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“Why you should monotask instead of multitask”, With Virginia Morrison

Monotask. Multitasking is in tension with being present. Thus, I monotask, starting with a “To Do” list every morning. Invariably, one of the tasks is X# of hours on emails. I set the phone timer for one to two hours, whatever I’ve designated with my “Time Block” technique, put in my earbuds, stream classical musical, […]


Monotask. Multitasking is in tension with being present. Thus, I monotask, starting with a “To Do” list every morning. Invariably, one of the tasks is X# of hours on emails. I set the phone timer for one to two hours, whatever I’ve designated with my “Time Block” technique, put in my earbuds, stream classical musical, and do nothing else but emails for that time period. Once the buzzer goes off, I cross “Emails” from my list, and proceed to the next task. Monotasking and time-blocking keep me efficient, productive and ultimately sane.


I had the pleasure to interview Virginia Morrison, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer at Second Chance Beer Company. Previously a successful private-practicing attorney, Virginia brings extensive employment law and business experience to the fast-growing company. In her role, Virginia spearheads key company initiatives and business units, including the “Giving second chances” philanthropic program, human resources, and community and political outreach. Virginia graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business from Bowling Green State University and earned her JD with Honors from the University of Michigan Law School. When she isn’t planning philanthropic events or building the best company culture, Virginia rejuvenates by meditating in India, relaxing in Savasana, running in the rain, and drinking her namesake beer “Legally Red.”


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Pre-ordained destiny brought me here. There is no other explanation for why I co-own and am CEO of a brewery. My earliest memories are wanting to be a lawyer when no one in my family went to college. We were welfare poor, but my mother and grandmother’s emotional love and support got me through law school. Post-successful legal career, I transitioned in-house to fertility nutraceuticals, which is where I got my first C-Suite experience. When I started dating my now-husband and business partner, he kept talking about starting his own brewery. Finally I said, “well, shit or get off the pot, and if you want to poop, I’ll help.” Ha! From there, as a lover of craft beer and home brewer myself I could not restrain myself. I got involved and voila, now I have the privilege of being our CEO.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I wish it only was one story, but gratefully, it happens with less frequency. Even before I became our CEO, male colleagues would introduce or refer to me as “Marty’s wife,” without any reference to my role at Second Chance Beer Company. I politely mention I am CEO, yet often the “wife” colloquialisms persist. One occasion, I happened to be with a female colleague from another San Diego craft brewery at an industry event. She, too, worked with her spouse, and after the man we were speaking with referred to us as our husband’s wives for the third time, we couldn’t take it anymore. With as much compassion as we could muster, we explained his nomenclature was offensive and undermined the important work we did at our breweries. He thanked us for taking the time to explain why what he said was inadvertently hurtful and demeaning. I do not think he will make the same mistake with another woman.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I developed a gum-chewing and bubble-blowing habit in high school. Then, throughout college and law school, I convinced myself it helped me think more clearly. Imagine this, federal courtroom, jury empaneled, lawyers passionately arguing their cases, me a law clerk, seated not far from the Judge. I’m chewing away, fervently taking notes, and completely unaware that I was blowing bubbles. A stern “uh-um,” caught my attention, and I looked up to see my Judge (and quite a few others in the courtroom) looking right at my bubble. Lesson: self-awareness, including of habits.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We make award-winning beer and use it to give second chances. Second Chance is not just the name of our company. It’s an impassionate mission to do our part to reduce waste, find rescued pups furever homes, save horses from euthanasia, and help organs get to terminally ill patients, so people get a second chance at life. We host Fix-It Clinics in our brewery bi-weekly, and do monthly fundraisers for charities such as Second Chance Dog Rescue, Horses of Tir Na Nog, and Donate Life San Diego.

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

Second Chance Beer Company just did a unique, groundbreaking collaboration with AleSmith Brewing Company. We believe it to be the first of its kind. Two different beers — a Hazy IPA (Second Chance) and a Brut IPA (AleSmith), one from each brewery, packaged together and meant to be blended and enjoyed as one. How would beer help people? My husband, Marty, says beer is a social lubricant, and I see it all the time. Beer brings people together in happiness.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Be yourself. Of course, we all read books, meet others and identify admirable qualities to emulate. But, ultimately, leadership must be genuine and authentic to inspire and be effective. Practice self-reflection, meditate if that helps, just truly understand your strengths and weaknesses. Make peace with and use both. Yes, you can use weaknesses, for example, as an opportunity to delegate and empower others on your team. For example, when we started Second Chance Beer Company, I did our social media, graphics and all. It was abysmal. Artistic creation and consistent social engagement are not my strengths. Now, we have a talented Marketing Maven and outside graphics team. It’s one less thing on my plate, and they get the satisfaction of meeting and exceeding expectations.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Do not micro-manage and just say “no.” On the first, to borrow from Jim Collins’ Good to Great, get the right people on your bus, and then just drive. Don’t try to drive and go back to their seats to “help.” The bus is going to wreck, right?! Hire great people for your team, give them clear direction, defined goals, an inspired vision, and they will get the job done. Secondly, saying “no,” is just as — if not more — important than saying, “yes,” especially for women. We seem to want to do it all, and it is not realistic nor attainable. Frequently, too, we sacrifice self-care and there is nothing left in the proverbial tank to take care of others. Be realistic with every new opportunity. Just because it is an attractive prospect does not mean you should seize it. Choose wisely, and unless you can commit fully and still have time for you, pass.

