Rachael O’Meara is an author, TEDx speaker, executive coach, podcaster, in addition to working in sales at Google and doing graduate school work. She’s a woman of many talents. And she’s committed to helping others fully avoid burnout and craft more fulfilling lives. That’s the subject of her book Pause.
She graciously took time from her busy life to talk with me about:
- Building a platform book-first
- How to pause in a pandemic
- The benefits of podcasting
- Setting careful boundaries on commitments
Listen to our conversation
Transcript of the conversation
A: Thanks, Rachael, for taking the time to talk with me as we’re all sitting at home and doing the crazy things we do. It’s such an interesting time to talk with you, because you are an advocate for taking time to rethink, to reset, to be mindful, and in some way the whole world is in this giant Pause right now.
You’ve written a book about pausing, about taking the time. You seem to be on a mission to help people avoid burnout and stress.
R: That’s absolutely. That’s totally what I would say. I help individuals get out of overwhelm so they can reclaim their lives. In this case, in our current state, everyone is doing that.
A: Yes. Except, it’s easy to not take the opportunity to do that. We’re in a force pause, and yet there are other things that are taking our attention and our time. =I want to get to how you suggest people use this time, but let’s first chat about what you’re doing.
You’ve written the book Pause. You speak about this topic—you go around and speak to groups. You have a podcast about pausing. And, at the same time, if I understand it, you’re also employed at Google. Is that right?
R: I am. I’ve been at Google about 12 years. A handful of years ago, I did burn out, and that’s what prompted me to write the book. I learned so much on my forced pause—well, it was an optional pause. I chose to leave for three months unpaid leave. Now I do work there in sales. I have accounts and have been there fore 12 years. Now I’ve been doing the Pause stuff on the side, and also coach, and volunteer internally at Google to speak and help others in terms of trying to navigate their careers.
About her book
A: On your work, the book came first. You wrote the book first. And that came organically out of your own experience, and then research.
R: Yeah. I see the book evolving organically. It wasn’t like I intended and thought I would write a book on my pause. It was the last thingI envisioned. I was simply thinking about how I’d come out of those months of time and emerge into a place that felt good again. That was all I really cared about. So, when that did happen and I came out and ended up moving into a sales role that aligned with my strengths more, I figure, I can’t be the only one who has burned out and learned a few things. Honestly, that’s what went through my mind. At the same time, I was learning new ways of living and being: things like mindfulness and attention training with meditation, all kinds of stuff I had never been exposed to before. That was really what I started to think about, which prompted me to start writing my “how-to” book on pausing, which was Pause.
A: It was a result of your own personal growth, which is wonderful. As readers, we can tell when we’re reading a book that has been the journey that you’ve traveled. Now you’re doing a podcast as well. Tell me a little about that.
R: I have a podcast called the PauseCast. It started right when I put the book out in 2017—actually, a little before the book. As you were sharing, I do a bunch of different things. My time is maxed out in a good way. I don’t feel burned out because I’ve learned how to manage my energy more, which is great. The podcast helps me get stuff out there that I wouldn’t normally be able to get out. I don’t have a lot of time for writing, right now. I’m grad school as well—fun fact about me. So I’m writing papers every weekend, but they’re academic papers, and not necessarily what I would put out there without editing them. The podcast is a monthly podcast where I interview people and I also speak on topics about transformation and emotional intelligence, and the world of what I think comes from when you’re more self-aware, which is what I think a pause is—that entry, a gateway into that. So I love the PauseCast. I wish I had more time for it. I have more episodes than I know what to do with, but I can’t get them out because I’m working and I have my grad school papers. It’s like a labor of love, but I truly love it. Maybe one day I’ll get better.
But I’m trying to be good on boundaries; that’s one of the things I learned on my pause. If I don’t put boundaries up for myself and start cranking out weekly episodes, I’m sure within a two month, max, amount of time, I’ll be like, forget that. It’s not going to work. It’s really hard to do that because I want to do more. The podcast is really fun for me, and it’s a way I can get stuff out that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get out.
