In this issue ~~
Cynthia Kersey wears many hats. The author of the new book, Unstoppable Women: Achieve Any Breakthrough Goal in 30 Days, is also a coach, speaker, consultant and expert in the field of human potential. As CEO of Unstoppable Enterprises, she and her company deliver products and services to help people improve performance, achieve success and enhance the quality of their lives.
I was excited to discover that Cynthia and her work embody what I love to teach myself: to find your passion and then pursue it unstoppably. She is all about encouraging people to find the courage to respond to their callings by discovering role models who have succeeded against all odds. Reading the inspiring stories in "Unstoppable Women" left me feeling empowered and moved to tears by the tenacity of these amazing women.
(Men: The principles in this book apply just as much to you! If you feel a little left out, pick up a copy of Cynthia's first book, Unstoppable, for stories about unstoppable men.)
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia about her book and her work . . .
SHARON GOOD: Cynthia, very often, authors and teachers speak about a challenge that they've overcome themselves or something that's personally meaningful to them. How did you come to the "unstoppable" concept?
CYNTHIA KERSEY: That's a very insightful question. I was raised in the Midwest by parents who weren't risk-takers. I had these big dreams and goals, and my mother said, "Be realistic." So, I followed my mother's path, as a secretary, and I got fired from my first job and was demoted from my second job. So, obviously, following somebody else's path didn't work for me.
So, I decided to try a career a little less detail-oriented, and I got hired at Sprint Communications. I started as a telemarketer and worked my way up to become a national account manager. While working a full-time job, I went back to school, and I got my degree and became a student of what enables people to be unstoppable. I'd always read stories about people who were unstoppable – people like Disney, who was on the verge of bankruptcy every 18 months for 30 years – and those people were an inspiration to me.
After a successful ten-year career at Sprint, I decided that I wanted to write a book about people who'd been unstoppable and what I had learned through all those years of following their examples. Now understand, I'd never written anything more than a college term paper, so I had no logical reason to think I could even write a book, much less get it published, much less make a living doing it.
SG: So, there was always some sense in you that there was a greater purpose, or something that you needed to be doing that was not connected to your background or your upbringing or what people thought you should do.
CK: I learned at a very young age that Cynthia means "reflector of light." As I got really clear about my purpose – which is to encourage others to believe in themselves more deeply and become all that God intended them to be – I started to identify what kinds of projects would be in keeping with that kind of purpose. Writing a book was what I came up with, because I've always loved stories about unstoppable people.
Once I got clear on what my purpose was, and then figured out what would be consistent with my passion and what I was good at, I quit my job, cashed in my entire life savings, downsized my life, sold the big house and leased one half the size, so that I could be unstoppable in creating something that was really meaningful for me.
SG: Wow, that took guts!
CK: Yes, it did. It's like, burn all the bridges behind you, so that you just have to move forward.
SG: And you made it work. In "Unstoppable Women," you provide a structure to "Achieve Any Breakthrough Goal in 30 Days" (the subtitle of the book). Is structure really important in achieving your goals?
CK: Absolutely. People try to make too many changes at once, and they get overwhelmed and they quit. So, what I found is that the best way to create change in your life – and research supports this – is that you do it one step at a time. And a structure is critical to insure that you take your one step, because a lot of people know what to do, but they don't get it into the schedule and they don't have accountability.
So, in "Unstoppable Women," we talk about breaking it down into that one step, planning it into your Create Your Day Planner, having a partner that holds you accountable, and all of these structures that support you in honoring your word to yourself.
SG: I love the idea of taking small steps. We have this myth that the people who are successful take these huge leaps – the proverbial "overnight success" – and in truth, it's really a step-by-step process.
CK: Yes, it is. One of the important components of "Unstoppable Women" is to stop the giving-up cycle, and people quit when they take on too much. They get overwhelmed, they get discouraged, and then they quit, and it significantly damages their self-esteem.
Even the busiest woman has the time to take a single step. And in doing so, it helps build her self-esteem, it helps build her confidence, and it creates a foundation that will enable her to create lasting change in her life.
SG: You use the term "success imprinting." What is that?
CK: Every single time you do something that you thought was difficult – for example, if you've never run before in your life and you do your first 5K – that sends a success imprint to your brain that you could do it again, and the next time, it'll be easier. Each time you deal with a difficult customer or you finish a project that you thought was difficult, you're creating a success imprint.
And conversely, we have "failure imprints," so each time we quit, each time we give up, each time we don't honor our word to ourself, we send a failure imprint to our psyche that says we're not good enough, we're not worthy, we can't make the change we want.
And what's true is that there's enough evidence in our life to support that we're really disciplined or that we're a big flake. We've all been both. So, we have to draw on our success imprints, on what's really possible for our lives, and have that move us forward, as opposed to our failure imprints.
SG: That leads into another issue that you talk about: how we interpret things. We can take the same situation and interpret it in different ways.
