Get Comfortable with Grief: Marisa Renee Lee on speaking publicly about the personal

Episode 112:
Get Comfortable with Grief: Marisa Renee Lee on speaking publicly about the personal

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This is an episode for: aspiring speakers, writers and anyone that is dealing with grief.

Molly Geoghegan, Narrative Strategist

Molly Geoghegan

Mar 14, 2024

Marisa Renee Lee is a speaker, an entrepreneur, an author and “grief advocate.” 

Having lost her mom to breast cancer and struggled with infertility, Lee has alchemized her experiences into a NYT Bestselling book, Grief is Love: Living with Loss.

Marisa joins us to share how she presents and speaks on such vulnerable topics, how grief can show up at work and how you can support colleagues experiencing grief. 

In sharing her personal stories and experiences, Marisa is helping to break the stigma around these heavy subjects and offers new ways to approach grief in both work and life.

What's in the Spice Cabinet??

Want more of Marisa’s work? (Or hire her as a speaker?)

  • Check out her site, here
  • Follow Marisa on LinkedIn & Instagram—she’s got something in the works with Al Roker…

Gift a loved one (or yourself) going through grief her book:

One of Marisa’s favorite speakers?

Other inspiration?

Marisa’s walkout song? 

  • She’ll get back to you 😉

Parting words of advice for Presentation Nation?

  • “My biggest piece of advice is to keep at it and just do the thing. You know, don't get distracted by imposter syndrome or feeling like it's too late or comparison. You know, don't get lost on social media looking at all of these people who've accomplished things that you haven't done yet that you want to do. Instead just focus on doing the damn thing. Like just ignore the noise.”

Transcript

Click here to see the podcast transcript

Michael Mioduski  00:21

Welcome back to presentation thinking aka the storyteller Study Club. This is Mike Mioduski. I'm the founder and CEO of ghost ranch communication. We are a bunch of presentation PowerPoint nerds who are digging in deeper into storytelling and I am joined with my co host, your favorite Molly Gagan. Molly, what's going on?

 

Molly Geoghegan  00:40

No Mikey, we gotta take a poll and see who's the favorite. There's no way it's. But hey everyone, Molly Gagan here. I'm a Narrative Strategist at ghost ranch. And we have a very special episode for you guys today, because we were approached by a very special person with a lot of titles, author, writer, entrepreneur, speaker and grief advocate, our first ever grief advocate on the cast. We have Marisa Renee Lee, thank you so much for joining us.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  01:07

Thank you for having me. This is gonna be so fun. Yeah,

 

Molly Geoghegan  01:10

we're really excited. We're feeling special, because I was just telling you that we started presentation thinking as a storyteller, study club, you know, breaking down amazing professional speakers, tics and quirks and skills and what they use. And so when, when you reached out to us, we were like, Oh, my gosh, a professional speaker. And Brian wants to chat with us. That's great. So I don't know if this is a sign that we made it but I'm feeling Gosh.

 

Michael Mioduski  01:38

Marissa was doing some research. I saw you speaking at Google, like at Google speaks. I saw you in a conversation with Cory Booker. Good Morning America. Yeah.

 

Molly Geoghegan  01:48

Yeah, first of all,

 

Michael Mioduski  01:50

can you tell us about your book a little bit and maybe how you your background to?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  01:54

Yeah, I mean, I'm always happy to talk about Greek his love. Short version is I've been obsessed with grief and loss for a very long time, which is a really weird thing to be obsessed with. But when I was, I was 22. And just getting ready to graduate from college. Literally the week of graduation. My mom who had multiple sclerosis, when I was growing up was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. And so a few days before graduation, you know, you basically get noticed that your mom is dying. I took a year off after college and just spent some time with my parents helping them navigate the complexities, the health, finances, just logistics, all of it, and then went on to work on Wall Street. And while I was there, my mom expectedly but still always unexpectedly passed away. And I was very much around and present when she was sick when she was dying. I am pretty much a stereotypical type a person I like lists and spreadsheets and research and I had all of those things surrounding my mother's end of life. You know, I knew what song she wanted at her funeral. I read Elisabeth Kubler Ross is on death and dying. Now I had all of the notes, I was ready to go. And then it happened. And I was wrecked. And I thought that because I prepared it. Not that it was going to be easy. But I thought it would be easier. And then it happened. And it was like getting run over by a truck multiple times a day, every day for months. And because I had prepared and because I also am somewhat stubborn, I would say I was really angry that it was so hard. And I assumed that there must be something wrong with me, you know, I must have missed a step in the process. Or somewhere along the way, I dropped a ball because it shouldn't be this hard, especially for someone as prepared as myself. And finally, about six months in, I stopped pointing fingers and stopped blaming myself and realized that I am not the problem. The problem is in how we talk about death and grief and loss and dying and how we treat grieving people in this country and in lots of other countries around the world, unfortunately. And so my mom died in February of 2008. In August of 2008, I wrote in a notebook that I am shifting, and I am going to start planning to write a book about grief and loss that's going to explain what grief really is and how it works. And the book would not be sad and depressing. And it would be a New York Times bestseller. At this point. We're just waiting on the New York Times. So if everyone listening can buy like 15 copies of the book, like maybe that'll get us

