Episode 457 – Sarah Campbell Arnett

Sarah is a Consultant & Genealogist

Sarah Campbell Arnett talks about discovering letters and photos that led to her passion for learning about her family’s genealogy, why it is important to have something that inspires you outside of work, and so much more!

Episode Highlights

• Getting into genealogy
• Bringing something that inspires you to the office
• How both the individual and the organization can promote an open workplace
• Talking openly about her past career experience in the office



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Sarah’s Pictures

(click to enlarge)

Picture of Sarah’s grandfather in his personal observatory – he had many ANDs as well – astronomy, collecting arrowheads, photography

Sarah’s Grandfather’s WWII letters to the family 1942-45

Sarah with John


Sarah’s Links


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    Welcome to Episode 457 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 and 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. 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 cultures where they work 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, Sarah Campbell Arnett. She’s a senior organizational effectiveness consultant with Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, and also an executive coach with Ampersand Box, love it, and now she’s with me here today. Sarah, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Sarah: Thanks. I’m excited.

    John: Yeah, me too, anyone who loves ampersands as much as I do. This is going to be awesome. I’m so excited, so excited. I have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Sarah right out of the gate here. You ready? Buckled in?

    Sarah: All right, ready.

    John: All right, here we go. Favorite day of the week.

    Sarah: Saturday.

    John: Saturday. Yeah, slam dunk. Exactly. Exactly. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw puzzles?

    Sarah: Sudoku.

    John: Sudoku. Nice. Yeah, that’s how I used to do my taxes. Just kidding, IRS, just kidding. All right, how about a favorite color?

    Sarah: Purple.

    John: Purple. Solid.

    Sarah: Purple or green.

    John: Okay. All right. Very unique. Combinations of the primaries, yeah, next level. I like that. How about a least favorite color?

    Sarah: Red.

    John: Red. Okay.

    Sarah: Always clashes with my red hair.

    John: Oh, right. There you go. It is funny. When I ask the colors, it always goes to what looks good on me, clothing-wise.

    Sarah: Right.

    John: How about diamonds or pearls?

    Sarah: Either one. Either one. I do funny jewelry. Usually known for my crazy earrings that have been difficult to wear during COVID masking, but usually I have crazy earrings. I go with either, whichever one you want to send me.

    John: Right. There we go. In the earring form, there we go. You’re right with the masks, and especially in the hospital, yeah, it’s hard to wear big earrings because I never even thought about that. All right. How about, do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Sarah: Meryl Streep and Harrison Ford.

    John: Oh, yes. Very good. Oh, man, the classics right there. Would you say more chocolate or vanilla?

    Sarah: Vanilla because it gives you more options to put stuff on it.

    John: Okay, okay. I see where you’re going.

    Sarah: Vanilla and something.

    John: Right. Now we’re talking. We might just have a new ice cream line coming out now. This is awesome. Because that’s exactly how I look at ice cream, what has more chunks and calories per spoonful. That’s my new favorite. All right, how about books, audio version, e-book or real book?

    Sarah: Lately, just with my time, I do a lot of audio books. Walk and listen. Drive and listen. I like real books. I just don’t sit down much.

    John: Right. Yeah, yeah. Nowadays, especially. How about, do you have a favorite number?

    Sarah: Ten.

    John: Ten. Is there a reason?

    Sarah: My birthday is 10/10.

    John: Oh. Well, there you go.

    Sarah: I think we talked about the football that when I was ten years old, the quarterback of the Arkansas Razorbacks was number 10, Bill Montgomery, and they were number one in the country at that point. My middle name is Montgomery, so we were tight. We were tight. He never knew that, but we were tight.

    John: He does now. He’s listening. No, I’m just kidding. That’s so good. That’s so good. Would you say more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Sarah: Early bird.

    John: Early bird. Okay.

    Sarah: 4 AM. Yeah.

    John: Holy cow.

    Sarah: 4:30.

    John: 4 AM Eastern, that’s like 2 AM for me. That’s amazing.

    Sarah: You’re just going to bed.

    John: Right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Sarah: Star Trek. I watched the originals on TV, just olden days.

    John: Right.

    Sarah: Harrison Ford was in Star Wars. I saw the first one and then, mm, yeah.

    John: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Sarah: I am bilingual, so I do both. At work, I do PC. At home, I do Mac.

    John: Okay. All right. All right. Do you have a favorite Disney character?

    Sarah: Probably maybe Ariel.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Sarah: She’s a redhead.

