When is the last time you set aside all your work, went outside, and played in the grass? Or sung at the top of your lungs? Or done something else purely because it's fun? Today's interview with Nona Jordan — transformational coach, teacher, and author — dives deep into the idea that pleasure and play are not only essential for our happiness and wellbeing but for the quality of our work, as well.
Nona helps women in the healing, helping, and creative professions to build a strong internal foundation so that they can change the world. In this fun yet profound episode, Nona and I talk about why play is a critical component of self-expression and how experiencing pleasure can help you step into your full potential as a speaker. We also discuss community, how to speak truthfully even when it's uncomfortable, and the benefits (and struggles) of integrating pleasure and play into your everyday life.
You are listening to the Beyond Applause
Podcast, Episode Number 23.
Welcome to Beyond Applause , a podcast for mission driven leaders, coaches, and creatives who are ready to share their expertise and stories through public speaking. Here's your host, Michelle Barry Franco.Hello my speaker friends. What an absolute delight this conversation was with Nona Jordan. I mean, I knew it would be delightful because we were talking about pleasure and play, both sort of inherently delightful topics. Really it's an interplay of those two topics. What I couldn't anticipate, was really how deep and rich the conversation would be around how pleasure and play interplay with our own self-expression, and really what gets in the way of that self-expression, and why it's so powerful and important for us as speakers and thought leaders out in the world, leaders out in the world in every domain, and really why it's so important for our own just well-being.
So, I just love the way the conversation flowed. We sort of dive deep on the elements of self-expression. Then we even talk about some of the ways that Nona gets out there and plays, which I definitely need because I forget how to play. I literally need a list of ideas. So, she shares some of those there, and it's allowed me to start creating my own list now. I hope you love this podcast, this conversation even half as much as I enjoyed having it with Nona.
Hello my speaker friends. I am so delighted to share this conversation with Nona Jordan with you today. Nona has been such a gift to me and my most authentic expression in really all areas of my life. She may not even know how much, as a matter of fact. So, it's just both from her example through her writings on her blog at NonaJordan.com, her Facebook posts, and then through her sharing with us in her School of Sacred Practice where I am proudly and happily a member.
I wanted to have this conversation with her to share with you, because Nona has invited me so gently yet insistently over and over again, because that seems to be what I need, to surrender to and enjoy two of the most powerful yet elusive gifts we are offered as humans, pleasure and play. I'm excited to dive in with Nona around these two birthrights, as she describes them, and how they can help us step into our greatest expression as speakers and really in every area of our lives.
Let me tell you a little bit about Nona before we dive into our conversation together. Nona Jordan is a transformational coach, teacher, and author. She supports women in the creative, healing, and helping professions who want to experience success that feels like success on all levels and that rarely, if ever, looks or feels the way that women believe it should. Nona inspires and empowers women to create a strong foundation from which to change the landscape of their own lives, their communities, and the world naturally amplifying the energy and the inspired action that creates soul level success. Gosh, I really love that.
You can learn more at NonaJordan.com. So, thank you so much, Nona, for being here and having this conversation with me.
Michelle, thank you so much for asking me. I am thrilled to be having this conversation. What kind words you said. I appreciate that. Thank you. I am taking it in. I'm receiving it.
Soak it up. It's all true. I could have said a lot more, but this conversation will be even better than whatever I could say in the intro. So, we'll show it. I'd love to start by talking about self-expression since it's, of course, at the heart of what those that are listening to the Beyond Applause Podcast are trying to do. I mean, it all comes down to what are we on this earth to say, and how do we say it in a way that both serves and takes good care of us.
I know that self-expression is also something you feel strong about or at least I've seen you write about it in a variety of ways. So, if you could just start by talking about what does self-expression mean to you, and why do you think it matters so much.
That is such a great place to start. I have to go back, way, way back, to start to answer that question. For me personally, being a child that grew up in the 70s, I was often in trouble for saying what I saw that was true, like things that were just obvious that I saw. I often was ashamed and just told I was wrong or I shouldn't talk about it. My grandmother called me the Town Crier. Whatever, that was kind of the time of my childhood and how people responded.