 

Molly Geoghegan  04:54

there. We'll get a little applause sound in the background. But yeah,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  04:59

it took the Over a decade to actually get to a place where I was starting the book, and I was pushed into writing it by another loss, my husband and I, after years of struggle with infertility and IVF. And, you know, just tons of briefs along the way, we finally got pregnant in late 2019, and then lost the pregnancy. And then it was the global pandemic. And so I found myself, you know, grieving this loss, physically sick from the miscarriage itself. And just like everybody else, you know, grieving the state of the world. And this pandemic, you know, a word that I didn't even know, I didn't know how to define the word pandemic on March 1 2020. Like truly, I had no I know, it was a movie, like, you know, like, I just, I had no idea and then to be so in the middle of it, while also grieving this deeply personal loss. It was really hard. And so I just was writing like crazy, because that was one of the only healthy coping mechanisms still at my disposal, and I ended up reading an article that was in glamour in May of 2020. That went somewhat viral. And then by the end of the summer, I had a deal to write Rica's love, which came out almost two years ago. Wow. What a journey.

 

Molly Geoghegan  06:24

It was a time the making of a book. Thank you very much. Thanks for sharing that said, yeah, yeah, vulnerable and rollercoaster of emotions you've been on? I'm curious, before that journal entry in 2008. Did you ever have an idea or envision yourself as a writer? Were you a writer by practice? Like, what did you study in college? Did you ever know you were on the way? Just question,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  06:44

yeah,

 

Molly Geoghegan  06:45

a writer a grief advocate?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  06:47

No, it's really funny, because looking back, you know, even going back to early elementary school, it is very clear that I was meant to be a writer, but I didn't actually have that stated aspiration. You know, when I was really a little kid, more telling my mom, I wanted to be an actress and a lawyer, totally compatible careers, obviously. And she said, you know, both of those careers will require a lot of readings. So you'd have to read a lot of books. So from a young age, I was an intense and voracious reader. In second grade, I started like a school paper for my classroom, I have these really intense essays that I was writing in elementary school, like multiple pages about the legacy of Martin Luther King and the AIDS crisis in Africa. And what I would do if I were to become president, and how I would fix all of these global and community issues, like very easily as a fifth grader, like, so, so, so, so ridiculous.

 

Molly Geoghegan  07:51

I love childhood dreams,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  07:53

oh, my God, I was really enraged about a lot of social problems as a young child. I do not know how I got exposed to them. But I was, yeah, I was deep in it. And so looking back, they're all of these things that point to oh, this person is definitely going to be a writer shouldn't be writing more. But I didn't, in part, because I remember being in third grade. And, you know, growing up in a large public school and having a teacher tell me that I essentially couldn't write well, because I was so bad at grammar, like even today. And I you know, I'm a published author, I went to Harvard, like, I am not an idiot by any means. But if you were to give me a grammar quiz, there's a good chance I would fail it. So for anybody who's listening, who has aspirations of being a writer, and doesn't do so well, on the grammar front, like you can still write a book, don't worry, like, I'm here to assure you of that. So yeah, if you look closely, there were definitely things that pointed in this direction. But I never would have said, I want to be a writer. But once I made that decision that day, in August of 2008, it became a very real thing to me, you know, even when I very quickly and suddenly ended up with a deal to actually write a book. And I had no idea what I was doing. It still felt just very natural, like this is what's supposed to be happening, either an

 

Michael Mioduski  09:24

insider or maybe related to the glamour article kind of puts you on the radar. Is that how you got the book dealer? Did you have to then go pitch it around? And what was that process? Like?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  09:35

It was largely a glamour article, and I had written some op eds before, then, you know, I've been doing op ed writing on and off since right after my mom passed away, actually. But that glamour article, you know, it was published days, maybe a week and a half before George Floyd's murder. And so suddenly, you know, I am I'm out there as a black woman who had has written and spoken about and done work around both grief and loss and racial equity. So it was the glamour article. And then it was the TV interviews, and then it was agents reaching out. And, you know, the article came out Mother's Day weekend 2020. By June, I had an agent that I had signed with. And by first or second week of July, we had an abbreviated proposal that was being pitched to publishers. It was a wild, wild ride. And by the second week of August, I had the book deal. And that was it. And thankfully, only one editor wanted it. And she's now one of my best friends. And I couldn't be more grateful. Like she was like the most perfect partner.

