The past two years have been a rollercoaster, with endless conversations about burnout among working parents and caregivers and how people are reimagining their careers (whether by force or by choice) as a result of the stressed systems we find ourselves in. Yet, it’s always with moments of great tension that we see innovation. If there’s a team that has a front row seat to this pivot, it’s OwnTrail, the platform where women visualize and navigate their unique paths through life through their own profile of personal and professional struggles and accomplishments on display through their OwnTrail page. I sat down with KT McBratney (she/they), Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of OwnTrail, to talk about how we collectively emerge from The Great Resignation and her hopes of how it could lead to The Great Mobilization. 

I loved this conversation, especially as I’ve always thought that if we authentically share our experiences and learn from each other, then we can collectively make a difference. Check out our discussion in the video or transcript below. 

A transcript can be found here:

Amy: Brittany. Hi, friend.

KT: Hello. Hello, my lovely friend.

Amy: I am so glad that we got a chance to connect and chat and we’ve been chatting a little bit before this. But this all started because, well, earlier this week we had a really surprise left field turn with the draft opinion of Justice Alito coming out into the world being leaked around the decision of the Mississippi abortion case. And I know I know I don’t know about you, but I know I think I know what you’re going to say. But I think there’s a lot of feelings around that and a lot of emotions around that and a lot of push around that. But instead of focusing just on that, what I loved is what I saw on Social from you. And I wanted this is what I wanted to chat with you about is moving from the great resignation to the great mobilization because. Girl. Woman. People, lovelies. All of us out here. Men, too. Especially men. We got to work. So let’s talk about this. What? When you said, let’s say and I don’t have your social media post right up in front of me, so I can’t read it word for word. But tell me, where did your idea of coming from the great the great resignation to the great mobilization come from?

KT: Yeah. For me. It’s been an idea that’s been kind of just bubbling around in my head that I just had this. Morning post coffee outside walk of clarity of framing it this way because because I think we’ve heard so much of it the headlines, the great resignation, the great reawakening, the great fill in, the blank for for your synonym of choice. And I’m loving the headlines and I’m loving the fact that there’s talk about people evaluating their role. Not just in their workplace, but the role of work in their life. And so I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the work that I do at Old Trail does involve that a lot. I literally see people’s journeys as these visualizations of trails on my own trail and in the conversations I have with our amazing community who reflect all life stages, geographies, industries. Right? I am in the presence of people in different stages of examining their relationship to their work, both the work they get paid to do and the work that they don’t, and the work that they’d like to be spending their time doing. So I very much live at this intersection of kind of. The work you do as a professional, the work you do as a person, and the work that aligns with your purpose. So I spend a lot of time thinking and ruminating and and observing and really learning from that in an armchair academic way.

KT: And. For me personally. The big disconnect in how we work today comes to. Really comes to do with an imbalance of power, right. That we the employee, be it freelance contract, gig worker, executive, even we are at service of an entity, an inhuman entity of a corporation and a company. And the purpose of that entity is to have endless expansion. And we are to serve, right? We are. We are. We are fuel. We are pouring our human energy, our limited time and resources to fuel endless expansion. And while maybe not everybody is thinking of it in those terms, we can feel it when it doesn’t feel right. We feel it when we feel burnout, right? Like on trial, I feel like and I can get a stat to actually confirm this, but the last time that we looked at, I think it was like 26% of people’s trials had a milestone of mental health issue and or burnout. And it’s so common. And that’s just that’s not counting the multiple instances of it. Right. So like, we know that there has been a long simmering disconnect with what fuels us as humans. In how we spend a third of our life. Right. And then if you think another third is spent sleeping, we really feel like we only have control over a slice, a small slice of the pie.

