Culture Immersion Through Virtual Cooking with Jenn Nicken and Helping Couples Facing Chronic Illness with Dr. Jackie Black

When you visit another country, what usually comes first in the to-do list is to try their food. Food culture differs from one country to another, making every experience incomparable. Jenn Nicken, Founder and CEO of The Chef & The Dish, is a genius behind exposing people to other cultures and regions of the world while concocting something delicious. Supported through a network of passionate food lovers around the world, Jenn shares the enormous benefits of cooking. Transporting into people’s kitchens, she shows her cooking prowess through video conferences.


It’s always better to explore different food cultures with your partner. As much as food gives us nourishment and happiness, it’s still essential to check on each other’s well-being. When our partner suffers an illness, our minds wander somewhere else, leading us to stress and distraction. Dr. Jackie Black shares how she deals with couples facing life-threatening and chronic illness. A marriage expert and educator, she gives away tools for people who know somebody going through this dilemma right now need. Discover the recommended programs for couples and be informed about autoimmune diseases as Dr. Black dives into these and more.

TTL 543 | Culture Immersion


We have Jenn Nicken and Dr. Jackie Black here. Jenn is the Founder of The Chef & The Dish and that is a company I’ve tried. Their product is amazing. Dr. Jackie Black is a board-certified coach serving couples who face life-threatening and chronic illness. She also deals with organizations and how they handle when employees are facing the same thing. We’re going to talk to both Jenn and Dr. Jackie.

Listen to the podcast here

Culture Immersion Through Virtual Cooking with Jenn Nicken

I am here with Jenn Nicken who is the Founder of The Chef & The Dish which is supported through a network of passionate food lovers around the world. She’s got an interesting background. Her work is focused on entertainment and technologies industries. She’s developed high profile programs for companies like Apple, ABC, NBC, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Discovery, Food Network and Disney. You have quite a background and it’s nice to have you here. Welcome, Jenn.

It’s nice to be here. Diane, thanks so much for having me.

This is going to be fun. I met you because both my daughters have ordered through your site. Tara ordered first. Toni talked her into it, I heard, then Tara talked me into buying another one. They are amazing what you do there. I want to explain what you do there, but before we do, can you give a little background on you? If somebody hasn’t met you, if they don’t know your work, how did you get to this place where you have The Chef & The Dish?

I feel like it’s been a little bit of a life journey that’s gotten me here. I’m originally born in Buffalo, New York. When I graduated from university, I took off to Los Angeles and started to work for a small boutique ad agency there that specialized in buzz marketing for entertainment clients. A company called Apple came to us and said that they were releasing something called an iPod. At that point, I was available for Mac. They came to us when they were releasing it to the PC, which was a massive turning point in the company’s trajectory. That is what started a thirteen-year career for me working on the Apple brand. I was part of the team that helped launch iPod and iTunes in North America.

I worked on Mac campaigns and eventually Apple in Canada proper asked to come to Toronto and manage the marketing for the entertainment division here, which at that point was just iTunes. They had music and TV then movies came and then the iPhone launched in Canada, which has changed the game. I ran the marketing for the iTunes app store and iBook for about a few years here in Toronto. It was such an amazing time in my life and such incredible memories. Working for the company, it was a marriage of technology and entertainment and I loved every moment of my job. There came the point where I started to have other interests.

As much as I still immersed myself in music and apps, I felt like there was something that I needed a little bit more of. I started to take cooking classes to be a little bit of a stress reliever and explore other hobbies. That was when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in food. I took a sabbatical from Apple and I traveled the world on my own for about three months. I immersed myself in food culture. I traveled to Indonesia and Thailand. I learned how to make pasta in Italy. That was the inspiration behind the company.

You listed my daughter Tara’s dream life right there. She would love that.

It was an amazing experience. I do know that she’s been to Italy and that she loves Italian food in particular.

Yes, she did. She studied in Italy, she studied in Spain. She lived with a friend part of a summer in Brazil. She speaks to all foreign languages. She’s handy to have on these trips when you go around the world because she could speak to somebody.

Let me know if she needs a job.

[bctt tweet=”Cooking is a stress reliever. It helps improve math skills and increases creativity.” via=”no”]

I will. I don’t know what she would do virtually, but we’ll find out. It was a great gift that my daughter Toni had given her because what you do at The Chef & The Dish was right up her alley. Why don’t we talk about what you do there because we’ve hinted about this? What do The Chef & The Dish do?