 

Molly Geoghegan  10:51

So your authentic story got to be published.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  10:53

Oh my god, yes. And frankly, a better version of my authentic story, thanks to Chris Schaub Trotman like she's amazing. That's

 

Molly Geoghegan  11:01

such a testament to us having a story to share at the right, you know, right place, right time, for better or worse, with an audience that was really demanding more of that, right, talking about these kinds of these kinds of hard topics. I'm curious, on that note, you know, you also have had experience in the entrepreneurial world. And, you know, being on the board of various organizations. This is like a unique category, you've given yourself this niche of, of grief and kind of confronting head on what people are, as you said, often very scared to name or talk about directly. How has that influenced both your work from that? Or did that work? influence you feel? Or vice versa? Did that work? Change the way you viewed that at all? And how has that helped when you are asked to go speak at a place like Google? Like, yeah, can you say to them about grief? Right?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  11:51

Well, so I will say, and I think some of this was the experience that we all share, you know, living through a global pandemic. But some of it just stems from things that have happened throughout the course of my life. I view, grief and loss and change and uncertainty, as just normal parts of life and work. They're things that we will never fully escape, whether we're talking about the physical loss of a person, or even the loss of team members inside of an organization, when they simply move on to another job. I'm not even talking about people dying. I also think about it in terms of, you know, relationships that you expect to continue that don't for one reason or another infertility, a serious illness, that you might have a mental health diagnosis that's unexpected to me, I see grief everywhere, because I you a brief event, essentially, as anytime you have an expectation about your future, that is reasonable, that does not come to pass, you know, whether it is something about your health, or, you know, I can tell you there is no one, at least who I have encountered, who gets married and thinks that it's going to end in divorce, or the loss of someone you love. All of those things are grief events. Because, you know, for me at 22, it was reasonable for me to think that my mom would continue to be a part of my life, at least up until the age that I am today, which is 41. She was young, she had me at 24. Totally reasonable that she would still be around today in her 60s. Of course, that's not what actually came to pass. So I as someone who has worked through and when I say works through I don't mean in the therapy sense. I mean, in the actual employment and job sense, somebody who has worked through periods of tremendous grief and uncertainty. I feel like I have a lot to say, in those corporate settings, because I know how you get through grief at work. And I know how people can make your grief experience at work harder or easier. And so that's often what I spend a lot of time around in those types of conversations. I'm

 

Michael Mioduski  14:18

curious now, like, Are there any, you know, without diving, having not read the book? Are there any just low hanging fruit ways? Like if someone we're working with is going through something like, yes, that must just don't do this and maybe think about doing this? Yes,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  14:34