    John: Right. You’ve got to stick together. Stick together. There you go. We’ve got four more. How about talk or text?

    Sarah: Talk.

    John: Talk. All right. Yeah, just gets it done faster. More cats or dogs?

    Sarah: Dogs.

    John: Dogs. Okay. Yeah, me too. Me too. Cats, I don’t know. I don’t trust them. In case you’re listening, cats, stay away. All right, and since you’re in the organizational effectiveness consultant realm, I’ve got to ask you, strategic or reactive.

    Sarah: Strategic is always best. Most of my life is spent cleaning it up on the reactive.

    John: Right. Right. I prefer the strategic, so we could take care of it beforehand. I love that. That’s awesome. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Sarah: My daughters got us a great Christmas gift this past Christmas, of 10 square feet of land in Scotland. I am actually Lady Sarah Campbell Arnett of Glenco Wood.

    John: Nice. I love it.

    Sarah: It comes with a title. You get a little piece of land, and they’re rehabbing the land with plants and animals, which was great. They’re trying to rehab the land. With it, comes a title.

    John: That’s very cool. You are the first Lady to be a part of What’s Your “And”? I’m honored. I feel like I should bow or something. I’m not sure how this works. So cool. It actually ties in with your “and” in the genealogy. How did you get started with that?

    Sarah: My parents and grandparents have done a lot of genealogy. They’ve written their life stories and written a lot down, so we are very fortunate. I realize not everybody has their genealogy, has that privilege to have that, but we really have written documentation way back to the 1300s on some lines.

    John: Wow.

    Sarah: It’s been part of just a growing, everybody’s done their part on researching it. My particular interest around my grandfather’s letters really started with the picture that, I’ll show you, the readers can’t see, but this is from Life magazine. That’s my grandfather. He’s at the table of the Japanese surrender at Hong Kong.

    John: Holy cow, that is incredible.

    Sarah: I was like, why do I have this picture from Life magazine in my house?

    John: Right. You got no idea. That’s cool.

    Sarah: We didn’t talk about that much when I was a kid. He didn’t talk about it.

    John: Yeah, yeah. My grandfather was, yeah, D-Day plus 12, and he didn’t talk a lot about it either. That’s so cool that you came across that and then also the letters as well.

    Sarah: Yeah, the letters really came right at the beginning of COVID. I was working at a major project that Cone Health was reformatting our four hospitals. We built ten ORs, neuro ORs, built a whole new women’s tower.

    John: Oh, my gosh.

    Sarah: We moved the whole hospital. The weekend of the move, and I was integral in this process, really busy, I get a call from my mother’s nursing home, saying, we need to move her this weekend to a higher level of care. She’s got dementia. I had to go run down there and actually just throw things away and throw things in my car. Part of that was this box. It filled up my daughter’s room, so I excavated during COVID and found hundreds of his letters.

    John: That’s great that he had written during World War Two.

    Sarah: World War Two, mm-hmm.

    John: Yeah. I might as well start go through them because I’m home now, a lot.

    Sarah: Right, I had a lot of time. I was the only one that can read them. My daughters can’t read. They don’t teach cursive much anymore.

    John: Oh, right.

    Sarah: He had horrible handwriting, and they were just on this onion paper, thin. I was one of the ones who could read it. I started typing them. I decided I should scan them, for historic purposes, and contacted a museum in Arkansas to see if they wanted them. They did. That’s where they’re probably going to go, for preservation’s sake. I just started typing them and then sending them out to my cousins and brothers and stuff like that.

    John: Was there anything that you came across that was like, wow? I don’t know if it’s hard to top the Life magazine picture.

    Sarah: Oh, yeah. Well, that was at the end. I actually have started in 1945 because it was the anniversary. When I was doing it, I was doing it by the month that these things were happening. It was like, 70 years ago, what was happening? I have found out that in one of the last ones, when he was flying home, he put these postcards — well, he hitched a ride on a plane with Archbishop Wellman who happened to be going back to America via Rome. He hopped a plane with him, and they arrived, this is on the postcard, arrived to take a group of us to the Vatican. A Father George, classmate of Kelly’s, a friend of his, took us to St. Peter’s, and then we had an audience with Pope Pius the 12th.

    John: What? Holy cow, that’s incredible. Yeah, your grandpa might have been Forrest Gump. He just stumbles into everything amazing.