What I've found is that over the years I've really suppressed that. What I notice is that there are a lot of women who have so much to say who have such amazing gifts and just this innate healing, and power, and just beauty that they want to offer the world and they cannot say it. Oftentimes, it is rooted in that those old, old stories, that old conditioning that we receive about what it means to be a female, what it means to be … how to be successful, how to show up in the world. So, so much of my work with women has been about rewriting those stories to empower because I believe that all of those stories, all of the conditioning, all of the beliefs, all of the baggage that we carry with us has gold in it. It has something that the world needs.
So, that is why I am so passionate about that and really inviting people to say it even though it's scary, to practice expanding their capacity to say what's really true. That's certainly been a journey for me. It's come in layers and it's evolved, but we have to practice. We have to show up and practice doing that in order to deepen in our capacity to speak that kind of truth into the world.
Is that what you did at first? I know we went way back in order for you sort of start that evolution. I totally agree with you and can feel the truth in that for me in my own story too, this practice of sharing it. It would be I think really cool to talk about the ways that you have practiced self-expression, or women that you've worked with have practiced that have worked.
Many of us, I think especially if you're in the kind of coaching or sort of self-help or personal development realm, which a lot of people who are listening are, not all of them for sure, but even if the creative realm we sort of know … we can intellectually know what's blocking us. We can even sometimes sort of see that and then jump over it somehow. I agree with you, it takes some kind of practice of some kind, and maybe various kinds, that really helps us move past it so that it stops being such a barrier. Can you tell me what's worked for you or others?
Yeah, absolutely. I think a community for me has been super important. Having communities of women, people who are like-minded who are also committed to deepening in that and sharing your words and your truth in small circles first, that's one aspect and avenue. I also really, really just … I am such a believer in taking those tiny steps. I mean, all the good stuff is out beyond our comfort zone. So, I am always a big fan of just go right to that edge, not pushing yourself into terror, but going to that edge and walking with it.
We don't have to be free of fear. That's not the point. It's not to be free of fear, it's to be courageous in the face of our fear and building that capacity and ability. For me primarily, it has been … I've done a lot of writing. I've done a lot of blogging. I've been blogging for 12 years and have always felt compelled to share my own stories and my own experience as a springboard for other people to gain insight, and inspiration, and clarity on their own way forward.
That feels like such an integral part of my path, and it's always, always scary. If I'm doing it right, it's always scary. I've had friends be like, “Oh, well it's so easy for you.” I'm like, “I don't know what you're talking about. I have no idea what you're talking about.” Literally, it is every time I hit the publish button, it's like breathtaking for me.
Yeah. So, you have all those feelings and you just hit the publish button anyway?
Are you ever writing it and you're like, “I can't say this,” and you sort of, I don't know, shift what you're writing, thinking about it publicly? I wonder about that kind of, because some of your writing, and some of mine too, so I sort of know that process, but I do experience your writing as very deep and very generous is kind of the way I would describe it. It's like, “Here, let me share all this with you.” I have the sense of it being deep and possibly difficult, but you still push the publish button.
I do. I rarely go back and take anything out. I'm very clear on what I'm comfortable sharing and what I'm not comfortable sharing. Even the stuff I'm comfortable sharing is uncomfortable, but I do have sort of my lines of what is for me and me alone or for my intimate circle. I really committed when I started on this path of personal development. I knew that my voice and using my voice was going to be a really important part of my work. So, it has never felt like an option to just say, “I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to push publish today.”
I love that. It's so beautiful. I think it's probably resonating with a lot of people who are listening, this whole idea that you knew that your voice and really sharing your voice in this rich and vulnerable way was an important part of your work. That's such an interesting thing I feel like to know. I do feel like that's where some of my clients get stuck is …
In fact, many conversations with a potential new client will start with, “I have this story that I really want to tell that I feel like I'm supposed to tell, that I'm meant to tell, that I know will help so many people because I'm on the other side of something very difficult and hard that I had no idea what to do about at first. Now, I'm okay, but I can't tell it. So, what do I do? How do I tell it without hurting other people, or ruining my credibility, or just having all these people come back and tell me what an idiot I was, or whatever?”
There's just so many things that come up, and I think it really does stick people, people who know they're called to share it. So, is there anything that you do when you're up against one of those times where you're like, “Okay, I know this is part of it. This is where I'm supposed to use my voice to serve, and I'm struggling to say it.”?
