Intro: Welcome to the #justaddgratitude podcast. Here you’ll discover inspiring stories of personal and professional growth, level three fun, marketing tips, business development, and travel adventures from entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and creatives alike. Now sit back, grab a drink, and take a 30-minute gratitude break with your host, Shannon Kuykendall.

Erin & Shannon in Medellin, Colombia at our farewell dinner.
Erin & Shannon in Medellin, Colombia at our farewell dinner.

Shannon: Welcome, Erin Brennan to the #justaddgratitude podcast. This is our official launch day. It’s also my birthday. So I’m really, really excited

Erin Brennan: Happy Birthday.

Shannon: Thank you, Erin, that’s so sweet. [crosstalk 00:00:48] Erin Brennan.

Erin Brennan: I am so grateful you were born.

Shannon: Okay, so Erin, you just got back to the States. You’re now in California, so why don’t you share a little bit about the adventure that you’ve had since the last time I saw you in Medellin, Colombia?


Erin Brennan: Well, let’s just say traveling internationally with a dog has got all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. Most recently, I was accidentally stranded in Istanbul.

Shannon: Oh my goodness. That would not be fun.

Erin Brennan: Oh, but no, I mean, so I’ve been bouncing around and doing some traveling, working remotely, and I’ve been doing that with my 55-pound lab mix dog, so, having all kinds of adventures.

Shannon: So what are some things that you wish you’d known before you started this journey with your wonderful puppy, James?

James, Erin’s lovey mild-tempered puppy.

Erin Brennan: Who you’ve been very, very wonderful to dog sit for me. Everything. In case anyone is wondering, it’s like, the information doesn’t exist. If anyone is ever going to travel with their dog, please just call me first. I’ll tell you what you need to know.

Shannon: Right? There needs to be a web site with do this, don’t do that.

Erin Brennan: Yes, exactly. I’m actually working on those blog posts now because I’ve had people ask me, “Hey, I’m going to go travel with my dog in Europe,” and I’m like, “Okay. So here’s what you need to know before you go.” I didn’t know it. I mean, I did the research of course, but the information just isn’t really clear, and … It’s definitely a trial by fire type scenario.

Shannon: Well, and I mean, every country is going to be so different with what the dog needs for shots and papers and all of that, so. I’m sure that can be very 1, frustrating, and another, time-consuming as well.

Erin Brennan: I mean, the one thing I will say is, that is actually luckily the easy part of it. It’s the subjective piece. I was on a train, I was on a 14 hour train from … Where was I going? Bulgaria to Serbia. And I go to buy the ticket, and I’m like, “Do I need to buy a ticket for the dog? Do you need to see her paperwork?” He’s like, “No, no, you’re fine, go. You’ve got this, you’ve got that. Go.” Get on the train, and the conductor says, “Well, where’s her ticket?” I was like, “They told me I didn’t need one.” “Well, you definitely need one.”

James & Erin taking a stroll in a foreign land

Erin Brennan: I was like, “Okay, well, I’m on the train now, so. I really don’t know what to tell you. I’ll buy a ticket. Can I … Well, do you accept Visa?” Well, of course not. We’re in Bulgaria. And I’m like, “Well, I’ve got 300 …” whatever the local currency is. He’s like, “Well, it’s a thousand.” I was like, “Well, I’ve got 300, and your ticket officer didn’t sell it to me, so I don’t know what to tell you.” And he’s up in arms, lets me buy it for 300, and then the next guy comes on, he doesn’t care.

Erin Brennan: The next guy comes on, and he’s like, “No animals on this train. This is Bulgarian law. Absolutely not.” And I’m like, “We’re 8 hours into this train ride. It’s a little late to decide she’s not allowed on the train.” And then the next guy conductor comes on, doesn’t care at all. So it’s actually this subjective person to person, where it’s their interpretation of rules or whether they like dogs or not, and you’re just like, “No really. You are all saying something different.”

Shannon: There’s no consistency. That for me would be frustrating because I like a little bit of consistency. I like knowing what I’m going to be doing, so I get that, so.

Erin Brennan: Yeah, there’s definitely no dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. It’s kind of like a hope, wish, and a prayer, and don’t forget to get the $20.

Shannon: Let’s hope this little tiny piece of rope holds.

Erin Brennan: I mean, yes. I think the other things is, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Well, do you wish you didn’t have the dog with you?” or, just … It’s definitely a complicated scenario, and-

Shannon: I’ve wondered that.