As far as we’re aware of, we’re a globally unique company and we have chef all around the world, in Italy, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Hungary and Turkey that you can video conference into your home for a private one to one cooking experience. It’s a cooking class, but it’s a lot more than a cooking class. It’s very much a cultural experience where you get this private time with a chef that lives in a different part of the world and you get to ask any question you want while you whip up an amazing meal together.

We did it. I only did one. Tara has done a few. I got to do the one that I ended up buying from my husband, Bob and it was Ossobuco out of Italy we made. What was her name?

It’s Chef Paula Martinelli.

Paula. She was great. The whole experience was so much fun because we all had gotten together at my daughter’s house in La Jolla. We thought this is a great time to use this present because Tara had already done it and she loved it. We thought I’m half Italian and my husband’s half Italian. We thought, “Let’s do something in Italian.” We did this Ossobuco and all of us got into it. There were seven. I don’t know how many of us were there but we were all hanging around. I had my niece and my son-in-law and everybody. We were all making this a together, sharing all the different aspects. What was great was how the chef kept sharing like what the cultural meaning was behind everything. It was a history class at the same time, but in a cool way, food-related, but also culturally-inspired. Is that what they all are like?

They’re all like that. We have several missions, if you will, at the company. One is to reinvent the concept of the night in. We want people to think about staying in and transform what that looks like. Stay in your kitchen, open a bottle of wine and video conference the chef into your kitchen. The other goal of our classes is very much to transport you for the day. We are almost a virtual travel product where our classes are all about that cultural immersion and you learn about the chef’s region. One of our chefs is based in the United States. If there are some people taking classes in the United States, we have chefs in New Orleans and then also New England. You learn about those cultures. You learn about things like Mardi Gras or chefs in New Orleans, he talks about his experience with Hurricane Katrina. It’s an important aspect of what we’re doing. It’s not about cooking, even though that’s an important part and it’s the foundation of what we do. It is about exposing people to other cultures and other regions of the world where they might do things a little bit differently and all the while you’re making something delicious.

It took a few hours. It wasn’t an hour thing. It was a process. They had to explain the process because you get the food ahead of time and they have a previous session that you talk to the people about what you need to buy and all that ahead of time.

The way it works is when somebody goes to our website, they pick one of the cooking classes. There are almost 50 to choose from. We’re in nine different countries. We’re adding a 10th country. They picked the class and then once that class is selected and the time is booked, the client gets a kitchen assistant. That kitchen assistant is meant to give the client a white glove service and answer every question that they have. Part of the whole process with The Chef & The Dish is that all of our clients get a twenty-minute complimentary kitchen prep session with the kitchen assistant. What we do during that kitchen prep session is we review their shopping list and that’s where we say that the learning of our cooking classes begins.

One of the things that we want people to remember in our classes is that when you go to the market, every single product that you see on the shelves, there is a story about that product. There’s a family that perhaps picking the olives that eventually get to the shelves of the market. The kitchen prep session is an important part of the process where we begin that education. We encourage people to go and explore their local markets and find unusual ingredients that maybe they weren’t familiar with. We explain what those ingredients are. Once that kitchen prep session is done, the client goes out, they head out shopping and then during the time of their cooking class, their chef video calls them through Skype.

It was easy. We had a little laptop that we put in the kitchen and had the camera on and we walked around and we showed her here we’re frying this, does this look right? “Add a little bit more of this,” or a little more of that.

TTL 543 | Culture Immersion
Culture Immersion: When you go to the market, every single product that you see on the shelves has a story.


It’s funny because all of our clients, they take their computer and they’ll hover over the stove, their chef is like the little portable chef. The chef is watching you. The chef sees everything you’re doing and is coaching you through the process. Cooking through video conference, there are some challenges. The chef can’t smell or taste or touch certain things. It’s a sensory experience as well for the client because the client needs to listen to the chef and make sure that they’re doing the things that they need to be doing, tasting their dish and observing how the dish is cooking and making sure that they’re following the chef’s lead. There’s so much learning that happens during that process from the cooking side of things. All the while you’re getting with cultural immersion as well.

You reminded me a little bit. My grandmother came over on the boat from Sicily and she didn’t speak English. When we would watch her cook, there was no measuring. She would throw a little of this, she’s going in and saying, “Grab a little more of that,” and I’m like, “How much?” You’ve got to get used to the fun of a pinch of this and a dab of that. She could tell exactly how much you needed from looking at it through the camera. I love that because I’m like, “I wish I could do that.” It was a lot of fun. We all learned a lot of different things. The whole experience was so much fun because you get to feel like you’re in Italy for the day. It was a huge hit. I could see families and even companies getting together to do this. Have you done this with companies?

