ForCollegeForLife Podcast: KJ McNamara Introduction


Casey J. Cornelius (00:05):

Hey everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of the ForCollegeForLife podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. I am the founder and president ForCollegeForLife, and I also get the opportunity to serve as host of the ForCollegeForLife podcast. If this is the first time you’re listening to our podcast, welcome. If you’re back now in season two, we’re so glad to have you. Today is a lot of fun because we don’t have to rush like some, some of the, some of the episodes we’ve committed to doing in 15 minutes or less than 20 minutes. Sometimes they extend a less than 20 minutes. But for today, it’s a little bit more long form because I get the opportunity to interview and introduce you and ask questions of someone in sort of an extended period of time, and I’m really excited about it.


Before I bring her to the mic, I want to tell you a little bit about our guest today. K.J .McNamara has spent over 15 years working on developing confidence and relationship skills with college students and equipping communities to grow and flourish as a trusted and respected speaker with campus and organizational partners asking her to return time and time again, K.J. Delivers an honest and curated curriculum designed to cut to the heart of the topic, a successful entrepreneur. She owns Pure Bar Studios and works with her clients and teams on positivity, progress, and whole health. I like that competence and mental health are a focal point of her everyday career, as well as driving results in her clients’ lives. Kj graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science degree in psychology and Bachelor’s of Arts degree in communications from Washington State University and her m p A from the University of Missouri. So without any further ado, it is my distinct pleasure to bring to the mic none other than K.J. Mcnamara. K.J., how did I do with that bio? Was that good? Did I, did I do all right?

K.J. McNamara (02:02):

Oh my gosh. I just feel like it’s such a hype, and Casey, you don’t know this about me, but when I speak, I literally ask students to never, ever, ever read my bio. So every time I hear it, I’m just shaking my head out of just total. I don’t know if it’s imposter syndrome. And what I always say is, if you read the bio, it sets you up to be a 10. And if you just get out there and a student thinks you’re a seven, then you’ve disappointed them. <Laugh>. If the bio sets you up to be a two, you can be a three. And they’re like, that was great. That was incredible <laugh>. So that’s,

Casey J. Cornelius (02:35):

So here’s, here’s the only way we can do this. You have to be a 12 today. That’s, this is the only way. No, no, no, I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. So, kg this is, this is interesting to me because I recognize the fact that there are going to be people who are listening to this episode who have known you for years and years and years, and there are going to be people who are listening to this episode who’s like, who’s this KJ McNamara person?

K.J. McNamara (02:57):


Casey J. Cornelius (02:58):

And so this is kind of fun because I’ve known you for years and years, but I also recognize the fact that I’m going to learn things about you today that I, I like I can’t even anticipate. Right? So let me start with the most basic one. Everyone. Lets know, what’s KJ stand for?

K.J. McNamara (03:13):

Oh my gosh. Okay. So my name is Kaylee Jean. And I did not go by KJ until first semester of freshman year at Washington State University. My recruitment packet had Kayleigh Jean McNamara, and so it’s k y l e y, jean, j e a n. And I come from a long lineage of men who have had a lot of history of names. And then my father had two daughters, and I was like, well, what do we do with these names? And so the jean is in reference to Eugene, my fa, my grandfather. So yep. So that’s oh, kind of how that went down. And then Kaylee is a Celtic for like a dance, like, we’re gonna go to the Kaylee, we’re gonna go to the party. So that’s where my name came from. I,

Casey J. Cornelius (03:56):

So we’re officially four minutes into this episode, and I’ve already learned something about you.

K.J. McNamara (04:00):

Oh my gosh. Cool. Yeah. And so I actually started going by KJ because I had an initial bracelet in college, and I hate to just be about the bare minimum here, but when I would go out to social events, I would say, my name’s Kayley Jean <laugh>, people would be like, they would start doing like the clarinet and be like, Kenny G. And I’d be like, no, no, no, Kayley Jean. And then they would do like Michael Jackson moves and be like, Billy Jean. And then I would point to my initial bracelet and I would say, K.J.. Right? Does it make sense? Exactly.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:29):

That’s how it

K.J. McNamara (04:29):

Does. That’s how it happened. And that’s, that’s where it went from. So my family still calls me, like, they’ll call me K.J., they’ll call me Kiki, they’ll call me Kelly Jean, they’ll call me a couple different things, but every, if you don’t call me K.J., I cringe.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:45):

Like I was gonna say, now I have to fight this odd, like, impulse to call you Kayley Jean from now on,

K.J. McNamara (04:50):

People do no and Kayley jean’s. Okay. And that’s fine, but okay, if you call me Kayley, I will cringe. And I’ll say, I don’t know who that is, <laugh>.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:59):

It has to be the whole thing. So for those of you who are listening who are just getting to know kj, if you want to tap into Kaylee Jean <laugh> as the name, you just make sure that you use the whole thing. Just

K.J. McNamara (05:09):

Make sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if he’s sing Billy Jean to me, it’s been done before. So <laugh>,

Casey J. Cornelius (05:16):

It’s not gonna happen today. Don’t worry, it’s not

K.J. McNamara (05:18):

Gonna happen. It’s cool. But like, it’s not, you’re not the first. You’re just need everyone to know that <laugh> <laugh>.

Casey J. Cornelius (05:24):

So I think for those who know you, kj, I’m going to ask the, the question that’s probably on a lot of minds. You, you know, you, you, you were away for a minute from mm-hmm. <Affirmative> from this industry of speaking. And, and they probably would want to know, you know, what were you doing and why are you back? So you can take those in whichever order you’d like. What were you doing and why are you back? Yeah.

