All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

One of my favorite workshops I get to facilitate is called “All Aboard the Hot Mess Express,” which is actually all about examining and dismantling some of the common beliefs and core elements of professionalism.


Professionalism is a really broad term.

And while this workshop doesn’t tackle the subject in its entirety (that would be more like a whole semester-long course), we get to talk about and practice a few things that have come up many times over my years of working with professionals and paraprofessionals.


I had the wonderful benefit of exposure to a lot of training and professional development as a student and young professional, and this workshop is one of the ways I seek to pay that forward.



This workshop also reflects a few key pieces of professional behavior about which I received some critical feedback over the years.

Yep, I was told I sucked at some things I had no idea I sucked at and were affecting people’s perception of me.


Check this out:

I literally had no idea I gave weak, sad hugs until someone said, “oh no girl, that was weak, let’s try that again!”

I asked him what he meant.


We then had a really great, honest, and enlightening conversation about types of hugs, the logistics of hugs, and what my sad little hug communicated about me.


Since then I have become a much better hugger, more confident in navigating the hug-or-not-to-hug social situations, and am perceived as a more confident professional because of it.


What does the title have to do with “professionalism?”


The title of this workshop comes from one of the main points within the presentation. It’s a personal quote of mine that I have lived by and taught for many years:


It’s ok to ride the Struggle Bus every once in a while, but it is never ok to get all aboard the Hot Mess Express.


Let’s get real.

We all have *those days.*

Or maybe even those weeks.


And that is OKAY.

Because we are human. We are imperfect, flawed beings.

We make mistakes, we struggle, we get overwhelmed.

It’s all part of the human experience.


This means it is not acceptable or healthy for us to shame ourselves or others for struggling.


So it’s ok to ride the Struggle Bus sometimes.

Maybe even drive the Struggle Bus.

Maybe we missed the bus entirely and are running behind it to catch it at the next stop.


The point is - the Struggle Bus makes stops around town.

You get on, you struggle, then you get your stuff together and you get off at the next stop. Or in five stops, or in twenty stops. But you get off the bus.

It’s a temporary situation.


Whereas the Hot Mess Express is an express train, making no stops, headed straight for the final destination of Dumpster Fire.

It’s a more permanent situation. It’s a full-on way of being, a lifestyle.



All professionals struggle. But truly professional people, who identify as professional and live accordingly, get their overall life together.

They ask for and accept the help they need.

They contribute to society and make a positive impact.


Struggle Bus vs Hot Mess Express = the difference between having a rough patch and being a full-on mess of a person who does not have their stuff together or contribute to society.


I include this lesson, and others like it, in my workshop because I believe we do not look deeply enough at situations where “work” and “life” coexist. (The phrase “work/life balance” is another part of this presentation…but that’s a whole other conversation!)


We label something or someone as “not professional” without regard to that individual, their life, or their experiences.

Which is judgemental, shallow, and narrow-minded.


And wouldn’t we all be better professionals if we thought a little deeper, and widened our worldview?

I believe so!

I mean I have a whole company based around doing exactly that, so…. :)







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