BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
If you are missing cocktail party conversations, confidences shared over coffee breaks, or teatime tell-alls, grab your favorite beverage and tune into podcaster Rose McInerney’s Sipping on Stories, secret-sharing sessions with empowered people. Unlike most other podcasts, McInerney’s are about you, too, with her goal for you to “take the best sip out of life.”
It was Pilaar Pantoja, a Chicagoan who has championed women’s international leadership and is now production manager for Sipping on Stories, who introduced us to McInerney on a recent Zoom call. From her front porch near Tucson where the Connecticut and Toronto resident is spending a month, McInerney discussed the power of storytelling.
“Today was a wonderful hike through Catalina’s National Park. The warm desert sun is such a welcome respite from the pandemic lockdown,” she shared. “I hope to bring this freeing feeling to others by becoming the best podcaster I can, and sharing stories of changemakers who show us how to overcome fears and issues that resonate with all of us. When we hear stories overcoming conflict and challenges, we connect and build new positive connections to self, each other, and the world.”
To McInerney, hiking is more than a day’s power walk, it is part of her definition of herself as an adventure seeker. Just before the pandemic closed things down, Rose climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. In 2019 she and an all-women expedition raised $1 million for PTSD by snow-shoeing across the Arctic.
With her current uninterrupted vista of the Santa Catalina Mountains a constant inspiration, McInerney is working on season two, to begin in January, which will encourage conversation over the cocktail hour: “We are all looking for our place and purpose. If there is a message, it is that you are loved and that you matter. It is up to you to take your best sip out of life: to go beyond doubt and fear.”
These empowering words echo her favorite quote, words once uttered by Albert Einstein: “A ship is always safe at shore, but it is not what it’s built for.” With her podcast, McInerney encourages us all to venture out into our proverbial seas.
For McInerney, a former high school teacher and self-described “media addict,” asking the right questions is the key: “I want to get to those unanswered question about the ‘what ifs’ in life. In the pandemic, everyone has been watching Netflix and escaping deeper into ourselves. The brain draws correlations that we are not aware of from the stories we hear, and I want to present stories that are worth sharing.”
“The tricky part is what happens after our brains make a connection to what resonates,” she continues. “How do we move to a place beyond information and connection, to actually make changes that help us to grow?”
Though McInerney, in addition to Sipping on Stories, produces the female-focused WomanScape (WS), a quarterly magazine that promotes reflection and renewal, half of her Stories listeners are men (“A good story is a good story,” she says.)
Recent podcast episodes have shared the captivating stories of doctors, CEOs, activists, and more. “Some interviews have ready-made tools, like my launch interview with Dr. Jay Kumar,” she says. “He is a doctor of happiness whose book, The Science of the Happy Brain, provides specific tools for readers. The same is true for other changemakers who specifically provide advice on how to cope, to overcome, and to grow. For example, Shermin Kruse suggests we look to new ideas of leadership for overcoming today’s challenges. She suggests we consider the role of free WiFi and social infrastructure that can offer real tangible ways for overcoming income and racial divides.”
McInerney adds, “Other changemakers like Sue Britton, FinTech CEO, share pearls of wisdom about gaining freedom and happiness. Sue’s story of working so many different jobs where her career success became inversely proportional to her personal happiness help listeners to see that maybe we are making the same mistake Sue did: she defined success on society’s definition that a great job meant a happy life instead of what values mattered most to her. She reframed what it means to mix innovation and a culture of kindness with excellence.”
Timea Nagy, the victim of sex trafficking, she tells listeners to keep getting up, sharing that every day is filled with hope if we change the way we see our problems. Or imagine fighting a losing battle every day as an oncologist before learning your retirement plan is funding what’s killing your patients? McInerney interviewed Dr. Bronwyn King, an “accidental activist” and powerful CEO. Founder of Tobacco-free Portfolios, Dr. King is fighting for a tobacco-free world to end the annual global death-rate of 8 million who die from cancer-related illnesses.
“In my most recent interview with Mexican-born Cristina Mittermeier, she says we must follow our curiosity and build a life around the things we want to explore and which give us meaning in this world. For Cristina, it’s saving the planet through her award-winning National Geographic photos and the Sea Legacy conservation enterprise she and partner, Paul Nicklen, have established,” McInerney explains.
She adds, “So with each story, I’m learning and experimenting with new ways to frame and reframe the take away from our guests, the changemakers that have overcome some of the challenges we share.”
One remarkable person she would love to have interviewed is the late Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr, referred to at the height of her career as the most beautiful woman in the world. Through her research into this fascinating figure, McInerney has discovered Lamarr was not just a silver screen beauty but an inventor and genius who helped Howard Hughes with aeronautics. Many of her ideas helped pave the way for things like WiFi and Bluetooth technology today.
Stories production manager Pantoja sums up what she loves most about her work on the podcast: “I have always been fascinated and inspired by real life stories of people who have struggled and overcome challenges in life, especially when the odds were up against them. Their perseverance and determination to never give up, nor lose hope, encourages me to do the same when I have those weak moments in my own life. If they can do it, so can I. If you fall down, get up again. By helping to share the stories of our changemakers, I hope to encourage others to move forward, stay positive, and keep going for their goals in life. Especially during these trying times, there’s always a way. Never give up!”
Sipping on Stories is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, and more.