Episode 025 Show Notes: Gabby Pascuzzi
Gabby Pascuzzi and Ben Woelk talk about Survivor, being vulnerable with your emotions, leaning in to who you are, and the need for authenticity in the workplace.
- Scary challenges show you what you’re capable of. We are prone to underestimating ourselves.
- You have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all
- Growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor.
- On challenging yourself–Are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative?
- We are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?
- A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge
Taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary really shows you what you’re actually capable of. And it’s often a lot more than you think. We are really prone to underestimating ourselves. @GabbyPascuzzi
You have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all. @benwoelk
In servant leadership, just to be able to see your team grow is such an important thing. @benwoelk
Growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor. @GabbyPascuzz
On challenging yourself–Are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative? @GabbyPascuzzi
We are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?” @GabbyPascuzzi
A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge. @GabbyPascuzzi
People want to be influenced by people that they feel they can trust. And when people believe that you’re being authentic, they are more likely to trust you. @GabbyPascuzzi
It always surprises me that people who are not willing to be authentic don’t really understand that people can see that. @benwoelk
Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode
- Next Big Idea Club
- Society for Technical Communication
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Survivor: David versus Goliath
- No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work
- Hope for the Introvert Episode 24
- Follow Hope for the Introvert on Twitter
- Like my page on Facebook
- Support me on Patreon
- Get swag for Hope for the Introvert and Introverted Leadership at Zazzle
Ben: Joining us today is Gabby Pascuzzi. Gabby is a technical writer at Tenable, a cybersecurity company. She also competed on the 37th season of Survivor: David versus Goliath. I met Gabby at the 2019 STC Summit Conference in Denver where Gabby was our keynote speaker for our Honors event. Gabby shared her experience as a contestant on Survivor: David versus Goliath. Her presentation was well received and one of the hits of the conference. You can follow Gabby on Twitter @GabbyPascuzzi. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.
Ben: Hi Gabby. Welcome back. I’m excited to have you on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. We had talked quite a bit in our conversation about turning weaknesses into strengths and also the importance of empathy in the workplace and even the ability to show emotion. When you had talked about vulnerability and empathy, you said that a good portion of your thought and conversation about that was in some ways embedded in your experience on Survivor. Would you like to talk about that for a bit?
Gabby: Yes, definitely. For me, Survivor was the biggest learning experience of my life and I’m so grateful that I got to go and play. And even though I didn’t win the million dollars–it’s extremely cliché, but I feel like I won in the life experience and just the realizations that came to me afterwards. And so much of that for me was rooted in the idea of vulnerability, because it is one of the most vulnerable things that one can sign up to do, to go on national TV like I did, and have my experience and my face and my thoughts and all my highs and lows highlighted on national TV in front of an audience of 8 to 9 million people that watched Survivor. So one of the things that I was rather well known for on my season of Survivor was that I very much wore my emotions on my sleeve.
Gabby: So there may have been more than a few scenes of me crying during some low times, being frustrated with people that were not cooperating with me. Like I said in our last conversation last time we talked, I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and of course Survivor is a very different experience than–the Survivor Gabby is not the same.Gabby that shows up to work every day. I’m not crying in the workplace every day, but it was a very interesting social experiment in a way because I knew that people across America would have very polarized opinions of my very visible emotions. Yeah.
Ben: Honestly, people across America have polarized opinions about just about everything!
Gabby: That is exactly right. Yep. [laughing] One thing that I learned from being on TV is you can’t please everyone, and there’s always going to be people who are contrary to one another. So after the show aired, I had people reaching out to me, and I would say it was about 95% positive. People would say, “Thank you for being so open with your emotions on the show and show that it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to talk about having low self esteem at times.” There was one scene on the show that was quite memorable where I had been placed onto a new Tribe where I wasn’t clicking with my fellow tribemates and there’s a scene of me teary-eyed in the morning crying because I felt I didn’t fit in. I felt like–first of all, I was scared that I would be voted out, which in the game means that you’ve been eliminated.