yes. Okay, so, so first I'm going to give you I have sort of my tips for showing up for people who are grieving. And then I'll give you a couple of specific work ones. So generally, and I get this question literally in every single interview, you know, what do I do? What do I say? Especially people want to know like, I am really nervous. Somebody I care about just lost someone they love. What do I say to them? I have written and broke in, I don't know 1000s Maybe I don't know if it were a million, yet at least hundreds of 1000s of words on grief and loss. And I will tell you, there is not a single thing you can say, that's going to make someone feel better when the worst thing in the world has just happened to them. So don't let yourself get stuck in, I don't know what to say. So I'm not going to say anything, I'm not going to do anything. Don't do that. Instead, focus on the actions. So if someone you care about just experience a devastating loss, think about your actions in three categories. One is just show up. You know, the day that we found out that we were no longer pregnant, three of my roommates from college who lived locally, descended on our house that night. And we like they didn't talk about it, they knew that like, we were not even ready to acknowledge what had happened. We sat around, I drank bourbon, one of them brought homemade cookie dough, and she made cookies. And we watched American Ninja Warrior. So it was us four girls and my husband and dog on the couch. And like that was it. And I will never forget that for the rest of my life, because they were just there. So that's, that's one thing, like being there with someone who's in a place of pain like that is truly invaluable. The other thing is provide some sort of practical support brief has a measurable and tangible impact on our bodies, and on our brains, making it a lot harder to just handle day to day normal activities. So bring groceries, bring food, you know, ideally meals that can be frozen, because there are probably going to be a lot of other people bringing food to pick their kid up from school walk their dogs send a house cleaner, you know, those practical daily tasks become overwhelming when you are grieving. And then the third thing, and this is probably my favorite, send them some joy, you know, buy something or do something or give them something that either is going to remind them of who they are beyond this experience, or that connects to the person that they lost in their relationship with them. So practical examples. girlfriend of mine sent this glorious box of cheese and snacks from Marie's cheese shop in Manhattan. Oh, yeah, right. See, like, you know, you're like, oh my god, that's so good. And it was right after our pregnancy loss. And her note was, you know, I know other people are going to send you loose, and you need snacks. And now you don't have to worry about what she says you can and can't have anymore. And like it was like, yes, like I'm acknowledging that this is awful. But like also like, you're going to be okay. And you still love cheese. Another friend that sent this is so ridiculous that she sent 50 individual taco stands, because every year we have this holiday party called tacos and Baby Jesus at our house, and she wanted to make sure we were still going to have the party. And so like when 50 individual taco stands show up at your house from Amazon, like like metal ones that can be reached back year after year, like it's happened, you're like, okay, like, it's worse, I guess we're still going to do this, even though I don't want to. And so things of that nature. And so when it comes to grief at work, I think the first thing is giving people space to grieve, and encouraging them to take whatever time off they need, slash whatever time off the company will allow them to Because oftentimes, even in organizations with generous bereavement leave policies of which they are usually few and far between. But even in those circumstances, people often feel guilty taking the time. And so doing what you can to encourage someone to take that time, like I was back at work, two weeks after we buried my mom. And like that's, I felt like I needed to be there. I didn't have a financial backup plan of any time, you know, I needed to provide for myself and yeah, so like, I went back, I was not ready to be back at work. I then had a panic attack every morning in the basement of our investment bank for months. And so encouraging people to take whatever time is available to them is really important. And giving some flexibility around that time is also important. Because yes, there's the timing need right after somebody dies, but then it may be their birthday two months later, and you need a couple of days off or you want to take like a proper vacation. Sometimes soon after that. Like we don't want people to feel bad for continuing to be somewhat, I suppose more like practically vulnerable after something like a significant loss takes place. The second thing is doing the practical support but doing it at work. Like I have had people without my ass skiing, because they know that I would never asked just completely take projects and assignments off of my plate, like, share the little, I'm taking that call, I'm finishing that memo, I'm drafting the thick, you know, whatever it is. So that I mean, it was such a gift, my I have a partner that I share a lot of projects with. And he also happens to be one of my best friends. And he just just started just doing stuff. So that I didn't have to. The other thing I will say is if people tell you that they want to work, trust them, and listen to them and give them an opportunity to contribute. But also keep checking in. Because in grief land, we often say it's important to ask people, not how they're doing. But how are you doing today? Because some days are better than others. Some days are more manageable, some days are easier, some days are harder. And so by, you know, remembering to check in regularly, you will give people an opportunity to sometimes say, You know what, I don't know if I'm going to be able to finish that by our internal deadline, or could I get a little bit of extra help on this project or assignment. And then the last thing that I'll say is, it was hard for me as a young black woman on Wall Street at the height of the financial crisis during a very different time, culturally, you know, 16 years ago, there was know, everybody obsessed with Brene Brown or Glennon Doyle, or you know, these other women that are out there talking about feelings of vulnerability, and being honest and brave, and all sorts of stuff like that. It was more, suck it up, be strong, you're okay, get over it and move on. It was just a different time. And so I had a really hard time talking about how I was really doing in general, but especially on Wall Street. And there was another colleague, whose brother had died by suicide in like a very public heartbreaking tragedy, a couple of years before she joined us. So one of those things where everybody knew it when she joined the bank. And I had reached out to her around it, because my younger sister has bipolar disorder. And so I'd been through some of the younger sibling mental health crisis situations. And so we had connected around that. And that then meant when my mom died, like she was someone who felt more comfortable talking to me about my grief, and you know, knowing to bring it up even months later, and just doing these gentle check ins. And sometimes it was a pack of Twizzlers on my chair, like on the banking platform, you know, another time it was like a mix CD, because back then we were still making CDs for people and things of that nature. And so creating space for people, to be full human beings in the workplace and to continue to talk about how they're doing and feel supported. He can make a huge difference. And at the end of the day, at least for me, and I think, I think if I did some more digging, there's probably some research around this. The more supported individual employees feel as complete human beings, the better their work is like I am still ride or die for this investment bank and I have not worked on Wall Street since 2010. They will do anything for these people. Right. And that says a lot. Oh my God, it was the I was treated. So incredible. Well,

 

Michael Mioduski  23:40

great.

 

Molly Geoghegan  23:41

I wrote a few those down. I love that just to get the physical things to do for people grieving, you know, and I like how they translate a little bit from like, a different relation, no friend, versus like a colleague, of course, but that the physicality, the practicality, and the bringing someone memes to cheese baskets, you know? Yeah, so

 

23:59

love that. Well,

 

Molly Geoghegan  24:00

I'm not surprised you've been asked to be a speaker. But since this is presentation thinking, I am curious, like, How and when did those asks for you to start speaking in offices as I don't know if you've keynoted but yeah, the presenting stage. When did that come was that before or after the book? We're always curious if like the chicken or the egg, like what came first. I

 

