Maya is a Consultant & Chocolate Connoisseur
Maya Townsend returns to the podcast from episode 40 to talk about her latest ventures in chocolate including facilitating an annual conference, hosting a chocolate salon, and how it all applies to her job as a consultant!
• Annual Chocolate Festival UnConference
• Hosting a chocolate salon
• Sensory development exercises with chocolate
• Inviting people to slow down and focus
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Welcome to Episode 274 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also to hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out. Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday and now with the Follow-up Fridays. It’s been so fun sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this Follow-up Friday is no different with my guest, Maya Townsend. She’s the Founder and Lead Consultant with Partnering Resources outside of Boston. And now, she’s with me here today. Maya, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Maya: Glad to be back.
John: Yeah. This is going to be awesome because we’re going to talk chocolate and everybody loves that. But before we do that though, I have my seven rapid-fire questions right out of the gate here. So we’re going to have some fun. The first one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Maya: Harry Potter hands down any day.
John: Okay. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Maya: I just visited a hard cider company this past weekend and they did some pretty good stuff. So I’ll call hard cider my favorite adult beverage.
John: Very cool. How about a brownie or ice cream?
Maya: Brownie. But it’s got to be a really good melty brownie with awesome chocolate.
John: Nice. Yes. Oh, wow. Yeah. That sounds good. That sounds really good. How about oceans or mountains?
Maya: I’m a mountain person, always have been. I’d love for a good hike among the trees.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite Disney character?
Maya: I like Mulan. That’s one of the actual Disney films that I own and that I will watch multiple times. I think she’s an amazing character.
John: Yeah, definitely a very popular answer on here for sure. Two more. How about a favorite food? Any food?
Maya: Well, I probably have to say chocolate since that’s what we’re talking about. So I’ll go with that.
John: Okay. All right. Well, that was a ringer. I was going to see if maybe there was something else or it was chocolate inside of something else. And the last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Maya: Oh, over, over the top definitely. The other way is just wrong.
John: Yeah. You just never know. It’s quite the controversial question apparently. But when we talked way back on Episode 40, man, God bless you for being on that early. But it was so fun, yeah, just hearing more about the chocolate and the festivals and the things that you were a part of. Is that still something that you’re pursuing and actively doing?
Maya: Yeah, it is. Since we talked, I went on to facilitate a few more of the Annual Unconference for the industry. We did those out in Seattle. The first year, I volunteered. Then they decided they wanted to pay me. I said that I would accept payment as long as part of the payment was in chocolate. They agreed to that. So I did that for a few years. Yeah. Then the other piece that happens is that I’m now hosting every other month a chocolate salon and sensory development workshop in my home where a small group of people between eight and 18 get together to learn about chocolate from different origins or different aspects of chocolate and then also do some fun games to help us develop our sensory capabilities.
John: Wow. That is incredible. That’s really cool. How does that go? Is it just you have chocolate from different parts and probably blindfolding? Is that how it works?
Maya: No, we don’t blindfold.
John: There’s more to it than that for sure.
Maya: There’s more to it than that. Generally, we start with having some guests do some talking, so talking about their experiences at a recent European conference or their experiences in Colombia and chocolate there. A guest will do some talking. Then we will have a series of bars that are blinded, so we can’t tell which one’s which. We write down what we think of them and what we sense. Sometimes, people try to describe what they taste and get very fancy. Sometimes, people will describe what they taste and they’ll just say it tastes like chocolate. And both of those are equally fine.
Really, what we’re trying to do is just help people put food language into words because we don’t really do that as well. I mean we’re very good at describing visually what we see. We’re not very good at describing what we smell and what we taste with any nuance. So the last part of the session is we do an activity. For example, one is a spice rack challenge where I’ll take about four different spices and I’ll blind them so that folks can’t see what they are. People will sniff them and see if they can identify them. And it is much harder than you would think.
John: You know some of the wine tasting that I’ve been on where I’ll describe it as something and then some of these wine snobs will be like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous.” Then the wine porter will be like, “Actually, that’s very possible because of the fires that happened,” or the whatever or this or that. And it’s like, “Well, yeah.” I mean just because one person tastes it one way or you can describe it that way, it’s totally different for others.