K.J. McNamara (05:49):

So let’s start with what I was doing, and I’m just gonna dive right in. I’ve never known how to just not be incredibly transparent and honest. 2017, I went through just like a huge reckoning in my soul. A big life change. And I had been working for my previous company for, you know, eight years, nine years. No, no, a little, maybe a little less, I don’t know. And I was burnt out beyond belief. I was going through just this soul reckoning of a divorce. For those of you who’ve ever done that, it is like a death. Except you are the person who caused it. It’s not like you can blame science or an accident. It’s just like you’ve made the decision to like pull the plug. And so I was, my mental health was at an all-time loan.


I think the people who know me know that, and the people who followed along with my blog or followed along with me, like have gotten more and more like eerie and creepy on my, like, Instagram. Like everything just clearly my mental health was struggling. And so I was, at this point in 2017, I was actually at Texas State on lunch break in September where I knew I had to make a change. Casey and I have talked about this before, but just to enlighten anyone else, I was speaking a hundred days a year, if you included conferences, a ffa, F l b, SGL a I was on the road 150 days a year. And not to mention work retreats and gatherings 150 days a year, which is, if you add in travel components to that and think about hotels, like there’s no way I was ever gonna have a healthy relationship with a spouse, with family, with friends being so unrooted mm-hmm.


<Affirmative>. And I am somebody who deeply, deeply needs roots. Clearly in the first three minutes we talked about my long lineage in my family and how important that is to me. And I just am somebody who needs roots. I do not flourish unless I’m deeply rooted and I was struggling. And I don’t know, I guess how to gracefully exit out of anything <laugh>. And so I just kind of tried to disappear in the night because I didn’t know how to get out. And so what I actually did in 2017 that day at Texas State during my lunch break is I, on that day applied to be an owner of a Pier Bar studio. And the story behind this is I found Pierra because of actually a sorority sister of mine. And I had always been a big, I’ve been a big fitness person my whole life.


I danced all the way through college and was a runner and a weightlifter. And so, not to geek out for a second, but the reason I love Pure Bar, and the reason that I’m really, I was really surprised by it and became hooked on it, is I had always bought into this perception that fitness and life and improvement was a soul beating experience, right? Fitness, you have to be running, you have to be picking up heavy weights. You have to beat your body in order to be what you want it to be. And Pure Bar is really gentle, and you can walk away and maybe not even break a sweat. And for some reason, it creates incredible strength and incredible results quickly. And so that astonished me, and it kind of changed the way I feel about so many things. Relationships, the way I feel about work, the way I feel about improvement. It doesn’t, you don’t have to beat the crap outta yourself in order to improve. And I think if you look at my career and look at where I’ve been to that point in time, I’m, I’m a big, I was a big proponent of beating yourself up. And so

Casey J. Cornelius (09:39):

Can, can I go, can I go a little more deep on that for just a second?

K.J. McNamara (09:42):

Yeah, for sure. For sure, for sure.

Casey J. Cornelius (09:44):

So, I, I, you know, first of all, for those who are interested in the, the speaking industry a hundred events a year is often held out There is like the, the gold standard, something to, to strive to, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I have heard you say that it <laugh>, you know, I’m paraphrasing, but be careful what you wish for, because really the thing that you get good at when you, when you hit a hundred is you get really good at traveling and mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and not having those roots. But I think what you, what you touched on at the end to me really struck me, kj. And that is, you know, for, for those who have ever been in athletics or, or fitness or, or anything of this sort, there’s this mindset of no pain, no gain. Yeah. Like, people say that all the time, right? No pain, no gain. And it sounds like not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, professionally, you had that as your mindset as well. Am am I sense?

K.J. McNamara (10:39):

Absolutely, absolutely. No, like 100% no pain, no gain. And if I, and one thing just to circle back around like a hundred days a year, speaking really cool that you did that <laugh> in maybe in maybe 2022. But the worst part is you wake up on January 1st, 2023, having to do it again. Yep. And you cannot, you cannot relax, you cannot enjoy, you cannot put your feet up. You have to constantly be recreating because this industry is fickle, and you have to stay relevant. And how do you stay relevant if you don’t know how to be alone with yourself? You know? So, mm mm. Like, and so it was just, it was a really, it was a soul reckoning time period for me. And yeah, no pain, no gain was, was my mantra and my mindset. And it beat me up. And I beat myself up. I’m not blaming a single person in this world except the person in the mirror, so

Casey J. Cornelius (11:40):

Sure, sure. You

K.J. McNamara (11:41):

Feel like as you, cause I’m so competitive. I’m so competitive, and I’m so driven and yeah, it’s just my personality.

Casey J. Cornelius (11:49):

But as, as you discovered, a a new way of treating your body in terms of fitness mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, do you feel like that translated to those other elements of your life as well?

K.J. McNamara (12:00):

Yeah, I hope so. Oh my gosh, Casey, what was the, let’s circle back on that in six months, <laugh>? I hope so. So I think I’ve given myself permission to just take more rest. Okay. So we, we got totally distracted, but I’ve given myself permission to take more rest. I became a mother in that time period mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and becoming a mother. It’s insane to me the amount of, like, if you have that attitude of like perfectionism and no pain, no gain in your own life, how you can really easily expect perfection out of your perfect innocent dumpling Yes. Dough ball, baby. You know, like that’s how I describe my son, an innocent dumpling dough, ball, <laugh>, that’s so sweet and perfect <laugh>. And it’s, and it’s like, so you do really have to be incredibly careful in becoming a parent is just another thing that will stop you in your tracks and change your mind. Because every way you treat yourself is how they’re gonna treat themselves. So so yeah. So ooh,

Casey J. Cornelius (13:00):

Say, say, say that part one more time. <Laugh>

K.J. McNamara (13:02):

