275: Making Change Happen – Why Not You? with Nyota Gordon
March 23rd, 2022 · 52 mins 55 secs
About this Episode
01:47 - Nyota’s Superpower: To hear and pull out people’s ideas to make them more clear, actionable, and profitable!
- Acknowledging The Unspoken
- Getting Checked
07:15 - Boundaries and Harmony
10:35 - News & Social Media
18:54 - The Impact of AI
23:00 - Anyone Can Be A Freelance Journalist; How Change Happens
- Chelsea Cirruzzo’s Guide to Freelance Journalism
- Casey’s GGWash Article About Ranked Choice Voting
- First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy | Derek Sivers
40:13 - The Intersection of Cybersecurity and Employee Wellness: Resiliency
Casey & John: “A big part of resilience is being able to take more breaths.” – Nyota
Damien: You can be the expert. You can be the journalist. You can be the first mover/leader. Applying that conscientiously.
Nyota: Leaving breadcrumbs.
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DAMIEN: Welcome to Episode 275 of Greater Than Code. I'm Damien Burke and I'm here with John Sawers.
JOHN: Thanks, Damien. And I'm here with Casey Watts.
CASEY: Hi, I'm Casey! And we're all here with our guest today, Nyota Gordon.
Nyota is a technologist in cybersecurity and Army retiree with over 22 years of Active Federal Leadership Service. She is the founder, developer, and all-around do-gooder at Transition365 a Cyber Resiliency Training Firm that thrives at the intersection of cybersecurity and employee wellness.
Welcome, Nyota! So glad to have you.
NYOTA: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you.
CASEY: Yay! All right. Our first question—we warned you about this—what is your superpower and how did you acquire it?
NYOTA: My superpower is to hear, pull out people's ideas, and make them more clear, more actionable, and more profitable.
NYOTA: Yeah, that's one of my friends told me that.
And how did I get it? I'm a words person. So I listen to what people say, but I also listen to what they don't say.
CASEY: What they don't say.
CASEY: Can you think of an example?
NYOTA: Like that. Like when you did that quiet thing you just did, I saw that mind blown emoji because there's a lot in unspoken. There's a lot in body language. There's a lot in silence. When the silence happens, there's a lot when someone changes the topic, like that stuff is a lot. [chuckles] So I listen and I acknowledge all of that. Maybe we all hear it, or don't hear it depending on how you're processing what I'm saying, but we don't always acknowledge it and respect it in other people,
DAMIEN: You have to listen to the notes he’s not playing.
Do you ever have an experience where things that are not said do not want to be heard?
NYOTA: Absolutely. But that's part of acknowledging and so, you can tell when people are like, “I do not want to talk about that.” So then I would do a gentle topic change and not a hard left all the time, because you don't want to make it all the way weird, but it may be like, “Oh, okay so you were talking about your hair, like you were saying something about your hair there.” I try to be very mindful because I will get in your business. Like, I will ask you a million questions. I'm very inquisitive and maybe that's one of my superpowers too, but I'm also aware and I feel like I'm respectful of people's space most times.
CASEY: I really like that in people when people notice a lot about me and they can call it out. When I was a kid, my family would call me blunt, not necessarily in a bad way, but I would just say whatever I'm thinking and not everyone likes it right away. But I really appreciate that kind of transparency, honesty, especially if I trust the person. That helps a lot, too.
NYOTA: I was just saying that to my mom, actually, I was like, “You know, mom, I feel like I need a different quality of friend,” and what I mean by that is my friends just let me wild out. Like I ask them anything, I say anything, but they don't kind of check me. They're like, “Well, is that right, Nyota?” Like, Tell me, why are you saying it like that?” But they just let me be like ah and I'm like, “Mom, I need to be checked.” Like I need a hard check sometimes. So now you're just letting me run wild so now I'm just seeing how wild I can get. Sometime I just want maybe like a little check, a little body check every now and then, but I try to be mindful when it comes to other people, though. It's the check I want is not always the check that other people want.
CASEY: Right, right.
DAMIEN: What is it like when you're being checked? What happens?
NYOTA: It's hard to come by these days so I'm not really sure [chuckles] when I'm getting my own, but I'll ask a question. I'll just kind of ask a question like, “Well, is that true?” people are like, “This world is falling apart,” and you know how people are because we are in a shaky space right now and I'm like, “But is that absolutely true for your life?” How is everything really infecting, impacting what have you being exposed to in your own life?
So as we have the conversation about COVID. COVID was one of my best years as far as learning about myself, connecting with people better and more intimately than I ever really have before and we're talking virtually. So things are going on in the world, but is it going on personally, or are you just watching the news and repeating what other people are saying?
JOHN: That's such a fascinating thing to do to interrupt that cycle of someone who's just riding along with something they’ve heard, or they're just getting caught up in the of that everything's going to hell and the world is in a terrible place. Certainly, there are terrible things going on, but that's such a great question to ask because it's not saying there's nothing bad going on. You're not trying to be toxically positive, but you're saying, “Let's get a clear view of that and look at what's actually in your life right now.”
NYOTA: That part, that part because people are like, nobody's looking for crazy Pollyanna, but sometimes people do need to kind of get back to are we talking about you, or are we talking about someone else?
DAMIEN: That's such a great way of framing it: are we talking about you, or are we talking about someone else?
