Fairweather magazine’s publisher, Alexandra Fairweather, sat down with leading work/lifestylist Samantha Ettus in East Hampton to get the scoop on how we can aspire to more than just a “balance” between our professional and personal lives.
Known for coaching celebrities, top CEOs, and professional athletes who aspire to perform at their highest levels in their professional and personal lives, Samatha Ettus is a best selling author of four Random House books, a writer for Forbes, and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Working Moms Lifestyle. She is often seen making regular television appearances on Access Hollywood, The Today Show, and Fox News, and is a sought after speaker across the country at colleges, corporations and conferences. As a wife and mother of three, Ettus shared with us a little advice on how to find something most of us are seeking, work-life happiness.
“I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. But I always woke up in the middle of the night with ideas. I was seeing holes that weren’t filled and wanting to fill them,” explains Ettus. “The first thing I saw was that CEOs had a spark that went beyond their job titles. I was fascinated with those CEOs who had those sparks, so I decided to launch a talent agency for personal brands.” In 2001, Ettus launched the first-ever personal branding agency, Ettus Media Management. “I’ve always cared a lot about branding. I am very good at naming things, I named my husband’s company, and I name my friends’ companies, just for fun, it’s a hobby for me. I have this game with my kids, so I’ll name something like a chocolate store and all of my kids have to come up with a name of a store,” laughs Ettus.
When structuring a brand, Ettus explains, it is important to not only tell your life’s story, but to tell it in the right way. “I do this speech and I’ll tell my own story in a negative way and here is the same story told again. People don’t realize how much their story really matters. You need to look back as a reel and connect the dots. You never know when you are going to meet someone that is fascinating or is going to change your life.” In order to create your highlight reel, “You look back on your accomplishments. That goes on your highlight reel. You always need to expand the vision of what can go on that highlight reel.”
After working with hundreds of CEOs and experts, Ettus decided to write her first book, The Experts’ Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do. “There were a lot of experts and CEOs that I wanted to work with but they couldn’t afford me, so I came up with this idea for a book series, and the idea was I could get all of these experts into my book. I created this cliff notes for life. Putting the book together made me realize I could get to anyone. I had a 100 experts in a book and they all wrote a chapter,” explains Ettus. “Growing up, I never learned how to set a perfect table, or write a perfect note. I never had down time, so in many respects, it was a self-improvement project for me,” remarks Ettus. The book provides insights from accomplished individuals such as Larry King, Peggy Post, Bob Vila, Bobbi Brown, Bobby Flay, Fikram Choudhury, Donald Trump, and Jennifer Capriati to name a few.
When reflecting on what Ettus learned from the book series, she realized, “everyone is accessible.” She continued, “It was justa matter of perseverance.” But she warns, “Don’t ask for things when you don’t feel good about yourself, since there is a lot of rejection with putting yourself out there.”
Ettus’s book became a bestseller, prompting her to close her firm and go on a 23-city book tour. She then got three more book deals with Random House and published The Experts’ Guide to Life at Home, The Experts’ Guide to Doing Things Fast- er, and The Experts’ Guide to the Baby Years.
“I was on a personal branding path and launched my books and quickly realized that you couldn’t talk to women about their careers without talking to them about their lives and how they were integrating work and life, their work and family life, and so many of them were overwhelmed. I also noticed that the happiest women that I knew were women that had a career and family, so how could that be broadcasted in terms of what they were doing right?
“I don’t understand why having it all has ever been a marker for anyone. Jennifer Anniston doesn’t have it all. Barack Obama doesn’t have it all. We can’t mention one person that does have it all, so why are all of these women aspiring to it or even asking can you do it? No- body can and that’s the only answer and the other traditional work/ life balance markers that concerned me was juggling.” Ettus points out that when you google “working mom” and you look at the images, you will see a woman in a suit with a baby, juggling and looking miserable. “Juggling is not a good marker,” asserts Ettus.