Oh my gosh, yes. One of the things that I do, and this may be something that … I don't know. This may seem kind of fatalistic. I'll be like, “Okay, what's the very worst thing that could happen?” I just go there. I write it all down. Usually it's not nearly as bad as what I think. I'm like, “Well, okay. If I lost credibility with that one person that is my everyone, I'd probably be okay. Yeah, I'm going to be okay. If I make people angry, well that's their problem.”
Actually, what I've done sometimes with family members is I have actually told them beforehand, like, “I'm going to be telling this story.” That's another thing that I would say as well is that I really try and stay in my own lane. I'm not out to blame or pull other people into a story. If I have to reference something, I will, but I am very clear that I don't write about anything if I'm still super, duper angry about it or if I'm currently dealing with it, because I want it to be extremely clear in my writing that this is me and my process and I'm an adult. Whatever happened is for context, but me and my growth with this is all about the present moment.
It's not about what somebody did to me, even if I reference something that somebody did. I really don't want to hurt other people. I understand that hurt people hurt people, and I'm not hurt anymore. So, I don't want to hurt people. At the same time, I'm also not going to be shy about speaking the truth. If that upsets somebody, then they have an opportunity to come and talk to me or do their own work.
Yeah. I mean, that's the thing, oftentimes it's the only person who would know that you were writing about them is that person.
If you're writing in the way you're describing, or at least my version of the way you're describing, and this is often what I will tell the people that ask me this question is, “There's always a way to tell the story that doesn't reveal … ” you don't have to reveal any details, and you can still serve with this story. Also, I think … a big part of why I think storytelling is so powerful is it also helps heal us if we need to be healed. I have sort of a funny relationship with that word, but it sort of helps us release some of the things that might be blocking that sense of calm that's always living within us anyway.
So, sharing the story can just be that one little clearing. Then, yeah, maybe that person will go like, “I know you're talking about me.” Well, you're not telling everybody else. Nobody else knows, so there is … it still can be okay. You just might have an uncomfortable conversation with someone if they come say something to you about it.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Then it's really up to them. It's up to that person.
Yeah. So, I would love to hear … talk about, just kind of bring in … I was reading Surf Lessons again this morning and also thinking about the 16 or 29 times that you've mentioned play to me specifically but probably not just me. It's so dang true that it feels like a neon sign in my face every time I hear it. I really just want to talk about how, because you do bring it up as a theme a lot, just sort of enjoying life and really relishing in the pleasure that is available to us and our birthright all the time.
Yet, because we're so caught up in saying it right and maybe building a business, or trying to make our impact in the world, or building our career, that we just sort of think that we can play and enjoy pleasure when we're done with all this hard work. I hear you that that's actually an avenue, or a releasing portal, or something. So, talk to me about that.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). One of the things, and I talk about this in Surf Lessons, is that I am also … I struggle with play and pleasure, because I really enjoy working. I get a lot out of it. It is a natural place that I can succeed and have control, and I like it. It really works for me. It is naturally depleting. It is an outflow of energy. Let me speak for myself. So, what I found that I was doing as well, I will do the fun thing after everything else is done. I will do X, Y, and Z once I have 100 million dollars in the bank.
There were all these conditions, but it's all conditional. What that set up for me was this feeling of being just stuck in scarcity and poverty mindset. It was like, “Oh, I can't have what I really want until I'm done with everything that's for everybody else and for building my business.” So, it just started to feel really gross. I realized that actually if I were to play first, if I were to offer myself pleasure first, then in many ways what I was doing was affirming, like physically affirming through my actions that I was abundant, that I was successful, that I had everything that I want, because that's the story I'd been telling myself that I couldn't have any of it until I'd finished everything else, and everybody else was taken care of, and da-da-da-da.
So, as I started this experiment really of play, and pleasure, and really filling my own cup, what I found was really interesting. I found that when I had better ideas that my work flowed, that actually I was less likely to spend money out of a sense of feeling like I was going to miss out on something, or I was missing something, or I needed to fix something about myself. It had this sort of natural effect on my bank account. It also … I was just happier, because I was taking care of myself and as it relates to how I then show up and say it. I was operating from a fuller sense, from a thicker, what I call right now, topsoil.