Marisa Renee Lee  24:20

have been a public speaker since I was a kid. I was a theater kid. I was obsessed with being on stage like, you know, like, I just I loved theater, I love being in drama club. I loved going to theater camp and the plays and the music and all of it like, that was my jam when I was a younger child. And I also grew up in the black church, and that is a space where your personal feelings about you know whether you might be more shy or more of an introvert, like those types of things just don't matter. You are told to do things and you do them and so There was also a lot of public speaking and performing in that context. And, you know, my grandparents were to the people that helped to plant this church during the Great Migration. And like, I don't know, like the 40s 50. I don't even know. Cool. And so like, really, when I say there was like, no saying no, or opting out of things like, like, that just was, yeah, that was not a thing. That was nothing. And so I did a lot of that as well. And then was in both local county politics and school politics when I was a kid. And so always on stage, either as, you know, a want to be actress or as the class president, or something similar. And so I think even today, for me, speaking to people, even though as an adult, I recognize I am more of an introvert than I was allowed to be has a child, it is still just a really natural space for me. Like I, even at this point, you know, I get the butterflies before I get on stage. But once I'm on stage, I'm good. And that is where I feel like I belong. And even when I'm maybe not feeling my best, either from being in a grief space, or just physically not my healthiest. I can grab those acting, tactics and still bring it. So yeah, for me, it's a really natural space. It started a long time ago, and it is absolutely ramped up in that almost two years since the book is coming. Yeah.

 

Michael Mioduski  26:36

I'm jealous, because I wish it was that natural for me. But yeah, that's amazing. And you can tell early,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  26:40

you didn't have my mom and grandma. Yeah.

 

Michael Mioduski  26:44

Get you on stage. Have them send notes. No, I'm joking. Yeah. Well, everyone prepares differently. Everyone approaches presentations differently. Can you tell us about your style? Like, are you no slides? You know, just go have a conversation? What's your preparation technique?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  27:00

Yeah. So for me, whether it's a media interview, or a keynote, or armchair conversation type situation, I remember that, for better or worse, most people are not paying attention to most of the things that come out of my mouth. That's just, you know, we all have the grocery list, the kid pick up time, you know, whatever we're stressed about at work, like, it's all running in the back. Right? I wish that wasn't the case. But that is the case. For most of us. That's just how we live, unfortunately. And so I try to think of what are three to four things that I want to make sure someone is able to take away from what I say, whether it's the three and a half, four and a half minutes that I get on MSNBC, or the 1020 30 minutes that I have to deliver a keynote. And those are the things that I focus on most. If it's a keynote, I will write out a speech, even if it's basically a slightly edited version of the same speech that I've given a bunch of times, just to refresh it for myself, you know, I find either writing by hand or typing like it really does do something in the brain to just make sure everything connects the way that I want it to. And then in most cases, whether it's a keynote, or like I said, a TV interview, I have the oversize and I know this is a podcast, I don't know why I'm using my hands. I have the oversized index cards. And that is what I will use. If I use anything, you know, not the three by fives or the bigger ones. Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah, I don't know if it's four by six. I'm not. I'm not the numbers measurement person. But I'll use those. But generally, I will only use those in situations where people can't see them. Because I feel like for me, personally, it's more important to have a real connection, either with the person who's interviewing me on TV or with the audience. So like, I don't like to read things. I've probably only used a teleprompter, one that I can remember. And that's it. I have in the past, memorized full presentations. I preached a sermon. I did two back to back church services on a Sunday morning. Yeah, it was intense. And it was so funny. I had been attending this church for years. And there is there's like some, there was something set up like on the floor of the stage, like where the pastors usually are. And I assumed that was teleprompter. And so I was planning to use their teleprompter for my presentation, and then come to learn. Oh, no, no, no, like all they had. And this was a solid 30 plus minutes, just a music stand where they would have like a couple of notes and everything else memorize and I was like, Oh, I was like I not only memorize, I have to do this back to back to which, that for me, that was honestly the hardest part because you know hardest when you're speaking like you have that like energy you're like ready to go and then you do it and then for me like I just finished and especially as an introvert, I'm like, Okay, now I'm just gonna go have like a cup of tea or like, lie down or just get away from you. Oh, no, no, I have 10 minutes. And we go again. Yeah, so it's

 

Michael Mioduski  30:31

a lot of doubleheader. That's crazy. Yeah. So tense.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  30:34

I was like, Oh, okay. Okay. Thanks. For the heads up. Did

 

Michael Mioduski  30:38

you make any adjustments based on the first morning, or the first session?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  30:41

No, now the only thing I did, I realized, it's interesting, I can talk about the loss of my mom over and over again, until I'm blue in the face. But especially at that point, we were, my son wasn't yet a year old. And still talking about our journey through infertility and pregnancy loss, and then adoption and having this kid finally show up. Like, that was where I get emotional. And so like, I made a note to myself, you know, it's like, take another breath. But that was pretty much it. I never used slides. And here's why. And this, I am feeling not really embarrassed, maybe a little bit embarrassed to admit this to you all. But I don't know, we're