KT: And so. Long, long preamble into this. I’ve been thinking about how systems of power, especially white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal systems of power, thrive on making. The people that they’re exploiting or using or oppressing feel isolated. If we feel like we’re the only one experiencing burnout at work, we’re not going to talk about it. If we feel like we’re the only one who’s making less, we’re not going to talk about how much we’re making. If we’re the only one feeling discriminated against, we’re not going to talk about it. And by keeping us isolated, they limit our power. And so I was thinking in this time where we’re actually getting headlines like massive headlines and like CNN, BBC, like people are talking about in mass, how people are individually using their power to question and opt out of things that aren’t serving them. We can use that power to mobilize and collectively create change. Simply keep trying. That’s the opportunity that’s out there, because if we heal individually, that’s very important. If we make changes individually, that’s super important. But if we work together to connect those individual changes, that’s a tidal wave, not just individual drops across the ocean.

Amy: And we’ve seen we’ve seen that mobilization in pretty specific ways. Right? We’ve seen that politically. Right. When you think about different aspects, we’ve seen I mean, again, I’ll argue this until the end of time, black women have been huddling and mobilizing their power in incredible ways that, you know, it goes back to your points here of everything, like leveraging the power that we do have to really share stories to share with each other and to come together in a way that makes sense for makes sense for societal change. And I think what’s what’s interesting about the great mobilization, as you’re calling it, is that it really does start with one or two people. Right. That’s it’s just about sharing that and individually first. Right.

KT: Yeah, I think it is. It is this thing that like we feel like there has to be a leader. We feel and often the media portrays it as that’s the only way to do it. The only right path is to have a collective leader with an agenda and X, Y, Z, credentials and all of that. But if you look back and I am not a historian, so historians please come and yell at us in the comments because I am not one and I would love to learn from you, but movements start before they get the figureheads that history remembers. Right. And that doesn’t discredit the figureheads who help lead movements and bring them to to mass to a mass scale. And also, there’s always that one person who just, like, had an idea and let it fly and. Language nerd that I am to another language nerd. It’s similar if we think about slang or idioms and how language is moves, nobody knows specifically. It’s a lot easier in the internet age, but still you never know who originated a new phrase. All you know is that it kind of catches on and that is so indicative of what is magical about. Humans connecting communication and collective experiences. Right. We don’t know why that phrase sticks with us. We don’t know why the idea of being like, yeah, I’m not going to do that anymore.

KT: It sticks with us and and we can spread it kind of like, like a, like a thistle, a number. We don’t have to be able to originate the source. What matters is that it’s spreading in a healthy way, and it does start with individual action. And that’s really all every movement is made up of. And I think we think of this big hole and we’re like, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. And you’re right. You can’t like I can’t lead a movement. I can’t create a movement. I can be a part of one. Everyone can. And I and I said this once and I think I wrote about it in an trail newsletter, but I absolutely fundamentally believe that each one of us is capable of revolutions, and those are often internal, but they can lead to external ones. And I feel like this change and potential shift in how we approach work is one of those moments where we can each contain revolutions within whatever circles we’re in. It doesn’t have to go far. It can be the first Starbucks unionizing. It can be participating in the four day workweek like we are. It can be sharing your salary with your co-workers. It doesn’t have to be a figurehead bumper slogan, bumper sticker. That’s what they’re called.

Amy: I mean, yes, bumper stickers.

KT: A bumper sticker. You know, like it doesn’t have to be this big movement to be movement to be momentum.

Amy: For sure. And I would argue, too, like I know well the beauty of own trail. If I can do my two 3/2 plug of why I love on trail is that it is truly not just professional, it is personal. And so with all of the inputs that we’re seeing, I mean, you were saying that to around trails that did indicate mental health shifts or issues or challenges or or obstacles they overcame like yours truly. Look at my trail and how they’ve pivoted in that moment. I think there’s a lot of permission as you make those choices, those individual choices for you, that you give permission to others. That gives permission. An agency, in a way, shows that agency to others. And that’s what also starts the kindling. But I would argue, too, that as we’re looking at where the world is right now, right, depending no matter where you fall politically or whatever. Right. It feels like a lot. Right, no matter what. And as we’re looking at different things and as we’re maybe not just professionally but personally enraged on on different topics and different issues, I’m curious to see how people pivot in the midst of that frustration to really come together. Sometimes it can divide us and sometimes we can come together. So what do you think around that? Like around specific, like, issues that are the kindling or the spark for the fire right now in our current society, how can the the great mobilization like work toward or maybe be challenged by it?

