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Ep. 47 – Danielle Hughes – Personality Brand & Cadence

In episode 47, Danielle Hughes shares thoughts on aligning our personal and professional personas to create cadence and build a personality brand. She explains how taking ownership of your story and who you are, will level up your productivity and relationship building opportunities. She also talks about learning to be courageous in your vulnerability. Plus so much more!

Show Notes Links:

Full episode transcript below, and find out more about Danielle Hughes and her new copywriting coaching programme coming in October via these links. 

Creating Cadence Podcast Transcript – Episode 47

[00:00:00] Mich Bondesio:

Hi and welcome to Creating Cadence, a podcast for life and work in motion. I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a writer, coach consultant and solo entrepreneur. I’m also the author of The Cadence Effect. 

I help high achievers stuck on the toxic treadmill of hustle culture, and the hamster wheel of overwork to transform how they approach life, work and business. 

So they can activate more of their potential and perform better in every part of their life. At a cadence that’s more suitable to them. Despite this fast paced world we live in. 

This is episode 47, the third episode of season eight, published in September, 2023.

Note: This interview was done in late August, but I’m recording the intro to this episode from Greece, where I’m currently remote working alongside having a little bit of a break. So bear with me. If the sound quality is not great. I’m having to contend with hotel noise, traffic noise, and sounds of the ocean on my doorstep. 

Here’s a recap of what we’re doing the season on the Creating Cadence Podcast.

In episode 45, I explained why I wrote my new book, which you can find at TheCadenceEffect.com. And I shared three specific concepts that are central to creating cadence. So you can experience more of the cadence affect yourself. 

In episode 46, I chatted with Trudi Roth, a meditation teacher, freelance writer, and marketer about the role meditation can play in creating cadence in our days, by helping us to be in our zone of creative genius and how creating deeper connections is linked to working with purpose. 

And on the subject of creating connection, in this episode, I get to speak with an equally dynamic lady who is a total badass at what she does, and someone who I’ve learned a lot from over the years. 

Danielle Hughes is Chief Personality Officer of her company, More Than Words Marketing.

She is also the creator of what she calls The Personality Brand.

She teaches clients how to bring more of themselves into their message, so they feel comfortable expressing it and can convey what makes them different from their competition, attracting the right audience and repelling the wrong one. 

Often referred to as a magician with words, while she can’t pull a rabbit out of her hat, she can hone your brand message, and deadlift you, or your employees. But not at the same time. That’s just irresponsible, according to Danielle. 

Note: Danielle is available for office party tricks and accepts payment in bottles of Bordeaux. 

In this interview, Danielle shares wise words about how taking ownership of your story and who you are, will level up your productivity and relationship building opportunities. She also talks about learning to be courageous in your vulnerability. And how in an age of AI, there was value to be found in focusing on “authentic interaction”, a different kind of AI, if you will. 

And if you’re currently experiencing the pain or discomfort that comes with empty nesting. I’m sure you’ll find this episode particularly relatable.

I share more of my thoughts on the topics raised by Danielle at the very end of this episode. And as you’ll hear, we have a good few chuckles along the way, too. 

So if you’re ready, let’s dive in. 

So welcome, Danielle. We’ve been talking about doing this since May, so I’m so pleased to finally have you here.

[00:03:23] Danielle Hughes:

Thank you. Is it just May? I feel like it, it feels like it’s forever but yes, I’m excited and also terrified that it’s already August, or Summer, or whenever it is. So, it’s crazy.

[00:03:36] Mich Bondesio:

I know. Alright, so to provide some context about how we know each other, you and I have been members of the Unemployable Initiative online community that was started by Brian Clark and Jerod Morris for, uh, quite a few years now. And we did a fun project a couple of years back in the community together.

And I’ve also engaged you since then, to work with me to help me improve my website copy. And then most recently, you helped me to refine the marketing copy for my book, The Cadence Effect, which came out earlier this year, and is one of the reasons for this season of the podcast.

[00:04:07] Danielle Hughes:

Yes, exactly. That’s exactly how I remember it. And we, I remember we did this fun project. I came up with this idea to do like interviews of other members in the Initiative so that we could all get to know each other. And I think it was like seven questions. And I don’t know if it was you interviewing me or me interviewing you, but I remember the first time we did hear, oh, I had my screen settings wrong. So, um, the entire interview was like literally just me and not you on the screen. And so had redo the whole thing.