When we grow a business, when we grow a life, we really want to be growing it in thick, rich, nutrient dense soil. If we are not filling our own cup, if we are not taking pleasure in play and building that topsoil, then we are not growing our finest material. We are not growing our finest life. So, I really got, one, how important it was. I will also say that, two, it was an enormous struggle. I want to say that because it's important to realize that … When you go into business for yourself or you decide you want to be a speaker, I think that you are taking on a herculean task of personal development.
Every single shadow that exists in you is going to come up, and you're going to have to face it. So, we get comfortable with that. We get comfortable with that idea, like, “Yeah, I can bring on the dragons, like bring it on.” The opposite is true as well. The opposite is true.
I decided to learn to surf, hence the book Surf Lessons. I remember going out one morning to surf. I knew it was going to be awesome. I love going out in the morning and surfing, going out as the sun's coming up. I was literally crying on the way to the beach because I was like, “I don't want to do it. I just want to go work. I just can't do this. This is so hard.” I was like, “This is insane. This is completely insane,” but it demonstrates that we also have the same thing happen with joy, with pleasure, with happiness, with abundance. Those also … we have to face that as well and be willing to break through our self-imposed limits around receiving the goodness of life.
I mean, I'm laughing because I totally identify. It is ridiculous. I guess I haven't really thought that much about it, but I'll do that around a massage for God sake, which is like one of my favorite things on the planet. I'll have a gift certificate so it's already handled, and I'm just like, “Yeah, I don't really want to go.” I don't even know where in the world that phrase can come from in my mind, because truly there are few things I love more than a massage. Anyway, I've never surfed so-
Yeah, but that becomes an opportunity like, “What am I denying here? Why am I denying myself this pleasure?” I am a serial like, “Okay, where's the meaning in this?” It was just so obvious to me that I had a self-imposed limit to the amount of joy and happiness that I could actually receive, that I was really good at mucking around in the hard stuff but the end stuff was like, “Oh my gosh, I just don't want to go there. Give me a development crisis. Just take something down, and I'm good.”
Then I know what to do.
Then I know what to do, but what do I with this resistance to my own joy? What do I do with that?
Yeah. It makes me think of two things. One is just sort of the, it's kind of embarrassing to bring up but it's true for me, and it might be true for other people listening, that it's sort of like, “Okay, so what do I do to play?” I mean, I don't live in Hawaii, so I must be stuck.
… There's that whole … Well, let's start with that. I want to talk about that, and I also want to hear what happened with the experiment. I don't know where those two play together. Maybe you'll give me some examples of … I know you've surfed. Were there other things that you want to highlight that you did that really stood out as a way that kind of opened that portal or did the nourishing on the other side of maybe doing hard … like when we were talking earlier before we started this recording just about how when we do something hard and pleasure and play on the other side of that is important too. What happened with the experiment? Give me some examples of how to play.
I love that and you're right, that is such a block for folks. I took on also dancing. I love to dance. I am not a good dance, and I love to dance. So, I really committed to a practice of going to Zumba classes when I … I also will turn up the music and I'll put 80s songs, and I will make my family sing with me. I mean, I love to go out in nature. For me, that is such a playful thing. I built nature crowns with my daughter one Solstice.
Yeah. Just doing what would be really fun. I don't that I can be the definitive answer to that. I've also done Shamanic painting, basically finger painting and looking for different animals and symbols within your finger painting that you do when you're kind of in a meditative state. That's really fun for me. I've explored a lot of different ways to play. What I will say is that I have a much greater capacity for joy. Without embarrassment either, because one of the other things is being a person who enjoys life can be a hard to spot to be in when you're in a culture that's like, “I'm working 90 hours a day. I'm so busy.”
That is the mark of success in our c
ulture. It can be really challenging to really own … I don't believe that's success. I want to actually feel good. I actually want to enjoy life. That is the point. Yes, I want to make a contribution, but I also want to have a life. That's why we're here. I remember really feeling very self-conscious about that part too. There were all these things that came up around it, and I'm now I'm pretty unapologetic about it, even with people I don't really know who are like, “Really, yeah, so you work at home and what?” “Yeah, I do, and it's okay. It's good. I love it.” They're confused, but that's okay. I think it plants seeds for people.