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?

I always have been my strongest critic. I developed more self-compassion and confidence over the years, but it was sorely lacking in college. My grandmother encouraged me to apply to the honors’ program at Bowling Green State University. I was utterly terrified when I got accepted. What if I was not smart enough? Freshman year, one of my honor’s classes was critical thinking. The first assigned reading was a book I still own today, “Asking the Right Questions.” Written by Dr. M. Neil Browne, who also taught the class, it was a visceral and formidable read. I still feel some nausea recalling that first day. And, then, OMG, he called on me. I do not remember what I said, but I remember he did not make me feel stupid. I studied under him for many years to follow, and few other people have challenged or taught me more, including about myself. I am enough and I am worthy, and believing that has made all the difference.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As CEO, I have championed, spearheaded and lead our “Giving second chances Charitable Program.” We give tens of thousands of dollars in cash and beer every year to charities that give people, animals, planet, and things a second chance. Earlier this year, a friend, Tom’s, Mom tragically ended up on life support, and the family needed money for her medical expenses. I pulled together an internal and external team, got hordes of donations from our local independent craft beer community, and we put on a fundraiser…all in less than two weeks. Sorrowfully, the morning of the fundraiser, Tom texted his Mom passed away. I was devastated and uncertain what to do. But, I reminded myself the family still had medical bills, and the fundraiser proceeded. The mood understandably was somber, even with beer, as word spread of her passing. At one point, a BeerTender said a gentleman was waiting to see me. It was Tom’s father. With tears in his eyes, he told me Tom’s mom was an organ donor. He knew we supported Donate Life San Diego and wanted to come, thank me personally, and tell me she already saved three lives that day. We both hugged and cried in the middle of our Second Chance Beer Lounge in a moment that felt suspended in time. I’ll never forget it, and it’s moments like that one that remind me what we do is beyond beer.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1) It is what it is. My personal belief is very little is within my control, except my reaction. Therefore, I accept people and things as they are, and what follows is less frustration and more satisfaction. For example, I try my best to get this interview. If I do not, it is what it is. And, I move to the next moment, where I…

2)Be present. We have two Second Chance Beer Company Tasting Rooms. At both, I frequently encounter loyalists (our esteemed name for regulars) or new guests who want to talk or meet me. I almost always am working. I could think “ughh…another interruption.” Instead, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have customers who: visit our Tasting Rooms; and want to spend a little of their time with me. I then take a breath, let go of whatever I am working on, and give them five to ten minutes of my undivided attention (or more, let’s be honest. It’s beer, and they’re fun!). This is just one example of how I strive to live in the present.

3)Monotask. Multitasking is in tension with being present. Thus, I monotask, starting with a “To Do” list every morning. Invariably, one of the tasks is X# of hours on emails. I set the phone timer for one to two hours, whatever I’ve designated with my “Time Block” technique, put in my earbuds, stream classical musical, and do nothing else but emails for that time period. Once the buzzer goes off, I cross “Emails” from my list, and proceed to the next task. Monotasking and time-blocking keep me efficient, productive and ultimately sane.

4)Lead by example. Not bubble-blowing, obviously, but in that vein, know your team is watching and taking cues from you. For better or worse, they will emulate your behaviors. If you want meetings to start on time, it goes without saying you should be — even early. I personally will never ask my team to do something I would not do, and frequently, I do it first so they see there is nothing below me or above them.

5) Stop doing things as much as I start. For years, I have practiced keeping my closet under control with the “1-in-1-out” rule. Anytime I buy a pair of shoes, for example, I donate a pair. Not long ago, as I was looking at my cluttered calendar with a sense of foreboding, it occurred to me, the “1-in-1-out” could be applied to commitments, as well. Around the same time, I decided I wanted to get elected to the San Diego Brewer’s Guild Board of Directors and join San Diego Social Venture Partners. Before I pursued either opportunity, I set about delegating an appropriate amount of responsibilities, though, to free up time which then could be spent on those pursuits.

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. 🙂

Our credo is #HowWeSecondChance. We are fastidious about reusing, reducing waste, upcycling and recycling. We constantly think about how not to create waste, salvage from landfills, and reduce our carbon footprint. It’s little things, but they add up in a growing company. We do not print unless necessary, and then double-sided. If we get bills or other mail that is single-sided, we use the other side. We repurpose barrels used for aging beer and grain bags into train bins throughout our Tasting Room. A local farmer picks up our spent grain for dairy cow feed. Our cozy tasting rooms are furnished from consignment shops and custom pieces made from recycled wood. If everyone thought about how they could second chance and not make waste, perhaps we save our planet?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have several favorite quotes, but a constant is “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” by Friedrich Nietzsche. In hindsight, my desire to be a lawyer was a passion to be in service to others. Often when I evaluate a tempting prospect for accepting or rejecting, I use my “why” — to serve others — as the gatekeeper, remembering I still need to keep my serve “reserves” stocked. In other words, I cannot serve others if I do not care for myself first and foremost.

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?

Oprah, without a doubt. Her recent 60 Minutes’ segment about the latest neuro-research on young children’s’ brains changed my life. In short, she posited to start asking “what happened to someone,” instead of “why they did or dobad behaviors.” In other words, we never really know what another person is going through or has experienced in their life, and science has established, definitively, it affects the brain, emotions, cognition, hormones, and a plethora of other mind-body interconnections. Reminding myself to ask what happened to someone infuses me daily with compassion and curiosity, instead of anger and blame.

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