A: What kind of response do you get? Do you reach different audiences with those?
R: I wish I had a formula for all that. The podcast I think of as another channel to reach an audience. I think the audience is different because it’s audio. It’s on the regular podcast channels like Apple, Spotify, and Google podcasts. The people who find me—it’s like that long tail. Maybe they’ve heard about me from one of my guests. I’ve had great guests on there: Daniel Goleman, Marci Shimoff, Chip Conley. Great, awesome speakers and wonderful thought leaders. What I’ve learned is that no one is promoting it as much as I would promote it. It’s really an organic way to generate new listeners. From there, they might say, who is this person, what is a pause? I’ve plugged my Facebook group in there – it’s called Be The Pause. They can do that or check out the book, which is on there as well.
About pausing in the pandemic
A: Wow, you are really modeling the ability – it sounds like pausing is kicking back and not doing anything, and you are modeling the opposite.
R: That’s what people thing, and it’s funny, because it’s totally not that. It’s an intentional shift in behavior. You have to be conscious—that’s the intentional part. If it means kicking your feet up and watching 8 episodes of Netflix—which I do myself, maybe not 8 episodes but 3, I can’t to the screen too much these days—make it intentional. How are you going to relax in this time so that you can go to sleep easier. Thinking more about it – what does it mean when I want to just veg out. I’m going to come back refreshed and I’m going to take this time that I know will serve me. That would be all that would need to be done.
A: I hear a lot of people think, I have this time, and they have super-grandiose schemes for what they’re going to get done. Then they get distressed because of course they aim so far, and now they’re like, I can’t focus on anything. I’m just going to watch Netflix and bake bread. Which is okay, too.
R: If you can find the flour.
A: Yes, it turns out that’s the gating factor. How do you advice people: you have this window. Step back and reflect on maybe what you will do going forward. How would you advise people approach that?
R: I think it’s the analogy that we bite off more than we can chew. Our brains are always five steps ahead of us. We think we have these great plans. Research tells us we typically overestimate what we can do in a year—in general, with our without any Covid-19 virus going on. Imagine when there is a stressor like that on board. I think it’s a matter of how our brains are wired.
Taking a step back to allow yourself to basically take in the reality of the situation where we all are. We’re not only home 24/7, but if I had children to teach, meals to cook for them and my family, maybe walking my dog… the stressors have shifted. In my opinion, what I think is so powerful because it is a global forced pause, and pausing is an out-of-alignment thing.
This is a chance for you to check in with where you’re out of alignment, and how you want live, and how you want to be and show up. That might just mean journaling for two minutes or reflecting on that question before you go to bed, or when you get up, or at a meal. I think this is a time to throw the old out the window, of what expectations are. There are no expectations now. This is an unknown paradigm. To me, it’s about, how can I connect with myself. This is what the pause was for me when I was burned out. I can say from my own experience, I was out of touch with myself. How can you get back in touch with yourself now? That might mean just being aware of how you feel and what’s going on. If anything in this time, the best way to help yourself is just to ask yourself, how am I doing? How am I connecting with myself? What can I do to connect and be with myself more? That might mean maybe baking bread, because you haven’t baked bread in two years or ever. I made a little poster. I felt like I was in third grade. I had my crayons out. It’s a great time to be creative, but it doesn’t mean you have to make expectations that I have to churn out a poetry book by the end of my containment. It’s about being gentle with ourselves because there’s unprecedented levels of the unknown right now. When we’re in fear, we want to quash and constrain everything, because our brains are in a threatened mode. We want to fight or flight. Fight, freeze, or flight are the three options. Anything else is really not being super-gentle with ourselves. That can happen, but allow yourself to organically get there. If you get there, great. If you don’t, how can you serve yourself right now, in the moment, to show up for you.
A: I think we have to be very kind to ourselves and to others at this point. Clearly, this is a topic that means a lot to you. You’ve got a book. How did you go about building this message and finding your audience?