Maya: Yeah. I think that’s so important because we are so underdeveloped in our skill about describing these things. What’s most important is just that we start to build those muscles. And there can be a snobbery that happens around food tasting. “You should taste this or you should sense that.” And what we’re saying is, “No, you taste what you taste. Everyone’s taste buds are different.”
Actually, some of our most interesting conversations have been with folks who have synesthesia and taste in color and people who taste with memory. So they’ll taste a bar and say, “This reminds me of my grandmother’s house in the summer,” or, “This reminds me of Time Square.” So some of those metaphors are actually really interesting to explore as we taste.
John: That’s really amazing. Do you feel like — I mean I have to imagine that this translates to your work in the consulting world very easily as far as being able to describe things better or understanding that other people describe things differently.
Maya: It is. I mean because that’s a lot of what I’m doing. I mean basically my work these days is bringing together diverse groups to tackle complex systemic issues. By nature of something being complex and systemic, nobody has all of the truth about what the issue is. So part of our work is growing our ears so that we can hear other perspectives and bring those together to form a more coherent picture of what the challenge is that folks are up against.
Then I think the other piece about it is also around mindfulness, of being able to tune in and quiet the chatter in your brain and get in touch with, “What do you really think about this issue? What do you really feel about it? What’s most challenging? What’s the thing that you’re most worried about?” And let’s get that stuff on the table so that we can address it.
John: That’s pretty awesome, I mean, in that one helps the other and vice versa. Because I mean, of course, discussing chocolate, everyone likes or most everyone likes chocolate or has an opinion of it anyway. But now, it seems like it’s so much deeper than even before, which is cool.
Maya: It is. I think what happens in the United States at least is that we get very transactional and we just eat. We know we like chocolate, so we just put it in our mouths and don’t pay much attention to it. So part of this practice is slowing down and paying attention. I think also in organizations, we get a little bit addicted to busyness of just feeling like we constantly have a ton of things to do. We’re working hard on them. We’re crossing items of our to-do list. And that feels emotionally satisfying. But what’s not clear is that whether we’re focusing on the right things or as we’re getting things done, if we’re getting them done in a sustainable way. So part of both my consulting work and also my chocolate hobby is inviting people to slow down and focus and tune in and just be more present with what’s right in front of them.
John: I love that. That’s so powerful, so powerful and such a great takeaway for everyone listening as well. I think we’re all guilty of that at some point. Even subconsciously, it accidentally happens. That’s for sure. Maya, this has been so much fun catching up with you. Before I go and make myself some brownies, I need to — it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to ask me some questions if you want since I started out the episode firing away at you. So if you have anything you’d like to ask, I’m ready.
Maya: All right. I have two questions for you. The first question is, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
John: Oh, wow. Yeah. I feel like somebody asked me this a little bit ago. I think I said if I could sing because to me, that seems like a superpower because I am so bad at it that it would be pretty awesome. That would probably be my — I feel like it’s a superpower, to me personally. But as far as like a superhero superpower, yeah, goodness, I don’t know. Spider Man was always cool to me. You’d be able to swing and fly through skyscrapers and whatever. It was always for good. So something like that and have some webs that you could activate because you can use it for so many different things as well. So I guess that’d be my superpower.
Maya: It sounds great. That’s the superpower you wish you had. What is the superpower you actually have? What can you do amazingly?
John: That is deep. I don’t know. I should ask others. Probably just bring levity to a situation if things are too stressful. The work still gets done, but I can at least bring some levity to it. I think from growing up moving so much, my dad being in the military, I can relate to a lot of people. I’ve probably been or near and on the road doing comedy. I’ve driven by your city before so I think I can carry a conversation with a fair amount of people, which is probably more of a superpower than I think it is. So hopefully that works?
Maya: Yeah. That absolutely work. I’m impressed.
John: Thanks so much, Maya, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Maya: My pleasure. Glad to be here.
John: Yeah. Everyone listening, if you’d like to see some pictures of Maya or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.