Gabby: But it was also a little bit of a deeper thing that I think dredged up feelings of insecurity. And I had people reach out to me and say, “Thank you for being honest about that. It’s nice to see vulnerability on TV, especially a reality TV show,” which sometimes doesn’t seem very authentic. And then you had 5% where people were saying, “Oh my gosh, you’re so annoying because you are always crying on my TV screen,” and “Get ahold of yourself, Woman, and pull–rein in your emotions. You’re such a whiner,” etc. And it was very, very interesting to observe and I knew that it would happen because people are not really comfortable with their own emotions and with their own vulnerability. And I think they were projecting that onto me where I’m quite comfortable with my emotions. I’m quite okay with it. But people were so upset that I dared show my emotions. So it was definitely a learning experience, largely about vulnerability
Ben: And I suspect that me, like most of your audience cannot even comprehend what it was like to be placed in a situation, in an environment like that where everything is kind of scrutinized and yes, it’s going to be a very visceral at times and just very–I cannot imagine having strong emotions–I doubt very much I would have made it through without crying either. [Gabby laughing] So I don’t think it’s a male-female thing at all. [Gabby laughing] I just think it’s a pretty amazing experience to have agreed to do that. And in some ways subject yourself to that.
Gabby: Thank you. Yeah, I think it relates to what we talked about in the last podcast, which is leaning into your weaknesses. And the whole experience was very scary in that way because you never know what challenge is going to pop up on Survivor, either mental or physical. So for those who aren’t familiar with the show, you know, we really aren’t eating, we are having maybe a quarter of a cup of rice every day, every other day sometimes when we were running low a scoop of coconut. So all of these challenges, of course those aren’t things I’m doing in my everyday life as a technical writer sitting behind my computer. But I feel like in taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary, it really shows you what you’re actually capable of. And it’s often a lot more than you think. I think we are really, really prone to underestimating ourselves just as human beings, and I think also for your audience listening to this.
Taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary really shows you what you're actually capable of. And it's often a lot more than you think. We are really prone to underestimating ourselves. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet
Ben: And I don’t think that–we talked earlier on also, about the whole–in a sense challenging yourself and working on these things that feel like weaknesses. But in a sense it’s–you have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all. And I know for me, I have a hard time fathoming when people aren’t willing to try to grow, when people are very satisfied with where they are. And I don’t know whether I’m just wired a little bit differently, but it feels like that there should always be a drive. And now maybe I won’t feel like that eventually. But now it feels like there should always be a drive towards improvement and stretching and doing what I can do. And in terms of when you had mentioned servant leadership early on, that’s a really important role for me as well in terms of, not necessarily even working on building myself, but whatever team it is that I’m working with or people that I’m supporting. Just to be able to see them grow is just such an important thing.
Gabby: I completely agree. Yeah, it’s an amazing opportunity to grow when you do something that scares you a little bit, and it’s so easy to become complacent or to become stagnant because–I mean and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it might just be that you’re very happy in your life. But I think that the growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor. But are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative that has been on your mind recently? Those are all things that I found when I returned from Survivor. I came back with a renewed enthusiasm that even though I was just returning to my job as a technical writer, if I saw something that I wanted to do, I did it. Or I asked someone, “Hey, can I do this? I think it’s a good idea. I’d be happy to lead it.” And I think that that helps everyone around you, but especially yourself.
Ben: So one of the key things that you got out of being on the program besides notoriety and critics and supporters, is this whole, I think, willingness to stretch more.
Gabby: Yeah, I would say so. And I think that’s the thing about taking challenges that I would encourage the listeners to do. Is it almost becomes this addictive sort of cycle where you do a scary challenge that you didn’t think you weren’t sure if you’d be capable of. You will be capable of it because I believe in you and you–we are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?” And then before you know, you are pushing yourself more and more to do. So really I would say start small. If you’re able to do even what feels like a tiny challenge. Accomplishing that might make you more prone to saying yes to future challenges.
Ben: Okay, so one thing about Survivor, but it’s also in the workplace as well. I mean Survivor obviously makes it your Tribe. I mean it’s very out there and no question that you are hoping for support from your Tribe. So Gabby, you’re talking about this willingness to try new things and to start small, to continue to try new things and how there’s almost, you didn’t use the word inertia, but I’ll use that where there’s a sense of, “Well, I’ve done that, well what’s next, what’s next? And you keep climbing the ladder in some ways. That seems to be mainly an internal motivation towards doing things. It doesn’t necessarily seem to be motivated by external rewards or anything like that, but I’m also curious as to what–has it been important for you to know that people are supporting you, that they believe that you can do things? Or are you maybe a little bit like me in the sense where I’m just stubbornly independent and I’m going to do it anyway. How has it mattered whether people are supportive of you? In what ways does that matter most for you?