That, yeah. Every your child models you. And so if you are beating yourself up because you didn’t get it perfectly right, or you spill something, or you dropped the ball, then your child will also treat themselves that way. So you are, you are creating a mindset for your child, for the rest of their life. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (13:25):

Boy, this, this conversation is going in ways. I never, I never even like when we, when we pressed record, like to pull back the curtain a little bit. Well, like, we always try to, to not have the best parts of the conversation happened before we press record. But like when I hit record, I thought, oh, we’re going to go in kind of this, this linear path about where, where have you been and what have you been doing? And we got deep, got deep, but,

K.J. McNamara (13:47):

Well, I just like, don’t want any person listening who’s ever heard me speak before and been like, where’d she go to think I just walked away to go like, lift some weights and have abs. I don’t want people to know. I want people to know that it hurt when I left and I was devastated to leave a job. I loved, I’m sorry, I’m crying <laugh> already. Duh. but I didn’t know how to stand with a microphone in my hand and tell people how to live their best life when I hated who I’d become. You know,

Casey J. Cornelius (14:23):

You know, there’s, there’s always this moment in these episodes that, for, for those of you who are new to, to our podcasts you wouldn’t know this. For those of you who’ve listened to all of them, and thank you again, by the way. There’s, there’s always this sound graphic that gets created <laugh>, and I’m, I’m always curious as to, to what’s going to be picked out. Kristen is our creative director, and I just have this odd feeling that was the part that ums

K.J. McNamara (14:50):

Going to be the same, the part where I’m crying, no

Casey J. Cornelius (14:53):

<Laugh>, he talking Maybe, maybe, maybe we’ll see t so, okay, so let me, let me come back to the present here for just a second. How, how does it feel to be back? Because you came back with like the Michael Jordan, you know, I’m, I’m back. Like, you kind of just did the, like, I’m back. How, how does it feel now?

K.J. McNamara (15:15):

I have gotten the opportunity to speak a few times, talk to a couple of old friends, make a couple new friends, and it is the content that I’ve created it, I don’t know, I’m just so excited. I’m so thankful and grateful that I get to do this thing that I feel like I was born to do. I feel like if you’re religious or if you’re not, I feel like I was handcrafted to communicate in a strategic way. And I, we all have skills like, you know, Michael Jordan was created to be an athlete, you know? Yeah. Or in a lot of other things, you know, I have other skills as well, but I just, when I left, I did say to a couple people, like, I will be back. I just there’s this movie that I quote a lot and it’s Bradley Cooper, we might need to pause right here. I forget the movie’s name, but it’s Bradley Cooper and he’s a chef. Mm. I don’t know what it is, but he, like, we can unpause, but if you want, what is it called? Casey?

Casey J. Cornelius (16:28):

Actually, let’s, let’s not, the, the movie is called Burnt.

K.J. McNamara (16:31):

Yes. Pacey. Yes. Yes. So and at the very beginning, he like messes up really bad. And so you see him like shucking a million oysters in order to come back. I feel like maybe that’s my mindset. That was my mindset. Like I needed to go shuck a million oysters to come back.

Casey J. Cornelius (16:47):


K.J. McNamara (16:47):

Yeah. Like I needed to go get my soul straight and figure some stuff out and be deeply humbled and yeah. I love that movie. It really, really affected me. I

Casey J. Cornelius (16:56):

Want, I wanna pull back the curtain a little further. I hope you don’t mind, and you know, no, no, no. If, if you do, you can tell me to stop. But when we first started having some dialogue about what coming back would look like, I sensed in you a tremendous, oh, I re relief maybe, I guess I would say when, when we started talking about what content would look like and where you could take it mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and almost a sense of freedom came, came to you about the content that you wanted to put out into the world. Yeah. And am I, am I, am I correct in that, that sense?

K.J. McNamara (17:32):

I think so. I think I got to a point, I’m just a very much, like I said a couple seconds ago, I’m really strategic. I always want to know why behind everything, even, which makes me so annoying as a supervisor and as somebody, you’re in a relationship with

Casey J. Cornelius (17:50):

<Laugh>. Yeah. Like, I’ve got questions, folks,

K.J. McNamara (17:52):

<Laugh>. Yeah. I’m always like, okay, but why did Michelle feel this way? You know? And like, what did we do? And so people are just like, God, can we just get, move on? And so I’m just investigative when it comes to people. And I would get on a stage and I couldn’t just say like, the top, I’d have to <laugh> dig all the way down to the core of the earth as to why the top of the earth mattered, you know? Mm mm. And so that’s why I’m good at what I do, and that’s why I got to come back and got to be a partner with so many amazing, amazing organizations and institutions, but it also made me drift away from what I was instructed to talk about.

Casey J. Cornelius (18:40):

So, you know, you know what’s interesting kind of as a metaphor, it, it, it really isn’t that oyster shucking, isn’t it?

K.J. McNamara (18:45):

<Laugh>, yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (18:47):

Like it’s, I don’t know if I, listen, I don’t know if you’ve ever, if you’ve ever uck oysters before, but it is really hard and mm-hmm. <Affirmative> you like, you’ll cut your hands and be like, there’s, there’s a lot to it, but it’s the, the end product that is that is the benefit. And I, I think that Right. You know, having, having worked with you, I, I, I sense in you that it’s, it’s not questions for the sake of questions, or it’s not digging for the sake of digging. It’s to get to the best possible result.

K.J. McNamara (19:16):

Yeah, absolutely. Which, like, this theme is gonna come up again later. I know. But

Casey J. Cornelius (19:22):

<Laugh>, but preview. Preview

K.J. McNamara (19:24):

A preview. Yeah. But yeah, so just to circle all the way back around 2017, I applied to be a owner of a Pure Barre studio 2018, I was approved 2019, I built a studio out of a piece of concrete, like members team a building equipment 2020. It was shut for five months out of the year.