[00:04:37] Mich Bondesio:

That’s right, we had to do two takes. It was lots of fun though. We we got to discover that we both have a fondness for red wine and Europe, living in Europe.

Okay. Okay So before we get to what you do as an exceptionally talented copywriter, speaker and marketing consultant, first I want to know a little bit more about you and your current context.

Where do you find yourself in your life at the moment, and how is that impacting on your wellbeing, creativity, and productivity? What are the positives you’re experiencing and what are the challenges of your current context?

[00:05:11] Danielle Hughes:

So I am three days away from becoming an empty nester.

My son is going off to college or university, if you are listening any place outside of the United States, and I’m having all the feelings about it. So it is 100% impacting everything about my emotions, my business, all of it. 

I think it’s one of these, it’s a very big unknown right now ’cause I don’t know how it’s gonna be as we progress in the next few months. ‘Cause you know, I’ve been so focused on ordering all the things and packing him up and getting him situated and trying to also, of course, like build my business and grow the empire as we like to say, at the same time and still have a social life and, you know. 

So I think there’s a lot of overwhelm for me, which I tend to thrive in, I think maybe temporarily, you might argue. I’m very good at compartmentalising, 

So for better or for worse, I tend to just do, do, do and then worry or feel later. So, I think the long answer is, I don’t know how it’s going to impact me, but I know that it is having a profound impact. And I also know that I have been in this mindset for the past, let’s say, six months of I will have more time when he leaves. And I think that that is utter BS frankly. I dunno if we can swear,

[00:06:47] Mich Bondesio:

Of course you can. 

[00:06:48] Danielle Hughes:

Okay, I think it’s bullshit! I think this is the story, like Brene Brown says, this is the story I’ve been telling myself that like, when he goes to school, I’ll have all this time and I’ll, like, my business will just miraculously fall into place and, and I just, I think I tend to stay busy so I don’t have to feel things.

And this is just a complete manifestation of that. So to put it in terms of the cadence effect, there’s not a lot of cadence happening right now,

I will say, I need to figure out what is that going to look like in the next few months, and there on, after.

[00:07:24] Mich Bondesio:

Interesting. So yeah, I wish you luck and a couple of people that I’m interviewing on the podcast are in a similar situation, and it’s interesting to hear how emotional it is and how overwhelming in a way it can be. It is really life changing. Um, so. In terms of cadence, when you aren’t dealing with something quite as heavy as this or challenging, talk us a little bit through your kind of day to day.

What, what is your wellness routine like? What’s your morning routine like? How do you set yourself up to work and be productive and be creative?

[00:07:53] Danielle Hughes:

Um, so my, my morning routine is pretty, strict or consistent, maybe consistent is a better word, not strict.

I mean, I wake up at 10 to seven every morning. I put on my workout clothes ’cause I go to the gym five days a week. I take an eight o’clock class. I do CrossFit and I’ve been doing CrossFit for almost 11 years, it’s the thing that saves me mentally, for sure, and physically. Um, and it’s a non-negotiable for me that I go for five days a week, typically, sometimes four.

So that is carved out of my schedule. Like you can’t get on my calendar before 10 o’clock in the morning. I wake up, I have my coffee. I play Wordle, like

[00:08:36] Mich Bondesio: Yeah. 

[00:08:37] Danielle Hughes:

Right? And so like I, and then I do Words with Friends, which is like a Scrabble game. Like I do a lot of like brain games first thing. And I tend to listen to podcasts throughout the day. So I will start with some sort of podcast. I check the weather, and I will do a quick email check.

So I’ll check my personal email to just see what’s going on in the news really quickly. And then I will do a quick business email check just so I can prepare myself for if anything that needs to be done, but I usually respond or do anything work related until I get back from working out. 

[00:09:12] Mich Bondesio: Hmm, I like that. 

I was going to say, I think that sounds quite similar to what my morning routine is in terms of I don’t start client work until 10 either. And occasionally I’ll do a little check-in with emails prior to that, but my morning is very much about setting myself up for the day. And it’s different for everybody in terms of what you choose to fill that time with.

But having that structure, I think is really beneficial. And as you say, you’ve been doing that for 11 years, so you are well entrenched in what you’re doing and you know, and you understand the benefits it has for you.

[00:09:41] Danielle Hughes:

Yes, it is 100% a cadence for sure, and I’ll, and like usually the night before, I’ll just check my calendar again. Just like, what, what meetings do I have? Do like this podcast? I was like, oh, I have a podcast tomorrow. Like, okay, so that means I gotta get home. I have to shower, I have to quickly have my breakfast and then, you know, figure out how to carve out time.

