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From Nardi Media

The Changemaker Series: How To Achieve More By Doing Less, Featuring Ashley and Jinny Uppal, Author of IN/ACTION: Rethinking The Path To Results

Before the pandemic, the American hustle culture was the answer to achieving everything we wanted, but when COVID hit, we were forced to pause and reflect on how we want to live our daily lives. For my friend, Nardi Media client, and former VP of Strategy for Bed Bath & Beyond, Jinny Uppal, this pause inspired her to dig into how we can achieve more by doing less. The result is in her award-winning book, IN/ACTION: Rethinking the Path to Results, which shares insights on reflective thinking and strategic inaction and presents a more efficient way of achieving the results we want. 

Keep reading for Jinny’s insights on achieving more by doing less!

  • Ashley: Jinny, What inspired you to write your book and why now?
    • Jinny: Pre-pandemic, you would’ve heard me say that I’m action-oriented and drive change, but the pandemic forced me to reflect and ask myself what really drove my results. And I realized that before every big action in my life, I took downtime in some way. That’s when I got even more curious about what drives phenomenal results in terms of nonlinear results vs. everyday results. Does it come from action, or from that moment of pause? Where do great ideas really come from? It’s about how we can take big, inspired action rather than reacting. These are the questions that I ask in my book, and it also holds the answers!
  • Ashley: What do you think this message is important right now in this day in age?
    • Jinny: This concept is difficult to accept because most people view inaction as frozen in fear or being left behind, but it just so happened that the pandemic made us wake up to ask ourselves, “is this what we’ve worked so hard for all these years?”
  • Ashley: Yes, the pandemic forced all of us to pause and take that inaction, and it showed in the Great Resignation! Do you think the pandemic was bitter-sweet for the American employee?
    • Jinny: Well, 47 million people quit in 2021 which is a phenomenal number. Part of it was that people had to leave work to take care of other responsibilities, but then you have the different groups the pandemic created, which were labeled as essential vs. nonessential employees. Nonessential employees felt cheated because they were let go in a heartbeat after working so hard for years, and essential employees felt taken advantage of because they were being put out there and exposed to COVID. So neither group was happy, and when they reflected, they eventually realized they’ve been on this hamster wheel for so long, and so they quit.
  • Ashley: What does it mean to take inaction and why is that a driver of success?
    • Jinny: When we take any action in our daily lives, it’s almost always a reaction to something we have to do. It has a sense of urgency, which in many cases seem much more urgent than they really are, and when we react, it’s not very thoughtful or intentional. What I call strategic inaction is taking a pause, which can be brief, to help you observe, understand the situation clearly, and see what you otherwise might not have seen before if you reacted. When you pause even for a few seconds, it gives you a chance to take the right action at the right time.
  • Ashley: People might be wondering, “what do I do during that pause?” Do I journal? Do I sit and breathe? What does that pause look like?
    • Jinny: I don’t think the world of 9-5 is gone because we can’t check out of work as easily as we could before with life being so blended, but what you can do is take intermittent breaks – even just 5-10 minutes in your day. What you would normally do for 5-10 minutes is probably doom scroll and look through Instagram or the news and get upset about the latest events of the day. Instead, use this time for a restorative activity, whether it’s meditation, a walk, doodling, anything that disengages your mind and frees up your brain to declutter. Don’t underestimate what a powerful break that gives to your mind.
  • Ashley: I love that, and now I’m curious what you do during your pauses?
    • Jinny: I have a meditation practice that goes back to 2008. While I was writing my book, however, I discovered a concept that is difficult to accept in the world of meditation, which is mind wandering. It gets a bad rap in the meditation world because it means that your mind is distracted and meditation brings you to the present moment. But in my research, I found that when your mind does wander, some parts of your brain are disengaged, but other parts of your brain light up and it’s when ah-ha moments can happen. People tell me they get their best ideas in the shower and while driving, and it’s for a reason! Now, I purposely let my mind wander.
  • Ashley: I get my best ideas while walking or running! I actually tell my team sometimes that I’m going to take our meeting while walking instead of on Zoom because I’m most creative when I walk. Something I get stuck with is, how do we decide to act vs. not act? What’s the difference there?