Casey J. Cornelius (19:49):

<Laugh>. Yeah. Nothing, nothing happened that year, right? Like, everything was going smoothly.

K.J. McNamara (19:52):

Oh my gosh. Can we just talk about how humiliating that was? And just, I had this vision, Casey, that I was gonna open this studio and I was gonna be so insanely successful, and I was gonna get on stages and talk about how to be this professional and like how Greek life and eternity and sortie and my collegiate experience helped me get there. <Laugh>, I was just like, laughed across the face by reality <laugh>.

Casey J. Cornelius (20:15):

And then 20, 20, 20 did that to a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

K.J. McNamara (20:21):

I was like, this is it. I’m gonna be an entrepreneur. No, girl, you are gonna be just like the crappiest, little dirtbag in the world to get through this. And like, and so it, what it did is it, I’m already pretty scrappy. Like I can piece together anything with like glue and a string. Not really, but you don’t travel 200 days a year. Right? Right. Without being scrappy as hell, you know? And so I think that people don’t think that about me. They see like the hair in the dress, and they’re like, she’s not scrappy. No, no, no. Like, I’m a tough little fighter. And 2020 proved to me one more time that you’re a tough little fighter. And then I got pregnant. And that was not an intentional, like, pregnancy. I think a lot of like, maybe, you know, we’ll, we can talk about that later. And I got pregnant and then I had to keep going. And now here we are, 2023 and I can look back and laugh, but that was like trauma for a long time, <laugh>.

Casey J. Cornelius (21:16):

So, okay. So I’m, I’m gonna, I’m gonna do the, the first of the pauses, right? So if, if you’re listening to KJ right now and you’re like, wow, I didn’t know anything about her, and you wanna learn more and you wanna learn more about her work and all that other kind of stuff, that’s just kj, no periods in between. It just kj. Okay. So, so let’s go 2020 to 2023. You, so you have started your own studio mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you have created life, <laugh> <laugh>. What, what were you learning during that time? Like, what was the, the aha moments about, first of all, no longer being on the road because in 2020 none of us were on the road. We were, we were all stuck where we were. What was, what was the learning experience for you

K.J. McNamara (22:08):

First? Okay. First, like, outside of the conversation, I learned, I thinked like, whatever you wanna call it, intuition, God, that the whispering, like that I had stepped away from speaking because I might have been destroyed by 2020, you know, emotionally, financially. I, I mean, I was, I, I don’t know if it a studio guys, but Yeah. I like was like, woo, thank God you listened to you, girl. Because this year would’ve been a, it would’ve been just as challenging, but in a totally different way. It would’ve been the challenge I experienced in 2017 and the challenge I experienced in 2020 meshed together, if that makes sense. And so, right. Walking away from that was like, I, that, so that’s one thing I just like, thanked my lucky stars, whatever you wanna call it, that I had listened to myself. Number one, number two I, I learned like, as silly as it sounds, I learned how to survive.


 I think there’s a moment in all of our lives where we realize like there’s this quote that no one’s gonna save you. You are gonna save you. And 2020 taught me that I’m gonna save me mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and I’m gonna save my son. Like, I don’t need a savior, I don’t need a white knight. I don’t need and not, I don’t mean that in a religious component. I mean that completely. And like, I think my whole life, I’d been waiting for that person who’s gonna fix all my problems. And maybe that’s more of a female experience. Like, we’re taught that the person we partner with is going to be our savior. They’re gonna be the person who like holds it all together, you know? Mm-Hmm. And so 2020 taught me like, I’m gonna save me and I’m gonna, and I’m strong enough to also be a mom and save him. Yeah. Yeah. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (24:10):

You know, I, I reco I recognize the fact that we’re having all these conversations and we’re not talking at all necessarily about what you do,

K.J. McNamara (24:18):

<Laugh>. Yes. Yeah. What I actually talk about

Casey J. Cornelius (24:22):

<Laugh>, right? So, okay. So, so we’re gonna, we’re gonna just, just jump right into a couple of them, right? So,

K.J. McNamara (24:27):

Yep. Let’s do it.

Casey J. Cornelius (24:28):

For those of you who’ve, who’ve known you for, for a long time, for those of you who are getting to know you, you are most closely related to the, the content topic of recruitment specifically mm-hmm. <Affirmative> recruitment in women’s organizations. Yeah. Do, do you wanna talk just a little bit about why that matters to you?

K.J. McNamara (24:47):

I, I, okay. Yes. I love recruitment on like a, like the most surface level, and I love recruitment on the most deep level. And I think that that’s what, why I’m relevant in the field on, on this topic because I think some people love it because it’s like the biggest program our community, our campus puts on in a year, right? Like, literally I think people love it because it’s like from the, it’s like the most head-to-head, right? It, this is like the N F L draft. This is like, you can love it from like, because you’re competitive, you can love it because of the most basic sorority reasons. The, like, TikTok dances the door stacks. You can love it for that, right? You can love it for the op. Like, I, I love it for all of the components and have analyzed every single component because we’ve already discussed, I’m very analytical in that capacity mm-hmm. <Laugh>. Yep. But the true, true, true reason I love recruitment is because, number one I believe that the point of entry determines the quality of experience. Oh. yeah. Like, I think how you are onboarded into a job internship sorority college campus is a huge factor of your success and your attitude. So I think that a lot of our problems would be solved if we were more dedicated to the recruitment process.

Casey J. Cornelius (26:23):

Wow. So, okay. So I’m, I’m gonna pause for just a second, kind of, kind of,

K.J. McNamara (26:28):

Casey, I have a list. Okay. Keep going.