About writing her book
R: To break it down in the process of the book. In my mind, the idea was to create a how-to book. The how-to was literally a step by step: the five signs you know you need a pause. What are the types of pauses? What are some tips you can have on those pauses? Here’s some worksheets to fill out if you do go back and find a job, or don’t have a job. It was really pragmatic, but it was also really void of anything personal. I didn’t really get that until I had it read and worked with someone as a coach who told me, where’s your story in this? I went back and added another layering into the book, which was my story. That’s the first story of the book, it’s about my burnout. It made it much more deep in terms of emotional resonance. It was way better, because of course, that’s what we all want to know. What’s the tie-in and the stories of others. I featured a dozen people who had taken some type of pause—an intentional shift of behavior.
It took me five years to write the book as well. By the third iteration, I had been in grad school, I started my coaching certification. (I’m still in grad school, but I took another pause in there since 2015.) In grad school I learned a lot of concepts across six disciplines that I study, including the human potential movement, developmental psychology, existentialism, neuroscience, Adlerian psychology, and educational research and theory. I started peppering in all these tips on how those relate in terms of pausing: things like naming a limiting belief, acting as-if with William James, or naming a feeling. All of those things added depth to the book. That’s why it took me five years. I was also working full-time, so I wrote on my weekends. I couldn’t do it on the weeknights, after work. So it was a slow process, and I eventually got there. I ended up deciding that I do want to try the traditional publishing route. I have no idea if it will work, but let me see if I can get an agent and a book deal. That’s what happened. I was very fortunate in that. Even if I didn’t do that, I would have released it as a self-published book for sure. Like you, I didn’t know how it was going to come out. I had no idea if it would be a blog post or a series of mini-books; I had no idea. I had no experience of being an author.
A: That’s great because you put in all the elements of a good prescriptive nonfiction book. You started with the prescriptive—what to do—and then you added story, then you added research. Now you have the full package. It just took you three passes to come at it.
The process of doing it, you internalized it all so much more deeply by talking to other people , adding research.
R: There were lots of edits, things slashed out of there that I love but the editor didn’t like. I trusted that process. What do I know? I knew what I knew, but in terms of what helps a reader, was not in my domain. That was helpful to have the external view.
A: We all need good editors
On building her platform
A: Where do you go with this from here? Tell me where you’re going.
R: The book came out in 2017—that’s three years ago. At this moment in time, I’m working on my masters in transformational coaching. I’m done in July. I went back to school a year ago. I did the coaching certification, which is a year-long process. That’s when I was also finishing the book. Then I took a couple years off. That’s my main focus—finish school this year. From there, my time will be opening up again. In terms of Google, I don’t really know. I go back and forth on that as a see-saw. One day, I say I’m going to leave, the other day I say, why would I leave? I can be there doing what I want.
My main goal is to continue to grow Pause as a business, continue to grow the platform. The podcast is going to continue. I would like to write more. I definitely want to put more articles out there—especially now, with our global pause, there’s a lot I can contribute in terms of my knowledge of emotional intelligence, being with our fear, and how we can be aligning in this time. Even after that. I think the world will change now in terms of what’s expected and how we can live in different ways that feel more satisfying.
That’s what’s on my plate right now. We’ll see where it goes. I’m open to a lot of different things. We’ll see what emerges.
A: You are an inspiring story: what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and how much you are putting it out in service of other people. You clearly have this mission of helping people bring that mindful intention to their lives and their work. It’s an important message we all need to hear.
R: Thank you, Anne. I appreciate that. What I’ll add is, the reason I am so passionate is that I was on the other side of the fence before. I didn’t know any of this. So, now that I’ve had more insight into what’s possible, having to create these skill sets, they’re all learnable and doable. If I can do it, you can do it. Anyone can do it. And why not help? I feel that’s how I can contribute in ways that help me be satisfied and meet my yearnings to matter and make a difference. That’s what we can all learn. When we get there, each of us moment-by-moment learning how we can feel satisfied like that, your whole world changes. Everything is different, and that’s a good thing.