CASEY: It reminds me of boundaries. The boundary, literally the definition of who I am and who I care about. It might include my family, my partner, me. It’s may be a gradient even. [chuckles] We can draw the boundary somewhere on that.
NYOTA: Yeah, and I think we also get to speak even more than boundaries about is it in harmony? Because I feel like there are going to be some levels that are big, like my feelings are heard, or I'm feeling like I just need to be by myself. But then there are these little supporting roles of what that is. I think it's as you see, some parts are up and some parts are down because sometimes when it comes to boundaries, it's a little challenging because sometimes there has to be this give and take, and your boundaries get to be a little bit more fluid when they have to engage with other people. It's those darn other people. [chuckles]
DAMIEN: But being conscientious and aware of how you do that. It's a big planet with a lot of people on it and if you go looking for tragedy, we're very well connected, we can find it all and you can internalize as much of it as you can take and that's bad. That is an unpleasant experience.
DAMIEN: And that's not to say that it's not happening out there and that's not to say that it's not tragic, but you get to decide if it's happening to you, or not.
DAMIEN: And that’s separate from things that are directly in our physical space, our locus of control, or inside of the boundaries that we set with ourselves and loved ones, et cetera.
NYOTA: Because it's so easy to – I say this sometimes, guilt is a hell of a drug because sometimes people are addicted to guilt, addicted to trauma, addicted to a good time and not even thinking of all the things that come with those different levels of addiction. So I think we get fed into this news and this narrative, like we were speaking of earlier a of everything's bad, this is a terrible place, everyone's going to hell. Whatever the narrative is the flavor of the moment and there's so many other things. It's a whole world, like you said. It's a whole world and I think the world is kind of exactly what we're looking for. When I was in the military, every town is exactly what you need it to be.
Because if you're looking for the club, you're looking for the party people in little small towns. But I could tell you where every library was. Don't call me nerdy because I am, but I don't care. All right. I could tell you where every library was. I could tell you where every place to eat. I could tell you all of those things, but then you'll ask me like, “Where's the club?” And I was like, “There's a club here?” Because that's not what I'm looking for. That's not the experience that I'm looking for. So I would dare say every place is exactly what you're looking for, what you want it, what you need it to be.
CASEY: We're talking about the news a little bit here and it reminds me of social media, like the addiction to news, the addiction to social media. In a way, it is an addiction. Like you keep going to it when you're bored, you just reach for it. That's the stimulus, that’s your dopamine.
I think of both of those, news and social media, as a cheap form of being connected to other humans. A bad, low quality, not a deep connection kind of thing. But what we all would thrive if we had more of is more connections to others, which like community, authentic relationships with people. But that's harder. Even if you know that and you say that's your goal, it takes more work to do that than to pick up Facebook app on your phone. I deleted it from my phone six months ago and I've been happier for it.
NYOTA: Like delete, delete? Like delete?
CASEY: Well, it is on my iPad in case I have to post a shirt design into a Facebook group. I'm not gone gone, but I'm basically gone and I know that I don't interact on it and it's boring. I don't post anything. I don't get any likes. I don't even want to like anyone's post and they'll say, “Oh, you're on.” I don't do anything. Like once every three months, I'll post a design.
NYOTA: Is that for every social media channel?
CASEY: I'm still on Twitter.
CASEY: I'm still on Twitter and LinkedIn kind of for business reasons. But if I could drop them, I think I would, too.
NYOTA: Did you say if you could?
CASEY: If I could drop them and not have business repercussions.
DAMIEN: This sounds like a great idea to make more profitable.
NYOTA: [laughs] I'm thinking does a lot of your business come from –? I feel like LinkedIn is social, but.
CASEY: I wouldn't say that I get new business from these necessarily, but I do end up with clients and potential clients and people I've talked to before saying, “Ph, I saw that thing and now that I saw you wrote a blog post about doing surveys for an engineering org, now I want to talk to you.”
NYOTA: Mm, okay.
CASEY: Like that is pretty valuable and when I'm writing something like a blog post, I want to put that somewhere. But anyway, I am happier that I'm off of Facebook and Instagram, which I wasn't getting as much value out of. Other than connection to people, the shallow connection to people and instead I switched to messaging people. I have text message threads and group chats and those are much more intimate, much more stuff being shared, more connection to those individuals.
NYOTA: I agree with that. What about you John? Like what is your relationship with social media right now?
JOHN: So I've always been sort of arm’s length with Facebook. So it's been just like eh, I check in every week, maybe just sort of see. I scroll until I lose interest, which is 10 minutes the most and then those are my updates. That's all I see and then occasionally, I'll post a meme, or something. I don't really do a lot there. Usually, I keep it around just for the people that I'm in touch with that are only on Facebook and I only have connection to them.
But you bring up an interesting point about there's a positive and a negative to being able to filter your social media. For example, with Reddit and Twitter, you only see the stuff for people you're following and/or the subreddits that you're subscribed to. So you can very much customize that experience into something that isn't full of most of the crap people experience on Twitter, or Reddit.
So there's that positive there because you can craft a world that's maybe it's all kitten pictures, maybe whatever, and post about programming, whatever it is. But you do have the problem of filter bubbles so that if you are in something that's a little bit more controversial, you do end up with that echo chamber effect and lots of people jumping in, or if you're in a sub that's interesting to you, that's also very contentious and the threads go off the rails all the time, but you can control that. You can see like, “Well, no, get it out of here. I don't need to deal with that static.”