Casey J. Cornelius (26:30):

<Laugh>. No, no, no, no, no. But, but I, I wanna, I want to digest that just a little bit because I’m, I’m extrapolating it to, I mean, I think we’ve all had crappy jobs, right? Like where we mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, we take a job and we’re like, Ooh, this is not a good fit. And in retrospect, we often know that it’s going to be a crappy job. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> pretty early on, and I think I’m hearing you say, you, you, it’s the very beginning. It’s the onboarding process. It’s the new hire process. It’s the same thing with the relationships, right? Like the relationships, if they start kind of crappy, they’re probably not going to get better over time, right? No.

K.J. McNamara (27:04):


Casey J. Cornelius (27:05):

<Affirmative>, so you, you would say the same thing for membership, and not only in sorority, fraternity, what, whatever it is, but membership in an organization, the new member experience should be a huge priority because it sets the tone.

K.J. McNamara (27:20):

Yes. And don’t we al we always talk about that on a college campus. We call like the first six weeks of a student entering the college experience as the red zone. Why have we not extrapolated that in a sorority or in like, fraternity? Why are we not Yeah. Realizing it’s the same stinking thing, you know? Yeah. And I mean, if you think about how much money on a college campus is invested in orientation, in recruitment, and just getting people to apply, getting people to take a tour of the campus, getting people to even know the name of, like, it’s the most important part. And I think what, there’s so many elements of this, people are like, yeah, but people are gonna come to fraternity and sorority and expect just the, like, what they see on TikTok or just the partying or, you know, it’s like great people also chose, no offense, guys chose to go to Washington State for the football and the partying, but at the same time, the campus expects more out of you and told you about those things and, and could change your trajectory as a student, you know?

Casey J. Cornelius (28:27):

Right, right. And, and maybe the, the, the expectation is the head fake for the, the more important stuff, right?

K.J. McNamara (28:34):

Yeah. And I feel like so often in fraternity and certi, we just throw our hands up and we’re like, eh, what are we gonna do? That’s what they came here for. And it’s like, okay, well, everyone else is still fighting the good fight.

Casey J. Cornelius (28:43):

Hmm. Hmm. So one of the elements that I know that you talk about a lot, and I I hope, I hope you’ll spend just a couple minutes on it. You, you talk about this idea of creating a third space. Yeah. And for, for those who might not be familiar with the term, how do you conceptualize it? How do you conceptualize it as related to recruitment and membership overall?

K.J. McNamara (29:04):

Absolutely. Okay. So we’re gonna go back. That’s what’s I’m from Seattle, proud Washington is known for Starbucks. And Starbucks created before Starbucks was around, there was no coffee shop concept. It was, you know, there was like cafe or restaurants, like, more like Denny’s, but no, really like, go and study, go and read, go in, sit down with your friend and reconnect. And so Starbucks created this concept in am in American culture and other cultures of like the quote unquote third space. And that you have home, you have work, and both of those places have expectations of you. So where do you go where the, there’s no expectation of you. And so we commonly at Pure Bar at my studios talk about being people’s third space, we commonly talk about the fact that there’s no expectation of you here. You’re here for you if you’re here to connect, it doesn’t matter.


Like the minute you walk into the door, the day you had leaves, and then you can get back into your car and your to-do list will be there waiting for you. So until then, just be in this space and ex check out. Yeah. So that all ties into sorority and fraternity recruitment, because I think pre pandemic, we as a, as an industry forgot that that’s literally all we are. And not, we’re so much more, I don’t mean to undercut us in any capacity, but we were created to just be students third space. And we’ve maybe put too much on the pile, is kind of all I’m saying. And let’s, let’s just remember that our job is to, they have, they have their financial responsibilities to get them through school. They have their school responsibilities, they have their family that they need to meet the expectations of what do we do that’s just for them.


And that is fraternity and sorority. That is a place where they’re accepted, where they can get support when they want support, where they can just check out when they need to check out and just be fun and friendly. And how do we help people find belonging in a third space instead of trying to join a fraternity and sorority for their other expectations, like their resume. Maybe they’re joining fraternity and sorority for their appearance or their image. Maybe they’re joining fraternity and sorority or a thousand other things. And how do we teach them that this is where you’re supposed to go to be at home when you’re not at home? You know, this is your third space.

Casey J. Cornelius (31:55):

Do you think that framework would, would make sorority, fraternity, but, but all organizations, I guess if we could extrapolate, do you think that it would make it easier to lead those organizations to create a framework for those organizations? If, if we just take it on that, in the absence of school and family and work, this is the space for you to go to experience X or Y or Z.

K.J. McNamara (32:20):

Yeah. And I, I think that we’re not, I hate to say this, Casey, and I think we all have to have a moment where we are honest with ourselves. Like we’re not really good at all. The other stuff, like, are we really, really good at getting you an internship?

Casey J. Cornelius (32:35):


K.J. McNamara (32:36):

Are we really, really, really good at academically supporting you? Or do we just know through relationships where you can go to get academic support? Or do we know through relationships who you should talk to about internships? Like, what are we really good at?

Casey J. Cornelius (32:53):

Well, let me, let me turn it around to you. What are, what are we really good at?

K.J. McNamara (32:57):

I think we’re really, really good at when you break up with your partner supporting you. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I think we’re really good at when you do well on a class or a test being the people that you come to and you squeal, like, I did it like <laugh>. That’s what we’re really good at. We’re really good at checking you when you are not in a healthy space, and you, you need to like reconnect or you need to open up or you need to come home. We’re really good at, even if you’ve had a rough month and you’ve totally disconnected, still being there when you’re ready to reconnect,

Casey J. Cornelius (33:37):

Like, I think I hear, I think I hear you say, we’re really good at relationships.