 

Molly Geoghegan  31:25

open to the nose slide presentation, for sure. But

 

Marisa Renee Lee  31:28

here's the thing, here's why are a big part of why I don't really know how to make slides. I was literally having this conversation with my husband, just this morning or yesterday morning, because of the way my career progressed, and the things that I was tasked with. It just never came up. Because I you know, I took a year off before starting my career. And then Wall Street, it was all memos and smedbo. Yeah, you know, that was the expectation. So I'm good with either of those. And then I went from Wall Street into the Obama administration in the White House. And that's not a PowerPoint environment. Like that was just more memos. Like that was more words, like, Do you need a frenzied a briefing memo? Oh, yes, it is fast paced for your met. Like, if you need me to turn out a memo for you in like 10 minutes, like, I got you slides not happening. And then I went on to I ran a nonprofit that's now a part of the Obama Foundation. And there were lots of slides involved in that. But we worked in partnership with the consulting firm Deloitte, so like, I always had a team of 20 or so consultants, who could spin out a deck and they can crank, like it was like nothing. And I would say that you guys have to teach me how to do this. Because if I don't learn now, I'm never going to know how to do it. And they would say you don't have time. And now I'm 41 years old, and I have my own company. And I don't know how to make slides. So that's

 

Molly Geoghegan  32:56

okay. Everyone has their own relationship with a PowerPoint slide like

 

Marisa Renee Lee  33:00

that. Yeah. So thank you, I like them, I want them. But I don't know how to make it talk

 

Molly Geoghegan  33:04

after this. If you if you need some slide help for sure, it will really we're raising our hand pretty happy to help. I love hearing that you have those couple of takeaways going into any presentation, no matter if it's in a sermon setting or Keynote setting. And you just physically write like, as a writer yourself, I would encourage anyone that's coming up with a new presentation to give it that method and start chunking it into categories. However it is, I am curious, to shake people out of that grocery list in the back of mind, like what am I doing after this? What am I eating after this? Do you use like kind of a hook or a little micro story at the beginning at all? Or maybe something in the middle to kind of like engage people? Do you have any strategies in that way to kind of shake people out of their general stupor?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  33:46

I never thought of it as a strategy. But I almost always end up opening my thing with some joke of some kind. It's not something that I do intentionally. But I'm even thinking back I did a, I did a Martin Luther King, breakfast keynote in January. And it was also an award ceremony for high school seniors that were getting like scholarships at this breakfast. And I got to sit at a table with one of the students and his dad and I had received the award when I was in high school. And so at some point in the program, you know, they asked everybody who'd gotten the award in the past to stand and I said, and I sat down and he was like, oh, like, you got this award, too. And I was like, yeah, and he said, When did you get it? And I said, 2001 and the look on this kid's face, like, I was just like, Okay, you just figured out how old I am. Like, you don't need to write all over your face kid. And so I actually lead with that. I was like, you know, I was up here in 2001. And as you know, and reminded me a few minutes ago, that was a long ass time ago. Now like the old lady up here, so yeah, I am for the micro story. And then I do think when you are really honest with people and vulnerable, that that does wake them up a little bit too, because everyone has some pain that they're carrying. Sure,

 

Molly Geoghegan  35:22

that kind of, and it's a little different if you are in especially if you're in a business setting where people might just be hearing about reports or any stuff going on, like yours would definitely be something that is atypical and breaks the pattern. So I think that emotional piece or the moment sharing an emotional story can also in of itself be a hook. But I love hearing that there. You infuse it with some humor to bring in the joy. Yeah, I haven't

 

Marisa Renee Lee  35:43

thought about it until you ask the question. But yeah,

 

Michael Mioduski  35:46

so besides getting you on the New York Times bestseller list, what's what's next? What's next for Marissa? Yeah, what's next?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  35:54

What's next, I have had the privilege of working really closely with Al Roker and his team at his production company on a docu series that we're working on based off of religious love. So that has been really fun. And then I also just received a grant to do some additional research at the intersection of race and racism. There was a lot that came up that and also a lot of sort of unanswered questions that came up when I was working on my book that now I have some resources to dig into a little bit more and so I'm hoping for more opportunities like that and then just continuing to do speaking and workshops and seminars and share the gospel of grief is love. Yeah, get on that New York Times list everybody by grievous love, please. Let's

 

Molly Geoghegan  36:49

do it. Tell ya know, we will. Absolutely. And here we find ourselves in the spice cabinet of the OEA. Marisa cool, so awesome. We need really excited for your upcoming work. That's great. Let us know when there's a link to the Docu series we can add on but we'll absolutely link the book on where to buy. And what's the best place if someone wants to hire you as a speaker. What's the best place to find you? My

 

Marisa Renee Lee  37:11

website? Marisa Renee lee.com. I'm also on Instagram as Marissa Renee Lee. I have not crossed over into the land of Tik Tok and I'm trying not to.