It’s a great point. There was a lot of research that shows that cooking in particular, there are enormous benefits. In North America, we’re starting to uncover some of those benefits. It’s a stress reliever. It helps improve math skills because of measuring. It increases your creativity. One thing that we started to see is that we have been reached out to you by a few different companies that are learning about our classes and learning not just about the cooking element of the class, but also again, this cultural element. What we’re seeing is that some companies are actually booking or classes for their teams. One thing that we think is a huge opportunity for us as a company is we’re starting to push further into this working with companies that specialize in corporate rewards and employee rewards. We believe our classes are great leadership training.

There’s so much when you’re dealing and the world is becoming global. We’re at a point now where it’s unusual for you to work for a company and not have contact with a person in different parts of the world. As we become a society where you have to deal with more and more people that are perhaps coming from a different culture or different parts of the world, our classes give you an opportunity and give these people an opportunity to expose themselves to Japanese culture as an example, where eating is a ritual. There are many rich traditions around it, but it’s actually been preserved by the UNESCO World Heritage community because there are many traditions there. As far as the business community is concerned, we think that there’s a great opportunity for us to do classes with people that are identified as potential leaders to broaden their mind, build their curiosity and expose them to different parts of the world, all in their own kitchen.

I love that it builds curiosity. I was thinking of the teamwork. I’ve done many team building activities and this would be such a great bonding experience. I also deal a lot with the perception and cultural discussions and that you don’t know what’s considered rude in other cultures at mealtime. It’s the historical part of the cultural training that goes along with it, even though you don’t feel like it’s training. You feel you had a discussion that’s fun. I could see that as being helpful if you were going almost to immerse you into the culture before you had to go somewhere. I could definitely see it for organizations. There needs to be more of cultural awareness and that’s a great way to do it and still have fun in the workplace at the same time. I don’t know how many people you can include in something like that. What’s the maximum number of people do you allow during a session?

We do max it out. Partly it’s because there is a certain element that we want to preserve in our classes that it’s intimate with the chef and also makes the person at home feel as though they can interact with the chefs. The more people you have, it becomes a little bit too chaotic. That being said, we do classes up to eight. There are certain classes that we’re going to be introducing soon that are more suitable to groups where there are a little bit less cooking and more preparation of simpler type things like appetizers and that kind of stuff. It’s still going to be a great immersive experience, but it’s going to allow larger groups to participate, to your point, things like team building experiences. These are things that we have been approached by bachelorette parties. All of these large groups have expressed a lot of interest in our classes because it’s a totally different fun way to be entertained in your own home.

I know you have sophisticated tastes, but I love that your favorite food is chicken wings, extra crispy, hot blue cheese and extra hot sauce on the side from Buffalo. I have my favorites from childhood, too. I get it completely. I’m wondering what’s the weirdest thing you make as part of The Chef & The Dish. Are you making like deep fried scorpions or anything odd? If not there, have you tried those? What’s the weirdest thing eaten?

Chicken wings, there’s nothing in my world that competes with that. It’s actually funny because I often say that that’s partly the reason why I started The Chef & The Dish is because the further you get from where a certain dish originated, it’s not as good. That definitely is to be said about chicken wings. It’s like the further you get from Buffalo, they don’t taste like chicken wings anymore. We aren’t doing any scorpion classes or other classes at The Chef & The Dish. If there’s a market for that, Diane, please let me know if you’re interested. As far as me, the weirdest thing is probably a cricket. Cricket is pretty tamed for people these days. I’ve eaten a cricket in Thailand.

I have a friend that I’ve seen him post pictures of eating crickets and scorpions and all kinds of crazy things. It’s interesting to look at the different cultures, but you tend to stick to the more traditional things. Are you dealing with desserts at all? How much chocolate is involved here?

We do a few dessert classes in Canada. All of the chefs specialize in the foods that in addition to coming from the region, our chef in Canada teaches a class on butter tarts and the Nanaimo bars. Our Italian chef teaches tiramisu and pannacotta. Our chef in Hungary teaches a walnut strudel class. There are lots of sweets for people that have a little bit of a sweet tooth.

[bctt tweet=”The more people you have, the more it becomes a little bit too chaotic. ” via=”no”]

What’s your most popular class?

It’s split between a couple of things. The Taste of Milan class, the one that your family chose, is one of our most popular.