K.J. McNamara (33:40):

Oh my gosh, what I was just gonna say is we’re really good at relationships <laugh>. That’s what we’re good at. We’re good at just like that. And so I think that we’ve put two, we’ve wanted to be good at so many different things, but we realize that, like, what I’ve realized in this work is that without the relationship, none of the other stuff is good. And the relationship is the, is the, the feeder, it’s the funnel to the good stuff.

Casey J. Cornelius (34:03):

I love it. I love it. Listen, if, if you’re loving this too, you wanna learn more about K j’s work for college, for, it, it’s, it’s funny that we, we made it to relationships because you’ve got some content on relationships. You’ve got some programming on relationships that people are really enjoying they’re really responding to that has nothing on the surface, nothing to do with recruitment at all. You wanna talk about red flag relationships a little bit?

K.J. McNamara (34:29):

Oh, oh my gosh, Casey, I wanted to do this, and I talked to you about this a long time ago, <laugh>, and I was, for all of you out there who are listening, I was terrified to pitch this because this is so risky. And Casey literally said to me, Nope, this is what we’re leading with this one right here. Yep. Yeah. And so I’m so thankful that there’s people in your life that say yes to your craziest ideas. Casey is one of them. But I have been re obviously going through a divorce and going through so much therapy, whether it’s alone or in a couple’s therapy situation, or just reading books that your therapist recommends. I’ve learned how incredibly challenging and important and just valuable romantic relationships are. And so this can be extrapolated to, sorry, you used the word extrapolated. Now I can’t stop saying it. Casey <laugh>.


 This can be used in translated translated to other, like, just like relationships with friends, relationships with colleagues, coworkers. And and I do have some education specifically around non-romantic relationships, but I wanna start with romantic relationships, and then we can go from there. But well, romantic relationships are incredibly important and incredibly challenging. And we have never ever taken ownership in the college space about how much of romantic relationships we are in control of. We just like put our hands over our eyes and we’re like, it’s not there. It’s not our job. You know? But at the same time, the the age old discussion of do we teach them not to drink or do we teach them how to drink in college? We’ve been ta having that conversation for a long time. So what are we doing in college about dating? And we’ve talked about sex, like right?


There’s so many people on campus who are talking to you about how to have safe sex or how to not have sex at all. But there’s a whole other component. You don’t just drink and have sex, you also date. And so let’s talk about dating. Dating. You have seen a couple of people date in your life. You’ve seen your family date. Maybe an older sibling. Maybe your parents are happily married, maybe they’re happily single, maybe they’re happily dating, who knows? But those are the examples you have. And then you have the most toxic examples of relationships ever, and that is the media <laugh>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yep. And then you have a couple of age old euphemisms that relationships are hard work, but they’re worth it when you find the right one, treat ’em right. Like, what the heck does all of this mean? And when you, if you have a soulmate, you’ll just know, and we have no examples of how to make a relationship work.


And then we take you out of your home where you have a, there’s a lot of control. And then we put you into a world where there’s no control, and we’ve educated you on alcohol and we’ve educated you on sex, but you know what? We have not educated you on dating. And it’s crazy because we are setting the tone and the foundation and the groundwork for how you’re going to approach dating for the rest of your life. And I just, fraternity and sorority specifically is a hotbed. Really toxic relationships. Every single person listening on this podcast has seen their dear friend cheat on their partner in college. You know, not best friend, but a person in their, in their PC or a person in their chapter. We’ve seen them like making out with somebody at a bar, and they’re like, that’s not the person you’re dating. I’m just gonna turn in a walk away. You know, we’ve seen some catastrophic fights where if this was in a neighborhood on unlike Pleasantville, U s usa, the police would’ve been called

Casey J. Cornelius (38:37):

<Laugh>. Yeah,

K.J. McNamara (38:37):

Right. You know, and we have just seen it. And then we wake up the next morning and pretend like it never ever happened. And it is just like an, it’s a, it’s a way that we affect humans and fraternity and certi that we have never taken ownership over. And I am so excited to be a voice in this capacity, if that makes sense.

Casey J. Cornelius (39:01):

Absolutely. And, and I remember, first of all, I didn’t know that you were nervous about pitching this idea. I, I, I, nobody’s talking about didn’t detect that. I was gonna say, I didn’t detect that at all. I was like, when, when you started, first of all, again, we’re <laugh> theme by the day, pulling back the curtain. E e everyone knows you for recruitment stuff, right? Yeah. Like, obviously this is, this is where, where you shine. But when you shared that there was almost this this twinkle in your eye, this, this spark in your voice that I was like, oh, this is, this is different, Casey. And I wonder, I wonder if it, the difference is emerging from the no pain, no gain, the shucking, the oyster. I, I wonder if that’s at the root of it.

K.J. McNamara (39:46):

Right? Well, and that’s the thing is I, okay, so number one, you can’t be good at recruitment and not be good at relationships. And when I say good at it, I want you to know those who do not, who cannot do coach, those who cannot do teach. Y’all. I’m terrible at this. I am terrible at this. And so self-proclaimed relationship failure. But you cannot do recruitment and analyze how to connect with a stranger without also being good at talking about conflict with a friend and talking about leadership dynamics and interpersonal relationships, and then talking about romantic relationships. They are all weirdly connected through this, this string of relationships. And so I, they, they naturally to me all connect. And hopefully that can help. We can help all of you listening understand that as well. But

Casey J. Cornelius (40:41):

I sense that all, all, all over the world right now, as you just said, that there were fingers snapping, <laugh>. I just, you know, we, we can’t love. So we can’t be good at recruitment if we’re not good at relationships.