Erin Brennan: Yeah.

Erin Brennan working away in Medellin, Colombia.
Where there is Wifi, we can work anywhere!

Shannon: I’ve wondered that.

Erin Brennan: And I mean, I definitely would not do it again for fun. I would travel with her if I needed to. She’s been to 11 countries now. That’s maybe a little bit more than I need to do with her again, but I think the thing that is important is it’s a choice, right? So I knew that I wanted to travel a little bit more. I have a dog. I knew I didn’t want to be traveling … I don’t want the digital nomad life forever. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t really make sense to have her.

Shannon: Right.

Erin Brennan: So the question becomes, don’t travel, don’t have a dog, or travel with a dog. And I was able to kind of keep traveling for the amount of time that I wanted to, not sacrifice having the dog that I love, and yeah, it came with complications. But I just kind of feel like, tough. Sometimes what you want is just a little bit more complicated. Deal with it.

Shannon: For as long as I’ve known you, and one of the things that I admire about you is your ability to grapple and take on change like you’re the boss. And…

Erin Brennan: Well I am the boss Shannon.

Shannon: And I … Well, yes, yes, yes you are. Yes you are. You are the boss. But you don’t seem … I don’t think I’ve ever … If you’ve ever cracked or had a meltdown, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen it, because you come at it with a big smile and you find a way to find the silver lining. That’s what I see. And I know just from our conversations in Medellin, and that was what? Two months in? You were two months in with James at that time?

Erin Brennan: Yeah.

Shannon: So, and the challenge of just getting out of Medellin was, as we were all, “See you Erin.”

Erin Brennan: Just kidding. We’re back again. Three more days. Just kidding, back again.

Shannon: I’ll get to leave one day, so.

Erin Brennan: Well I think what’s interesting, and it kind of goes back to your purpose with this podcast of just add gratitude is, you can look at it as gratitude, you can look at it as whatever you want, but one of the things that I just kind of wish everyone would embrace is, no one said it was going to be easy. No one said it was going to be fair. So it’s the expectation that, okay, well I’m in Colombia or Turkey or Bulgaria or the many countries that she’s been in. Embrace the journey. Embrace the challenge. And so, I do it. I just kind of have to laugh at and go, “Huh, huh, okay. Well, that’s interesting. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

Erin Brennan: I mean, at one point, I just went to the train station every single day until someone eventually let me on the train. And there is definitely a little bit of persistence. At one point, they let me on, but the conductor didn’t see the dog, and then she was like, “Absolutely not.” I was like, “Well, what happens if I just don’t get off the train?” I was actually thinking that, at the next stop, Turkish police were going to arrest me, and I was like, “Ugh.”

Shannon: Oh no.

Erin Brennan: But-

Shannon: Poor Erin. She’s in a Turkish prison.

Erin Brennan: No one would be surprised.

Shannon: I’d be like, “Where’s James? Where’s the dog?”

Erin Brennan: But the thing is that, if you’re going to go for it, go for it. And if you’re not going to go for it, don’t complain about it. I could have just stayed home, and that also would have been fine. But then don’t complain about, “Well, I would travel, but I’ve got the dog.” Well, then travel with the dog. Which, by the way, is very difficult to do. I don’t recommend it.

Shannon: It’s definitely got its challenges, so. Now what are some other things that you are currently working on? Love the stories with James, and James is such a sweetheart, but I also want to know, what is Erin doing? What are … You’ve got your own business, and I know that you’ve started some pretty fun projects, and part of the reason why you were my very first guest on the podcast was because you kind of have something that’s very similar. You have something very similar to gratitude, a gratitude project. So why don’t you tell us a little bit more about that?

Erin Brennan: Yes, I would love to. So a while ago, I did a marketing campaign called Protect What You Love, and it is all … I mean, this was a while ago, maybe eight years ago? And it’s always stuck with me, and I’ve always wanted to launch this project, and I must have bought a URL eight years ago. Because we do have one. I have a notification that it was renewing. I was like, “Ooh, that’s a good URL.”

Shannon: I should do something with that.

Erin Brennan: And it’s called Gratitude Inspired Action. And so, I just kind of got this little pepper up my butt and made a web site in a day. And made it in a day, I’ve been thinking about this project for five or six years. And the concept behind it is a quote that I absolutely adore, which I might butcher a little bit, but you get the gist. And it says, “In the end, we will always …” I’m going to mess it up really bad now, aren’t I? “In the end, we will always protect what we love. We will love what we understand, and we will understand what we are taught.”