I rely on that a lot to sort of focus in on what I'm using it for, whether it's keeping up with specific friends, or specific topics and then trying to filter out as much of the things I don't want as possible.
NYOTA: Is Facebook's your only social media channel?
JOHN: No, I'm on Twitter. I don't usually post a lot, usually just retweet stuff and read it.
NYOTA: That's kind of lame a little bit. I'm not saying, I’m just saying that your social media choices –
NYOTA: But I think you're are right, though. I'm a lot better off for it because I did find myself going down a social media rabbit. It was easy for me to cut off the news. I actually stopped watching the news in 2007 when I became an officer. They were like, “As an officer, you have to watch the news. You have to be aware of what's going on in the world,” and I was like, “Oh, okay,” and then I walked away from that lady and I was like, “I'm not watching the news anymore.”
NYOTA: Because I felt like she was trying to trick me in some kind of a way, but you get what you need. If it's something that I need to know, it comes to me it. It comes to me like. Believe me, it'll come to you. She was a little bit too adamant about what I needed and how the news was a part of it. It just felt a little not right and so, I actually stopped.
DAMIEN: The news is a very specific thing like that word, the news [chuckles] Is anything new about it? [chuckles] The news is a group of organizations, a group of media organizations that are all very much alike. The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, The Chicago Tribune, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC. These are all organizations that operate the same, they cover the same things, and they do them in largely the same way along of course, some political partisan differences. But it's not new and for most people, it does not serve them, or inform them.
NYOTA: Yeah. It's very divisive.
DAMIEN: I used to get my news from Jay Leno. [laughter] That was better than CNN more and funnier, too.
NYOTA: That part. [laughs] I think it's just interesting how it's such a whole world with a whole bunch of people with various levels of experiencing, bumping into each other, and like you're saying, this is what everyone's reporting on. Nothing else happens? Nothing good happens anywhere else?
NYOTA: Nothing? See, that's not true.
Like that can't be real for me and so, I'm not going to be able to include that in where I spend my time.
JOHN: Yeah. I used to have NPR on in the car whenever I was in the car, I was like, “Oh, it'll keep me inform,” blah, blah, blah. But eventually, I was like, “You know what? They still talk about the same crap. They're just from a perspective I agree with slightly more.” But even when they do human interest stuff, or stuff that isn't about a war, or some sort of crisis in Washington, it's still so negatively biased. Even the stuff that's theoretically positive, it still has this weird you should be concerned about this vibe to it and eventually, I was realizing that there's no room for that in my life.
DAMIEN: Yeah. We talk about how harmed full Facebook is to society and individuals. But this is not again, new. [chuckles] Facebook optimizes for engagement, which causes harm as a byproduct. It's the AI-fication of what media has been doing ever since there has been mass media.
NYOTA: Yeah. It's interesting because there was a moment in there. So I even got on social media because I was always gone. I lived wherever I lived while I was in the military and so, it was a way to let my family know, “Okay, I'm here. Look, I ate this.” [chuckles] All of those things. So there was a part where Facebook made a drastic turn on my feed and I was like, “Ohm this is so bad!” And then I was like, “Okay, wait, wait. Who's bad? Who is this coming from?”
So I cleaned up my whole Facebook feed and then it became a happy place again and then now where it is, it's a place where it's only seven people out of the thousand Facebook friends I have. I was like, “Okay, well that's not it either. That's not it.” So it's just interesting how AI has such a impact of what we listen to, or what we talk about.
So now it's these days I'm like new shoes, new shoes, new shoes. Because I want that to come up on my – I don't even – you know what I'm saying? Because I know that you're listening, so I'll get it later. So now I almost treat it like an administrative assistant so I can look it up later.
JOHN: Please target some ads around shoes to me.
NYOTA: I did. Yeah, because they're listening.
CASEY: And it works, doesn't it? I know.
CASEY: I know it works.
CASEY: That still blows some people's minds. If you could say the name of a product and you'll see it the next day. If you have your ads on, it's listening and your phone is listening. Everyone’s phone is listening.
NYOTA: Yes, yes. Because you're looking at something like – I don't even really listen to the music. What is it? Spotify! And then it's like, you're listening to Spotify, but why is my mic on? You want to hear me sing the song? Why does my mic have to be on? I don't understand that part. Like why? They'll be like, “Oh, she has a great voice on her.” Is that why you're listening?
Why are you listening? I don't understand that part. So I don’t know.
DAMIEN: There’s a deal coming your way.
NYOTA: [laughs] Come on. Let's go.
JOHN: I assume the public reason for it is so that you can do voice searches and like, “Hey, play me some more Rebecca Black,” or whatever. But who knows what else they're doing with it once you've got it turned on, right? It could be whatever.
DAMIEN: Actually listening in on people is not the technically most effective way of getting those results. If you say the brand name of a shoe, it's probably because the people around you are talking about it and what do they search on Google? What ads have they seen? It's easier to say, “Oh, you're in the room with these people who are interested in these things,” or “You're in conversation with these people who are interested in these things. Let me show you these things without honing through massive amounts of audio data.”