    Sarah: Then, as I’m typing stuff, I’m like, am I reading it right? I Googled the person to make sure I got the spelling of the name and then read their history. One of his superiors, he was great nephew of Mark Twain.

    John: Wow. Okay.

    Sarah: He had met Mark Twain, grown up with Mark, and my grandfather knew him. The Doolittle Raid survivors, he met at dinner, and I ended up calling one of the survivors’ son. You don’t know me, but 70 years ago, your father and my grandfather were having dinner.

    John: It is so cool, back in the day, with the letters and all that being documented in their handwriting. There’s some richness to that, which is great, which we lose in typing and emails. Although, then everyone could read it if it’s typed. That’s really rich and got to be cool. You’re touching something that he touched. That’s really cool. That’s awesome. Do you feel like any of this translates over to your work at all? Does it give you a skill set, maybe, that you’re able to bring to work, or a mindset?

    Sarah: Yeah, I think it’s just so important at work, particularly for healthcare workers. All we’re dealing with is COVID. We are just steeped in it. We’re burned out with it. It’s going on two years of it. I think we need to be talking about what inspires us and what brings us joy. It was part of our cultural transformation, when we did that work, is to bring an item that inspires you to remind yourself that you’re not just about work, you’re more than that. I often connect with other, we have a lot of veterans at work because North Carolina, there’s a lot of veterans. We have a lot of veterans as workers, so, just connecting. Oh, I’m exploring my grandfather’s letters. It gives me a place of connection, but it lights me up and brings me joy, talking about it, and it’s infectious.

    John: Yeah. I love that idea of just bringing something small that brings you joy, to have in your office or in your cubicle or on your lanyard or something, so then it just reminds you that it’s not all coming down on you, type of thing. There’s something out there that, oh, yeah, I do like this, and everything. It’s such a simple thing.

    Sarah: I think it’s a great way to connect to patients. Because we see sick people in beds and we never see, oh, you were a general? You were a CEO of a company? You did this? You did that? They have “ands” too. We see them at their worst place sometimes, their scaredest place, and there’s so much more than that.

    John: That’s so true. It’s so cool to hear that it’s the connection point as well. It humanizes you. It’s coworkers, but it’s also patients which are clients, in the end. That’s so cool to hear. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to, it sounds like Cone Health’s encouraging people to bring something in, or to create that space and find out the “ands” and celebrate them? Or how much is it on the individual to just start amongst the little small circle of their peers?

    Sarah: I’d say it’s a little of both. I think you have to have a culture of okayness, and that’s set by senior leaders. I think we’ve done a lot of sharing and openness and talking about holistic, so we are fortunate to have that kind of culture and atmosphere. You can do pockets of it, wherever you started, spreading and saying, let’s do this, let’s do this, with nurse retention planning and other kind of things. How can we connect people to that inspiration point, the passion point?

    John: Right, and also recognize that the passion point isn’t necessarily more work for most people. I think that that’s the hardest part, is for people to admit that, hey, work isn’t necessarily, I mean, it’s one of my passions, or I enjoy it, and I’m good at it; but the thing that really, really, really lights me up is this, this genealogy or something else. It’s cool that organizations like Cone Health are recognizing that and are like, hey, let’s shine a light on the other stuff, too, because that’s cool, and it creates a better work environment for you and the patients.

    Sarah: Absolutely.

    John: Which is huge. I talk to some people, and they’re afraid to share because people are going to judge me as being not very good at my job or whatever lies we tell ourselves. Was there ever a point where you were like, hey, maybe I shouldn’t share this, or some of the other dimensions to you? Because I know you’re like a 12-sided dice over there, with all kinds of “ands” and sides, which is awesome.

    Sarah: With my first career at Cone Health, I was a dance movement therapist. I worked clinically as a psychotherapist in behavioral health, and then I moved over to organizational development. I remember people thinking, what? You’re doing what now? So, I just didn’t mention the dance therapy, but they’re same skills. It’s group work. It’s trust-building. It’s helping people solve problems. To me, it wasn’t a huge leap. Sometimes I didn’t bring it up, but then I’m just finding, maybe I’m getting old, it’s all important. I learn lessons from every place. To discount any of that just diminishes yourself, I think.

    John: Oh, wow, that’s so powerful right there. You’re right. Because those are both at work, at Cone Health examples, but all the other “ands” as well, it is all important, like you said. There’s something that you get from it.

    Sarah: Actually, one of the other “ands” I have is photography and traveling, which I share with my grandfather now. Again, you’ll be able to see this, but I have pictures, all pictures all over the place.

