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Jan. 12, 2022

Get Weird To Excel This Year - Book Review, episode 54


When did weird become an insult?  Sarah shares her review of the book “Get Weird” by CJ Casciotta, and why brands and professionals need to embrace their weird to stand out in a good way. Summary and full transcript below. 


  • Three key points Sarah Breakdown from the book
  • What does "weird" mean?
  • CJ's light bulb moment about a monarch butterfly caterpillar
  • Four elements every movement needs


Full Podcast Transcription

Sarah Panus:
When did weird become a bad thing? That's so weird. You're so weird. Ugh, weirdo. I read an important book, I really wanna share with you that appropriately flips weird on its head. Because in the world of business and creative marketing, weird is what sets you apart from your competition. Weird helps you think of new ideas in a brainstorm. Weird is the surprising secret to making a difference. Weird is actually a compliment. Today, I'm sharing my takeaways from the book - Get Weird by CJ Casciotta. 

Sarah Panus:
Hi, my name is Sarah Panus. I have spent the last two decades driving digital content for billion dollar brands. Now I help content marketers build winning brand storytelling strategies and reduce feelings of overwhelm and confusion. Join me as we discuss strategy, creativity, confidence, and building a better connection with your audience. Think of this as a creative content marketing jam session mixed with chicken soup for the soul. This is the Marketing With Empathy Podcast. 

Sarah Panus:
Hey, Hey, kindred speakers. Today's gonna get weird in the best way possible because for you, today's the day I hope to change the meaning of the word weird. Now I'm a total weirdo. You can hear this from my blooper at the end of episode 49, that I shared how I warm up before recording these podcasts if you want proof. And my kids also like to remind me of this, every time I break out into dance. You see, one of the things that makes me weird to them is how excited I get about things which results in me like busting out in dance, kicking up my leg, giving a wooh! I may run over to like my, I have an African djembe that I learned how to play a couple years ago in our living room. And I'm like, I'll belt out a rhythm and we'll do a little dance, a little improv. 

Sarah Panus:
And pretty often, I'm not gonna lie. Pretty often, I try to wrap out a song in which the lyrics never really make any sense. It sounds pretty terrible, but you know, I'm happy. And that is just my way of like getting my internal happiness out, you know, in that moment. So yes, I celebrate weirdly I guess, but you know what? It's true to who I am and it always makes others smile. Even if it's my family members laughing at me which it always is, and I get way less "you're weird mamas" um, from my kids now because my kids know that I say thank you every time they tell me I'm weird. Why? Well, because hearing authors CJ Casciotta speak at a conference and then reading his book Get Weird, has completely changed how I think about the word weird. I truly see it as a compliment now. 

Three key points Sarah Breakdown from the book

Sarah Panus:
Every company and professional should think about what makes them weird and market that in their storytelling content. And that's why today I'm recapping CJ's book and I'm really excited to share it with you. Okay. So as I mentioned, the book is titled Get Weird. I highly recommend you read the full book. Um, I'm just gonna give a top line summary of it to give you a taste cause I know you're super busy. So I wanna just give you enough to help you decide if you wanna read it further. So in the book, CJ, unpacks three things. One, is why are you so weird? What to make of your weirdness? And how your weirdness will change us? CJ starts the book with a powerful statement that I wanna read to you. He says,

"there's something different about you. since the moment you arrived on planet earth, you've been carrying a unique combination of matter and spirit No one else in human history could duplicate. And ever since that moment, you've been told to ignore it. We get persuaded by some outside force or another that it's better to fit in than to stand out. It's wiser, safer and more prudent to color inside the lines, trace a perceive path and conform to some pattern than it is to scribble our own shapes and arrive on our own shores."

Sarah Panus:
Ugh, there isn't that beautiful and it's, it's beautiful and it's sad in the statement, but I love how poetically he states it. And I think nowheres is more important, um, apparent to me than like growing up in school, right? As kids as we grow up, you know, recently as a parent myself, like when my son was in kindergarten, he raised his hand for everything because he was super smart and he wanted to contribute and just so exuberant and excited to learn. 

Sarah Panus:
But by third grade though, this same kid stopped raising his hand and the teachers told us because, and when we asked him about it, he said, it's cuz he didn't want people to turn and look at him. Somewhere between kindergarten and third grade, he picked up on social cues and didn't want to stand out. So that just broke my heart. Right? Thankfully, he's in fifth grade now and he's an active participator again, we've talked it through. But not with the same enthusiasm I know, or I'm sure that he had as a five year old in kindergarten. At some point it's common to be told to, you know, not to color outside the lines. Right? The definition of weird is interesting because how we use it in our, our culture, I think more often than not is to describe and we think of it in a bad way.