It was hard for us to pick because we thought do we want to do Italian because we’re all Italian. We make more Italian, maybe we should pick something way out there that we would never have tried. Tara picked something a little more out there when she did it. I can’t remember what she chose, but that it’s fun to see the whole experience and she loved it. My daughters both are big foodies. They love trying different things. I could see that it would be a great thing to bring a family together. She goes, “You have to have Jenn Nicken on your show.” I go, “Really?” First, I wasn’t sure who she was talking about and I go, “That would be great,” because what you’re doing is unique. When she first said that to me, I didn’t realize you had that whole Apple background. She and her husband both worked for Apple. Tara was for a while and he still does. That background had to help you. What do you think that experience helped to develop you this company? What did you learn from that that helps you with this?

Working for Apple and having the experience working for the company during those pivotal moments has helped. It gave me a ton of insight. Marrying technology and entertainment is what my entire background is based on. The Chef & The Dish, I like to think of it is almost like iTunes for cooking classes. We’re a digital marketplace bringing what it was originally an in-person experience to a digital format, allowing you to connect in ways that you mean it never has before. On top of that, Apple is an entrepreneurial place and they encourage you to explore different ideas. That is something that they attract people that have an entrepreneurial spirit, but they also embrace it.

That’s been an important piece for me in my own business when having the experience of doing that. Building massive partnership when I ran marketing for iTunes as well. You learn the art of negotiation and partnership building and dealing with people and working with people and to come from different background. On top of that, I worked in a global environment and I saw what happened in her own teams when we would get on conference calls. You see how different people interact and different cultures, there’s different norms and different etiquette. I started to see our cooking classes are such an opportunity for companies like Apple or those other companies that work in these global environments to encourage people in North America who maybe haven’t worked in Japan or Singapore or Thailand, it gives them an opportunity to explore those cultures. That’s also a piece that I learned at Apple which is when you’re working in a global environment, it’s important to understand the people that you’re working with because you’ll be able to do better work when you’re giving respect and when you’re also given that respect as well.

It is an interesting combination of what you’ve combined in them. What are those new bikes that everybody rides that you can look at the virtual scenery while you’re riding? My daughter has one. I can’t think of what it’s called. You can be riding your bike through different lands in Italy or pick wherever you want to ride and it’s on your screen instead of a television. I thought it’d be nice to have a 3D virtual Star Trek device where you have the scene of Italy around you. Don’t you think about the future of what you could add to this? What is the future for your company and what do you see the next thing?

It’s funny that you say that. The Chef & The Dish is not just a cooking class experience, but we’re virtual travel. As advancements happen in that space, I do see us adopting a lot of that. Partly what we do with some of our classes is that before the cooking class, each of our clients is given a market tour with the chef. I’m not sure if you were able to watch that before your class, but its fifteen minutes with your chef. It’s pre-recorded where you can see your chef, she takes you on the market tour and she explains different ingredients. She takes you to her local market so you can immerse yourself in the country before your actual live class. All of those elements as virtual reality, there are more advancements. Those are things that I do see us doing with The Chef & The Dish. Our goal is to transport people’s kitchen for the day and we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.

What you’re doing is amazing and I thought about it. Its Peloton bikes. Those are everywhere now. We’re going to start seeing more of the immersive experience and things and you’re on the cutting edge of this. Is there anything you won’t eat? Are you picky at all?

I can be a little bit picky, but I’ll always try something. Lamb is one of the things that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. I don’t know if it’s because they’re cute animals. There are a few things that I won’t eat, but I like to try everything. One of the reasons why the Taste of Milan class tends to be one of the most popular is because there’s something about comfort food. The majority of our classes are teaching you iconic dishes from certain regions. Often that is the comfort food because that’s the food that people want to eat. I’m a lover of comfort food and braised dishes and things that sit on the stove for three hours.

That’s the best. I know when we cook all our sauces and stuff, we will cook them all day and the whole house would smell like it. It’s fun. It’s funny when you’re talking about the picky thing, there are certain foods in our family like. Everybody doesn’t like cucumbers for some reason or whatever it is.

I just had cucumber for lunch, Diane. I’m sorry.

If you ever look at the black comedian that does all the angry rants, he does a great thing on pickles. We don’t like pickles either.

You’re missing out on life.

It’s like one of the best pickle rants. It’s Tara’s favorite thing. If she hasn’t sent it to you, you should have her send you the pickle rant for those of us who don’t eat pickles. It is nice of you to share what you guys do there at The Chef & The Dish. I can verify that this was a great experience. We had so much fun. I’m not rewarded anything on the show. I am saying that as someone who has tried it and it was cool. It was nice to have you on, Jenn. If people want to find out more, how can they reach you or find out more information about The Chef & The Dish?

