02 Sep September 2, 2020 – Pajama Passion Genevieve Piturro and Alchemy+Aim Brandi Bernoskie
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If you slide something in once a week for a hour that you love,
it changes you. It transforms your whole outlook.
Genevieve Piturro founded the hugely successful national non- profit Pajama Program when a six-year-old girl’s question changed her life forever. After being a successful television marketing executive in New York City for twenty years, she jumped off the corporate ladder. Today, her Pajama Program has delivered seven million Good Nights filled with magical gifts of pajamas and books to children throughout the US. An international speaker, consultant and author, Genevieve has made it her mission to inspire men and women across the globe to listen to their heart-voice connection in pursuing their passions to achieve success. Besides the amazing credentials and accolades, Genevieve remains a very remarkable and engaging speaker. Genevieve narrates her story of triumphant leap off the corporate ladder to find her life’s true calling in her new book, Purpose, Passion and Pajamas: How to Transform your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning.
Brandi Bernoskie – Founder and Chief Alchemist at Alchemy+Aim
As you build knowledge and awareness, you also see
opportunities to help and serve in different ways.
Brandi Bernoskie is Owner and Chief Alchemist at Alchemy+Aim, a website development and business strategy agency that helps change makers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs craft custom websites to enhance client experience and help them step into their genius work. She began her career as a blogger, teaching herself the ins and outs of WordPress before her friends began to notice and asked her for help with their own websites. She began freelancing, and things bigger and bigger until she found herself hiring her first assistant. She founded Alchemy+Aim in 2013, naming it for the transformation that takes place when the science and technology of web development meets the human aspect of what those websites were designed for. Brandi has since worked with thought leaders such as Brené Brown, Laverne Cox, and many others. Brandi has taken her love of theatre and training as an actor, and translated that into becoming a speaker and teacher, sharing wisdom and lessons from business, archery, and beyond with others. A visionary at heart, Brandi sees her work inspiring a new conversation around how to live in your truth, radiating your light onto the world unabashedly and with deep impact.
Highlights from Genevieve’s Interview
The Pajama Program started with this little girl’s question. So when I was reading to them, I watched one night where they were going to sleep at night and it was so bare. They were crying and afraid of sleeping in their clothes, so I brought pajamas the next time. Handing them out, one little girl, she was so afraid to take them. Finally after I tried to coax her and had her feel how soft they were, she whispered to me, what are they, what are pajamas? That got me! I was kneeling down, which was good because I was in shock. My heart was breaking. I never thought I’d ever hear that question even from one of those children. I tried to keep myself composed to explain to her that pajamas are clothes you can change into to sleep in, so they’re nice and warm and cozy, and they’ll fit her. Because obviously the clothes she was wearing, she had worn them for so long, they were tight. I just tried to reassure her that she was going to be able to be so comfortable now sleeping, and they were hers to keep. I didn’t want her to see that she had rattled me, I didn’t want to start to tear up because she’d thinks she had done something wrong. So I managed to just explain pajamas to this little girl.
At the time, I was climbing the corporate ladder and I thought that would mean everything to me. But I became obsessed when she asked that question, and it took me no time at all to say every minute I had, I was going to be hunting for bargains for pajamas for boys and girls that I had met, and all the others that would come after in my area of New York. But that wasn’t enough and I just couldn’t concentrate on my job. I needed the money, but I did not have savings. I couldn’t afford to jump but I did months later because I would have been fired. I was not doing a good job, I was hiding the phone on my hip. Because 20 years ago, you didn’t have a phone in the open. I was doing all my pajama work, I was just obsessed.
Finally, it did come down to having to make a decision, and I did. I was the happiest, my heart was happy and full and I found something that was part of contributing to the greater good, but my brain was fighting me because of the practical implications that it was warning me about. So it was a struggle for a while, but I couldn’t have ever been happier. I was on cloud nine every time I made a visit, every time I could drop off pajamas and books and I saw those little faces.
How this effort turned into the organization is so funny, because a national magazine called and wrote a little article. They said are you the lady handing out pajamas to the shelters, and I said, that’s me. She wrote a little article, and little did I ever imagine that thousands and thousands of packages and boxes from across the country would come, it just made me cry. I had been single this whole time, and during my questioning my purpose, I met a wonderful man who I did marry. So the universe helps in lots of ways. We opened box after box, we couldn’t even see past the boxes in my apartment. One letter said, If you send us your 501(c)(3), we’re a corporation and we’d love to give you a grant. I looked at him and I said, what’s a 501(c)(3)? I had no idea. Then I realized this is a responsibility, all these people trusted me. This wasn’t just something I could do on the side. I had to go and investigate and beg, borrow, and steal for attorneys to help me in all of that. Then I realized the different grants you could write for and I got dizzy, and it was official. Next year is 20 years and it is official, I had been doing this on my own for a year or two, wandering the streets to shelters, and that’s how it became official. It was just so funny. At this point, we’ve given away 7 million new pajamas and new books across the US and Puerto Rico. It’s been the human connection, everybody I told that story to felt as if the little girl had been telling them. Thank goodness it transferred my emotion and her emotion, everyone’s hearts were touched.
I became an executive director as well as, of course, the founder. But three years ago, I wanted to continue to speak and tell our story, because I never thought the Pajama Program would grow the way it did. It became a lot about writing the contracts and meetings with attorneys and things like that, and I missed talking about that little girl and telling the story and connecting with people. I wanted to write this book because, in 20 years, I learned lessons that I’m ashamed it took me so long to learn about life and leadership. Our group Pajama Program was like a family, it wasn’t the way I had a boss years ago. It’s changing now too, there’s more compassion and patience and interaction.