What does "weird" mean?

Sarah Panus:
But the actual definition of weird is an adjective that means "involving or suggesting the supernatural, unearthly or uncanny". Weird suggests the supernatural, the unearthly. How amazing is that? Yet at some tragic point, you shared I'm sure you're listening to this, we've all gone through this. You've shared what's inside your imagination out loud with someone. Right? And their response wasn't what you were expecting. They told you that it was weird like that was a bad thing. They brushed it off, calling it idealistic and practical and foolish. And the crazy part is, they were right. Um, as CJ in the book talks about, it was weird and foolish and that was it's way on purpose. It was supposed to be. So CJ goes on to point out that when we make believe as children do naturally, we're embracing our weirdness, tapping into what could be rather than endlessly striving for what should be. I always think should is, um, it's a, is a dangerous word. And I love in the book, he actually gives so many storytelling examples from real people and experts and businesses. And even goes back from like sacred beliefs and structures and talks about, you know, perhaps this is why Christ says, "whoever refuses to see God's kingdom like a child, won't ever get in". 

Sarah Panus:
When we abandon our weirdness, when we believe the lie that it's better to fit in than to stick out, we get further and further away from "on earth as it is in heaven". You know, when you say that statement. Creation stalls, evolution stops and the status quo begins nestling comfortably for a long winters nap. But, right, he goes on and talks about when we bravely decide to embrace our own weirdness, it lets others know they belong just as they are too. Our weirdness is contagious. And you know, weird makes the world better because it moves us forward. Weird ideas are what built the first, the first of anything, right? If you think about it, the first fire or the first bridge, you know, first, the person first person to fly a plane. And turn classical instruments sideways, plug them into electrical sockets and name it rock and roll. I love that example.

Sarah Panus:
You know, we've been told throughout our lives, our adult lives at questioning, dialoguing, risk taking and feeling things at times, pales and comparison to following standards, punching in numbers, you know, checking the right boxes. So I read somewhere else once that fear is the steeler of dreams. And I, I think about that very often. And in this book, in this Get Weird book, CJ, the author continues to go deeper into this subject, recognizing that when, when the weird went away. And he highlights a lot of moments from his and other people's lives to help illustrate concrete moments of feedback that conform, um, the weirdness in each of us. And a lot of times it's unintentional. It could be generational, right? Where, um, if our parents said something to us, it's probably because their parents said that same thing to them. And it's just like how you get program. Or teacher said that to them or to us and then maybe the teachers learn that in school. That's how it's supposed to be. I mean, there's, it's like a dangerous cycle.

CJ's light bulb moment

Sarah Panus:
But the biggest of which is a story that I heard CJ, the author himself recount at the conference that I attended. I heard him talk about this moment. And it was a moment where he was off in the country, writing at his friend's farm and his friend's, um, name is Mama Mo. And he was at Mama Mo's farm and he was trying to write. And went out to the garden with her, to this huge garden, and Mama Mo was bent over looking really closely at a tomato leaf. And so he walked over and is like, what's so interesting about a tomato leaf. And she pointed to this bright lime green caterpillar with brilliant pops of yellow and black. And it was just beautiful, he had never seen this caterpillar before.

Sarah Panus:
And when Mama Mo told him, this is the caterpillar that turns into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. The author had a light bulb moment. All his life he'd been told the narrative of the ugly caterpillar, who one day turns into a beautiful butterfly. But here, as he's bent over at Mama Mo's farm, looking at this tomato leaf at this caterpillar, he saw that both forms were beautiful. And he poetically states that,

"none of us are promised the future of becoming a butterfly. We are promised the wonder of being a caterpillar, being you in the moment of who you are. If we wait for a moment in time when our a worth will be transparent to all, we'll miss out on the greater reality that our worth is not only present but abundant and overflowing right now. as with all of us, the shape of our weirdness doesn't have to fit into other people's patterns. We won't have to wait to be wonderful. We don't have to believe the myth of the caterpillar."

Sarah Panus:
Isn't that beautiful? I mean, it really is such an amazing example of just thinking about what you are right now. And that you don't have to wait for this transformation, this metamorphosis into a butterfly. Um, using that example to, to feel it, to see it, to witness it and to make an impact. So now make no mistake, right? Being weird can be dangerous. You're putting yourself out there. Um, you're being vulnerable, choosing to do weird work, speaking against the status quo maybe, sharing a new idea at the office. That takes risk, right? And work that comes from our deepest, truest most unique selves means accepting an invite to embrace chaos and vulnerability. Agreeing to, to use them as assets in a culture that can shun them as cancers. Now, I think we're really fortunate in the marketing space, because we are asked for new and different more often than other professions, right? That's our job. Our job is to be creative, but that doesn't make it less scary to want to stand out. It's, It's why you see a lot of copycat marketing techniques and brands that start suddenly looking and sounding the same as each other. 