Erin Brennan: And it’s just kind of this concept … Think about your brother, best friend, husband, child, in my case, dog. They can drive you absolutely up the wall, but you’re like, but that’s how they are. You know their story. You get them, you love them. But if you didn’t know them, and they were just being an asshole, if they were your co-worker or a stranger or someone on a bus, they’re annoying. They’re an idiot. They’re difficult. They’re mean. But because you know them, you’ve kind of got that soft spot in your heart for them. And so, to me, this concept is, we do better when we know better.

Shannon: Absolutely, 100%.

Erin Brennan: And so, if we could get exposed to things like climate change or sex trafficking or organic food or whatever the cause that’s close to your heart, whether it be cancer research or SPCA adopting dogs, taking action little by little, understanding your part in that. Because I think so many of us go, “Well, it’s just me. I’m just one person. It’s just one time. It’s just one straw. It’s just one plastic bottle. It’s just-“

Shannon: Those just ones add up over time.

Erin Brennan: Over time, per person, and also, when 80% of the population thinks, “Ugh, it’s just me.” Or, “Yeah, but I want the car running while I wait for my daughter to come out from school. It’s hot out.” Well, how many people’s car is running? And I’m not just talking about environmental change. This is … That just happens to be something I care a lot about. But the idea is, when you’re really passionate about something, you understand the impact. And if we all understood our impact, we’d be more prone to make better choices. Because ultimately, I think people want to do well. It’s just, it’s overwhelming. It’s too much, where do you start, what’s the point?

Shannon: Well, and you’re right, it’s overwhelming because everywhere you turn, you start to make an impact someplace, whether it’s you’re using bags. You bring your own bags to the grocery store. But then there’s, “Okay, well, we’ve got to recycle cans. Alright, now I can’t let the car run.” There’s all these different things that are being hit with us, and really, pick and choose the impact you want to make. So, I love that, Gratitude Inspired Action.

Erin Brennan: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and-

Shannon: So choose what you want to make an impact in and work on that. You don’t have to choose everything, just the things that are closest to your heart.

Erin Brennan: And I think the importance of educating yourself. With the Amazon burning recently, I did a lot of research on it, and I’ve been kind of putting together some ideas. But one of the things I just didn’t realize is that the number one reason for deforestation in the Amazon is cattle farming. I did not know that. And I was like, “Wow.” I am not a vegetarian. I don’t plan on being a vegetarian. But I can absolutely be more conscious about my beef consumption. And maybe beef consumption isn’t the end all be all, right? Someone I’m sure will say, “But that’s not enough.” Just like everyone’s always-

Shannon: Someone will always feel like … But that says more about them than it says about you. You’re actively thinking and trying to make a difference in your life and your ways that you impact the environment, and that’s really what you have to do is, you have to think about, what is your impact, and not worrying about someone shaming you and say … Because there’s always going to be someone that says, “Well, that’s not right.” Well okay, that says more about you.

Erin Brennan: And micro change and habits. So it really bothered me that I … I drink cold coffee. That’s not the part that bothered me. It really bothered me that with drinking cold coffee, I was using all these straws. I care so much about the ocean, and I’m totally out of integrity with that. So now I carry around straws with me. And is that going … Is one person doing that going to change the world? No, but yes, it is. Because I’m going to bring awareness around people, and that doesn’t mean shaming people who are using straws. It’s just, “Hey, guess what? Did you know that you can get this really cute glass straw and this really adorable container? Ooh look, I’ve got two. You want to use one?”

Shannon: There you go.

Erin Brennan: And again, I don’t think that knowing better has anything to do with shaming people who aren’t doing it as well. It’s just a matter of, if we all got a little bit more curious, if we looked at it from a perspective of, “Oh, can you educate me on that?” One of the other things I’m interested in learning about is kind of fast fashion. I don’t really know anything about it, but ultimately, what are the companies that are, whether it be humane treatment of their workers versus environmental as far as, is this [crosstalk 00:15:11]-

Shannon: The environmental impact.

Erin Brennan: Going to last? Yeah, I mean, I’m interested in exploring that, because it’s something that I don’t know about. And if I knew that … I don’t want to name any brands, because I don’t know the answer, but if I knew that buying from X brand was good and X brand was bad-

Shannon: You’d make a better choice.

Erin Brennan: I would make a better choice. But I don’t know the difference. And to me-

Shannon: So you-

Erin Brennan: There’s all these things, and I’m like, “I should learn.”