CASEY: Yeah. Both are possible and that one's easier. I'm sure they both happen and at what frequency, that's hard to study from beyond outside, but we know it's all possible and we know it's happening.
If this is news to anyone listening, you can look this up. There are a million articles about it and they explain why and how, and some people did some empirical tests and I don't have any handy, but I've read it over and over and over on the internet and the internet's always right.
NYOTA: That's what I heard [laughs] and not from the news.
CASEY: I have these Google Home Minis in my house and all of them, the mics are off. So if ever the power cable gets jingled, it says, ‘Just so you know, the mic's off and I have to say it for a really long time. This is a very long recorded message. So that you'll want to turn your mic back on,” and it says that. Can you believe it?
DAMIEN: That's not the actual text of the message, right? I have to check.
NYOTA: These little home speakers are cool in all the worst ways, but the best ways, too. So my Alexa, I'll be asking her whatever and then I'll say, “Thank you, Alexa,” and she'll say, “You're very, very, very, very welcome,” like she's singing, yes. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Wow. You people have corporate spying devices in your homes. It’s unbelievable.
NYOTA: But you have one, too. It's just your phone. So we all have them.
DAMIEN: Yeah. She promises me she doesn't listen unless I ask.
NYOTA: That's what mine said!
CASEY: Mine said it!
I don’t trust them either. I don't even trust that the mic off necessarily works. Part of me is tempted to go in and solder the mic off. I never want the speakers to have the mic. I will not use that feature at my house. But I do want speakers in every room enough that I'm willing to take the risk of the switch not working.
NYOTA: Yeah. At this point, I think I've just big brothers watching, or at least listening, [chuckles] Big brother really like, “Oh, I need to turn that off. She's talking about the big brother. We’ll blush over here.” [laughs]
CASEY: I want to go back to something I was thinking on the news. Sometimes I hear, or I know about things in the world because I'm someone who's in the world sometimes and the topics I want to hear in the news don't always come up. Like, DC Rank the Vote is happening and there was eventually an article about it and another article. I wrote one, eventually. Anyone can be a freelance journalist. So if the news isn't covering stuff you want it to.
NYOTA: I like that.
CASEY: You can literally write the news, too.
CASEY: They might even pay you for it.
DAMIEN: [chuckles] You can write the news, too. Say it again, Casey.
CASEY: You can write the news, too.
There's a really cool freelance journalism guide, that I'll put in the show notes, by someone in D.C. Chelsea Cirruzzo, I think. I didn't pronounce check that, but she wrote an awesome guide and it led me to getting an article published in Greater Greater Washington, a D.C. publication about ranked choice voting. I was like, “Why is no one talking about this? It's happening here. It's a big problem.” So I wrote about it. Other people write about it, too and they have since then, but you can be the change you want in the world. You can. Journalism is not as guarded and gated as it might seem.
NYOTA: That's so interesting because I think what's interesting is we know that. We know that we can contribute, we know that we can write, but then you're like, “Wait, I can contribute! I can write!”
NYOTA: So I think that’s, thank you for that reminder.
CASEY: Yeah. But the how is hard and without a guide like Chelsea's, I'm not sure I would have broken in to do it. I needed her to go through it and tell me this is the process, here's the person in the org, what they do, what they expect and how you can make it easy for them, and you need the pitch to have this and that, has to be timely and like –. All that made sense. I'm like, “Oh sure, sure, sure.” But I couldn't have come up with that on my own, no way.
NYOTA: But she bundled it together like that.
DAMIEN: I would have never imagined that's a thing you can do because that's an entire degree program. That's a post-graduate degree program, if you'd like, and I see people who've been doing this for 20 years and do it poorly and they seem like smart people. [chuckles] So what makes me think I could do it?
NYOTA: Because we can do whatever we want.
CASEY: I mean, these publications do have editors and it's their job to help make the quality, at least meet the low bar at minimum that the publication expects. But if you are really nerded out on ranked choice voting, or something, you might be the local expert. If you're thinking about writing an article, you might be the best person to do it actually.
NYOTA: Mm, that's good. That's the quota right there.
CASEY: So what are you nerding out about lately? Anyone listening to this, think about that to yourself and is there an article about it you can just share? I like that. I don't have to write every article ever. If not, you can think about writing it.
NYOTA: I like that.
DAMIEN: And what strikes me is like where the bar is for local expert. Like I believe a 100% that you're the local expert on ranked choice voting because I know enough about ranked choice voting to know that people don't understand it. [chuckles]
And after I wrote the article, I found a group of people and so, now there's like 10 of us at this level where we get it and we're advocating for it. But I'm one of the top 10 at that point still, sure. And there are details of it that I know, details other people know that I don't know, and we're all specialists in different nuanced details and together we're stronger and that's a community, too. It's been a lot of fun advocating for that in D.C.
JOHN: That's awesome.
NYOTA: It's interesting the visual that I'm getting in my head, like you're over here dancing by yourself and then you back up and they're like, “Oh shoot. Other people are dancing to this same song,” and then you look and you'd be like, “Look, y'all, we're all dancing,” but you're still the lead dancer and they're the backup.
I don't know why I got that visual.
CASEY: I like this image.
