Marla Isackson of Ossa: “Acknowledge your feelings”

Acknowledge your feelings. Telling yourself that ‘other people have it worse than me’ can add to your feelings of guilt. It is ok to mourn disappointments and not to feel guilty as you work through your grief. As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the […]

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Acknowledge your feelings. Telling yourself that ‘other people have it worse than me’ can add to your feelings of guilt. It is ok to mourn disappointments and not to feel guilty as you work through your grief.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Marla Isackson.

Marla Isackson is a seasoned marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience creating innovative marketing campaigns for world-famous brands including Citibank, American Express, Barnes & Noble, and WebMD. A longtime passionate supporter of women’s initiatives, Marla is creating a new movement for women in podcasting. She is the founder of Ossa (, an independent podcast network with a reach of 4MM+ listeners and a two-sided marketplace, connecting women-hosted podcasts and women-focused brands in order to increase the representation and influence of women’s voices worldwide.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

I am the Founder and CEO of Ossa Collective — a women’s podcast network and two-sided marketplace on a mission to increase the reach, impact and earning power of women’s voices on a global scale. Prior to launching Ossa, I built a women’s empowerment network called Like A Boss Girls to a following of over 1.2 million people.

In my earlier career, I worked as a corporate marketing executive. I have over 25 years of experience creating innovative marketing campaigns for world-famous brands like Citibank, American Express, Barnes & Noble, and WebMD. I wanted to create a home base for women entrepreneurs, social activists, leaders and go-getters — the type of resource that I wish I’d had access to in the early days of my career. Much of the work I did at Like A Boss Girls carried over to Ossa when I made the transition in 2018.

I’ve spent many years in this space of women empowerment and believe that podcasting is a great opportunity for women to elevate their voices and maximize their earning potential.

A passionate supporter of women’s initiatives, I believe in the power of podcasting as a rapidly growing communication platform with the reach and impact to elevate underrepresented voices

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I spent a great deal of time thinking about my vision for Ossa before I decided to pivot my company from a women’s empowerment network into the world of podcasting. It was difficult to feel like I was letting go of the platform that I’d poured my heart into for so many years — but my intuition told me that it was the right decision.

Podcasts give people a powerful platform to tell their stories and share their voice on a global scale. Women are underrepresented in the podcast industry, with only 27% of all podcasts hosted by women. I want to change this because I know that podcasting can be used as a tool for empowerment.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I love this quote by Nelson Mandela- “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” It took many years of hard work, setbacks and disappointments before the successful launch of Ossa in 2019. I was able to leverage my experience in the women’s empowerment space plus my interest in the podcasting space to create Ossa, a company incorporating my mission and focus.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

During the really dark days of the pandemic lockdown, I read The Gratitude Formula-a 7-Step Success System to Create a Life That You Love by May McCarthy. The book provides inspiration and a very practical game plan to help me reshape my mindset. One key practice described in the book is a daily journaling exercise-a letter to my CSO, my Chief Spiritual Officer. This is a daily letter expressing gratitude for what I have now as well as what I want to achieve my goals. McCarthy recommends expressing my goals with gratitude, as though I’ve already achieved. Also included are outcomes that I want. This practice helped me to clarify my goals and develop very targeted action steps to achieve my goals.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are launching a new program called Ossa Academy, a free 7-week accelerator program for podcasters who want to go all in on growing their podcast. The program features workshops, fireside chats, and weekly panels with podcast industry experts. Ossa Academy’s mission is to help women accelerate the growth and monetization of their podcasts in order to increase the visibility and influence of women in the podcast industry.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My family has been incredibly supportive. My business coach, Debra Angilletta, has been invaluable to me throughout my journey as an entrepreneur. She understands me so well. I appreciate that she knows how to work with my personality, match my working style, and keep me focused on my goals. Debra is incredibly smart and intuitive and challenges me every day. I am also very grateful to my dear friends Anne Kavanagh and UJ Rojas who provide me with great insights and counsel.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude consists of thankfulness for gifts, tangible or intangible that a person receives from others-a person or a higher power based on your beliefs. However, I believe that gratitude is so much more than acknowledging this transaction. There is a powerful emotional component when expressing gratitude, impacting overall mindset. This experience can reframe the way you think about your life and relationships.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