Shannon: So you educate, yeah, so you educate yourself. You make yourself aware of the differences. You become, I think the word’s bipartisan, right? I mean, you’re looking at both sides and making a decision based on the information.

Erin Brennan: So, I mean … I love books. I read so many books. And there’s some great ones on habit formation. Because to me, a lot of this stuff is a habit. I eat healthy. I just do, because it’s a habit. But it used to be something I had to track to make sure I was eating the proper nutrition. I also work out, but it used to be something I had to track. Now, this is just stuff that I do naturally. And so the more you make things a habit, but … Atomic Habits. James Clear, I think? Atomic Habits is a must read. It is amazing. I’m pretty sure it’s James Clear. He is … blow your mind. But what I love about him, and I think this is more along the lines that I was thinking of with this project, which is kind of just a side pet project of, “Why not? Let’s just see what happens.” But his concept is, be 1% better.

Erin Brennan: And when you look at habit formation, there’s linchpin habits, which is basically .. There’s habit stacking, there’s different ways where you can kind of hack habits. So let’s say you know you really want to scroll Instagram. And you say, “Okay, great. Well I’m going to do the dishes. I’m going to do 10 sit ups, and then I can look at Instagram,” right? So there’s different ways that you kind of build it into your own routine, but James Clear talks a lot about the 1% and how, be 1% better than you were yesterday. Be 1% better than you were yesterday. And how that is actually exponential. It’s … at the end of the … I cannot even quote his math, because I am so not a math girl. But let’s just say, hypothetically, this is not the math in the book. Please do not quote me. But it’s like, instead of being two times better, you’re 1000% better in two years.

Shannon: Because you just keep increasing by 1% every day.

Erin Brennan: Right, and it … He talks about airplane projections and the sciences in the book for people that care about things like data. But it really, really struck me as, if you can’t be 1% better, then be as good as you were yesterday. But basically, 1%, 1%, 1%. And to me, that is the equivalent of, “Well, I carry a glass straw. That’s 1% better.”

Shannon: That’s your, and that’s amazing. I like that, I really like that, how that, thinking about that. Because it is, it’s those little small changes, small steps to making positive changes. And every-

Erin Brennan: Well I was looking-

Shannon: Bit of it counts.

Erin Brennan: Yeah, I was looking at compostable eco-friendly dog poop bags. Apparently, this is just the episode of my dog. And I got really frustrated and overwhelmed, because it was like, these are the biodegradable ones, but then if you throw them in a trash can, then they’re not biodegradable any more. And I remember it being so complicated, and it is something I will eventually figure out. Again, I’ll make it a project, I’ll spend a month, I’ll figure it out. But I remembering being really frustrated by how hard it was to get information about how to do things better. Just simple actionable steps.

Sisu Farewell Bogata
Sisu Farewell Party in Bogata, Colombia. Top: Me w/ a glass of wine, Kanacia, Stanley, Sun. Bottom: Peppe, Vik, Wasim, Erin Brennan and Kristy

Shannon: Sometimes the information out there is just so convoluted, and it’s not straightforward, and I’m right with you there. To be able to go and say, “Okay, what are the steps that I need to take to do this?” Creating a podcast, there are steps. What are those steps? Let’s make it easy. Let’s not make it difficult. Because any time you want to learn how to do something, it’s about working hard, but the process itself shouldn’t be hard. It should be … There should be a plan.

Erin Brennan: Yeah, and so that was kind of the idea. It’s like, let’s just … And let’s make it fun, right? Let’s get curious, let’s make it fun. And I think that is part of the gratitude in, okay, let’s enjoy it. Obviously, there’s a lot of serious things in life, and you were explaining earlier, is it fun to get stranded at a airport with a dog? Absolutely not.

Shannon: Nope.

Erin Brennan: Sometimes you just look around and go, “Well, this is where we’re at. So we can have fun with it, or we can complain about it.”

Shannon: Well, I’m also a firm believer things happen for a reason. I may not always react in the most positive way when I’m stranded at an airport. That seems to be my favorite place to have a meltdown.

Erin Brennan: Not you Shannon, no.

Shannon: That’s about … But once I pull myself back and realize, “Okay, there’s a reason. There’s a reason I’m still here. Let’s figure it out,” instead of reacting in a negative way. I’ll start thinking about being grateful for the situation and think about, what’s the lesson? What is the lesson I want to take from this?

Erin Brennan: So I have a question for you.