They can find us online, and they can follow us on Facebook at The Chef And The Dish and also on Instagram at @TheChefAndTheDish.

I bet you have great pictures there. I may have to check that out. This was so much fun. Thanks for joining me.

Thanks so much, Diane.

You’re welcome.

Helping Couples Facing Chronic Illness with Dr. Jackie Black

I am here with Dr. Jackie Black who’s a marriage expert, educator and board certified coach. She serves couples facing life-threatening and chronic illness. She was named by Cosmo as one of the most beloved international love gurus. She is the creator of the seven-week self-paced online program, Couples Daring to Live Well with Illness Program. She does a lot of interesting things. I’m interested in talking. Welcome Dr. Jackie.

Thank you so much, Diane. It’s great to be here with you.

This is going to be fun. We were talking about what kinds of things we could talk about that overlap since they deal with more business and different issues. You deal with a lot of things that overlap into the business world. I’m interested in some of that we can share because people in work get sick, they have issues, their spouses get sick, they have issues. Emotional stress can be a huge impact on their productivity and everything else. I wanted to get a background on you, though, in case anybody has not followed your work. Can you tell me how you got to this position? I know you have a PhD and I want to hear a little bit more about your background.

I also have an MBA. I worked in corporate for several years. I managed high rise office buildings for pension funds. It’s one of the reasons that I love working with big companies and corporations and C suite people because I understand I’ve been there. I’m not there now. I left corporate in 1992. There’s an interesting statistic about corporate relationships and the people that are the most successful are leaders are visionaries and philanthropists. They do such great work in the world and their personal relationships are a mess. I got interested in working with couples many years ago and then with ill couples because I understood. My PhD dissertation was family-centered psycho-social support in palliative care settings. It’s a mouthful, but it means that I recognized and understood that when someone in a family was ill or dying, that it impacted the whole family.

Everybody was focused on the person who was ill, the person who was dying. That never made sense to me. I’ve always seen this as a family affair. In fact, there’s a model that says that we in the family should wait and that the ill person should take the lead on all family dynamics. It’s like, “What?” That didn’t make any sense to me either. I’ve been working with people in the cancer community and the AIDS and HIV community with autoimmune diseases over a number of years. I transitioned out of corporate and into psychology. There was no overlap there. I did a leap. I became interested in the humanistic-existential movement and what people were doing and how they were doing it and how we could all have relationships and be better people, be less focused on the should and more focused on our passion. In those years, I’m talking about many years ago, I’m a heretic. Now, I’m mainstream.

TTL 543 | Culture Immersion
Culture Immersion: You’ll be able to do better work when you’re giving respect and when you’re given that respect as well.


I left therapy and I left being a psychologist and transitioned into coaching in 1999. I had had a devastating personal event and I met a coach on an airplane, LAX to Dulles. My son was at American University. This coach changed my life in five hours. I got off the plane and I thought, “Who was that masked man?” I’m like, “What happened?” There was no Google in those years. When I got back to LA, I decided to make phone calls and do a little bit of research. I found that the ICF, the International Coach Federation. I joined immediately and I started doing teleclasses and connecting with coaches. I love that the idea of coaching, the immediacy of coaching that it was client-centered and client-generated and nobody was asking me about my mother. They were focused on what was my life experience at the moment, what resources do I have, what strengths do I have to bring to the situation. I was excited about it that I enrolled in a coach training organization quickly.

That was the beginning of my coaching career. I went to CTA, which is Coach Training Alliance, to get my life coaching credential. Then I went to Therapist U. In those years, it was a coach training organization for therapists transitioning to coaching. All of the instructors were therapists who had transitioned to coaching because I wanted to be sure that I was coaching and that I had all of the foundational pieces and nuts and bolts, the skill set in place. I met David Steele at the Relationship Coaching Institute and became a member of the institute and went through all of the relationship coaching tracks, the dating and the couples coaching. In 2014, David approached me and asked me if I would join him and reimagine the advanced couples coaching track for international students. He has the premier coach training organization for couples coaching. That’s what we did in 2014. We completely redesigned the couple’s coaching track. I taught coaching at CTA and I taught people transitioning into coaching at RCI. Not only have I been a coach, but I’ve also trained coaches for many years.

That’s a lot that you’ve gone through. That’s impressive training.