So, I think for me, I do really well when I manage my own expectations and I know what’s happening. I do not do well with uncertainty, so that’s why CrossFit’s really great for me as a workout routine, ’cause you can check the workout before you go. 

So, I already know what to expect. I’m mentally thinking about how I’m gonna attack the workout. I do well in things like that, and I think the same goes through my workday and just like knowing the meetings that I have. Although I will say my favourite thing in life is a cancelled meeting. 

I love when somebody’s like, I’m so sorry to do this, but I have to cancel. I’m like, great. Opens up on my calendar. And of course that has to do with me probably overscheduling myself.

I shouldn’t love a cancelled meeting. Right? I should more space in my day to do work, but that does not always happen and it’s, it’s actually rare.

[00:10:56] Mich Bondesio:

Well, it’s interesting that you say that I should have this and I shouldn’t be doing that, that is very much typical of a traditional work culture you know, we feel like we have to stuff everything in because that’s what we’ve been taught.

[00:11:09] Danielle Hughes: Yes.

[00:11:09] Mich Bondesio:

And you were saying, you know, having more time for work, but actually that time, that extra space that you have with a cancelled meeting is also a creative time to think and to just be, which as a creative person, as I understand where that, where that need is So very interesting. Thank you for sharing so deeply. I appreciate it.

[00:11:29] Danielle Hughes:

Yeah, no, of course. And I think a lot of my, ’cause I mean I do some writing still, but I’m really focused on business development around workshops and speaking,

And so, I think for me, a lot of the space that I create now is either in thinking about who I want to reach out to or framing in my head or jotting down notes about pitches that I might have, and things like that, that are fostering kind of, you know, the next, the 2.0 of my business or 3.0 or whatever we wanna call it.

[00:12:02] Mich Bondesio:

Of course, of course. Um, all of those things need the thinking space and the creative space to develop as well.

So talking more about work, you help entrepreneurs and also employees to own and embody their personality brand and their message so they can feel more comfortable expressing what makes them and their companies different from their competition.

And I’m interested to know, how does that differ if you’re working with entrepreneurs or working with employees, or is it a very similar approach in terms of helping them develop their personality brand?

[00:12:31] Danielle Hughes:

I think it’s a similar approach. The beauty of how I define personality brand is you are in control of how you want to show up. And so everybody has a different level and a different scale about what they feel they want to bring into their messaging, as a professional in the workplace, whether you have your own company or whether you work for someone. And it’s really about finding the way that you want to show up, that’s going to showcase your value.

So whether that’s a value to your manager and your team, or a value to your potential clients and customers. And then again, like adding that human connection so that there is more of a relationship that you can be fostering. And it’s not just about your skills and the work you do, but about how you think and what you enjoy and how you relate and how you approach your work.

And I think those are the pieces that we’re connecting on.

[00:13:29] Mich Bondesio:

I love that. I mean, connection’s such a big thing, and that relatability that you’re talking about creating through people being able to share more about what makes them “them”, and helps them do the best that they can do. So, from the perspective of cadence, how does that apply in the context of the work that you do to support and help your clients?

How does what you do help them to be better at their wellbeing or their productivity, or doing better at what they do?

[00:13:55] Danielle Hughes:

You know, it’s so funny ’cause I think if you had asked me this a couple of year’s ago, I don’t know that I would’ve had the answer or I would’ve thought that there was a direct correlation between what I do maybe and wellbeing or how they show up. 

But I have seen such a transformation in how somebody feels about themself when they realise that they can stop putting on airs, or hiding who they are, or pretending to be something they’re not. And bring a little bit more of themselves into the workplace and how that changes their body language , their mental health, ’cause… if you are constantly thinking about, I can’t say this. I can’t show this. What will they say? Who will judge me? It’s exhausting and you cannot do your best work if you are constantly wearing a cloak and pretending to do something or thinking that you can’t behave as you are. 

And when you can show up as your genuine self and form those real connections, that’s where you thrive. And I have seen it. You know, I always joke that I was my first client, I was also resistant. I didn’t wanna bring any of myself into my professional space, which no one can believe now that knows me, but it’s the truth. So it’s, it’s just transformative. 

You feel like you take ownership of your story and you take ownership of who you are, and it just changes everything about the level of productivity that someone would have, the level of relationship building, how they interact. It, it’s truly, it’s insane that just this small tweak can lead to this huge impact.

