My story of recognizing + breaking the toxicity of unsolicited advice.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Sensitive, Defensive, Difficult, Snobby. I heard it all.

When I joined the corporate world at age 23, I was nervous. I wanted to fit in and use my talents for good. Right away, I had several complaints filed about me. I felt like an outsider, I didn’t trust my team, and I questioned my worth.

So, what happened?

  • My clothing, in particular tights with knee-length dresses, made others uncomfortable. …


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My elementary school sat in front of a junkyard. For years, I gazed in wonder at the treasures that lay beyond the chain-linked fence. In fifth grade, I finally decided to explore it with two classmates. During the journey, we found a piece of metal stretched across a ditch. Like the ten-year-olds we were, we jumped on it to see if it bounced like a trampoline. Nope. I fell, and a scrap of metal gashed my leg, leaving behind a gnarly scar. …


Photo by Wesley Hilario on Unsplash

There’s a tiny memory in my head of my mom making my sister, Taylor, and I take turns standing on a chair. When on the chair, I had to pull her up with me. It wasn’t easy, but when she tried to pull me off the chair𑁋I tumbled right down. The lesson was it’s easier to pull someone down than up. And while it didn’t save me from the psychological torture that was middle school, it did leave an impression of the power of negativity.

We all crave belonging and acceptance to some extent. At work, it’s natural to adapt…


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Life weighs on us no matter where we are. Last year, the world as we knew it stopped. That betrayal is not easily set aside. No matter how hard I visualize taking feelings from my body and placing them on a shelf, they sneak their way back into my everyday. I’m okay with that.

But not everyone is. Bringing political and social issues into the workplace makes many uncomfortable. To the point, companies such as Coinbase and Basecamp launched policies to keep the unpleasantries of political chatter out of their workplace.

How do we bridge the gap between acknowledging that…


Square Root Lunch by Minkmade

After a decade of designing culture, nothing draws my ire like reading playbooks or utopian philosophies for company culture. Good culture is neither prescriptive nor unachievable. Culture is intentional, and it’s living.

Imagine an event, you create a holistic experience, but ultimately, success is based on how folks embrace, interact with and change the experience.

My inbox is an endless stream of — If you just had this tool, everything would be better. But culture isn’t one thing. Injecting an idea without care as to how it weaves in — builds a checklist, not an intentional being. Like a person…


It’s on all of us to harness the power of language and create belonging with our words.

Sixteen years ago, I spent two back-to-back semesters studying Shakespeare at A&M. Some of the plays were incomplete, a bit of fill-in-the-blank, due to time rubbing away certain words. For weeks, we read King Richard III one way and then another, all based on one word — busky. One word can change the meaning. In college, I found it fascinating; with one word, my entire intent could fall apart.

In the workplace, despite what the sticks and stones adage led us to believe, words harm us, dismiss us, exclude us. All of us are capable of this — excluding someone…


Photo by Bastian Riccardi on Unsplash

The day RBG passed away, I fell into a mental panic. Instead of focusing on my mental health, I jumped to the one place sure to rile me up, Instagram. I don’t have an echo chamber. The folks in my life cross all extremes or live in the gray with me. On a day when I needed affirmations, meditation, fresh air, I indulged my anxiety online. I read posts celebrating, grieving, calling us to action, and even perk up buttercup; you can’t put hope in one person. I couldn’t hold space for all the dissonance. …


Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

Before my daughter Henley could talk, she had a line-up of cries to signal hunger, exhaustion, boredom, and more. At first, I couldn’t tell the differences. When she cried, I would run the gamut. I would offer sustenance or comfort and wait for feedback. I’d adapt from there. Eventually, I built a mental library of cries, and even today, I know the cry for I need mommy.

We learned together. I didn’t feel frustration at her or myself. It reminded me of being in college and tweaking my writing style to please that semester's English professor. …


Motherhood and Leadership, two words infused with purpose, guided me on a journey of reflection, authenticity, and a lot of A-HAs.

Lauren Maria Photography

My five-year-old daughter, Henley, is a stop and smell the flowers kind of gal. Being socially-isolated with her is a masterclass in relishing the moment. Today, I found myself on a blanket in the living room as the first mate to Captain Henley. Through bad impersonations of Peppa Pig, we rescued our dogs at “sea.” I felt happy and grateful.

Being present is only one of the lessons she’s taught me. Children and mothers have a depth often overlooked. Mothers are underestimated or find their dedication questioned. Yet, the lessons I learn through parenting always weave back into how I…


I started writing at age 8. Judging by the boxes of filled journals in my garage, I’d go so far as to dub myself prolific. I’m enchanted by the idea of using words to pull someone into a scene whether they want to go or not. Reading is immersive. A reader layers their meaning, their own story over your words, and it takes on a new life. Because of that interaction, I crave a connection with the reader. It doesn’t always come.

Here’s an early piece from my collection of poems.

Sunday:

A series of lawnmowers in the distance.

To…

Courtney Branson

culture + people exec | gentle parent | counselor

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