Thank you.

Which of those programs do you recommend for people the most who we’re trying to get into coaching?

[bctt tweet=”You can’t make yourself focus if you’re not connected inside yourself and if you’re not able to bring that personal energy to focus.” via=”no”]

Therapist U is now ILCT, Institute for Life Coach Training. I would recommend all of them. That CTA gave me my basic training, which was excellent. I knew that I wanted to work with couples. I had worked with couples and families as a therapist. That was my work, grief and loss and life-threatening and chronic illness. When I transitioned into coaching, I knew that I wanted to continue to work with families and with couples. My training at RCI, the Relationship Coaching Institute, deepened the coaching experience and the coach training that I got from CTA. I needed the combination. Life coaching wouldn’t have been enough working with couples and families.

I’m thinking, I’ve had people in my show that deal with some of the steps you’re talking about and have a good friend of mine Dr. Gilda Carle, a relationship expert. I had Paul Isenberg on the show whose wife died of cancer and he created Bringing Hope Home, which was to help people get through the financial burdens that go along. Insurance doesn’t cover everything when you have to stay in a hotel and all the different things. He created an impressive thing in her honor. There are many things that happen with people that have to live with chronic illness. Maybe you’re trying to think of bad things at first, like cancer and all that. There are things that aren’t as bad, but they’re hard to live with. I’ve had friends that maybe had gallbladders removed and they can’t eat anything anymore or something as nobody could ever find out what’s wrong with them, that type of thing. Is that the stuff you deal with or is it the more serious end of life issues?

It’s the gamut. I do deal with a lot of couples who have one partner has cancer because there’s so much cancer. We forget about autoimmune disease. We forget about diabetes, migraines, fibromyalgia. The stuff that you don’t hear about so often, they can be debilitating and it can impact relationships. It impacts people at work and it impacts people at home. Since you got the diagnosis, that throws people into a real tizzy, then they run around figuring out what to do. Their relationship becomes transactional. We’re going to this doctor having this procedure or trying to understand this information, make these decisions. It’s the first place that people begin to disconnect in that cozy, warm, more vulnerable way that couples connect.

There’s the treatment piece, perhaps there’s surgery, there might be trying to find the right medication in the case of diabetes and autoimmune disease. There’s rebuilding your life post-treatment and what is that? It is about a new normal. It’s about thriving in a new normal. Not living in a loss because there’s a tremendous loss for both people when there’s a health crisis, even if it’s temporary. I have a dear friend and appear and his wife was hurt on a ski slope a couple of years ago. He said to me, “This is temporary. She’ll be fine. She’s only on crutches.” He said, “I don’t know how people do it. I’m a wreck and I’m not doing a good job.”

You don’t know how you’re going to respond. It’s interesting that you were talking now because a woman drove her car into my husband’s office going 40 miles an hour and hit his office manager. It’s a wonder she’s alive. She’s sitting in the most what you think safe space doing her own thing and some woman lost control in a parking lot where I didn’t know you’d go more than five miles an hour in this parking lot. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to do this. The entire car filled up the office. The whole car was in the office.

TTL 543 | Culture Immersion
Culture Immersion: The diseases that you don’t hear about so often can be very debilitating and can really impact relationships.


Even though she’s going to be okay, she didn’t have anything major wrong, but imagine the emotional stress and then now she can’t come to work until she gets over that. There are people who have run into things, literally in that case, where you don’t expect anything to happen to you. You’ve got these emotional things to deal with and that impacts your ability to work, it impacts everybody else’s ability to work, doesn’t it? How does it impact the workplace? I’m thinking of another situation where a guy I worked with his wife is going through her fourth chemo treatment. His brain’s not there. He’s home with his wife mentally. How do you deal with this in the workplace?

You put up many great points. Let me pick one for a moment and say that it’s not the emotional support that I provide. I have created a whole compendium of nuts and bolts skills and tools that people can learn that will help them to connect to the partners. There are rules of engagement for a tough conversation. All kinds of stuff, I wanted to put that out that it’s not simply emotional support. There are skills and tools and actionable things that will help. How does it affect people in the workplace? We’re talking about this because it affects the bottom line. Innovation, creativity and inspiration take a back seat and leaders depend on being innovative and creative. When they’re ill or when their partners are ill, their minds are somewhere else and they’re also exhausted and confused.