CASEY: I want to give the other organizers some credit. I think they're the lead. But I found them eventually. I couldn't have found them if I didn't write the article probably. I looked it up. I Googled it once, or twice. They have a website, but I don't know, it didn't come up for me right away, or it did, but I didn't know how to contact them and getting into breaking into that community is its own barrier.
NYOTA: That's unfortunate. But you're the lead to me. I mean, you're Casey. I mean [laughter] they're okay.
CASEY: Thank you.
NYOTA: I mean they're okay for what they're doing, but they're not you, so. No shade on what they're doing.
JOHN: I just posted a link to a talk by Derek Sivers about how the first followers are actually more important than the first leader and it's a fantastic talk. It's pretty short, but really amusing and it makes such a fantastic point. Like Casey, you were out there, you posted the article and then all these other people show up. So now I've got this like group of 10 and then those people – you and they are all doing outreach and they are expanding that group of people that are up to speed on this stuff and are advocating for it. So there's this nucleus and it's expanding and expanding.
CASEY: Yeah, and each person we get, then they can bring in more people, too and it's a movement, it's growing. I think we'll have it soon. There's literally already a bill passed in D.C. It's passed a committee and now it's gone to the bigger committee, the whole process, but there's a real bill that's been passed some steps.
NYOTA: You might as well do a TEDx. I mean, you might as well.
CASEY: Good idea. Yeah, yeah.
NYOTA: But they just let anybody do them. I have one. They just give them out. They're like, “Let Nyota do it.” “Okay. I'll just – let me do it.” You can do it. You have something to talk about, it’s the same. It's like the news. Why not you?
NYOTA: You're already talking about it.
NYOTA: I mean, you get a TEDx, you get a TEDx.
CASEY: Look at this, Nyota inspiring us.
DAMIEN: I'm inspired. Why not me?
NYOTA: No, really.
DAMIEN: I'm serious. That is not sarcasm. I mean that very sincerely. I'm thinking about all the things I want. I'm going to call Casey later on and go, “Okay. You know how to bring ranked choice voting to a government. How are we going to bring it to another one?” And I think about all the other –
DAMIEN: I'm actually trying to bring ranked choice voting to my neighborhood council. I pushed to an amendment to our bylaws, which has to be approved by another organization, which I can't seem to get ahold of. [laughs] But we're doing it and why shouldn't we be doing it? Why not us?
NYOTA: Why not?
CASEY: Yeah. Oh, I've got resources to share with you. We'll talk later, Damien.
JOHN: Well, that's also great because that again, is going to spread. Once the local organization is doing it, people start getting experience with it. They're like, “Oh yeah, we did it for this thing and it worked out great. Now I sort of understand how it works in practice. Why the heck aren't we doing it for the city council and for the governor?” And like, boom, boom, boom.
DAMIEN: Yeah. Ranked choice voting is interesting because as much as people don't understand it, it's really simple [chuckles] and I think overwhelmingly, people need experience with something to understand it.
CASEY: Yeah. Yeah.
DAMIEN: And we have a lot of experience with plurality voting in this country, in my country at least. We have almost none with ranked choice voting.
NYOTA: I think it's interesting how people get so excited about presidential elections and that sort of thing, but your life really happens at your local elections.
CASEY: So true.
NYOTA: Your quality of life is your local elections, like you're talking about these roads being trashed. Well, that's at the local. Biden and Kamala, they have nothing to do with those potholes all along this road. I think so people miss that. You're like, “Those elections are great. Presidential election, awesome.” But your local elections? Those are what matter for where you live and I'm like, “Why are people missing that?”
DAMIEN: I think it goes back to the news.
CASEY: Sure. That's a part.
NYOTA: Darn you, news. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Right, because national news is leveraged.
DAMIEN: The national broadcast is made once and broadcast to 300 million people in the country. Local news does not have that leverage.
NYOTA: Mm. They need to get their social media presence together then because people are listening to Instagram.
CASEY: I'm thinking about everyone's mental model of how change happens, too and I don't think a lot of people have a very developed mental model of what it takes to make change happen.
I do a workshop on this actually and one of the examples I use is for gay marriage in the US. You can see the graph; you can look it up. We'll include in the show notes, a picture of gay marriage over time and it's like one’s place, one’s at another place, like very small amount. Just maybe not even states like counties, or some lower level, a little bit of traction, a little bit of traction, a little traction. Eventually, it's so popular that it just spikes and it's a national thing.
But along the way, you might look here from the news that when it became a national thing, that's the first time, that's the first thing you heard about it. But along the way, there was all these little steps. So many little steps, so many groups advocating for it, and the change happened over time.
I also think about the curve of adoption. It's a bell curve. For the iPhone, for example, some people got it really early and they were really into this thing. Like PalmPilots were really the earlier edge of smart devices. Some people had that; they're really nerdy.
Some people are still holding out on the other end of the bell curve. Like my mom's best friend, she still has a flip phone and she doesn't have any interest in a smartphone. I don't blame her. She doesn't need it. But she's the lagger, the very far end lagger of on this model and to get change to happen, you’ve got to start on whoever is going to adopt it sooner and actually like get them involved. Like the smaller states, the smaller counties that are going to support gay marriage or whatever the issue is, get them to do it and then over time you can get more of the bell curve.
But a lot of people think change happens when you get the national change all of a sudden, but there's so much earlier than that. So, so, so much. Like years. 30, 40, 50, a 100 years sometimes. [chuckles]
NYOTA: Yeah. This is the dance that John was talking about that he posted about this.