Shannon: Okay.

Erin Brennan: What does gratitude mean to you?

Shannon: The only way I can put it is to put it more like a story. I had cycles in my life that kept repeating themselves, and I actually got turned on to Brene Brown, and I was listening to her Power of Vulnerability speech. I was actually listening to the audio book. And one of the tricks that she kept doing when she’s got scared or frustrated was, she would say, “I’m grateful.” In the back of her head, she’d say, “I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.” And I just started doing that. And when I got scared about my romantic relationship, alright, I’m telling stories inside my head, and I’m thinking, “Okay, these stories are made up stories because of something somebody told me when I was eight years old.” So I just forgave that person and kept saying, “I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.” And I kept doing that. And over the weeks, things started to change. Things started to clear.

Shannon: So gratitude, for me, is being grateful and loving and accepting where you are right now, alright? I don’t have a million dollars in the bank. That’s okay. I’m not worried about getting a million dollars in the bank. I’m grateful for what I have in the bank right now. I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got food on the table. I’ve got clothes on my back. What else do I possibly have to have? I have everything I need. I am grateful. I am surrounded by the most amazing people and the most amazing community. I got to spend two years traveling around the world. I am grateful for that. All the lessons.

Shannon: And two years of travel wasn’t pretty. I mean, it was phenomenal, but it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t show up as my best all the time. But I’m grateful that I recognize that I did that, because I could easily sit back and just be like, “You know what? They were a bunch of assholes and I didn’t like traveling with them.” But I had a part in that. So if I’m going to call them assholes, I’m also an asshole. So it’s about … That’s what gratitude is. It’s about recognizing and bringing everything in and loving every little bit, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, whatever it is. Just take it in, be grateful for it, and find the lessons.

Erin Brennan: Yeah.

Shannon: So that’s what it means to me. That’s kind of the long way around it, but that’s … And you do that. You’re one of those people that does that really well without asking questions and pushing that button and diving deeper, so I appreciate that.

Erin Brennan: Well I’m grateful for you Shannon.

Shannon: Okay, so we’re going to go ahead and start to wrap this up. Is there anything that I should’ve asked but didn’t?

Erin Brennan: No.

Shannon: No? Okay, so no-

Erin Brennan: No.

Shannon: Alright, very good. So how can people find you? How can they find Gratitude Inspired Action, dot com I assume?

Erin Brennan: Yes.

Shannon: And where can they find you? Because you also have your own business, so you might as well give yourself a shout out.

Erin Brennan: Wow. This is actually very exciting. I don’t know if you know this, but I actually just finished building a new web site that kind of takes all of this. So if people go to erinbrennan.co, E-R-I-N-B-R-E-N-N-A-N.co, it has links to my work, my podcast, Gratitude Inspired Action, travel tips, tips for the dog, books that I recommend, all that kind of stuff. So they can go there, or you can go to any of my individual web sites. And I’ll go ahead and send you links for the show notes and stuff like that that you can kind of link that in. The Gratitude Inspired Action web site, my marketing consulting, my podcast, Women on a Mission, book recommendations, travel guides, how to travel with a dog.

Shannon: I’m glad that you did that, because I remember we’d brought it up in Medellin and I think you were still new into the process and were quite overwhelmed, so it was like, “Yeah, no, that’s … I can’t think about that right now.”

Erin Brennan: Yeah, and I mean, even with the web site as it is now, there’s definitely, this is the starter version of launching it, because let me tell you, writing 29 country guides-

Shannon: Can’t be easy.

Erin Brennan: No, it’s not. They’re not all done, but it’s close enough to launch. And so I still have to revamp some of the travel blogs, so it’s going to go live next week.

Shannon: Very cool, very, very cool.

Erin Brennan: But I’m excited.

Shannon: Well, that’s the wrap for the first episode of #justaddgratitude. Sorry if it was cut off a little bit. Again, this is my very first episode and still learning this whole podcast thing. So hopefully you’ll continue to keep listening and watch me improve as this process continues. There’ll be notes and more information about how to find Erin Brennan in my show notes. And if you ever want to reach out to me and learn more about what it is that I do, you can find my web site at upautomation.com. There, you’ll find more information about the services that I offer regarding LinkedIn lead generation to help you find clients. And last but not least, please leave a comment below. Would love to hear about what you guys thought of the show. If you’ve got any positive feedback that you want to leave, always welcome to that. And remember, if you want to make positive changes in your life, just add gratitude.

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