Jo May Salonen

Who are you, and what do you do?

Jo May Salonen, Executive Director, Missoula Symphony Association.

What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive?

Making lists – written on paper. I don’t follow them if they are on my phone or computer. I’m old-school and use paper!

What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?

I can’t function without a strong cup of coffee so I always start my morning with a cup of coffee and check personal and work emails first thing. I like to know how my day is going to go right from the start.

I’ve always been more of a morning person so I’m at my best early in the mornings. If I have to write, create or proof something, that’s my best time to do mentally intensive work.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

Daily exercise. It keeps me sane. It’s the one hour a day that’s all mine. I rarely have my phone with me when I exercise because I think I’ve earned that time for ME. Everyone can be away from their phones for one hour – it won’t kill you!

It’s amazing what exercise can do for stress. I can start a workout really uptight about something at work and by the end, the tension has eased up. A little time away or a break is a powerful tool to reset your mind and attitude.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

Take deep breaths, walk around the block or walk away from the task or project that has me bogged down.

Taking a break often brings clarity and focus.

What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?

Dropbox. All large graphic files can easily be viewed in Dropbox. I’ve used it for years and really like how easy it is.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

Recently, it’s been Maid by Stephanie Land.

I think she’s an example of so many people in our community – across the country, really. It’s the true story of a young woman trying to find a way out of poverty, raising children and getting through college when she wasn’t initially set up for that path. Clearly she’s done well and now her book is becoming a Netflix series. That’s the pinnacle of success!

She’s real and she works hard and she admits her mistakes. I follow her on Instagram and I just like her and her life story. The Missoula connection is fun to see but really for me, I respect her connection to millions of Americans. I come from a background where I was set up to go to college and raise my children without the fear of hunger or no housing, etc. but not everyone has those opportunities. I admire and am humbled by Stephanie Land and others like her. I’m grateful to have read her book.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

Some things are going to come easy and some things will be hard. All of it is meaningful and you just have to persevere and learn from all of life’s experiences. I’ve learned a lot from both adverse experiences and positive ones. Be introspective and don’t be afraid to say you made a mistake. We all do. And say you’re sorry when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. A lot of people don’t like to face something head on – they would rather sweep it under the rug. I’ve found that it’s much better to face tough situations head on and with honesty.

Adding the pandemic to the mix is going to make life harder, I think initially, for a lot of recent graduates, but this won’t last forever. It might last 2-3 years but generations before us have dealt with world wars and the Spanish flu and life marched on. If anything, it gives people the opportunity to learn flexibility, patience and creativity – all skills that come in handy in life. I’m a planner and love a schedule but the pandemic has taught me to be more flexible and to roll with things. It’s not in my nature to do so, but I’ve been forced to do it and I can sense there are times it makes me more relaxed to say, “onto Plan B or C or D or…”

I believe in plans but I also believe that sometimes plans can be changed.

If someone says “we’ve always done it like this” ignore that – it means they haven’t opened themselves up to learning it a new way. And oftentimes they are many ways to do one thing!

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

Work hard and be kind.