CASEY: The first follower, yeah.
NYOTA: Yeah, first followers. But you get to be the first leader if you allow it. If you really want change like you're saying. Instead of looking for someone to follow, [chuckles] we get to decide how we want to live.
DAMIEN: Yeah. This seems true at work. If there's a cultural norm you don't like, you can change it by getting your allies on board and aware of it, socializing it and more and more people and gradually over time and eventually, that thing's not happening anymore.
Like, I don't know. An example is eating at your desk over lunch. Not the best social norm. I don't want that at places I work. I want people to take a break, rest, and be better off afterwards. But you can get it to happen gradually by getting more people to go to lunch room, or go out of the office and you can change the culture in the office with enough dedication and time if you put your mind it.
NYOTA: Yeah. But what we don't get to do is complain about it. Right? [chuckles]
Whenever I have some kind of conflict, I think about do I want to accept it and stop complaining, or do something about it?
CASEY: Or I guess the third option is neither and then I'm just frustrated. I don't like to choose that one if I can ever avoid it. [chuckles] Do something, figure out that I can do something like work on it, or accept it, which is kind of giving up. But you can't do every change you ever think of.
CASEY: It's not really giving up. Acceptance does not mean giving up, but it does mean you can put your mind down and focus on other stuff.
NYOTA: Yeah. That's triage. That's what that is. [laughs]
CASEY: Triage. Yeah, yeah.
DAMIEN: That third option is really important because I choose that a lot. It's important to know that and acknowledge it. [chuckles] It's like, oh no, I've chosen to be frustrated. Okay.
NYOTA: Yeah. Good.
CASEY: And you can, yeah. Sometimes when I choose to be frustrated, it’s that I'm still working on it. I'm working on figuring out if I can do anything, or not. I don't know yet.
DAMIEN: For me, it's I'm not willing to do, or figure out what it is to do, but I'm also not yet willing to accept it so I just shouldn't to be frustrated.
CASEY: Sure, yeah, yeah.
DAMIEN: And the frustration. If I acknowledge that and recognize that, the frustration can better lead me to go, “Okay, no.” Making the change stinks. But [chuckles] the frustration is worse and lasts longer, so.
NYOTA: And then you start speaking from your frustration, which is even worse [laughs] and then it bleeds over.
CASEY: Not effective.
NYOTA: Yeah, it bleeds over into other things and because now you're saying stuff like, “See, this is what I'm talking about.”
No, I don’t. No, I don't see what you’re – no. Are we talking about the same thing? Because now you're just frustrated all over the place.
NYOTA: What are you talking about again? Are you talking about work?
CASEY: When someone's in that situation, I have to ask them, “Would you like to be effective at this?”
NYOTA: Oh, that's a shank.
CASEY: They might not want to be. They might just want to vent. That's fine. It helps me set my standards, too. Like, do they want support, or do they want to vent?
NYOTA: I'm going to write that down.
CASEY: I mean, it sounds pointy. Here's my blunt side showing. I meant it. You can answer yes, or no. It’s why it's a question. I'm not going to give you obvious answer question. I expect one.
NYOTA: Yeah. That's good right there because I'm just getting to the part where I'm like, “Do you want me to help, or you just want me to listen?” Because I'll be like, “Oh, I know the answer to this!” And they'll be like, “Oh, I don't. You always trying to help!” First of all, stop talking to me then.
DAMIEN: Can you tell my friends that?
NYOTA: Like don't come to me because I just want to help. I’ve got a solution and if you don't want a solution, don't talk to me.
CASEY: Sure, sure. That's the kind of support you're offering.
CASEY: You're offering that support and if they want it, great. If they don't, sounds like you're setting the boundary. Good.
NYOTA: Right, right. Oh, I don't have a – no, I have no problems setting a boundary. Yeah, no problems because the thing is this is your third time. Like at some point, you need to either want to do something, or quit talking to me about this.
NYOTA: Like that part.
CASEY: I'm pretty patient supporting friends like that, but there is a limit to the patience. Yeah, three. That sounds like pretty good. I might even go to six for some people before I start telling them no.
CASEY: [laughs] I mean, “You have to do something, or complain to someone else.”
NYOTA: Yeah. Like, are you going to do something – are we still talking about this like?
CASEY: Yeah. Some people need the support, but it's not necessarily me they're going to get it from because I don't have that much energy and time to put toward that.
NYOTA: Yeah. I just think that's important to, but my friends know that already. Like, don't talk to me about your allergies, or don't talk to me about your fitness, or you can't fit your clothes. For me, I don't buy new clothes because I can't fit them. I won't allow myself to do that.
CASEY: Some people do.
NYOTA: Yeah, so – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: I'm sorry. Buy clothes you can't fit?
NYOTA: No, I don't buy new clothes because I can't fit my old ones.
DAMIEN: Ah, okay.
DAMIEN: I know that one.
NYOTA: I only buy new clothes because I want new clothes.