Dealing with the morass of the medical system is taxing and exhaustive. People are making important decisions and that takes a lot of time, a lot of focus, a lot of motivation. I want to make the right decision if we may have a series of decisions to make, people are always waiting for the next period of time when we can have a scan or have a blood panel results come back or is this healing or is that healing? Or are you getting stronger? The waiting is taxing and exhausting. Focus, motivation, concentration, people’s ability to follow through. Take flight. It’s like it has wings and flies away. You can’t make yourself focus. There are a lot of people out there that say you can, but you can’t. If you’re not connected inside to yourself, you’re not able to bring that personal energy to focus and motivation, concentration, because those are common to those processes.

When we’re dealing with a loss event, with a health event, with somebody that we love who are not feeling good, who was in pain, who are suffering, we’re experiencing all of that in our emotions and our hearts and our feelings. There’s no cognition when we’re experiencing the emotional overwhelm of illness, either being yelled or watching it, being present, living with a loved one who’s ill. Here we are fighting ourselves. There are two parts of selves, the inside self and the outside self. The inside self-operate intuitively. It receives information. We’re open. At work we have to be focused, motivated, we have to concentrate, follow through. We talked have words like top performance, high productivity. All of that is left brain focused. We only have 100% energy in a perfect world where 50% emotional energy and 50% is thought, less brain energy, left brain-right brain.

There is no perfect world and especially in the world of life-threatening and chronic illness. If we have so much of that 100% personal energy that is going towards all the emotional stuff, there isn’t a lot left for the work stuff. We have to bring ourselves into the work environment. That’s why I developed many of the skills and tools that will help people understand how to access that stuff when they need to. Not that you’re setting aside but you’re calling on parts of self that are available to you.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t make yourself focus if you’re not connected inside yourself and if you’re not able to bring that personal energy to focus.” via=”no”]

When you mentioned skills and tools, are there any other tools or advice that you could give to leaders who have people who go through this now in their businesses and they want to be tactful, they want to be empathetic? They want to do all these things. Is there any advice you would give them if they have somebody who works for them who are going through this or whose wife or spouse or whatever has this going on now?

The first thing that I would suggest they do, if it’s possible, is to make it comfortable and safe for them to not come in, to deal with emergencies. They can be late. They could go to doctor’s appointments and to join their partner when they have procedures. Make that safe for them to either plan and not come in because surgeries and procedures are generally planned or to be able to call in and come in sick, come in later or come in earlier and leave earlier. Set down realistic expectations for the time that they are there. There are legitimate expectations. People love their work. We’re talking about people who come to work and enjoy their work. They want to be there and who are making contributions to the work. If we can help them understand how they can take themselves and be present with their partners when they’re there and what they can do to be present and to be engaging when they’re to negotiate, to achieve their goals, to make their deadlines, to keep their commitments, then we owe it to them to do that. I don’t think that a lot of times companies understand that they can do that and how to do that.

What if it’s a small company and you need that person to do their job? Maybe not 40 hours, but at a level that keeps things going. How do they deal with that? Have you had people lose their jobs because of this? I’m curious what you’ve seen.

No, I haven’t. I imagine that it would depend on how serious the situation was and how much work they were missing. Employees are important to companies. It costs a lot of money to train people and we want to keep people. Retention is high on everybody’s list, which is why I do this work with companies. How can we work it out together? How can companies accommodate some of the time that they’re missing? Could people come in earlier or later? Can they work on the weekend? Can they work from home? Can they make phone calls from home? How much more can they do? Can they have programs that we can get people for their computers? Can we buy them a computer for a home that they have for a short time? If these key people and owners of companies are interested in retaining the employee and getting the employee to produce, the employee recognizes that they need the time to be awake and they want to keep their job. They want to do what they can do because they come from a place of integrity. There are many options in nowadays world.

I had a client who was a vet and she could not be in the office. She could not stand. We figured out how she could bring people into our office and she can fit and supervise them. At some point she was in a wheelchair, so she could be there in a way that she could be there, but that she wasn’t showing up 100%. I have a client who’s a surgeon. Again, her staff comes in, they remind her to sit down, they dim the light, they make it quiet, they play music so she can get calm, she can relax. They’re supporting her. They only bring questions to her for a certain part of the afternoon. The corporate office knows that if they have questions, they give it to a person. They collect all the questions, they sit down and they will have a conversation, say, “I have four questions. I have five questions,” in a period of time. I’ve been privileged to work with people who have had such creative work environments that have been able to support them through a lot.

You’ve given a lot of good tips. I mentioned you do a seven-week self-paced online program for Couples Daring to Live Well with Illness, but you also make a three-day private destination retreat that I’d like to hear about. It’s called Couples Daring to Live Well with Illness retreat. I assume its similar content. Is it more immersive? Is that what it is?

