Episode 437 – Natalia Wiechowski

Natalia is a Marketer & Collector of “Ands”

Dr. Natalia Wiechowski, LinkedIn Marketing Unicorn & Edutainer at Think Natalia, talks about her multiple “Ands”, why she has a passion in pursuing so many new ventures, and how that has helped her stand out in her career! She also talks about why a company’s culture is easier to influence from the top!

Episode Highlights

• Her first “Ands”
• Rewiring her taste buds
• Disconnecting from work
• How her multiple “Ands” have helped her career
• Why company culture is easier from the top down


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    Welcome to Episode 437 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.

    If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And?” on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. It goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and now listening to it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the workplace cultures because of it.

    Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Dr. Natalia Wiechowski. She’s the founder of Think Natalia in Dubai, as a personal branding specialist, LinkedIn consultant, author, contributor to Thrive Global, Forbes Coaches Council and LinkedIn Learning, and now she’s with me here today. Dr. Natalia, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And?”

    Natalia: Woo-hoo! Thank you so much for this incredible intro and for your high energy, John. I’m really looking forward to this.

    John: No, I’m equally jazzed. Just reading that makes me exhausted, and I’m so excited I fit into your schedule. Thank you so much for taking time. This is going to be so much fun. I do have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Natalia right out of the gate here. This is going to be fun. Maybe an easy one, favorite color.

    Natalia: Turquoise.

    John: Turquoise. Okay, nice. That’s very on brand too. I like that. How about a least favorite color?

    Natalia: Green. For me, green, still learning to like it. It’s true.

    John: That’s an optimistic approach to it. There are colors that I’m like, nope, never going to happen. It’s not going to happen. You’re learning to like it, good for you. That’s very positive.

    Natalia: Yeah, give everything a chance. I’m like, yeah, I’ll try. I’ll give my best.

    John: Right, right. How about a favorite day of the week?

    Natalia: It’s literally every day because now as I have my dream job, my dream life, does not matter. You won’t believe how often during the week I think like, what’s today? It doesn’t matter anyway. Today is a good day.

    John: I hit that as well, totally. It’s like, oh, I tried to call somebody in their office, and it’s Saturday. Oops.

    Natalia: Yes, same here.

    John: Right? I’m like, oh, my bad. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?

    Natalia: None of them. I’m not a puzzle person.

    John: Okay, fair enough.

    Natalia: I’d rather listen to a podcast.

    John: Oh, okay. All right, fair enough. Not even going to learn to like them. It’s like, they’re out.

    Natalia: Puzzles are out.

    John: Here’s one, shower or bath.

    Natalia: I’m a shower person. Again, one of my coaches taught me, forced me to take a regular bath because this is very calming, and it’s more feminine energy. Apparently, that’s something that I’m, again, allowed to work on.

    John: Right. Okay, all right. Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Natalia: Angelina Jolie.

    John: Oh, yeah. There you go.

    Natalia: She’s incredible. Almost everything that she touches turns into gold.

    John: Right? She’s intense. That’s for sure. Yeah. How about chocolate or vanilla?

    Natalia: Vanilla because the majority of chocolate has so much sugar. It’s disgusting.

    John: Oh, okay. All right. There you go. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Natalia: Star Wars.

    John: Star Wars. There you go. Yeah, me too. Yeah. How about when it comes to your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Natalia: Mac, big time.

    John: Oh, okay. All right. Way cooler than me, way cooler. How about heels or flats?

    Natalia: I live in a country where the sun shines 360 days per year, so I run around in flip flops all the time. You’ll only see me in heels on a stage.

    John: Okay, there you go, flip flops. That’s even better. I love it.

    Natalia: Yes.

    John: I love it. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Natalia: That’s a tricky one. I think salted caramel.

    John: Oh, yeah. Okay, there you go. That’s a little step up there. I like that. I like that. How about more talk or text?

    Natalia: Really depends on the mood. Ideally, it is a mix. I like to learn with different kinds of aspects that help me remember things. The most important thing is that it’s funny or at least edutaining.

    John: Right, right. There you go. Don’t bore me.

    Natalia: Yeah.

    John: Right, exactly. How about your first concert?

    Natalia: It’s so embarrassing, so embarrassing. Okay, but I’ll tell you anyway. David Hasselhoff.

    John: Yes! Awesome. You grew up in Germany. That’s so perfect.

    Natalia: I’ve been looking for freedom.