NYOTA: I put that around myself like, it's not because I don't want to go outside and walk, or you know. But then I don't allow myself to get too thin in the other direction either, because that means I'm doing something that's probably not that healthy, like not eating real food. I will just eat potato chips and that's it. [chuckles]
So I have to – like, if it's too far to the left, or to the right, then I know that I'm doing something that's not healthy. I’ve got to reel myself in. I don't have any other checkers. I'm my own self-checker. I don't have a spouse that's going to be like, “Hmm, those jeans look a little snug.” [chuckles] I don't have it. [laughs] It's just – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Well, what I'm hearing, though is it's going to be, you set a high bar for checking people. So for somebody to check you, they're going to have to be really insightful and not candy-coated.
NYOTA: I don't like candy.
CASEY: Like direct.
NYOTA: Yeah, because I don't need a bunch of like, “Oh, Nyota. How are you today?!” You don't really have to be like, “Oh, so I heard what you said about that.” I don't think that – that's not right, or however the check comes, like however it comes.
NYOTA: But I want that because I know I'm not right about everything. I know that and I don't pretend to be all-knowing. I just want somebody to kind of reel me in sometimes like reel me in. Please reel me in.
Because I'll just keep – I'm a habitual line stepper. You know what I'm saying because now I'm just going to keep on seeing what you're going to let me slide with. Even as a kid, my mom was like, “You're always everywhere.” Like, “You're always – like, “We could never find –” I was the kid that why they came out with those harnesses for kids.
CASEY: What an image.
NYOTA: Yeah. I'm that kid because I just want to see, I want to go look, I want to go what's over here. Like what's around. Are you going to let me slide? Are you going to let me say that one? What else you’re going to let me slide with? It's that so that's why they created those harnesses for kids like me. [chuckles]
DAMIEN: Your bio says your firm thrives at the intersection of cybersecurity and employee wellness. What's the intersection of cybersecurity and employee wellness?
JOHN: I was just going to ask that. I want to know!
NYOTA: I think it's resiliency.
NYOTA: Yeah. So cybersecurity is that resiliency within organizations and then that wellness of people is that resiliency that's within humans. When those two come together, it's a healthier—I can't say fully healthy. It's a healthier work environment because when we get to show up to work healthy, resilient, drinking water, getting rest, being able to have emotional intelligence, social intelligence; all of those things are what I count as being resilient. And then when you can show up to work that way, then you're not showing up to negatively impact the network because you're not focused. You're not paying attention. You're clicking on every link because it looked like it – it seemed fine. But had you been like you had one moment of awareness to pause, you would see oh, this is not right. When I put my mouse over that, I see that the link at the bottom is not where I'm supposed to be going. So that place is resiliency at work.
DAMIEN: That is an extremely advanced view of security, maybe it's from your time as an officer, but the general view of security is it's this wall you put up and you make the wall really secure, you make the wall really strong and really tall, and that way you keep everything out. It's like, well, no. Anybody who has gone to office training school knows about defense in depth.
DAMIEN: Knows you can't maintain any particular perimeter indefinitely. The French found that out to much of their chagrin. [laughs]
DAMIEN: That's a Emmanuel line reference. That's not news.
To go all the way to like – and I see where you're going with this. Phishing emails don't work on people who are calm and relaxed when nothing's urgent.
DAMIEN: Where they can go, where they can stop and think, and have that wherewithal and that energy and that reserve.
NYOTA: Right, even at home. Especially how all of these scams are on the rise, Navy, federal, IRS, all kinds of people. If you're just one moment aware, you'd be like, “Wait, have I ever engaged my bank in this way?”
DAMIEN: Hm mm.
NYOTA: Like ever? Have they ever called me and asked me for my six digit? They called me and I didn't call them? Like, I just think if you just take a breath and then think part of being resilient is being able to take more breaths.
DAMIEN: Wow. Yeah. Wow.
CASEY: Ooh, I like that line.
NYOTA: Yeah. We know that one of the biggest vulnerability to cybersecurity posture of anything that happens is people because we are normally that vulnerability, we're normally that weakness in the network because we are human. So anything that we get to do to reinforce ourselves, guard ourselves up, it's always going to have a positive second, third, fourth order of effects.
DAMIEN: How does upper management react to that when you come in and say, “We're going to improve your cybersecurity, give your employees more days off”?
NYOTA: So I'm actually new having this conversation within leadership, but they already have leadership corporations, they already have this structure in place. Just haven't heard anyone tie it together specifically to their cybersecurity posture.
So there's already a lot of wellness initiatives, you can talk to counselors. I think we already have these initiatives in place, but they're just kind of ethereal, they're kind of out here, but to say, “Now tie that not just to our bottom line, because employees are less willing to have turnover, but let's tie it to the security of the network because our employees are aware and they're more vigilant.” So it's just kind of helping them to see the work that we're already doing within corporations. We get to laser focus that into a place.
CASEY: Hmm. I like it that this gives way to measuring the outcome of those programs, too. You can correlate it, too.
NYOTA: Yeah, instead of like, “Oh, we're happy at work. We're skipping and holding hands down the hallway.” Well, that may not necessarily be what you want, but you do want less infractions on the network. More opportunities to be successful but not having to spend so many manhours undoing cybersecurity risk.
CASEY: I want to zoom out. I want to go meta with you. You're helping them become more resilient. How do you make sure your changes there are resilient? When you leave, they persist? You can Mary Poppins out and they're still the way they were before you arrive.