You mean even just the pleasure of being able to work from home is sort of a gift of making this choice.
Absolutely. Yes. People are like, “So, yeah, you work at home?” I'm like, “Yeah, I work pretty part-time because of my daughter and because I have other things that are interesting to me that I want to be doing with my life while we're here in Africa.” They're like, “Whoa, really? Why? I don't understand. Why don't you want to work all the time?”
Yeah, yeah. I get it … I'm definitely hearing. I want you to know that I'm hearing you that it's not all about work for sure, and-
It is all about work, it is. I'm not kidding, because still everything feeds work for me personally.
I guess I'm just like, “Okay, I love it. I love the idea of play.” I do not believe that of course everything that I do for play needs to directly impact my ROI, and I know that as I think about this and really the places where I've gotten stuck in my work, I am thinking about like, “How does play infuse there too?” I'm curious as you did this experiment, or maybe even now as you move in and out of more and less pleasure, it sounds like, because at times, like you've said, it's hard for you too, what do you notice shifts for you around your self-expression, your ability to say things, or just do your work overall?
Yeah. That's such a good question, because I find that when I get really hyper, hyper, hyper-focused on work and I don't give myself time for pleasure, and play, and moving a little bit slower than I would naturally move that I get really controlling and hyper-focused and tight. I don't know how else to describe it, but I get tight. I also think about my values and priorities. As many women who go into doing their own business because they have kids at home or for various reasons, my priority is being and raising a strong, confident daughter who knows that she is … that I'm lifting her up, I'm here for her.
When I get really locked onto my work, I can immediately tell because I see how I show up differently with my daughter because I'm hyper-focused, and what am I going to do next, and how am I going to hit this target, and da-da-da-da, and da-da-da-da. I get so hyper-focused on that, and I'm not playing and I'm just totally locked on. I can just feel it in her. She's like, “Where's my mom? Where is she?” I mean, she's a good litmus test. She's a good sort of canary for me, she's a great canary.
She really demonstrates to me when I'm out of alignment with my values.
Yeah. I'll notice my daughters will actually come into my office … I have an office at home, and I am relatively often in it when they're home because they come home from school and that kind of thing. They don't need my continuous attention. I go out, I make sure that they're eating something healthy, I check in, tell them to drink water, whatever, figure out what they're going to do next. I will notice that when I'm in one of these stretches where I'm really working a lot or I've been traveling a lot and then I work a lot after trying to catch up from travel, which is kind of where I'm at right now, they'll kind of linger into my office more.
My youngest will say things to me like, “Mom, isn't Saturday? Why are you working?” I'm like, “Well, because I have a lot to do.” What I want to say is, “Well, because I have a lot to do.” Really, it is just as you're describing. It's like, “Oh wait a minute, you're missing this, by the way. It is Saturday.” Again, not that there's anything inherently wrong with working on a Saturday. We all get to choose our schedules, but for me, I work the whole week. So, a lot of hours. Yeah, they are such a beautiful reminder.
They are. I just really find that I … I don't always play or experience pleasure with her, but she can feel it when I am not feeling myself in that way. When I am feeling scarce on time, when I am feeling depleted, she is a great mirror for that. She's definitely one of the flags like, “Oh, look Nona, you're doing your Capricorn thing. Aren't you adorable?”
Yeah. It is good. I really do often, when you say to me, “Play. Remember this idea of play and that this is available to you all the time and the idea of pleasure,” initially it is hard for me sometimes to think of what I like to do. I'm like, “Well, I've watched all the romantic comedies like six times each.” That's pretty much one of my favorites. “I've already walked to all these places,” whatever. I just come up with all this kind of resistance.
I will say, in some ways as a momma that when I go, “Oh, I should go be with them,” I do end up playing often just because it's kind of like, “Oh, what do you all want to do?” Maybe we'll end up going for a walk that I wouldn't have taken. So, that is a sort of helpful impetus for me. I love it that I'm carrying with me just this question right now, and it really is very much on my mind from our recent conversation, and I hope it will be for people who are listening, that there are so many different ways to play. I think really at the heart of it is the question like, “What brings you pleasure, and then how can you play in that domain really?” They're so sort of integrated.
