The Value of Adversity & Cost of Stale Perspectives with Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown was elected to Columbus City Council in 2015 and holds the office of President Pro Tempore. She’s the executive director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, a member of the Columbus Women’s Commission, and serves on several committees, such as for the CelebrateOne Policy. 

An accomplished writer, Liz initially pursued a career in journalism, working for WOSU Public Radio and being published by New York Magazine. Eventually, she realized that her work wasn’t satisfying her life calling and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps by turning her hobby of politics into a career. To this day, she maintains that writing is one of the most important and practical skills a person can have. 

One thing led to another and she was able to turn her work as a Campaign Manager into a seat on the Columbus City Council, where she’s now led the city through a pandemic and beyond. 

Our conversation covers her entire life story, from the stressful early years through to her city council job and beyond as we get into what the future might hold – both for the city and for Liz.

Liz breaks down the mechanics of her work and how she got there, the difficulties of juggling a career with motherhood, and the remarkable life hack she discovered by bringing a book to the hospital to read as she gave birth.

But this is “Gravity,” so, of course, we also go deeper. We explore her gratitude for her difficult childhood, we grapple with the idea of a politician as someone who serves popular opinion versus someone who makes independent decisions based on what they believe is right, and we examine the benefits of injecting fresh, outsider perspectives into organizations and groups where things have gone stale. 

What Brett asks:

  • [00:02:30] How did you get to where you are today?
  • [00:05:10] Do you believe fresh, outside perspectives can be valuable in politics?
  • [00:10:30] Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me about your childhood.
  • [00:15:00] You talk about there being silver linings in the negatives of your upbringing but was that how you saw things at the time?
  • [00:18:20] Did your parents maintain a good relationship after their divorce?
  • [00:20:50] What were you like as a child once you started school?
  • [00:23:55] Was your desire to follow in your dad’s footsteps evident in childhood?
  • [00:25:18] What was your mom’s line of work?
  • [00:28:00] What role have the arts had in your life?
  • [00:29:50] What happened once you finished school and began thinking about your career?
  • [00:35:20] What was your first job in the world of politics?
  • [00:39:40] What was your path from campaign manager to being on the city council?
  • [00:42:00] You spend so much time taking care of other people, how do you manage to recharge your own batteries?
  • [00:46:30] Coming out of the pandemic, how are you finding your role as a leader in the city, today?
  • [00:53:00] Would you say it’s accurate that you have no separation between work life and personal life?
  • [00:54:55] What does the future look like for you and for Columbus?
  • [01:00:10] Any final thoughts?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Liz recalls her upsetting, stressful childhood almost as though it was a pleasant experience. We can learn so much from the way she’s choosing to frame her life experiences. Instead of letting adversity define her with negativity, she’s made such a point to find the silver linings that she actually values those negative portions in her life. She wouldn’t have become the person she is today without them.
  • As Liz says, writing is one of the most practical and useful skills you can possibly hone. Everybody needs writers! It’s your gateway into doing almost anything and it’s a skill that will supplement almost any other.
  • It’s easy to succumb to imposter syndrome and believe ourselves to be outsiders whose ideas and opinions are worth less than those of the establishment but, more often than you’d think, people can become entrenched in outdated ways of doing things and become out of touch. Your perspective is unique and it’s as valid as anyone else’s. In many ways, a fresh vantage point can be the best thing to inject into an organization, so believe in yourself.