So I went to the board and I asked if we could hire an executive director and I would remove myself, but I’ll never remove myself from being the founder and doing what I’m doing. They agreed. So now for the last few years, we’ve had a great executive director and I tell her all the time, she’s taking that baby to college, after 18 years, now we’re going on 20. She’s an attorney, she was our board president, and she can do a great job while I go back to my roots and talk to people and visit with people and speak and write.
As far as passion, I think for me, it was a personal experience that was very specific. So for me, obviously it was that pair of pajamas that started at all. But I understand that there are a lot of people who just love the process, not the product specifically, which is why I didn’t want to be executive director, I wanted to write the book. Because the process of writing the book, the process of speaking to people is basically what it is about. But for me, it absolutely was a specific event. I think in nonprofit, that’s how it is a lot; people have a specific event that’s changed things, that is the reason that they started a nonprofit. So maybe it’s the industry, maybe that’s part of the difference.
For me, I was climbing the corporate ladder, I was single, and I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore. So all I could think about was being an independent woman getting to the 41st floor in the TV syndication building in Manhattan. So I had a goal that meant to me success, status, certainly a salary. At 38, in my little apartment, I heard a voice clear as day ask myself, it came from my heart and I felt it, not from my head, if this is the next 30 years of your life, is this enough? Now, that freaked me out because I’m used to voices in my head, but this was a very philosophical question, and it was very clear. But what scared me, even more, was I answered it, no. I missed children, I didn’t have any. I just thought I had been running so fast up the ladder that I wanted to get children into my life, and that’s when I remembered all the stories on the news and newspapers about these children being brought into shelters.
So for me, listening to my heart’s voice of what was missing and what would matter, that was the start of all the heart voices that came after. I think when we listen to our heart voices, which we have to ask our hearts and we have to ask ourselves, what makes our heart sing what gives us joy, especially now, especially when we’ve had all this time by ourselves to think about our choices in our life, and of course, hope and pray that we have a job? But what is it that makes a difference to you and that makes you want to get up in the morning? I think once we delve into our hearts and ask and find it, it changes you. Even if you don’t jump like I jumped, even if you slide something in. I talk about the difference between the jump and the slide. If you slide something in once a week for an hour that you love that you’ve been putting off and saying, one day when I have enough money or when I have enough time, it changes you, it transforms your whole outlook. You haven’t given up on yourself, you haven’t said no, I can’t do that. That’s so sad for us to carry, and I did it for a long time. So if you bring something that brings you joy into your life, even an hour a week, it changes you. It changes your outlook, it changes your relationships, and people outside of you, they feel it too. So that’s the beginning of transforming yourself, you just become more whole of a person. Over these 20 years of watching these children and hearing and speaking to so many parents who do put their own children to bed and are fortunate enough to do that, I know there’s no more meaningful life than being a parent.
So now, let’s talk to Millenials for a moment. First of all, the millennials, I’m so jealous. Because so many of them when they know their passion, and we can get to what if they don’t, they demand that it be part of their job. They ask in the interview, what does your company do for community relations? I am just so floored that they are so brilliant to ask that when it was never something I asked, and it wasn’t part of looking at a job whether you accept it or not. But they know that even if they don’t know specifically what they want to do with their purpose, they want to know that anything they do and anywhere they put their time is purposeful. So, first of all, it’s amazing that they are so progressive, because I was not, and I’m jealous of those.
For those people of any age who don’t know what their purpose is, I do an exercise with people all the time and I teach a master class too about it. You take four weeks, day one, take a piece of paper and a pen, not a computer. I believe that there’s power with pen-to-paper. So take a pen and write down five things that you love to do. Forget about can I make a living, don’t be practical, just write down the five things that you love to do. Walk away, five minutes later, look at that list and cross off two. What are the three that jump out? Walk away, five minutes later, come back, cross off the one you’ve left, you’re left with two. Whether it’s playing the piano, riding the horses, going to a dog shelter, visiting seniors, whatever it is. I understand some of these things we can’t do physically right now, but let’s see what the concept is of the two things that you choose.
Then for one hour a week, the first two weeks, do something related to number one on your list. One hour, whether it’s to read about it, talk to somebody about it. This is a really good time to connect with somebody, you can just LinkedIn or Facebook, any group, any person, any topic, and people will pop up, you can connect. People are really excited to connect, the whole human connection thing is blossoming. So spend an hour a week, the first two weeks, on the one thing. Then do the same thing in the second two weeks of this four-week experiment. For the second thing, look up people, read, watch something, do some research, go if you can, and spend an hour once a week for those two weeks. One of those things will stand out as more gratifying, more rewarding. It’s all about feeling your heart filled.
Then you have this one thing. So you can decide, is it a possibility for me in my life right now to work toward making a switch? Is there a job opportunity? Is there something I can do that would be a full-time income down the road? If the answer is yes, then there are other steps to take. If it’s no, then let’s make it a slide, let’s include something for an hour every week around this topic. Right now, during this whole quarantine, it’s so important that first and foremost we are at peace. That means money for food and shelter, taking care of the kids, and getting them to their lessons. So it’s not always practical at this point to jump, but it is better to bring something in. If you’re doing that, it goes back to what I said before, you’re giving yourself this gift. So give that to yourself, an hour enjoying one thing that makes your heart sing. When you can wrap your arms around adding more time or thinking about how it might be something you could transition into, then you’ll know when the time is right.
If you can jump now, more power to you. I know some people can and some people can’t. This is a very strange time, I don’t know anybody who has ever experienced this type of upheaval and unsettling time. Yes, it is a good time for many and not the best time for some.
The book is on Amazon, Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas. My website is www.GenevievePiturro.com, and I’m always interested in hearing from people and certainly being an ear if anyone wants to brainstorm. That’s it, everything is on the website and Amazon.