[00:15:42] Mich Bondesio:

I agree, and I think you’ve put that so beautifully and it’s very powerful. People don’t realise that the impact of when we feel we have to be a certain way and we can’t align our identity and our values with how we show ourselves in the world and how we show up at work and the work that we do, it creates a lot of friction and that friction causes stress. And that stress, if it keeps going on, leads to burnout. So you are absolutely a hundred percent correct and this is all about intentional productivity, which is what I talk about in the book. It’s all these little things that add up to make us better and help us craft a more meaningful life that is more aligned inside and out.

And I love the way you’ve put that. Thank you so much.

[00:16:20] Danielle Hughes:

Yeah. Thank you.

[00:16:21] Mich Bondesio:

So, are there any words of advice or key learnings or suggestions that you might want to share with our listeners based on your experience?

[00:16:30] Danielle Hughes:

With cadence or just my experience in general, or both.

[00:16:34] Mich Bondesio:

Both, go ahead. Wherever this takes you.

[00:16:37] Danielle Hughes:

I mean, my first piece of advice is to believe that you will not only be accepted, but that you will thrive if you actually can really bring more of who you are into your professional space, whatever that looks like.

There’s so much fear, I think that holds us back from being vulnerable, from sharing something about our lives. And it’s amazing to me that the minute you share something with someone else thinking that they are going to judge you, it actually becomes a point of connection and relatability. And it’s 100% the opposite.

Um. I’ve seen it with everyone that I know who’s like, I put out a post that was so vulnerable and it’s the most engaged post I’ve ever had. Or we are, everybody is looking for more “real”, especially in the age of AI, right? I talk about “we don’t need artificial intelligence, we need authentic interaction”.

And, I think that that is what we are all desperately seeking. So my first step is really just realise that the fear is holding you back. And if you can take a baby step and even from a perspective of words, put something at the end of your LinkedIn headline that just says something fun that you love to do, and just leave it there for a little while. And then you might want to add a little more and add a little more, but that’s like a baby step.

[00:18:08] Mich Bondesio:

I think that’s fantastic advice. And before we end, I’ve got one more question for you, but I also wanted to say, you posted recently a really great blog post around “are you a store brand or a brand name”, I will share that link in the show notes, because I think it’s a really great starting point as well for people to think about how they actually want to show up and what type of value they want to convey in terms of how they show up.

So my final question to you, Danielle, is in a few words, or in a sentence or two, what does “creating cadence” mean to you?

[00:18:39] Danielle Hughes:

Um, mean, you know, we were talking about this earlier and it’s, it’s such a question for, you could ask me today, you could ask me next week, you could ask me a month from now, and I might have a completely different answer every single time.

So, I think for me right now, just based on where I am in my life, creating cadence for me, I think finally feels like putting myself first as much as you can do that as a parent. You know, my whole life I’ve been taking care of another person, and always prioritising their wellbeing, and while that will always be part of it, I think this is the first time in my life that I have only myself to really take care of.

So the cadence is gonna be, what do I want that to look like for me? And, you know, this is a work in progress and a TBD ( to be decided). But it is much more like, okay, what is Danielle’s life going to look like for the next, you know, months, years, et cetera, versus what is the mom portion of my life going to look like?

I think a wise person named Mich once said, don’t fill your free time with work. So I think about that a lot because I, and not, and I’m pretty good about boundaries. I’m pretty good about ending my workday at a certain time, starting it at a certain time. But really trying to make space for learning more about myself and discovering more about me, and realising that that could then open the door to so many other things that I just don’t even know are out there.

[00:20:10] Mich Bondesio:

I agree. It’s gonna be an adventure for you and something to be curious about. I think that’s a good way to approach it and I wish you luck with this next stage.

[00:20:17] Danielle Hughes:

Thank you.

[00:20:18] Mich Bondesio:

So, where can people find you online and do you have anything interesting coming up or do you want to point them in any particular direction?

[00:20:26] Danielle Hughes:

So they can find me online at MoreThanWordsCopy.com.

You can also find me on LinkedIn at Danielle Hughes. Those are kind of the two places that I hang out.

And I would say if you want to sign up for my newsletter, it goes out every other Friday. And that would be the Star brand or the brand name. And, my newsletter is more what does Anne Handley say? More letter than news, more news than letter, one of them. It’s like, it’s, you know, more like a blog post than a newsletter, but you will always get some kind of thing to think about, I hope or marinate over. 