    John: He’s huge in Germany. He’s huge. That is awesome. That was the joke here in the US was like, you’re David Hasselhoff. You’re huge in Germany. No one’s heard of you here. I can’t believe that. That’s so awesome. That’s very cool. It’s always embarrassing for everybody. Mine was Metallica. It’s like, what?

    Natalia: Well, it’s still better than Mr. Knight Rider.

    John: Oh, that’s true. Mr. Knight Rider. Unless he brought KIT out on the stage, that would be…

    Natalia: No, he didn’t. I was so disappointed.

    John: Yeah, he probably wasn’t allowed. That’s the only reason I’d go. How about a favorite number?

    Natalia: 13.

    John: Really? Okay.

    Natalia: Yeah, because everybody’s scared. I’m like, no, it’s a cool number. Give it a try.

    John: There you go. It’s cooler than the other ones. Yeah, there you go. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-book or real book?

    Natalia: Audio because when I listen to audio books, I can do other things at the same time, like cooking or, I don’t know, cleaning up the flat, just small things that need to be done. It’s also better because when I studied, I always had to read books and had different colors and text markers. For me, when I read a book, I have this, I don’t know what it is, an urge to take a color and then highlight the most important words. So, to protect myself from myself, audio books it is.

    John: I love it, to protect myself from myself. That might be my new tagline.

    Natalia: Go ahead.

    John: Oh, Lord, like helmets and bubble wrap and all kinds of protection, you’ll need that, for sure. All right, two more, two more. Diamonds or pearls.

    Natalia: None of them. That’s so zero interesting for me, jewelry and these things. I think they’re absolutely hyped. I’d rather like to spend my money on experiences.

    John: Oh, there you go. Okay, that’s perfect. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Natalia: The freedom to design my life how I want it to be.

    John: Oh, wow, that is deep, deep, deep, deep right there. That’s awesome. You don’t have to worry about forgetting it anywhere. It’s right there all the time. That’s awesome. It dovetails nicely with one of your answers. Let’s talk dancing and cooking and all these other “ands” that you have, and learning new human potential basically, like with the dancing. Was there one that was started when you were younger? Because it seems like you have a lot of things that you’re just always learning and all that, and I love that. That’s awesome.

    Natalia: Absolutely. I grew up in a household with two very, very athletic parents. My mom used to be a professional ice, no, speed skate, you call it, and my dad used to be a skiing teacher. When I wasn’t even able to walk, I remember sitting or being in a backpack, basically, on my dad’s shoulders, and he was skiing. I was like, aah!

    John: Right.

    Natalia: This just did something to me. Once I was able to stand, I was in skis, and then it was skating, and then it was dancing and swimming, and then I did badminton. I love trying new things. I love to learn new things. This can be in sports or in athletics, but it definitely could also be something totally different. It could be… I played a guitar for a very long time. I still want to learn how to act. I want to learn how to sing. Because, again, human potential, I’m just obsessed with that stuff.

    John: Yeah, yeah, that’s so great. When people ask me, what superpower do you wish you have? I wish I could sing. I am a terrible… It’s terrible. Just lip sync, John. Don’t ruin it. I wish I could sing and dunk a basketball. That’s all I want. That’s so great to just want to learn new things, the cooking as well. Did you learn anything new in the last year and a half when we weren’t as mobile or what have you?

    Natalia: Yeah, cooking was definitely a big one. I, especially at the moment, work with a dietitian who taught me or helped me rewire my taste buds and totally changed my diet.

    John: Oh, really?

    Natalia: There are a lot of things that she took out of my diet, and I had to learn about new vegetables, new roots, stuff that I’ve never heard of before. What is this? That was very, very profound new insight on what we actually put into our body and how toxic that is, and then learning how to shop groceries in a new way, how to cook and boil and bake and whatever in a new way, how to appreciate and rewire your taste buds to really respect your body. That is huge for me at the moment. Yeah.

    John: Yeah, that’s unbelievable. I didn’t even know you could do that.

    Natalia: Same here.

    John: Yeah. Right? You’re like, yeah, why not? Let’s do that. That’s really cool. That’s awesome. Is there anything that you cook that’s your favorite go-to maybe slightly guilty pleasure, but it’s…

    John: It’s so simple, but at the moment, it’s my favorite dessert. You take an organic can of coconut milk and chia seeds. You let the chia seeds soak in it, and it has like an ice cream-ish texture when you leave it in the fridge for a very long time, almost like a mousse. That is brilliant. It’s very creamy without any dairy, for the case that you can’t eat or consume any kind of milk. Then I do some homemade applesauce, literally just some chopped green apples, a little bit of water, a little bit of cinnamon, boil that for ten minutes and smash it. That, you have the chia seeds, then the homemade applesauce on top of that and then a little bit of cocoa nibs. I promise you this is so delicious, and there is zero sugar in it. No honey, no agave, nothing, no Stevia.