    • Jinny: It can get tricky. In the book, I talk about moments that are high-pressure and crises that compel you to act, and usually, those actions are rewarded, whether or not it was the right one, because you acted quickly. But those aren’t the best actions. When you’re truly in crisis or fear, try not to take big actions because you’re not in the best mindset. However, when you have high-energy and positive excitement, you’ll take better actions. The way you can tell is through your body. My jaw tenses up when I’m in a place of distress, and I know that’s the wrong kind of energy.
  • Ashley: Is that when you pause?
    • Jinny: Yes, you take a break and regroup. It can be a minute or two, or just call a time out. I find that acknowledging it out loud and confessing even just to yourself that you’re a little worked up can diffuse your tension.
  • Ashley: I also think that’s a powerful leadership skill that leaders can be taking by saying you need to take a minute and pause.
    • Jinny: Yes, what a powerful message for your team! Implementing these practices on your own and embodying them will inspire your team to follow you.
  • Ashley: I feel like any business leader or employee can run into crises often, so how does the idea of inaction apply to crisis management when action is often needed? 
    • Jinny: There are certain moments in life when the expectation is to take immediate action. There’s a story in my book about a CEO of a medical imaging company who was informed about the death of a child on a machine made by his company. All major companies have a crisis management playbook, and they had one. But instead of immediately taking the first step in the playbook, he went for a walk instead. Why? Because he wanted to get back in alignment with himself and he knew there’d be pressure from everyone to do something. His company ended up being absolved of responsibility, but the interesting story here is the courage that it must’ve taken for a CEO who was expected to take immediate action to instead go for a walk. The moral of the story is that crisis management benefits from the right kind of action rather than immediate action.
  • Ashley: That’s such a powerful story! Can we talk about setting goals? A lot of Type A people like me are very goal-oriented, but you believe our goal process is wrong and can lead to wrong action. How can we be better at goal-setting?
    • Jinny: Usually, ambitious people write goals that are aspirational – whether it’s to land that job, fundraise a certain amount of money, make a million-dollar exit, etc. – and we often put our own needs aside. I started to notice that when I have a goal, I’d give everything to going after that goal and I’d end up neglecting my daily meditation practice. Instead of going after my goal, I was fatigued and burned out. So I learned to change my attitude and realized my goals are very narrow. Now my goals are more comprehensive and much broader. I have a goal around relationships and my meditation practice that I will not compromise on. And guess what? My mind won’t let me slip up because I’ve recorded my goals in my brain. So, set broad goals around relationships, health, community, etc. and you’ll reach your goals in a happy, healthy way.
  • Ashley: It almost feels like you’re setting themes for your life.
    • Jinny: Yes, and for me, I was frustrated that I was compromising my meditation practice, but now that it’s a goal of mine, I never let myself do that.
  • Ashley: I saw a poll that Americans are at their highest stress level ever. Can you talk about strategic inaction and whether or not it can be used to help with the mental health epidemic?
    • Jinny: I am glad that we’re talking about the mental health crisis more so now than we did just a few years ago. I’ll say that in our lives, there are certain things that we can use to de-stress and other things that add stress, but we don’t have enough things in our lives to help destress. There are macro events like the war in Ukraine that are out of our control, but there are small things you can do like avoiding doom scrolling to help alleviate that stress. There’s no need to check the news or your stock portfolio every hour. Avoid reacting and doing the compulsive actions that you know can make you feel bad. Instead, go back to restorative action to help you disengage, and make it a daily habit rather than waiting until you’re at your limit.
  • Ashley: Would you be able to share some final thoughts?
    • Jinny: My book is a descriptive book in that it’s meant to raise awareness. When people ask me what do I do to employ strategic inaction, I say trust yourself. If you give yourself permission to go at your pace, the world will go at your pace, and trust that if you take care of yourself first, you will be able to take care of everyone else around you much better.

To learn more about Jinny and her work, check out her website at jinnyuppal.com and follow her @jinnyuppal on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

CLICK HERE to watch my full IG LIVE with Jinny on Nardi Media’s Instagram. To stay up to date on my upcoming conversations with more changemakers, subscribe to our newsletter HERE, where you’ll also gain insider PR, publishing, and media training tips and be the first to know about upcoming events!