    John: Those are awesome.

    Sarah: I make photo cards out of them and send them as Christmas gifts. It’s my sort of photo journal. I even have a picture my daughter’s inherited. She’s a fabulous photographer too. My grandfather and my daughter and I have all shot Multnomah Falls. Do you know that, outside Portland?

    John: Yeah, yeah. Right.

    Sarah: On the back side of Mount Hood?

    John: Exactly. Yeah.

    Sarah: We all have the same picture, 100 years spread.

    John: That’s pretty cool.

    Sarah: Black and white to color to digital.

    John: Right. Probably the black and white one looks the best. That’s the thing about it.

    Sarah: All of that, and I have that in my office. People, are like, oh. It brings up conversation and stuff. I’m pretty visible with my stuff now, at work.

    John: Yeah. It’s neat to hear that just having it on the wall or just having it on your desk or something, as people come in, and then they start talking about it. It’s a conversation-starter. I’m sure you’d rather talk about that, 100 times out of 100, than the other side of reactive planning. Or I guess there’s not planning when you’re reactive, but it’s just all that stuff. That is cool. Do you have any words of advice to anyone listening that feels like they have an “and” that no one’s going to care about, or it has nothing to do with my career?

    Sarah: Just share it, talk about it, find those places where — be interested in other people and then they may be interested in you. It’s a great conversation-starter. If you don’t know what to say, it’s like, hey, what do you do outside of work? It’s just a great opening line. Or if you just say what’s your “and”, people get it pretty fast. What else do you do? What else are you interested in? People love talking about themselves.

    John: Right. Well, and they light up. You can hear it in their voice and in their eyes. Even if they’re wearing a mask, you can still tell that they’re really alive right now.

    Sarah: Absolutely. We need more of that in the world. There’s enough drainage going on.

    John: Exactly. No, that’s so true. So true. This has been awesome, Sarah. I love, well, first of all, Ampersand Box is super awesome. Congrats on that. Yeah, and just the work that you’re doing and everything. I feel like it’s only fair though, before we wrap this up, that we turn the tables and make this the Sarah Campbell Arnett podcast. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours.

    Sarah: All right, so here’s an outdoor adventure. Horseshoes or cornhole.

    John: Cornhole all day, only because, actually, when I went to high school outside of St. Louis, we had washers. It’s like wooden boxes with a PVC pipe in the middle, and then you play with these three-inch diameter washers, doughnut-looking. You throw those. You get five points in the cup, in the PVC and then three points in the box. The box has carpet on it or something. Yeah, washers but then cornhole.

    Sarah: Where’s your favorite place to sit at a football stadium? Because I know you’re a big football —

    John: Oh, yeah. I’m very, very, very, very fortunate in that, at Notre Dame, I get to be on the sidelines for games. That is pretty cool because not everyone can do that. You get just a different perspective when it’s right there. You also have to really pay attention because you might get drunk, and then all sudden you’re on sports center for…

    Sarah: Look at that guy.

    John: Right. Exactly. The hard part is when the ball is on the other end of the field, you’re waiting for the crowd reaction over there. Either the sidelines or probably in the student section, even though I’m way past that. Students are crazy. They’re way into it, and they stand the whole game. They’re cheering. You’re emotionally invested in the game. Yeah, if I could sneak in and just, I don’t know, as a really old grad student.

    Sarah: Return to college.

    John: Exactly. Exactly.

    Sarah: One last one. What’s your next favorite word after and?

    John: Oh, okay. Probably cake. Cake is so good. I know you work at a hospital, and I shouldn’t tell you that. You’re like, I think we have our next patient. Cake is pretty awesome. It’s also a fun word to say. I mean, it’s just cake. I mean, it’s got the hard k and syllable. They’re twice actually. From the comedy perspective, that k sound is always funny. Yeah, I don’t even know why I said that, but that’s just what came to mind.

    Sarah: I thought it might be ice cream. You could have cake and ice cream and then just provide them all together.

    John: For sure. Brownie and ice cream, sundae and ice cream. Maybe that was assumed. I didn’t know cake came by itself. I thought cake with ice cream. Cake without icing? What? Of course, there’s icing and ice cream. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sarah, for being a part of this. This was super, super fun.

    Sarah: Great. I loved it. It was really fun.

    John: People listening, if you’d like to see some pictures of Sarah’s “ands” or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s 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 check out 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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