The pandemic touched everyone. Friends and families are suffering from the impacts of Covid-19 which include serious illness as well as over 500K deaths in the US alone. Jobs were lost, businesses closed and there was a significant increase in mental illness that exacerbated the isolation people experienced due to the lockdown. Our entire way of living has changed. When dealing with death or struggling to put food on the table, it’s incredibly difficult to look past this pain and suffering. The pandemic impacted our overall emotional well-being, due to the fear and lack of control over all aspects of our lives. Survival became the primary driver for many of us. We are starting to emerge from the pandemic due to the intense vaccination efforts. However, it will take some time for all of us to work through the stress, grief and loss.

This might be intuitive to you, but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

A regular practice of gratitude can enhance our personal and work relationships and our emotional well-being. Expressing gratitude will enhance the emotional connection you have with friends and family. You are acknowledging the important role they play in your life. Additionally, expressing gratitude to your co-workers and team, acknowledges their hard work and commitment. My personal mantra is ‘I am only as good as the people supporting me’. I can’t achieve my personal and professional goals by myself and I am very grateful for the support.

Increased gratitude has an enormous impact on emotional well-being and helps us to appreciate what we have received in life rather than focusing on what we perceive may be missing. Shifting our mindset has a positive impact on the way we approach our life and our relationships.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

The past year was extremely challenging, impacting our health and well-being. The stress sometimes felt unbearable. We started a gratitude practice early during the lockdown. Every Friday evening during dinner, we discussed our accomplishments for the week. We also reviewed anything new that we learned during the week. Rather than focusing on negative impacts of the Covid-19 nightmare, we expressed gratitude for our small wins. Additionally, I used my time during the lockdown to take a step back and think about my goals and future plans. This was a time for my family and I to do a major reset and come up with a new action plan-new options for the future. My adult children moved home during the lockdown. Although we were all living through a crisis, I am very grateful for this special time I had to reconnect with my family. When my family and I received the Covid-19 vaccine, I felt a profound sense of relief and became much more hopeful about the future. I thanked the nurse who administered the vaccine to me and felt incredibly grateful to the entire scientific community for their tireless work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Ossa’s mission is purpose-driven — to increase the visibility, influence and earning power of women in the podcast industry. I would love to be able to expand our reach and amplify the voices of women in underrepresented communities on a global scale. Podcasting is a very powerful medium. Compared to most other forms of digital media, it has a low barrier to entry for production and implementation. I want to continue to empower women and show them that their voice has value.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

The power of gratitude has a significant impact on our overall mental wellness:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Telling yourself that ‘other people have it worse than me’ can add to your feelings of guilt. It is ok to mourn disappointments and not to feel guilty as you work through your grief. We typically take a trip to Florida at the end of the year during the holidays to spend time with my dad. He has been in isolation due to the pandemic, and I was extremely worried about his well-being. In past years, we would take side trips and excursions and visit friends living near my dad. I had to cancel this trip last year due to the pandemic and I was incredibly disappointed. I know that so many people were suffering but I recognized that it was ok to feel disappointment without diminishing the gravity of the situation.
  2. Celebrate the small wins. Over the past year, my family and I tried very complex recipes. My husband mastered his pizza making skills. Cooking a delicious meal is a nurturing experience and this activity helped us better cope with the stress and fear and brought us closer as a family.
  3. Express your gratitude to your friends, family and coworkers. Thank your support system-the people who make a significant impact on your life. I was very grateful for these relationships that helped me get through the challenges of this past year.
  4. Take time for self-reflection. As I mentioned, I have a daily practice of writing in my journal. I express my gratitude for what I have now as well as what I want to achieve my goals.
  5. Be kind to yourself. I am a perfectionist, and I am very impatient, focusing on my seemingly endless to-do list. I am learning to appreciate my accomplishments rather than focusing on projects that are still in progress.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

It is important to acknowledge the issues or difficulties that you are experiencing. The situation is impacting your well-being so don’t discount your feelings of stress and anxiety. Be kind to yourself. Additionally, I try to reframe the situation and then shift to a problem-solving mode. Rather than feeling helpless, creating this plan of action makes me feel more in control.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online? ;

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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