    John: Wow, that sounds awesome.

    Natalia: So good.

    John: Yeah. You just put the chia seeds in the coconut milk and just let it sit in your fridge?

    Natalia: Yeah.

    John: Yeah, that’s amazing.

    Natalia: Everybody could that.

    John: Even I could do it.

    Natalia: Exactly.

    John: Right? Exactly. That’s really cool. Yeah, we’re learning recipes now. This is awesome.

    Natalia: Right?

    John: Yeah. No, that sounds really good actually. Very cool. Is there one of your hobbies that you’ve had a really cool experience with or something similar to the rewiring your taste buds, that’s like life shift?

    Natalia: Yes. I also worked with another coach earlier this year, and I realized that I was almost an addicted overachiever and somebody who is the person who always wants to deliver the best results to make sure that the clients really achieve what they want to achieve. Work is super fun for me, and it used to be my comfort zone. I was not able to disconnect from my work. It was very difficult for me to do nothing. Doing nothing, for me, was, that’s only what lazy people do, or the competition could do something while I’m just chilling or whatever. I learned how to rest, and I used this time to do things that have nothing to do with my work. This was, again, very, very big for me. If possible, every second day, I go for 15 or 20 minutes round of swimming.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Natalia: That’s beautiful because it really helps me go into a flow experience very fast. My brain, the work that I do, I have a lot of people with their LinkedIn marketing and LinkedIn social selling, that’s a lot of data and analysis, and how can we fix that? Think Natalia, right?

    John: Right.

    Natalia: At a certain stage, I need to swap or switch during the day into feel or experience Think Natalia, and swimming helps me to reconnect to my body and also to my feelings, getting out of the head. That’s also a very big one.

    John: Yeah, that’s huge. Because the mind, it’s hard to turn off. You have to redirect it. It’s always going. It’s just you have to rechannel to something else, and swimming’s excellent. You have the white noise of the water and gets physical. You can’t not pay attention because you have to be doing it. That’s super cool. It’s also interesting to hear how, in your past, it was all work all the time. That was pretty much your identity and everything. How do you compare and contrast those two? I’m sure that now is better, or at least I’m hoping so, at least for the podcast.

    Natalia: Oh, you can’t compare it. It’s very interesting. I discussed it with my friend yesterday, and I said I have difficulties to put it into words. How do you see that as an external person? She said, let me draw you a picture. In the past, you were hiking this really ridiculous path, and it was not a hike path for beginners. It was a sophisticated one. In the past, that was not enough for you. You would have taken something and literally whipped yourself on the back all the time while doing it, and not drinking any water because you thought that’s cool, or that was part of your identity.

    Right now, you realize this leash or this whip, you put it away. When you go for a hike, you have proper shoes, you have enough water, and when you want to take a rest, you allow yourself to rest. You understand that not only this hike is so much more fun, you will not feel so depleted or seem dead when you arrive. You’ll finally also see the things along the way while you are hiking. I think that’s a good way to describe it.

    John: That’s an excellent analogy. Yeah, because there’s a badge of honor of how many hours worked or how hard it was or this or that. It’s like, or there’s another way. You still get the work done, but it’s more enjoyable. It doesn’t break you down, so you can actually do more of it in the end, mentally and physically and everything. That’s such a great analogy. It’s also cool to see that you’ve turned that corner and actually can feel that difference, which is great.

    Natalia: Yeah. I just had zero interest in burning out once I turned 40. I see so many people in their 40s, early 40s, mid 40s. I, additionally, went to one of my friends who also coach, and I said I don’t want to be that. Let’s work on it right now because I can’t fix that stuff on my own. Here, take my money, and let’s arrange that or fix it or redirect it. Because this is ridiculous. I felt very proud and stupid at the same time, so, yeah, I needed help.

    John: No, but that’s a great call because I’m sure a lot of people, at some point, are like, this is ridiculous. Then they look around and they’re like, well, everyone else is also doing this. It’s similar to when I was working with the What’s Your “And”? I had stand-up comedy as a hobby on the side. When people said, what did you do this weekend? Well, I went to this city and did shows. They’re like, wait, what? I was like, well, I didn’t know you were supposed to say nothing, because that’s what most people say. So you start to judge yourself based off of what everyone else is doing, whether it’s good or bad. We’re all in this tornado of no one stops the tornado to go, hey, this is dumb.

