a career change like they’re leaving a job and moving into another job, there is in fact, a grieving process that needs to be in place when you’re leaving a career and moving into a new career, or leaving a company and moving to a new company.

When I talk about grief, what I don’t mean is don’t roll on the ground and cry. Unless you need a little bit of that, then give yourself room for it, but what I mean is specifically let the transition be your teacher. Take time to thank the moment for what it can give you, to thank yourself for what you poured into something, to catalog the lessons that you have learned, and what you are grateful for, and what you will not miss along the way before you start thinking about, “I want this, and I’m going to want one of these. I need some of that.” It’s taking that moment to process where you are.

CMBB 64 | Change To Grow

I think that’s good advice for anybody. I’ve worked many years for Nordic Naturals building that brand. I described for him something that I would go through after every major event that we hosted. It was like clockwork. After every major event, like the biggest trade show we’d done or a giant education conference, something along those lines, I would always feel deflated right on the heels of it. I didn’t understand why at first. I remember we were having a beer after a show, and I was like, “I get to this spot where now that it’s in the rear-view mirror, I feel low.” He said, “What you’re describing is grief.”

There were a few moments in my working life with him where I was like, “This is true,” and it hit me in a way that enabled me from that point forward to prepare for it a little differently and to acknowledge it instead of as something that was like, “I feel low, I feel depressed,” as, “I’m going to respect this moment. I’m going to look back at everything we accomplished and let out this sigh of whatever it was, like relief, letting go, expectations that may not have been fulfilled exactly as I wanted them, or perhaps even the things that were bigger than I expected.”

It’s to be able to acknowledge them in a different way because I was now aware of what the emotion was that I named it. It changed things for me, so I love that. I enjoyed this conversation. I’d love to know if there are any questions that you wish I had asked that perhaps I hadn’t, or if you have a closing thought you’d like to leave our audience with.

I spent the first part of 2021 giving away this reason in an outraged world workshops. I was giving them away for whoever would show up instead of trying to sell them to a Fortune 500 company. I was like, “Anybody who wants it, come get this content.” I did that because we are all experiencing rapid and profound amounts of change in our lives. What happens when that happens is for many of us, we experience fear of this unfamiliar territory. Are we going to make it to the peak of discovery? Are we going to plunge over the edge into the pit of despair? We don’t know what’s going to happen to us, and when fear becomes a factor for people, logic flies out the window.

I’m not giving those workshops away for free at the moment. I have a lot of other plates spinning, and I can only spin so many plates at any given time. The principles behind it are really important to me, which is if we want to have a better world and not a bitter one, we have to take the time to have difficult conversations with each other well. We have to do it with grace. We have to stop trying to change each other’s minds and start trying to find solutions together. Just because we seem to oppose each other, it does not make us enemies. If I could impart one piece of wisdom to everybody out there right now, it would be that.

It’s to be patient with yourself and with the people around you. Everyone’s doing the best we can with the limited resources we have onboard in our brains, in our training, in our hearts, and in our fears. Keep breathing. Keep taking time to practice curiosity, and as much as you can, choose helpful assumptions over unhelpful assumptions. We’re all going to assume something one way or another, so you might as well assume something that helps.

Are there any other ways that you’d like to encourage our audience to reach out to you if they’d like to collaborate or they’re curious to learn more?

Yes. I said I wasn’t giving that stuff away, but I’m like, “Learn from me and do these things. If it’s resonant, then that’s great.” Now, the place that I’ve been hanging out most often is an app that’s about to launch called Wisdom. I’m one of the top mentors on Wisdom. The app itself is filled with really knowledgeable and amazing people who have a lot to share, teach, and inspire. Not everyone can afford one-on-one coaching from somebody who’s doing corporate training at this level. They don’t necessarily have the time to enroll in a course.

On this Wisdom app, there are short little talks in there and tons of other stuff. I don’t know when that app is going to officially launch to the public, but I think it’s in the next few weeks. That would be a great place to find me. I’m at Art of Change on the Wisdom app. That’s a great place to have a little bit more organized thinking and participate in some conversations around some of these topics.

I’ll look to find you there too. Thanks for joining me on this episode. This has been a lot of fun.

Thank you for inviting me to come to chat with you. This has been a nice opportunity to get to talk about some of the stuff I care about, so thank you for that gift.

Thank you. I’d like to invite all of you to act. You can check out Aden’s website. You can connect with me and also visit There is that great tool for you. It’s a simple action pack to get you to be a more effective and impactful individual if you’re looking to be an activist. All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll receive that at no cost. It’s our gift to you for joining the community.

I’d love for you to share this show with others in your community that you think could benefit from it. Send me a note on my website, or you can even leave me a voicemail by clicking that little microphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Thank you, now and always, for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more, and we can be better. Thank you.


  • Aden Nepom

    Aden Nepom is a pragmatic and playful advisor on communication and change. She’s a TEDx speaker, a Senior Facilitator at On Your Feet Improvisation for Business, President at the Art of Change Skills for Life and host of The Changed Podcast. Aden is also an award winning performer and has taught and performed improv theatre skills around the world. Sheworks with passionate leaders who want to positively impact their work, teams, and organizations. She helps her clients develop powerful, flexible, and sometimes (gasp!) fun communication skills that build massive trust, increase motivation, and increase your influence up, down and sideways.

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