NYOTA: Mm, that's a good question. So during the time that we work together, they also buy a bundle of coaching. They have opportunity to come back for where I can do, like, “Hey, y'all it's time for the refresh,” and not in a lame way. I'm actually creating on workshops now and it involves coloring books. Because when we were in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the places we colored, and I just feel like coloring saves lives and when I'm saying people, I'm talking about mine, because it is very calming and not those crazy ones that are really small and you have to have a pen. So I'm talking about a 5th-grade coloring book with big pictures where it's relaxing and you're talking amongst your peers. It involves that.
Setting them up with skills to be able to well, if you do nothing else, make sure you're playing the gratitude game in the mornings. What is the gratitude game? I play this game with myself. Every morning when I wake up, I say three things that I'm grateful for, but it can't be anything that I've ever said ever before.
DAMIEN: Mm hm.
NYOTA: I play this game. It's always making you search for the gratitude, always looking for that shiny light. There's always a better today, a better tomorrow, and so, even if there's something as that and drink water, because there's a lot of things that happens when you're dehydrated. There's a lot of clarity that doesn't happen when you're thirsty and so, even if it's just those two things and reminding people, just those two things have even had an impact on my life. Do you see my skin popping? Do you?
I'm just saying. Water is your friend. [laughs] So just those, just kind of even a pop in, a retraining. Hey, remember. Remember sleep, remember relaxing, remember get up and walk around your cube, and the filter water is so much better. It tastes so much better than bottled water. I'm just, it's better. I'm holding up my filtered water. Picture here, I keep it at my desk while I work if I'm on a lot of calls in a row.
CASEY: I can go through water.
NYOTA: And that's why you're alert. I don't think people understand that being dehydrated really makes you lethargic and you're like, “Are they talking? I see their mouth moving. I can't pay attention. What is happening. What is that?” And being dehydrated is not good. Don't do that. Just take a little sip of water. We’re talking about water, just take a little sip of your water. Go get some water. [chuckles] If you're listening, get some water. [laughs]
CASEY: Reminders help. I'm going to post one of my favorite Twitter accounts, @selfcare_tech.
NYOTA: Ooh. Please.
CASEY: And they do a water reminder probably every day. Something like that. So I'll just be on Twitter and I'm like, “Oh yeah. Thanks.”
DAMIEN: [laughs] See, we can turn social media even to our good.
CASEY: Yeah. We can find some benefit.
NYOTA: But we get to decide and I think that's another thing that people don't. Like, they negate the fact that you get to decide. You get to decide where your life is, or isn't. You get to decide where you're going to accept, or not accept. You're going to decide if I work at this job, it's for my greater good, or not. We get to decide that. You've already created your life up to this point. So what does it look like later? We've created this life that we have and people take responsibility for that. Who do you get to be tomorrow? Who do you get to be today?
The thing is we always get what we ask for. So I've been asking for a bold community, I've been asking for a community that pushes and pulls me and here comes Casey, here comes Andrea, here comes you guys and I'm like, “I think that's so interesting.” We do get what we ask for you.
CASEY: It sounds like you're manifesting the world around you. I like that word.
CASEY: I don't even mean it in a metaphysical spiritual sense, but even just saying. Back when I was an engineering manager and I wanted to become a PM, I told people I wanted to be a product manager and by telling a lot of people, I got a lot more opportunities than I would have.
CASEY: Telling people was very powerful for that.
NYOTA: And in my Christian Nyota way, that's what happens. Miracles come through people. So give people an opportunity to be your miracle.
JOHN: So we've come to the time on our show where we do reflections, which is each of us is going to talk about the things that struck us about this conversation, maybe the things will be thinking about afterwards, or the ideas we're going to take forward.
Casey, do you want to start us off?
I wrote down a quote from Nyota. She said earlier in this episode, “A big part of resilience is being able to take more breaths,” and I just think that applies anywhere the word resilience applies and I want to meditate on that for over the week.
JOHN: I’m right there with you. That is really sinking in and applicable in so many ways. I love it.
DAMIEN: Yeah, and involving taking some breaths while you do that, huh?
I am really inspired by this conversation. The ideas of you can be the expert, you can be the journalist, you can be the first mover, the first leader. Realizing that in my life, I’m going to be looking for ways I want to apply that conscientiously. How to make sure not to try apply it everywhere. [laughs] But I get to decide. I get to decide who I am and who I'm going to be in this world and what this world is going to be like for me, so that's awesome.
NYOTA: That is good. I like that one, too.
And along those lines for me, it's like when Casey's like, “I mean, I knew this, I knew this, I knew this, I knew this, but when someone had created this bundle for you to be able to follow, I really heard when we do things, leave breadcrumbs so someone can come behind us and also be able to support. Because if you don't – leave some breadcrumbs.
So I thought that was – she was like, “I knew these things but she had created this framework for you to be able to do it, too,” and I heard leave some breadcrumbs. So I really like that.
John, do you have a reflection for us?
JOHN: No, I mean, really, it's the same as Casey's. [laughs] Yeah, that statement is really going to sit with me for a while. I like it a lot.
CASEY: I'm going to make a t-shirt of it.
NYOTA: [laughs] I love a good t-shirt.
DAMIEN: Well, Nyota. Thank you so much for joining us today.
NYOTA: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so honored to be amongst such caring, intelligent, thoughtful people and so, I appreciate you all for having me.Support Greater Than Code