KT: Great question. I think that you hit on it actually when you were talking about the personal and professional. Right. We often have been taught that those can be two completely separate boxes and that they don’t influence each other. However, I would be hard pressed to find one person where things aren’t constantly moving between the two. Like it’s just pretend that these are two boxes, but it’s like Disneyland and they have an underground tunnel the whole time and things are moving from one to the other. It’s really just the illusion of two separate boxes, because we always have full knowledge of ourselves, as much full knowledge of ourselves as we ever can. And while things can be more of a professional outcome, a professional focus versus a personal thing, there is free flow between those in our emotions, in our priorities and interdependencies. And I think the more that we can get open in allowing that to and acknowledging that flow within ourselves and then sharing that outwardly, we get that permission to others and. One benefit of that that I think helps in this great mobilization, regardless of where you sit on any particular issue, is the fact that you can see where there might be universal or shared experiences with people who are like you or are absolutely not like you. If you can see that somebody who maybe you disagree with on everything on a ballot box, you have shared ground around the struggles of being a working parent or of being a caregiver or of facing discrimination at work.

KT: There is common ground because we all are human. That certainly does not take away all of the vast different elements of identity and experiences that do have their own standalone differences and need to be treated as such. But it shows that universally we are all human and that there’s something that can be found as common ground while also rooting it in meaningful differences. Right. I don’t want to talk to people who have experienced burnout just like I have, because I won’t learn as much. And I think that that also is is the ground to the fertile ground for for the great mobilization is people are leaving or changing or even questioning their role of their careers or their jobs, however they see it. And they’re looking at like, what do I really need and what do I really want? And I think fundamentally we’re finding that it’s all very similar. We all want safety. We want security, we want stability. We want to feel like ourselves. And we want to have choice. What we do with those is inherently unique. But if we can start from there, that’s a fertile breeding ground to learn from each other. Instead of building up more and more walls between us.

Amy: I need you to repeat that one more time. What are the things we need? Because as Brené Brown would say, like, let’s punctuate that. What are the things we need? We need safety.

KT: Security. Security choice? Yeah. And another one that I forgot. And I even said them. I mean.

Amy: I think that’s that’s the key. And I think as we’re. You know, we’ve seen the research and we’ve seen the polls about how our country, how our culture feels very divided on many different issues. If we can come back to those specific, basic needs, I mean, we’re talking like psychology one on one. Right. That is that is really what brings it together. And as you talk to about and you talk to about understanding and learning from those who have those same basic needs as you, but have a very different view and how they exhibit those or how they bring those to their life. What are some of the what are some of the things that have surprised you in those conversations that have either brought that brought you together with that person?

KT: I’m so fortunate that through the community specifically, I have really cultivated a lot of intergenerational and. Cross geographical relationships and. In that. Wow. That’s such a big. I’m like, I don’t even know how to answer it. How many things?

Amy: It’s a big question.

KT: You know, I think for me it’s helped personally. Validate the strong opinions that I’ve loosely held and continue to explore. The strong opinions that I loosely have and having different perspectives that say like, that’s interesting. And instead of jumping in and saying, but and knowing that somebody who I wouldn’t match with via an algorithm or via a segmented like geography, sex, age industry which have their merit, those types of things absolutely have value. But they limit us from seeing other perspectives. So going into a place where I’m like where you can be led by being values aligned and not necessarily affiliation. Or is she aligned? So that’s kind of this even playing field of. Of reducing a hierarchy and creating space. And I think that that’s another thing that that is really an opportunity with the great resignation and the potential for the great mobilization is we are clearing space. Yes. And you brought up you brought up psychology one, I one. And I think when we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the very top, if we have time for it, if we have space for it, is this idea of self awareness and self actualization. And I actually saw something on Tok where somebody said, What if we invert that? What if by thinking about. And being aware of ourselves and our needs that are roles in our society, in our cultures, in our micro communities, in our environment, the earth. What if we started there and then we could ladder out and figure out how to have a more sustainable relationship with the world and the people around us? And it just kind of broke my brain open. And that’s the kind of thinking that that I think we need a little bit more of is saying, but what if? But what if instead of saying, I agree, I agree, I agree.