Exactly. The content, interestingly enough, is identical. With a retreat, we have two pre-retreat phone calls that are two hours each and two post-retreat phone calls that are two hours each. They’re with me for three amazing days. By the time they get there, we don’t feel like strangers. I pick them up at the airport personally. I take them to the retreat hotel. I introduce them to the retreat hotel staff and get them all settled in their rooms. We work for three full days. Day one, two and three. We start on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it does happen to be an option, but that’s not what I wanted to say. We start in the morning at 9:00. That gives them plenty of time to have breakfast. They can have breakfast in their room, eat in the hotel.

It’s a beautiful retreat hotel. The hotel is gorgeous. The retreat room, the room that we work in is in the hotel. Depending on how much energy people have, they don’t have to get in cabs and fight traffic or find their way anywhere. They can be in this beautiful space. We work from 9:00 to 12:00 or 12:30. If people need a break, we work in a suite. They can go into a different room and rest. They can go up to their room and rest. Its intense material and they want to take a walk around the pool or around the grounds, they can do that. We take as many breaks as people need to take. I take people to lunch, all three days. We walk to lunch. Again, if people aren’t able to walk or they don’t want to walk, they can order lunch in, we can order lunch in, we can go down for lunch. They can pass on lunch and then we work until 5:00 or 5:30 or 6:00 or 6:30. I work until people have finished an important piece of work. I don’t watch the clock. They have evenings on their own and they can tour the city, they can walk around. It’s a wonderful neighborhood with museums and shops and clubs.

What city are you in?

I’m in Panama City, Panama, where I make the couples’ retreats. It’s easy to fly here on Copa. Copa Airlines flies from many major cities in the US direct. The weather is warm. There’s no variation, only ten degrees, so it’s between 72 and 82, with balmy breezes.

[bctt tweet=”If we have so much of that personal energy go towards all the emotional stuff, there literally isn’t a lot left for the work stuff.” via=”no”]

It’s beautiful. It’s a lot like Hawaii a little bit.

Yes, it’s a lot like Hawaii. People turn off their phones. They don’t have any carers. They’re pampered in a luxury hotel and they can focus on themselves and each other. We don’t have the constraints of an appointment time and we’re getting into something and then we have to end.

That sounds amazing. I’m sure a lot of people could benefit from what you do and want to know more about this. Thank you for sharing all that. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing a website or some way they can reach you so they can find out more about what you do.

Thank you so much. The website is

That’s probably the easiest way to reach you and that’s nice of you to join us. It sounds beautiful there. I might have to check out that location. That’s one place I haven’t been, but I hear it’s beautiful. Thank you again for joining us, Dr. Jackie. This was such an interesting conversation and you’re doing some great work. Thank you for being here.

Thank you so much, Diane, for inviting me. It’s been a pleasure.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank both Jenn and Dr. Jackie for being my guests. We covered some ground here. I get many great guests. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them at You could read them if you go to, we transcribe everything so you can go to links of all the things that we talk about on the show. If you’re interested in information about Cracking the Curiosity Code or the Curiosity Code Index, you can go to to find out more there. Thank you for joining us. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Jenn Nicken

TTL 543 | Culture ImmersionJenn Nicken is the Founder of The Chef & The Dish, which is supported through a network of passionate food lovers around the world. Jenn’s work has focused in the entertainment and technology industries, developing high profile programs for companies like Apple, ABC, NBC, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Discovery, Food Network, Disney, Universal, Sony, and revolutionary product launches for iPod, iTunes, and Mac. While working as the Head of Marketing for the Entertainment Division of Apple/iTunes in Canada, she realized she was longing over her passion for food and adventure. That passion brought her to amazing places. She’s traveled to taste (and make!) the pastas of Italy, curries of Thailand, pretzels of Germany, fish and chips of England, meatpies of Australia, tikkas of India, dumplings of China, macaroons of France, Quesillos of Nicaragua…

About Dr. Jackie Black

TTL 543 | Culture ImmersionDr. Jackie Black is a marriage expert, educator and Board Certified Coach, serving Couples Facing Life-Threatening and Chronic Illness. She was named by COSMO as one of their most beloved International love gurus. Dr. Jackie is the creator of the 7-week, self-paced, online program, Couples Daring to Live Well (with illness) Program™, and the 3-day, private, destination retreat, Couples Daring to Live Well (with illness) Retreat™.


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