 

Molly Geoghegan  37:21

So it's a scary and exciting place.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  37:26

Yeah, I mean, it looks like a lot of fun, but I just I can't make that investment. Yeah, that's fair.

 

Michael Mioduski  37:31

I have a very important question. Well, first, I could totally see you on a TED Talk stage. So I'm gonna assume that there are that totally happen. If so, waiting, if you get to pick a walkout song, Marissa, what's your walkout jam?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  37:46

Oh, gosh, that is a real difficult question. Oh, my goodness, you know, this is important. Since the time my goodness, I know, I know. I feel like I don't have a good enough answer. I'm like, Can I pull up Spotify? And you ask me another question. I like real No, this is this is like a very important question. Because there's, there's like the stuff that I'm listening to right now. Right? But I don't think that's the answer. Like currently, my two and a half year old he only wants to listen to one of three songs from Beyonce is Renaissance album, or the new Texas Hold'em song, or jingle or Jingle Bells. songs that I listen to all the time right now. But like, that is not the answer for this.

 

Michael Mioduski  38:32

It can always be so venue specific, you know, like if it's in Vegas versus Chicago, New York, or your topic

 

Molly Geoghegan  38:39

too specific to totally Yeah. Oh,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  38:41

my gosh, I'm also like, do they allow explicit songs? Oh, yeah, we

 

Molly Geoghegan  38:45

say to this hypothetical. Yeah,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  38:51

I really I'm really gonna have to think about this. Okay. No,

 

Molly Geoghegan  38:54

keep keep thinking about it. I'm also curious as Yeah, you absolutely I'm, I won't be surprised when we see you on the TED stage, eventually. And then we do a whole podcast episode about that. TED talk if you're a TED follower,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  39:07

I am a you know what, I'm gonna give you a speaker. I love a lesser known speaker who has I was actually just telling you about him today. This guy is the founder of an organization called the Harlem Children's Zone. His name is Geoffrey Canada. He wrote a book when I was in middle school called fist stick knife gun. That was all about violence in urban communities and young people and education and you know, all all of these, like, big equity issues before that was the language around it, you know, and I heard him speak. I was 15. And I heard him speak at an event in our county here. And after hearing him speak about how, like if you see a problem in the world, don't assume that it's not your responsibility to fix under that you can't have some role in fixing it. And so I then followed his remarks. By sharing, I felt like there was this gap in care for the middle school kids in our county, and that there were so many young people who were alongside me in, you know, the honors classes in eighth grade and seventh grade, but then you get to high school, and they've just kind of disappeared. And I ended up getting a massive grant from the gap Foundation, like, got close, because they were building a new distribution center in our town. And that in my mind, like, having somebody say something that then inspired a young person to take action, that action then, I mean, it was real, like we had this program going across our school district. And it was even able to continue when there were budget cuts, because it had independent funding. And like that, it was like such a lesson for me that like what people say matters. And anybody can play a role in making the world a better place not to sound totally cheesy, but like, that's, that's literally exactly what happened. And I personally credit, his speech, and then what it inspired, and then that organization that ended up getting started as a result, as a big part of what got me into Harvard, like all these other colleges that I got into as a kid, you know, and like, seeing that impact. And now I am privileged and like fortunate enough to get to be a consultant at that organization. So it's Children's Zone, right? Yeah. And the guy's name is Jeff Canada. And if you look him up, I mean, he has been he has been everywhere

 

Michael Mioduski  41:46

this way. Now make the podcast where you at Harvard? Like, right, I'm the same about the same age. Yeah, like Zuckerberg, was he like just Oh, yeah. Around there. I was. Like he was handling there. Right. Right. When you were there. Oh, yeah.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  42:00

I think we can, like go in and see like, what number Facebook like sign up. We are all that cheese. Oh, wow. Yeah, I remember it. Well, he was class below us. And anybody who watched the social network, you know, the movie, The rowers, they were iconic. Because, you know, they're these giant, relatively handsome twins, like Jack, like, literally the epitome of what you envision. When you envision like, Ivy

 

Molly Geoghegan  42:32

League, Harvard sports. Yeah, like, like, I

 

Marisa Renee Lee  42:35

don't want to say I won't use inappropriate words. So like, like, like, whatever your vision is, like, they did it perfectly. So like, even though I was not trying to, like, hang out with them, you know, you remember just even through the dining call, like in the house or the land or like seeing them at a party. And you'd be like, Oh, it was literally like, what? Yes, Zuckerberg was there. And he was one of those people who you knew of, but like, I don't remember seeing him on campus. Yeah, I was busy drinking and acting like a fool not due to things like starting companies that would make me a billionaire like that. That would have been a really great idea. All right. Yeah. So yeah, there there was overlap with that,

 

Molly Geoghegan  43:21

Mike, you've been putting that together. I would never put two into but that's that's a fun little nugget. Hey, that could be your hook one day, too.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  43:29

I remember signing up for at the time that a spa in order to procrastinate on a junior paper that I was supposed to be writing on like Arab nationalism. So yeah, it was it was special. Love it. Yeah.