And what’s coming up. I mean, I am about to kick off a second cohort of my Consistent Content That Kicks Ass, which is a six-month program that’s going to get you in the habit of consistently creating content and feeling comfortable with it, and finding your voice and connecting with your audience. And it’s everything from nurture sequences to lead magnets, to posting on social, to creating your newsletter. And it’s awesome. So if you’re interested, you can just come to my website and shoot me an email and I will give you more info.

[00:21:38] Mich Bondesio:

Absolutely. That sounds fantastic, and we’ll share more about that in the show notes too.

[00:21:41] Danielle Hughes:

Thank you.

[00:21:42] Mich Bondesio:

Danielle, thanks so much for your time. I’ve really enjoyed having this conversation with you.

[00:21:45] Danielle Hughes:

Me too, Mich. Thank you.

[00:21:48] Mich Bondesio:

So lots of valuable takeaways from Danielle in this thoroughly enjoyable chat. Here’s a few thoughts on things that stuck out for me in particular. 

Regarding becoming an empty-nester, Danielle mentioned that feeling that she will have more time to do more work once her son has left for college. And it’s common for us to feel that we will have more time to get more done, once something particular happens. But our sense of time is often warped when it comes to what we think we can achieve later on. And the reality is that we end up finding there is never enough spare time later, as something will always end up filling that future space that you think you may have. 

So if something is important enough to you that you really want to get it done, try to make time for it now. Schedule it in. 

The second important point around empty nesting is that if you do find you have all this free time now that was previously occupied, do you really want to be filling it with extra work? 

As the author Brad Stulberg points out, it’s important to have several rooms in the house of our identity, because these rooms help to make us a more rounded and grounded person. And if we fill all our spare time just with work, that means we’re focusing on just one room. And we limit our opportunities for fun, joy, and growth in the other rooms of our house. 

Another important point that came from this conversation was creating cadence through setting boundaries around consistent routines. Danielle has a set morning routine where she links certain habits together. For example, she plays Wordle and other brain games whilst enjoying her morning coffee. She also has an incredible streak of 11 years of going to CrossFit five times per week. It’s become a non-negotiable, a default behaviour for her. 

To ensure that she’s able to enjoy these morning routines, she sets a very clear boundary for the start of her workday, which only begins at 10:00 AM. This enables her to do all the activities that support her health and wellbeing. They are also the pre-work that helps her to be more productive when she is doing her client work. Danielle also mentions planning her day tomorrow at the end of today. So she is mentally prepared for what lies ahead, when she does start her day at 10:00 AM the next day. 

Now you may not have the time for a three hour morning routine. That’s totally up to you. Routines should be elastic. They should fit with the needs and wants of your day. And for Danielle, what she’s realised over the years is that this is a non-negotiable for her. It’s what sets her up so that she can work at her best. So think about what helps you set yourself up so that you can work at your best every day. 

Danielle also talks about making time for creative space and how for her, cancelled meetings end up creating a wonderful, unexpected opportunity for creative thinking. 

You know, our work culture dictates that we try and stuff every minute of work, full of work. So think about how you can work on making this type of buffer space, the norm in your workday. 

Creating cadence is also about creating alignment around your public persona and your private persona. Feeling comfortable with who you are in every facet of your life and work makes you more relatable in your business. Now, “authenticity” is an overused word, but as Danielle mentions, from a business perspective, taking ownership of your story and who you are, can be a key differentiator in your positioning, and it also changes your level of productivity and your relationship building ability. Creating this alignment between your inside and outside identity is really important too, from a mental health perspective. 

So a few things before you go. Coming in early 2024, I’m launching a new coaching cohort to help overworked solo entrepreneurs, founders, consultants and freelancers to transform the way that they work, with intentionally productive habits that help them to do more purposeful work and craft a more meaningful life. 

If this sounds like you, I’ll be announcing further details about this later in the season. And my cadence newsletter subscribers will get first dibs. So head to creatingcadence.co/subscribe if you want to hear about this first and you’re not already on the list. 

You can find out more about my new book at TheCadenceEffect.com. If you’ve already purchased it and found it helpful, please leave a review because it helps the book to get found by those who need it. . If you like the show, please share the love by rating it on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, or Amazon Music or supporting Creating Cadence, all one word, on Patreon, or BuyMeACoffee

Thanks again for listening. 

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