Yeah. The other thing I would add to that too is that there's so much research that supports, especially physically activity, especially time in nature. These are things that are really heavily researched, and the benefit … Even if you can't possibly even conceive of playing just for the sake of enjoying your life right now, and I've been there. I am going to play, because it's going to make me better at my job. Okay, great. If that's where you have to go first, go there first.
There's so much evidence that it creates inspiration, that it helps with clear ideas and focus, it helps reduce stress. There's so much evidence. I would encourage people to go and experience it, like go try it out and see if it works for you. I personally really find that physical … I love kickboxing too. I love hitting things. It makes me so happy. I love to hike. I love to dance. Physical activity … That may not be it for everybody. Some people may do something that's a lot less physical, but for me personally, physicality is so important in my play, hence surfing.
For some people it's art. For some people it's music. Finding those avenues, especially ones that are a little bit risky and a little bit scary, surfing was like that for me. I was really scared to learn how to surf. I'm a middle-aged, slightly fluffy woman. Really? What am I doing? That too, pushing at those edges is also so good for us. It teaches us our capacity not only in our work but also in our lives, our ability to do things that are challenging and hard, but learning that in a fun way.
Yeah. I really love that. I think I'm definitely writing down my list of things like dancing. I love to dance. I do love to go outside, but I get kind of … I get a little tangled up with the whole … the need to exercise. Then my resistance comes up. So, just kind of thinking about … but I always feel better when I go for a walk, so where can I go for a walk where I don't have to sweat, it's not about that. It's about loving it, and enjoying it, and feeling that vastness that I always feel when I'm in nature.
Yeah. Those are just beautiful. I think this is exactly the perfect conversation to have about self-expression. I mean, I really do feel like pleasure and play, as much as I sort of forget it over and over again, are such a portal to that place in us that is always free to say what we want to say. I know it's there. I can tap into it when I remember it any time. I don't have to do any particular thing, but I do know that when I remember to do something that lights me up that's just delightful to me in any domain, I just have a much easier sight into it in a way and really I'm more courageous. I know I am. I can feel that.
Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Amen.
Yeah. Amen. So, thank you for bringing that so consistently into my life and my reminders and for having this conversation with me to share with everyone listening. I know that it is that authentic, powerful, self-expression that's going to bring what so many who are listening to this podcast are wanting, which is not just to sort of be out there and be great on stage, but to feel that sense of full expression, that full contribution with our message both to make the difference, yes, but also within ourselves. I mean, it really is about that so much too. So, thank you for your help in that.
I always feel so nourished in your presence and when I get to talk with you, so I'm thrilled I get to share some of that, a little window into that with our listeners. Thank you.
Oh, Michelle, thank you so much for asking me. It was absolutely my pleasure.
Wow. That was so lovely. I got so many gems in that conversation. I hope you did too. I'm feeling lighter and easier just talking about pleasure and play. So, I hope that happens for you as you listen to this conversation and think about how it applies in your own life. It's made me start dreaming up my next play adventure. I haven't danced in a long time, which I really loved. I keep thinking to myself that I really want to try hip-hop. Oh my God, it's so fun for me to imagine actually doing that.
For tonight though, I'm totally going to bake something yummy and delicious with my daughters. I already feel fall coming on, and there's just something about cinnamon and maybe some cardamom that makes our house smell like autumn. So, I'm kind of dreaming up what we might bake together. It feels so good and delightful to consciously be thinking about how we can bring pleasure and play into our life for the pleasure and play of it but also so that we can be out there serving in a much more centered and grounded way.
I know that when I am tapped into those things in my life too, I am so much better in every domain. I know this isn't all about work, of course, and you're likely here because you've got important work to share, a message that matters, and you know I want to help in any way that I can. So, I created a complete guide to help you get started or up-level your speaking. It'll help you get clear on your message. It gives you a super practical template, the only presentation outline you'll ever need, for crafting your talk and so much more.
You can get that at MichellBarryFranco.com/start. Thank you so much for being here my friend. It's been such a pleasure as always. I already can't wait until next week. Meantime, remember you were made for this. I know because you know. Now go play.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Beyond Applause . If you like what was offered in today's show and want more, head on over to MichelleBarryFranco.com/start to get your free complete guide to stepping into leadership speaking right away.