 

Molly Geoghegan  43:44

You start you were one of the OG procrastinators on Facebook. Now, people do it every day, but

 

Marisa Renee Lee  43:50

you made it. It was one of the first hundreds of procrastinate, yes. That's,

 

Molly Geoghegan  43:54

that's pretty wild. That's a cool claim. So two truths and a lie, you know, right. Oh, do you have any other favorite I mean, you wrote a great book yourself. We can't wait to read it. But do you have any other favorite books, podcasts, media of all time? Whether it's presentation or you know, grief related or not?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  44:13

I'm looking at my bookshelves because some of my favorites. I love poetry. I love pop cheese. The poet the Sufi poet, like that's, that's one of my favorites. And there's a collection of his poems called the gift that I absolutely absolutely love. Like, it's something I turn to you over and over again. I'm also a big Buddhism and spirituality person and I'm realizing I have a bunch of books by the now link, Tibet used monk tick MATCOM. I'm a huge huge fan of his in terms of books that other people might be more familiar with. I know link love. I love love, love, love, love Maggie Smith. She is She is one of my favorite humans. Maggie Smith, no, not Dame Maggie Smith. She actually literally goes by the other Maggie Smith. He is an Ohio based writer and poet. She just said a children's book come out last month actually, my thoughts have wings all about helping kids conquer bedtime anxiety. And she's just, yeah, I just I love her so much her writing is delicious like that. So I described to her memoir that's about the end of her marriage. And like, I loved every bit of it, like and you wouldn't, you wouldn't think like reading about the end of someone's marriage. Like you'd walk away being like, wow, that was a great book. And one of the best books I've read in the last year, but it is slash Lois. So those are some of my favorites. Awesome.

 

Michael Mioduski  45:43

Well, Molly, I know you're gonna get those in the in the spice cabinet on our pod page. This has been the bookshelf so cool. I'd love to keep going. Mercer. Do you have any parting shots, your advice to anybody who wants to get their story out there? Or a you know,

 

Molly Geoghegan  45:58

book form presentation for? Yeah,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  46:01

I mean, my biggest piece of advice is to keep at it, and just do the thing. You know, don't get distracted by impostor syndrome, or feeling like it's too late. Or comparison. You know, don't get lost on social media, looking at all of these people who've accomplished things that like you haven't done yet that you want to do. Instead, just focus on doing the damn thing. Like, just ignore the noise.

 

Molly Geoghegan  46:30

Love it. Cut, deliver. Okay, we can't let you leave though. If we did want to come back for a second. Did you think anymore on that city? Where would that walkout suck?

 

Marisa Renee Lee  46:40

Oh my god, I totally I forgot. I forgot I let I let my phone

 

Molly Geoghegan  46:46

we can we can cut it in later. You can let us know if you need.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  46:48

I'm gonna I'm gonna. Yeah, I need I and that's, it's a really important question.

 

Molly Geoghegan  46:53

Isn't that fun? That's my key signature board. Okay,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  46:57

you guys should have told me that. I'm sorry. I'm behind. You're fine.

 

Molly Geoghegan  47:01

You're either people like people like it doesn't mean a lot to people, you know. So I think sometimes either people like you don't want to lock it in clear, quick answer, or it's like this is one of the more important things I've had to design really,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  47:13

is that that's where I'm at with them. So I'm gonna I'm gonna continue to

 

Michael Mioduski  47:18

question. No,

 

Molly Geoghegan  47:20

and we'll just add it to the pod notes. You know,

 

Marisa Renee Lee  47:22

I love it. I love it.

 

Michael Mioduski  47:24

This is great. Awesome. Well, thank

 

Molly Geoghegan  47:26

you. Great having you, Marissa.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  47:27

Thank you both. And if you need anything, by way, follow up. Just a lot of stuff. Wonderful. Yeah. Awesome. Awesome.

 

Molly Geoghegan  47:33

Everyone. Go get grief is love. And yeah. Wow. Thanks so much. Merci. Yeah, inspiring, fun. And, yeah, we'll find another excuse to get that Ted one step closer to the TED Talk.

 

Marisa Renee Lee  47:43

Now, we know how can we make that happen?

 

Molly Geoghegan  47:46

We're both working towards it.

About The Author

Molly Geoghegan, Narrative Strategist

Molly Geoghegan is a writer, organizer, and film school dropout. She hikes frequently with her dog, Guinness, and signs up for too many email newsletters. Having lived in Chicago, Paris, Dublin and Galway, Molly has made her way back to the Rockies and calls Denver, CO home.

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