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Tracy Mccubbin

AUTHOR, MAKING SPACE, CLUTTER FREE

"The biggest piece of advice a first-time author is given is to “hire your own publicist,” but what they don’t tell you is to “hire your own Ashley.”  Looking back, I don’t know how I could have released my book without Ashley & her team.  We started working together before the book was published.  First local TV and small blogs and as I got more seasoned and the book got closer to coming, she booked me appearances on bigger and bigger outlets. 

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Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

New York Times Best Selling Author of Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free

"The biggest piece of advice a first-time author is given is to “hire your own publicist,” but what they don’t tell you is to “hire your own Ashley.”  Looking back, I don’t know how I could have released my book without Ashley & her team.  We started working together before the book was published.  First local TV and small blogs and as I got more seasoned and the book got closer to coming, she booked me appearances on bigger and bigger outlets. 

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Susan McGinnis

Correspondent, CBS Newspath

“I am so pleased that Ashley is embarking on this new venture. For many years she has shined as an outstanding booker and producer at CBS News and at start-ups including Clean Skies News.  She was my first hire at Clean Skies, and was the shining star among the pack. She has always had  tremendous dedication to her work, and an untiring ability to accomplish whatever faces her, letting no obstacle stand in the way of an outstanding product.  She consistently goes above and beyond expectations, and never takes “no” as an answer, and never settles for less than outstanding. I would hire Ashley again. And again. And again.”

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Jennifer Oko

Partner, Mad Squid Media

“Ashley and I have worked together is a few different capacities, including CBS News, energyNOW!. I cannot say enough good things about her. Ashley is smart, thorough, quick, creative, and incredibly hard working. Most importantly, to be a successful media liaison and guest booker, relationships are everything. Ashley is a genuinely lovely person, and she wins the respect and trust of everyone she works with. She is the first person I call whenever I need a guest booker or segment producer.”

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Margaret Ryan

Energy Journalist & Analyst

“Ashley Bernardi is a dynamic professional who consistently produces excellent results.  In my three years working with Ashley as the head booker at Clean Skies News/EnergyNOW!, I never saw her fail to complete a job she had been assigned – and complete it admirably. Ashley is creative, energetic and goal-oriented, a true team player who works congenially with other professionals but can also be relied on to execute an assignment on her own. Ashley is the person I wanted on my team when I faced a challenging assignment!”

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Hardy Spire

Senior Producer, CNN’s Reliable Sources. Former General Manager at CleanSkies News and Senior Producer at CBS News.

“Ashley Bernardi has every rare quality in a TV producer — aggressiveness, insight, creativity, a strong work ethic, and pure charm.  She has all this plus she’s a kind and positive person.  And she has great contacts!”

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Silvio Marcacci

Principal, Marcacci Communications

“Ashley is hands down the best media trainer I’ve ever worked with, and she uses her considerable producing experience to make clients feel at ease and ready to learn. In addition, her ability to book clients on television and radio interviews is quite impressive – be ready for hours of interviews if you’re working with her!”

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Mary Jordan

Washington Post National Correspondent and Founding Editor of Washington Post Live

“There is nothing Ashley Bernardi cannot do when it comes to media.  She books top people for TV shows and national conferences and knows the business inside out. I worked closely with Ashley at the Washington Post  and she is not only savvy, but great to be around. She is the always cheerful, smart voice on the other end of the phone who persuades busy people to drop everything they are doing and do what Ashley tells them.”

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Scott Behson, PhD

best-selling author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home

“I was a relatively unknown first-time author and Ashley was fantastic in getting my name out there, and ultimately booking me on national TV and radio, as well as major podcasts. She also provided top-notch media training and was always a great listener and advisor. Finally, she was on top of everything and we communicated constantly. I couldn’t have been happier about her efforts on behalf of my book launch!”

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Ron Friedman, Ph.D

author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

“Ashley Bernardi is extraordinary at her job in every way. Smart, strategic and relentlessly energetic, Ashley is someone I’d want on my team in any public relations campaign.”