“Most women do not have control over their time, so beating themselves up just ends up zapping their energy at work and at home. When you are at work, you are still a mom. You are not only a mom when you are with your children. Somewhere along the way we got confused with women thinking we have to be with our kids to be a good mom and that’s simply not true, and when you are at work, you are protecting your kids financially, and when you are with them you are physically protecting them,” explains Ettus.
Ettus realized that by making significant but simple work/lifestyle changes, women could maximize their career potential but also find greater happiness in their lives.
She suggests, “Instead of evaluating your- self on hours you can’t change, you should view your life as a pie, it’s a fully baked pie, and look and say where is my time going and percentage wise, cut your pie. Maybe it is going for your career, romance, your friend or your kids and look at it honestly. I may be able to make small tweaks, so what can I do to make each slice better, so it’s about really making goals.” When hosting her radio show, Ettus often receives calls from mothers that explain that they feel so guilty that they work 6 days a week and only get to see their kids one day. Her suggestion is to plan with your kids on Monday night what you will do on your day off; that way, your children will have all week to feel excited and look forward to your day off on Sunday. “We didn’t change this person’s time, but we changed her relationship with her kids,” explains Ettus.
Ettus also points out how important it is for women to talk to their children about their careers positively and with enthusiasm. Ettus explains, “The way women talk about their careers is so huge for their kids, because the one thing is if you do have a career the amazing thing about it is you are a role model to your child and how you use that is really important.” She continues, “I remember a couple years ago I was talking about a logo for my new company with my husband and my daughter was in the room but she didn’t seem to be paying attention. She was 6 at the time. She came back into the room an hour later and she had sketched out 3 logos and one of them became the inspiration for my logo and I was so touched by it.”
Ettus explains how children are sponges and it is important to recognize the influence that parents have and that children learn from not only the stories we share with them, but the way we tell those stories. “We don’t realize how much our passion rubs off on kids and I think the mistake that someone would make is apologizing to their kids for their career. If you apologize for it and feel bad about it, your kids are going to feel bad about it.”
“Just be proud of what you do. The guilt thing is such a huge thing to me; it is such a wasted emotion. No one is benefiting. When you are at work, you have to give 100 percent. When you are with your kids, focus on them 100 percent.”
The baby years are often considered the hardest time of parenting, so “a lot of women I know will quit their jobs to be home during those years and unfortunately they can’t get back into the workforce when they want to, so if you are going to leave, don’t leave completely, go to part time, do consulting, but always stay in the game,” explains Ettus.
But, “the number-one thing for work-life happiness is picking the right partner.” Ettus continues, “If your partner doesn’t believe in your dreams you are never reaching your potential.” Ettus and her husband have worked successfully to be partners both in childcare and in their careers. When her husband launched his last company, he was working long hours and did not have time to see their young children. So the couple looked at his schedule and restructured it. While he faced resistance from venture capitalists when he decided to come home every day at 5:30 pm to have dinner with his family and then re- turn to conference calls at 8 pm, his company became a success and they showed how men and women can see their children every day and husband and wife need to co-parent together as a team.
“There is no way my husband would have thought to change it, but he knew something was wrong, “ Ettus shares. “I hear a lot of women making excuses for their husbands. When there is only one breadwinner, usually the schedule is tilted in one direction.”
When asked what Ettus would like to share with the world, she reflects, “I really believe that every person has a fire within them and whatever you do, whatever it is, the smallest job, do it enthusiastically or else don’t do it at all. Sometimes we get so caught up in careers that we are in that moment where we aren’t in the job we want; everything is a stepping stone and every contact you make in any position you are in is someone that might be a part of your future. If you do anything enthusiastically, you will get noticed.”
Currently, Ettus is working on The Experts’ Guide for Women, de- tailing everything from how to choose the right bra, to how to find true love, to making romance last and managing your finances. To learn more, visit samanthaettus.com.