Amy: But what if and I would I would also add to that. Yes. And and you touched on this a little bit, but the yes and yes, I can have these strongly felt beliefs and I can hear you and try to put myself in your shoes. Right? Yes. I can have this one concept in my head of what life should look like. And I can see you as a person. Right. And we can work together on that or even personally. And I think this goes to the great mobilization to. Right. And, and even the great resignation of yes and yes, I can have this experience and want something different and I want some things to still be the same. And we can all meet in that. Yes. And space. There’s power in that.

KT: Yes. And I think that there’s such a right now as a is a catalyzing point, I think, with this happening at the scale that it is. For us to do something that we’ve probably done internally alone for a long time, which is figuring out what’s success, what professional career success means to us, and letting go of that idea that that it only follows traditional linear markers, which. Map also to endless expansion. Right. There is nothing wrong with staying in a role and a job and a company that you like. There is nothing wrong with saying I want to run a coffee shop for five years and it was successful and I don’t need to open a franchise and have 17 others there. There is no one correct path of success. It’s what you define it as. And that’s really the world that I’m really interested in building and collaborating with. Folks like you to build is one where we’re making our work. Still fulfill our life instead of adapting our life to fit the work. And I think that that’s one of the biggest sources of tension. And if you look at the data stress between work life balance, which I feel like is a term that is a myth in and of itself, a whole nother soapbox that many others have.

KT: Talked on better than I ever can. But this idea that the root of perhaps the root of all of this angst, this ennui, this this dissatisfaction is because we’re putting what the life we want to live as an outcome of the work we’re doing. And yes, of course, like Money Time, those things that come out about what you do for a living, the life you can live, the lifestyle, the things you can have are dependent on that. Yes. And also, if you lead with the life you want, you can perhaps decouple yourself from the things as much of saying. But then I have to buy a bigger house. But then I have to get another car. Or you can say that is the life I want, so I will keep climbing that ladder. And there’s really no one right way to do it except the one that you’re going to define for you. I will talk about it.

Amy: And talk about it and share it, because when we share those experiences and we share those inner thoughts and we share those lessons, that’s when people say, Oh, I can I can do that, too. There’s freedom in that and there’s power in that.

KT: And you can see where it didn’t work for someone. You can say that’s the fourth they didn’t take. That’s interesting. Why not? Or this is where they tried something and it didn’t work out for them. Or it worked wonderfully. I want to do that. Maybe I can mirror that, but I also don’t want to do that piece. We can learn from each other. In not just seeing the hits, the highlights. Like I’m elated when I see anyone that I care about or even like adjacent land. Meyer Win. I love it. And also I love it when they share what they’ve learned, which means that they maybe have failed. They’re made a mistake as somebody who makes mistakes. All the time.

Amy: Yours truly, too. Yours truly, too. Oh. I could talk to you all day. I could talk to you all day. Thank you for this so great mobilization. Let’s. Let’s make it happen.

KT: All right, I’m in.

Amy: I’m in, too. I hope the rest of you all. Thanks so much.

KT: Got a bumper? A bumper sticker. Since I know that, since I can remember the word. Now.

Amy: We’ll put our bumper stickers on our cars. It’s fine. Or maybe even our child’s wagon or bicycles or whatever. It’s fine. Awesome.

KT: Yeah. Write it on your arm and pen. It all counts.

Amy: In all counts. Awesome. Thanks for joining me.

KT: Thank you.

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