    Natalia: Yes. Yes.

    John: Like the merry go round or something, where it’s like, please stop it.

    Natalia: Because we want to be liked. We want to be liked.

    John: And respected, yeah.

    Natalia: We’re so scared of somebody saying something, and then we’re not part of the tribe anymore, or people will look at us in a weird way. Yeah, self-awareness is a big one.

    John: That’s huge. That’s so huge. Do you feel like any of these “ands” that you’ve picked up along the way, have led to a skill set that helps through your career? Or is it more of just the mentality of collecting “ands” and learning new things obviously translates to work?

    Natalia: That’s a good question. For me, I like to collect all of these “ands” and have a look at this concept and understand this and play with this. I believe that novelty is good for your brain, and what is good for your brain will most probably also have an effect on your performance and your work. I have a personal satisfaction out of it, and it also has a positive effect on my work. Plus, what is also quite interesting is that you tap into different industries and fields and then, that’s what I do, is, I was like, I don’t care. How can I take that and incorporate that into my industry, into my job? This way, a lot of people don’t do — I’m like, why? Come on, this is cool. Nobody does it. Why don’t you?

    Through that, I believe I have this massive competitive advantage because I cannot be boring, because I keep on reinventing myself, and my audience just loves me because they’re like, oh, what are you up to? What did you change? What did you let go of? What did you blah? It’s a little bit like a never-ending soap opera. I did it for myself, but they get entertained. I’m like, this is amazing. It’s super cool.

    John: Right. Exactly. It’s protect me from myself, not you from me. You’re on your own. No, but I love that. It’s that novelty that works. What we do, obviously, is a little bit different, but it’s very similar to people that have jobs in an office, with people that you’ve worked with for 20 years. There’s really no difference. There’s still novelty there. I love to hear how you said people ask you about these things. What are you up to now? Where, if you didn’t have anything, just go right into work talk? From the beginning, that relationship is very surface level.

    Natalia: Not doing that anymore.

    John: Right, yeah. No, I love to hear that. That’s the example. How much — because I think about this a lot — how much is it on an organization to create that space to allow people to share their “ands” or talk about it or shine a light on and even encourage it? Or how much is it on the individual to either plug into that or start it in a small circle themselves?

    Natalia: It’s funny that you asked it because I’m currently working on a LinkedIn learning course with the topic, employer branding and how do you build company culture and working around that. I personally believe that a company is nothing else but people. If you don’t like something, well then change it. Ideally, what I’ve observed in companies, it’s easier when it comes from the top, so, bottom down, which means if I worked in HR, I would make sure I would cherry pick my, let’s say, 5, 10, maximum 15 top talents and tell them, listen, there’s something I want to try. I think you perfectly fit to that, so let’s start. It’s a pilot project, whatever. See if you can encourage it amongst your team or amongst people that you work with, and see what kind of positive effect it will have on the mood, on the energy level, on the creativity, on the well-being, on the health of your team. When you get the yes from the top, or a handful of people who are perceived as leaders or people look up to, it makes a big difference.

    John: It definitely makes it a lot easier, for sure. Because, for me, it was accidental. It surely wasn’t encouraged or even shine a light on it or anything. It was just people would ask, what do you do, and then you say. For me, I had a guy remember it 12 years later.

    Natalia: That’s so amazing.

    John: Yeah, and it’s a guy I never even worked with. It’s like, well, how the hell did you know? What’s interesting, when I was on your show, some of the comments on LinkedIn, I remember seeing some people that were like, be careful because people could blackball you or they could, whatever. It’s like, what? Why do you even work there? We work so we can go live and be good at your job. I’m sure we all are, to a degree, but we do that so we can make money and go do cool stuff, like dance and travel and eat.

    Natalia: Cook and explore and experience, I’m fully with you. If you can’t talk about what you do after work or what your hobbies are, get the hell out of this company. They need some serious restructuring and I don’t know what. Because why would you do that to yourself?

    John: In case people are like, wait a minute. It’s like, no, you still get your work done. This is all assuming that you get your work done, which I think we all do. That’s why you’re getting paid. You’re not getting paid to go on vacation. You’re getting paid to do the work, but you should be allowed to have these other dimensions to who you are. Slowly over time, I feel like they slowly go just dormant and then fully extinct. That’s scary to me.