Commercial break

Sarah Panus:
Get ready to create a rockstar content team at your corporation. Today's episode of Marketing With Empathy is brought to you by my Brand Storytelling Academy. Brand Storytelling Academy is an intimate five month group training program designed to help internal B2C and non-profit teams attract top funnel leads to drive bottom funnel results. For one-third of the cost to hire a person on the team or onboard a high level storytelling strategist, up to five people on your team can be developing and accelerating their brand storytelling skills. Learn to humanize your brand to connect with your audience, develop confidence in brand storytelling skills, frameworks, and strategic mindset needed to advance in your career and enjoy your job more. Seven X new and repeat engagement through empathy plus data-driven storytelling and improve your existing team strategic skills without having to hire more people. Think of it like a college certification program for your team, but you get the knowledge a lot quicker. And your professor, me, has 20 years of hands on experience in the field. In addition to hearing from me, I'll have guest experts join and each week you'll also connect and learn from other brand marketing professionals in the group. Curious? Fill out the application at to learn more and I'll be in touch to discuss if it's a good fit for your organization. Go to 

four elements every movement needs

Sarah Panus:
Okay. So on our way to the last part of this book, I'll skip past page 133, where CJ shares this hilarious, true story of jumping on a moving train. That had me laughing so hard you guys, I snorted. That's another thing that makes me weird. I snort when I laugh really hard. So do other women in my family, I dunno, it's like a genetic thing. Um, but I'll let you discover that goodie for yourself. Just if you get the book, remember to look at page 133, cuz it was really funny. But next, then he goes on the book to share how your weirdness will change us. So let's talk about that. How will you use your weirdness to move your team, your classroom, your family, your audience, your community toward the future you imagine, right? So this is about you, but it's about your contribution in the world. And I'm talking to, to you professionals like your contribution at work, in your businesses, um, in your family dynamic. 

Sarah Panus:
So throughout history, the author points out how you can track virtually every oddball idea and movement with movement on the following journey of translating their mission to those who need to hear it. And he unpacks each of these four elements in the book. I'm not gonna go into these in super detail. You can read the book to, to go further into that cuz he does it so well. But the four areas that he talks about that every movement needs is number one - is to get weird. Every movement has something unique that makes it stand out in the sea of same. The second - is to gather the weirdos. You know, these are the like-minded people will start to join the movement. They're gonna resonate with it. Number three - is to make the manifesto. Share the weird with the world in a way that makes sense to others, you have to share it. And the last, the fourth is - to hack the culture. 

Sarah Panus:
Movements hit stride when you're able to make believers out of those who initially overlooked them. So this is where it starts to scale and grow and build momentum. So again, I highly recommend you read this book. Not only is it a shot of like possibility into your soul. It's a reminder of how, you know, you may have lost your weird without realizing it. I found myself just, I pride myself in being a very creative person. But all the examples that he shares in the story, you, you read them and you're like, oh yeah, I have that happened to me. Or you have something similar. You remember a moment you like, gosh, that's true actually. And, and it is written with a ton of these storytelling examples, which really helped the points resonate, which is the power of storytelling. 

Sarah Panus:
So like you can look at it from a storyteller's lens as well of like how else you can use storytelling in your own work, um, to better connect and resonate with your audience and make the points stickable. So I love every single one of you weirdos listening right now. Thank you so much for supporting the Marketing With Empathy Podcast and now go out there and think about what makes you and your company weird. Embrace the weird, help create the future thing that you see possible. Okay. Go out and, and, and work on making a difference through your own weirdness. I'll see you back here next week. Until next time, kindred speakers. 

Closing RemarkS

Hi fives for finishing another episode. When faced with an obstacle, you’re the type of person who gets better instead of bitter. I hope you feel creatively inspired and invite you to check back often for more goodness from me and my guest. If you want more actionable advice and inspiration head over to for show notes, all discount codes from today's episode, and to sign up for my newsletter. Subscribe now to the Marketing With Empathy Podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify and wherever else you get your podcast. And if you'd be so kind, will you please leave me a review. This helps my podcast get noticed by others. Keep smiling.

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Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling.  Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations think like Editorial Directors for their brand to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more.  She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at Follow Sarah on Instagram and LinkedIn.