Gabby: Yeah, it does matter. I agree with you. I think I get a lot of strength from that internal motivation, but one unexpected side effect has been the support that–after Survivor for example, I had so much support from people I had never met before on social media, or at STC when I met fellow tech writers, or when I came back and my tech writing team was like, “That’s awesome. I can’t believe you did that.” It does kind of encourage you and to know that you have people that support you and believe in you, I think is an important part of growing as well. You want to feel like you have the support of friends, family, Allies in the game of Survivor–we call them Allies–our tribemates who we’re working with, our coworkers. So I think that you’ve identified another positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next time that you have a challenge.
A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet
Ben: Yeah. So it’s really, really interesting conversation so far, and you’ve alluded to some things I think that people should think about and be willing–obviously we’re chatting about this a lot, about willing to stretch and try new things. You also mentioned early on on that you’re not really in a position of leadership in the workplace, but you are definitely, I think in a position of influencer. And I think the social media following from being on Survivor‘s probably puts you in position where you are in a sense influencing people as well or at least giving them something to chat about. What recommendations do you have for people who really want to become influencers? You know, maybe they don’t have a leadership path per se in their workplace, but what recommendations would you have for them?
Gabby: I’d like to bring up the idea that we talked about before, which is leaning in again. So to me it’s leaning into who you are. I think people are really drawn to authenticity. And I think that that is why people were drawn to me after Survivor is, I wasn’t just a character on their TV screen. People could tell that I was really being myself. And I think if you want to be in any position of influence, people want to be influenced by people that they feel they can trust. And when people believe that you’re being authentic, they are more likely to trust you because they see you, you’re showing up, all of you. And so again, it’s listening to what are your strengths, what can you lean into? So for example, at work, I really like moderating conversations and listening to everybody’s viewpoints and then giving my unbiased assessment of what’s been presented.
Gabby: So I think you can still influence things like culture. You can influence interpersonal relationships on the team by being a kind team member, by being a good listener, by being empathetic. So influence really can come from the smallest action. It might just be reaching out to somebody because they said they were having a hard day, and that relationship that you foster may help you in a professional sense later down the road when you need a favor being done. But more than that, it’s about showing up and being authentic and being a person who people want to be around.
Ben: And I think the thing is that’s–that authenticity is absolutely critical and what always surprises me, is I think people who are not willing to be authentic don’t really understand that people can see that. Where although they may assume that whatever face they provide in our front or persona they have in the workplace, that if it’s not who they really are, I think that people can see that for the most part.
Gabby: Yeah, people are a lot more intuitive than we like to admit. And I think I completely agree with you. It happened on Survivor, too. People would have this sort of facade up, and I was like, “I can see right through this. I can see that you’re, you’re hiding something,” or “You’re not–you’re trying to come off too polished and I’m not really getting a sense of who you are and it’s not making me really comfortable working with you,” because I feel like it’s this robotic transactional relationship as opposed to, “You know what? We’re humans and we need to do a job. We need to work together, but we’re also just people.”
Ben: Yeah, I think that’s really important to bear in mind with this.
Ben: Gabby, this has been a great conversation today. Enlightening for me. I’m sure it’s been enlightening for our listeners as well. One thing I like to ask is what’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn? And obviously it’s not going to be the Survivor thing at this point. [Gabby laughing] So what is something else?
Gabby: Ooh, that’s a good question. I think something that surprises people who meet me is that I actually didn’t grow up in the United States. I was born in Germany. I lived for 10 years in Singapore and then I went to high school in the Philippines. And I only came to the US for college and I have been here since then, but people are always surprised by that, and it’s actually a very important part of who I am, because it made me, I think, a more open-minded person, that I really try to be cognizant of cultural differences, especially in the workplace.
Ben: Yeah, I think that’s a good point, because I know for many of us who don’t get out of the US at all, we’re really surprised when things don’t work the same way in other countries and things are just done differently. So I think that’s a really important perspective. It must be an interesting perspective having grown up in these other locations and then–gives you a little probably more objective view of what’s going on, where you have seen what’s normal in other places and as opposed to what may be normal here.
Gabby: Yeah, definitely grateful for those experiences.
Ben: Well, awesome. Thanks, Gabby. I really appreciate you spending time with me on the podcast. It’s been a wonderful conversation and I look forward to having you on again, where, who knows what subjects we’ll explore.
Gabby: Thanks, Ben. It was so great talking to you too.