Identify someone in your life you admire and tell them in person how they have inspired you. You’ll find you’re listening more when you’re face-to-face when you’re actually relating. That’s all it takes to make a Human Connection. I’ve been doing these few things and I actually feel that in those few minutes I’m slowing down. I’m off the hamster wheel, just like that. I am instantly aware of my physical change and that’s miraculous and incredibly freeing!
As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things, We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Genevieve Piturro.
Former television marketing executive Genevieve Piturro traded power suits for power pajamas in a drastic life change when a sudden voice challenged her life as she knew it. In 2001, she founded the hugely successful national non-profit, Pajama Program, when a little girl’s question changed her life forever and she boldly jumped off the corporate ladder. Now, Piturro is using her real-life experiences to inspire, consult and help others find the courage and confidence to embrace their inner voice in a mission she calls “Find YOUR Pajamas.”
Almost twenty years after its inception, Genevieve’s Pajama Program has delivered 6 MILLION magical gifts of new pajamas and new books to children throughout the US. Genevieve is now known as the Human Connection speaker and is writing, It’s Not About the Pajamas. Her interviews include TODAY, OPRAH, GMA, The Early Show, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. To book Genevieve, please visit www.GenevievePiturro.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Genevieve! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?
Iwas 38, at the top of my career, unmarried with no kids and felt like something was missing. I decided to take a major leap by quitting my job to start a non-profit after a little girl in a group home asked me what pajamas were. Feeling like I wanted to do more with my time, I had decided to volunteer at a homeless shelter in NYC, pre 9/11 — and read to children at night. One night, I noticed that children were going to sleep in the same dirty clothes they had worn all day. These clothes did not fit and were not appropriate for sleeping in. This was not the bedtime routine I had as a child and not the routine I knew these children deserved. It was upsetting to me. On the next visit, I brought in pajamas for a few of the children and a little girl asked me, “what are pajamas?” My heart just melted and that is when the idea of the Pajama Program blossomed. Six years later, after a lot of support and help from the universe, I was on Oprah!
We are now celebrating 20 years of the Pajama Program.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I started speaking to groups after I literally heard a voice in me ask, “If this is the next 30 years of my life, is it enough?” That was my heart-voice speaking to me and I began telling audiences that story. Little did I know people would leave my presentation and ask that question not only to themselves but to their friends and family….and then I’d hear about it from people I didn’t know! I heard that question from my inner voice when I was in my late 30s, so I expected that question to resonate with people who had been in their career for 20 years already like I was, and had become complacent. However — recently I spoke to a group of more than 200 millennials and I was shocked at how many of them were adamant about finding their purpose right now, at the beginning of their careers. They answered my 30 years question with a resounding “NO,” they weren’t staying where they were for financial or traditional reasons. My simple question seemed to light a fire under them to find their passion as soon as possible. I really thought that question would hit home for people ages 35–55 but these young people were definitely motivated to find their purpose in life sooner rather than later.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
When I first decided to make my speaking reel, I knew I had to have professional videographers at my speaking engagements taking the video. No more “do it yourself” tripods or asking audience members to take a video of me on their phones! I went to great lengths finding the best local videographers and balancing and re-balancing my budget to afford the cost because I felt it was necessary to produce the best sample reel I could. Several of my presentations were (and still are) keynotes at meal events. awards dinners, breakfasts, and luncheon ceremonies. I’ll never forget the first time I hired a videographer and spent money I didn’t have on the best one in the area…Even though my speech came after the meal was technically finished, the noise and visual from the servers clearing made it look like I was speaking in a bustling restaurant kitchen! To make matters worse, I wandered around the room when I spoke to get closer to my audience and make eye contact with as many people as I could. You can’t imagine how disappointed and embarrassed I was to view the video with my mentors as they watched me swerve to avoid crashing into the waiters, trip over fallen silverware and duck to avoid high trays being carried into the kitchen! Thankfully we all had a good laugh over it…and I know better now!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working on a book called Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection, and Lead with Meaning and it will include lessons and stories about my journey. It is my hope that my real-life story will provide courage and inspiration for others looking to make a major change and connect better with others. If I can do it, anyone can! I am also speaking at the Nonprofit Hub event in April 2020 called Cause Camp. I love working with other nonprofit founders and leaders.
Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?
As the Human Connection speaker, I mentor and teach leaders, founders and social entrepreneurs on how they can find the courage to connect with others, in turn helping people to find satisfaction, fulfillment, and purpose in their lives. When we are connected to one another and share personal stories or shared interests, our work and daily life have more meaning and purpose creating overall happiness.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers how loneliness harming our communities and society?
We are no longer enjoying the everyday social conversations that people in the past used to have. We may have porches on our homes and communal rooms in our apartment buildings but people are not using them. They are married to devices or TV and no longer seeking friendships or comradery. People are even working from offices less than they used to and working individually from home or coffee shops with headphones in. We are just simply not engaging with each other and it is creating the loneliness epidemic.
The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each. (same as above.)
1. Working in offices less. Ask a coworker or an intern to lunch to cultivate a better relationship.
2. Not connecting with neighbors enough. Knock on a neighbors door and invite them over for dinner to cook and share a meal together — the intimate home setting is better than a restaurant and sharing the task of putting together a meal is a bonding experience.
3. Talking to people over social media but not having a meaningful face to face conversations. Instead of liking a person’s photo, reach out to them and ask them to meet for coffee.
Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.
Meryl Streep got it right, “The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.”
Many of us feel disconnected these days. We barely have time to speak to each other let alone enjoy time together. Sadly, we’re also too busy to listen to ourselves, to what we want and need — the things that give us personal joy and purpose.
And while we’re all “connected” today in so many ways, we’re not standing anywhere near each other! We look at screens not eyes, in the office and out. So here are a few simple suggestions to conduct a Human Connection experiment…I’m trying it myself!
1. Put your phone away and start conversations when you’re in line at stores
2. Take time to listen the next time someone mentions a physical ailment. A few minutes of compassion may be all they need to ease their pain.
3. When driving through town, pull your car over for a few minutes to catch up when someone you know waves.
4. Ask a police officer, fireman or EMS worker why they chose their job. It’s an eye-opener to learn what motivates people who face fear/danger every day.
5. Identify someone in your life you admire and tell them in person how they have inspired you. You’ll find you’re listening more when you’re face-to-face when you’re actually relating. That’s all it takes to make a Human Connection. I’ve been doing these few things and I actually feel that in those few minutes I’m slowing down. I’m off the hamster wheel, just like that. I am instantly aware of my physical change and that’s miraculous and incredibly freeing!
Try an experiment and let me know how it goes!
“The connections we make in the course of a life — maybe that’s what Heaven is.” Fred Rogers
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Help others to find the courage to connect! Having connections leads to fulfillment and happiness. #couragetoconnect
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Maria Shriver. I love her mission of connecting people and the work she is doing with The Sunday Paper @thesundaypaper.
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Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring and so important!