K.J. McNamara (40:53):

Yeah. And so, I, I just think with the romantic relationship component, it’s just, it, it’s just a passion of mine because I’ve so been epically hurt by it, and I’m really excited to help people maybe not take the path I took. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (41:18):

Listen, I’m, I’m gonna, for those listening who are like, Ooh, this is interesting. I wasn’t aware that KJ talked about relation. Like, I will tell you that our campus and organizational partners who have scheduled this program worked with KJ on it. They rave about it, and for good reason. I, I think you probably heard that spark that I was just just talking about before. I think you just heard it in that moment. But if you wanna learn more about Red Flag Relationships, kjs other signature program again for college, for, KJ kley. Jean, I know that we could talk for hours and hours and hours. In fact, you and I have talked for hours and hours and hours, but we probably do need to put a bow on this. Can I get you out? Absolutely. Here on some, some rapid fire questions.

K.J. McNamara (42:03):

100%. Let’s do it.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:05):

Now, I know that you’ve prepared, and this is, this is, you know, a little bit about you that obviously we’ve touched on to this. I know you’ve prepared, but I’m gonna ask the questions nonetheless, but here we go. Okay. So kj, I want you to imagine for just a second that you have an entire day to binge watch anything. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, what do you choose?

K.J. McNamara (42:22):

Okay. So, so first of all, having a toddler, you can’t binge watch anything <laugh>. So I had to reimagine this. You are stuck on an airplane. The wifi is down, your computer is dead. You don’t have a single pent to write anything down. You have nothing to do except watch the onboard entertainment.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:41):

Okay? Okay.

K.J. McNamara (42:43):

<Laugh>, that’s how I had to phrase it in my head to even imagine answering mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and your CrossCountry flight, Seattle to Miami. Okay. so I I would hit all of the good time nineties girl power movies. I would obviously start like Legally Blonde mean girls, and then we would drift into like, how to lose a guy in 10 days, miss Congeniality, 10 things I Hate About You. And then with a Sarah Bullic, hope floats okay. <Laugh>. Like, I don’t wanna think, I wanna know what’s gonna end happy, and I wanna give all that’s what I wanna do, <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (43:19):

I love it. I love it. Yeah. As soon as you said, we’re going down this nineties, right? When I was like, wow, where are we going? And then as soon, where are we going? Oh, yeah. All right. Okay. I’m good with that. I’m good with that. All right. Kj. Kj, what is the most used app on your phone?

K.J. McNamara (43:32):

Yeah, so I think Instagram is just such an important way to connect with people. Maybe one day I’ll be into TikTok a little bit more. But like, I love, I love Instagram, I love the comedians. I love the, there’s people doing really important work on Instagram. I love getting inspiration and I love checking in with my friends. But second, I think obvious. Second one I started doing this, it’s called One Second Every Day. And I started doing this because I saw a couple of my dear friends from sorority post these, like one second videos, but a compilation of their own children. And so, when I first had my son, his name is Avit, he’s named after a band called the Avit Brothers. If you’ve never heard I was really, really hesitant to lean into being a mother and to lose myself in motherhood.


I was really afraid of losing my romantic relationship. Obviously we’ve talked about that. And I just didn’t, I didn’t wanna lose myself in this experience and have my phone be taken up with baby pictures. I still wanted to be who I was and con continued to commit to my romantic relationship. After about two and a half weeks, I had one of my dear friends come over, her name is Carly, and she gave me this piece of advice. She goes, record every single noise. It only lasts a week. Record everything. Wow. And I, that day, I got off the phone, or I got, she left my house and I just started recording thing. And so I have a one, it’s actually one and a half second video every single day with my son since he was two and a half weeks old. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (45:10):

You know, I got I, personal aside so, so being a parent, but my, my daughter now is a teenager. I <laugh>. I regret in some ways that she wasn’t born 10 years later because we would’ve all had phones in our pockets and recorded, because now their, their their memories. And we have, you know, little ones here and there. But I think that Carly is exactly right. Capture, yeah. Every single one of those moments, because they’re fleeting. And you blink as the song goes. Mm-Hmm. Don’t blink, but you blink and then all of a sudden they’re just not the same person. So

K.J. McNamara (45:48):

They’re not, no. Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (45:49):

That’s a, that’s a fantastic Wow. Okay, cool. Kj, who, who would you most like to have dinner with?

K.J. McNamara (45:56):

<Laugh>? this is also a story cuz I can’t answer a question without telling a story. All my friends criticize me and they say that there’s this video, this like viral video of people asking like three and four and five year old kids, like, who do you wanna have dinner with? And then they ask their parents, and their parents are like, Ugh, Michelle Obama, or like Abraham Lincoln. And the kids are like mom and dad. And then the parents watch the video and then they feel like total garbage because their children just wanna spend time with them, you know? Yep, yep. And, but in all reality, when you ask me this question, like, who do I wanna spend dinner with? It is unfortunately 100% my family, my, my mom, my dad, my sister, her husband, her three kids, my sweet son Abit. Like, there’s nothing, my, some of my favorite memories from the past five years since I’ve been able to reroute in my life and who I am have been like, sitting around the table, like in a song will break out.


 Once we, my dad is, was born in 1951. He’s quite old. But we sent him and we asked him, okay, who’s your favorite? Like, what’s your favorite Katie Perry song? And he like, will pull up the music video to Roar Katie Perry Ro. And we’re like, okay, what’s your favorite like, pink song? And he’s like, like, and so we’re just sitting there like breaking out in song and we’re laughing and we’re making fun of my fleet mother, who’s a priest and deserves none of us. And we’re, it’s just stinking magical. Like it’s, I would wanna spend dinner with my families.