    Natalia: Yeah. Who wants to wake up in the morning and then go to a place where people just work, and you don’t know anything about them? You don’t know what’s interesting for them. You don’t know what makes them click. If you want to have a great time at work, put in the effort to get to know other people. Ask them questions and be curious. Don’t ask questions and then just wait and say something. Don’t ask questions to ask, but ask to listen, to understand, and make it maybe a weekly task. Once per week, I’m going to ask one person. I’m actually going to listen. If you do that, over three months, how many people will you then know a little bit better? Of course, not everybody will be excited and will want to start a relationship in the sense of, I want to get to know you a little bit better, but I’m sure a handful of people will. You know what? I’m sure that also, when it comes to your job and your work performance, you will get better results, and that very often reflects in your paycheck, so do it.

    John: I love it. What a great way to wrap it all up right there. That was it. We should have started with that and then… No, no, I’m teasing. That was awesome. That was so great. I feel like it’s only fair, before I do wrap this up, since I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to be the host now. If you have any questions to ask me, I’m all yours. I’m also very nervous.

    Natalia: Let’s start with favorite comedian.

    John: Favorite comedian. Wow, there’s going to be a lot. I’d probably say Brian Regan. He’s here in the US, Brian Regan. Yeah, he’s really funny. He also happens to be clean, but he’s so, so funny and also really nice, really gracious. He’s so, so funny. There are so many great comedians that it’s really hard to pick just one.

    Natalia: Yeah, it is. Thanks, I would definitely check him out.

    John: Yeah, Brian Regan, so funny.

    Natalia: Brian Regan. As you know I work in social media, favorite social media platform.

    John: I’d probably say LinkedIn because it’s least political.

    Natalia: Yes.

    John: Although it’s getting there. It’s, at least, informative, or you don’t have to worry about having to unfollow people just because of their uneducated opinions of things, so probably that one. Also, because that’s where you work, so that let’s start with that. Not where you work, but in your space.

    Natalia: Sort of. Okay. You are a very creative person. What kind of content do you prefer creating? Is it rather podcasts or podcast episodes, or is it videos?

    John: That’s interesting. What’s really, really fun to me is the music video parodies that I do, the funny music videos. It’s taking a song that everyone knows, rewriting the words to it, and then shooting the video for that. Because it’s just funny. It’s funny and silly and super fun. I get to act a little bit. I’m not great so that’s why it’s good that it’s funny. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be funny.

    Natalia: I would love to check that out.

    John: Yeah, I love it. There’s One Direction, the boy band. They have that song, Beautiful. I rewrote it to be cubicle. It’s, I work in a cubicle. It’s all about, it’s got four walls and no door and all this. I think it’s pretty funny. People seem to like it. There are about five or six out there on my website. I’d probably say video. Although the podcasts that I do are super awesome, too, but what’s really fun for me is that.

    Natalia: I do get that one. Okay, I have a slightly embarrassing one. How do I phrase it? Teenage celebrity crush, your first teenage celebrity crush.

    John: Oh, wow. Okay, so this is going to be a good one. Jenny McCarthy. When I was in college at the University of Notre Dame, I was in the marching band. This is a story I’m not sure if I’ve ever told on a thing. I was in the marching band. It was Notre Dame versus USC, big game, really big game. Friday night before the game, we have a pep rally. I was skinnier than I am now, which is not — yeah, I was very scrawny. I was tall but lanky.

    We had our shirts off, and we had spelled out, ND beat USC, or something, on our — so I had a giant, whatever letter on my chest. We come marching into the pep rally. We had to wait just for like a minute before we go. While we’re waiting, I’m right at the front, and Jenny McCarthy comes out of the basketball locker room. She’s at the game. She comes to the pep rally. I’m 10 feet away from her. All I could think in my head is, this is not how we were supposed to meet. This is not how it went down in my head. It was just like, hi! It was hilarious. Oh, my gosh, it was so funny. I guess she lived in Chicago, and it was about an hour and a half drive. She had come over for the game. No one knew. I was just like, oh my gosh, this is hilarious. Yeah, I’d probably say that. That probably works. It’s an okay one. It’s no David Hasselhoff, but it’s okay.

    Natalia: Oh, yeah. I just want to say, getting there, getting there. Okay, last one, waffles or pancakes.

    John: Oh, yeah. Man, that’s actually a hard one. I might go waffles just because you could put syrup in each little square and then you have equal syrup in all of them. I might have a little bit of OCD or CDO. If you’re alphabetical, either way. That’s a really good one. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much Natalia for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This was so, so fun.

    Natalia: Likewise. This was fantastic. Have a great rest of the day.

    John: If you want to see some pictures of Natalia and all her different “ands” or maybe connect with her on social media, check out all the LinkedIn work that she does, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to read the book.

    Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.


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