Casey J. Cornelius (47:31):

That’s beautiful. I I was, I was a little worried for a second that you were gonna say Bradley Cooper and Burns. That’s, that was my <laugh>.

K.J. McNamara (47:38):

No, no, he’s not, he’s not like who I wanna be. Like, I just unfortunately think I see myself in him, unfortunately. Gotcha.

Casey J. Cornelius (47:44):


K.J. McNamara (47:44):

It’s not a good thing. This podcast, in this podcast, KJ says, why she is just like, Bradley Cooper, <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (47:52):

<Laugh>. There’s your teaser right there. No, no, no, no, no. Let’s, let’s not use that as the teaser. Okay. So No, no, no, no. This is, so this question is going to be odd because I have a feeling that you struggle with it. Right. But I’m, I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask it. I’m gonna ask it in a way that allows you to tell a story if you’d like or extrapolate, however you <laugh>. So what do you do to wind down? Do you have any particular rituals or things that you do that says, okay, now the day is done and, and I get to decompress? Is there anything that you do to wind down?

K.J. McNamara (48:25):

Yeah, five to seven is sacred time at my home. Five to 7:00 PM is it’s the time I make dinner for my son. I am really passionate about food. I’ve struggled with really complicated eating habits. If you book me for our, my session, I’ll tell you more about it. No, I’m kidding, kidding, kidding. But I’ve realized <laugh> really struggled with eating. I’ve struggled with nutrition in a way to be nutritious, but not like obsessed over it to the point where I’m not eating anything because I’m so obsessed with being nutritious. And so I’m trying not to pass all of that on to my son, as we talked about with earlier, that what you say to yourself is what your son will start to say to himself. He, his food has become really important to me. Also, a has is started having medical issues regarding eating at from the minute he was born. And so we’ve been seeing specialists and therapists his entire life. And so eating is a really important part of life. And so his, he is, has to be gluten-free, dairy-free. And so it’s really difficult. What do, what do you feed your toddler chicken nuggets.

Casey J. Cornelius (49:36):

Right? Right.

K.J. McNamara (49:37):

Yogurt <laugh>, you know, and I can’t. And so five o’clock is dinnertime. We sit down at the table together, we eat, I eat the same way he does as a way to help him feel like, you know, mom and doesn’t have to eat what I eat. And then, so we sit down, we eat dinner together, and then we go upstairs, we take a bath, we read books, and we go to bed. And those hours are sacred to me. And so that is my end of the day ritual. And that’s how I decompress and that’s how I would just like, remember how important being a mama is and that it’s the most important job I’ve ever done. So

Casey J. Cornelius (50:13):

You have me crying over here. <Laugh> McNamara la last plug, I, if you have not yet already, please check out If you wanna learn more about her signature programs, keynotes, workshops, retreats, whatever they might be, it’s a great place to start. Final question, kj, to get you outta here on this one how can listeners best connect with you?

K.J. McNamara (50:35):

Please DM me on Instagram. I will, will respond. Like I said, I’m on it all the time. It’s at KJ McNamara. Lucky me, I got my handle. That’s just please DM me. I will respond, I’ll talk to you. I’ve had people DM me and ask me questions about like somebody they’re dating. I’ve had people DM me and book me for a program on Instagram. I’ve had people DM me and just wanna ask where I’m at and like, please, please don’t be afraid. I’d love to interact with you. I will answer. And then second way, Casey, you know, this is get my phone number and let’s voice memo.

Casey J. Cornelius (51:18):


K.J. McNamara (51:19):

If you don’t voice memo, we can’t talk. If you aren’t ready to like, listen to my two minute long thought process, then we, I don’t know if we can be friends. <Laugh>,

Casey J. Cornelius (51:30):

Listen, I never saved them, but I have a few voice memos in mind that you have sent me. And this is, this is true. The statement that she’s making is true. She is a voice memo person.

K.J. McNamara (51:41):

Yeah. It’s, but my life is, mam, I have a toddler who’s like throwing blocks down the stairs and he’s screaming. So when I get in the car, I don’t want to be texting, but I need to, I need to, I have something I need to say. So it’s gotta be an voice, my mom. So

Casey J. Cornelius (51:54):

I love it. I love it. Yeah. Listen, I, I always begin these podcasts with the assumption that I’m going to learn something. And I, I have to say, I’ve learned a lot about you, kj, and I, I just, I know

K.J. McNamara (52:08):

Since I don’t think we talked about anything we’ve ever talked about before, which is so fun for

Casey J. Cornelius (52:12):

Us. <Laugh> No, you, you want to do this again sometime?

K.J. McNamara (52:15):

Oh my gosh, yes. Like, absolutely, absolutely. Let’s do it.

Casey J. Cornelius (52:20):

Well, listen if you wanna hear more from kj, let us know. But I also want to ask Shameless plug, please do the things that you’re supposed to do with podcast, right? Please, like, and share and review and subscribe and all that other kind of stuff. It, it absolutely helps. But also, please let us know the topics that you would like to hear more about, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So if you want hear KJ talk more about relationships and and so forth, let us know. And we always wanna bring you the content that you enjoy most, especially here in season two. And we know that we’ve got folks listening all across the country, all around the world in kj, because she’s competitive, I’m sure wants to be in the number one spot for most listened to episodes. So please make sure again, that you like and share and subscribe and do that. All, all that other kind of stuff. It’s super important to us. But yeah, until next time, K.J., thank you so much for for this conversation today. And everyone who’s listening, thank you. Whether you’re in your car, whether you’re in class, please don’t be missing class nor to listen to this. You’re at the gym, whatever it might be. We certainly appreciate you and we look forward to our next opportunity to chat. Thank you so much.

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