CK: I think it's all about how we interpret things that happen in our lives. So, let's say that you want to get on an eating plan and lose 10 pounds. I have this process called "raising your unstoppability quotient," based on Dr. Albert Ellis's "A-B-C" model. An ADVERSITY is anything that knocks the wind out of your sails, like, "I went off my eating plan and ate buffalo wings and nachos." The next step is the BELIEF: How do I interpret the Adversity? What do I make that mean?
We have 2 voices: a voice of faith and a voice of fear. If we're listening to our voice of fear, we might interpret that: "I blew it again, I'm never going to lose weight, I'm so undisciplined, why bother?" And the result of that Belief, the CONSEQUENCE, is that I'm going to quit. And I might as well go eat some Haagen-Dazs while I'm at it.
And so, what we need to do is DISPUTE the Belief, dispute the meaning that we attach to it that made us stop. Because again, we can come up with beliefs that empower us or stop us. So, you go back to that Belief and you say, "Okay, how can I look at this in a different way that's more empowering and will keep me energized? It's one day, it's one meal. I've already been doing this for a week. I'm on track. Just get back with the program." And by disputing it, the final result is ENERGIZATION: I continue to move forward.
I use this, Sharon, constantly, every single day. Whenever I feel sad or I feel disappointed, I'll go back to, "What happened, and what am I making something mean? How am I interpreting that?" And as soon as I can give it a different interpretation, a more empowering interpretation, I'm energized and continue to move forward.
SG: That's a great model to work with. You use a lot of role modeling in the book, just incredible stories of these amazing women who overcame obstacles that I couldn't even imagine. I find that so empowering, because I feel like, if they can do it, I have these little, pitiful obstacles in my life compared to what they've done.
SG: But I also come across some people who look at these models and say, "Well, they were stronger than me, or they were tougher." They put those people in another category and say, "They can do that, but I can't." What would you say to people like that?
CK: Well, first off, whenever any conversation is going on in your mind like that, that's your voice of fear talking to you. If you want your life to look different, it's critical that you enable new beliefs that will allow you to move forward, to give you a way to look at things differently. Our beliefs drive our behavior, and if you believe that you don't have what it takes, or your circumstances are holding you back, nothing is going to change..
Secondly, I've interviewed enough unstoppable people over the last 10 years to say unequivocally that unstoppable people get frustrated, disappointed, discouraged, and even have moments of depression , and yet they don't quit. So, it's not that they're so different. They just don't make it mean that, when they have difficulties, it’s "game over." They don't make it mean, "I'm not good enough." They might think it just for a moment, but they'll dispute it, and they'll continue to move forward.
So, if anybody has any belief that holds them back – and we all do – we can change it through success imprints, looking at other times when we overcame things, when we showed up and we were disciplined, and then finding other models of possibility. If somebody else did it, it means it's possible that I can do it as well.
SG: It's like creating a collection of tools for yourself, so that when you face that setback or that adversity, you have tools that you can call on to deal with it, to pull yourself out of it.
CK: That is exactly it! So, instead of just wallowing in it, you go, "Hmmm, what just happened here?" You become aware. Awareness is a huge first step, and this book helps people get an awareness of what stops them, what beliefs come up for them, how they sabotage themselves.
I do a lot of coaching, as I noticed you do. People are now making a commitment to change all the things that come up for them, and I think what "Unstoppable Women" does is help give people the tools to look at things differently, so they can create a new result in their life.
SG: It's exciting when you see somebody who's been stopped before make that choice that they're not going to allow these things to stop them anymore, and they change the beliefs, and they deal with the adversity, and they start getting new results.
CK: It is exciting. You look at the story of Michele Hoskins. She was a small manufacturer in Chicago, making her great-great-great grandmother's honey cream syrup and distributing it locally. She got this dream to distribute this syrup on every table in 1700 Denny's restaurants nationwide. Michele was not remotely prepared to manufacture and distribute her product nationwide, but she believed that after she got the contract, she'd figure out how to make it happen.
That belief drove her behavior. So, what did she do? Every Monday morning at 10:30, she picked up the phone, called Denny's corporate office and talked to anybody who would talk to her. For 2 years, she talked to receptionists, secretaries, diversity, marketing, and fulfillment, and they all promised to call her back. But no one did.
After 2 years of calling every week, Denny's restructured and got a new CEO. Of course, everybody knew about Michele; her reputation was all over the company. And the new CEO asked, "Why aren't we giving this woman an opportunity?" She ended up getting a $3 million contract delivering her great-great-great grandmother's honey cream syrup, because she believed she could do it and she kept taking action.
SG: There's that persistence again, not quitting despite 2 years of rejection.
SG: Toward the end of the book, you say, "You are now a different person than when you took your first step." People forget that in the process of pursuing their goal or dream, they're going to grow, so they don't have to have it all in place at the beginning. They'll acquire what they need along the way.
CK: That's exactly it. Each day, when we get a new insight, when we gain new awareness, when we come up with different strategies, we're different. We can make decisions from where we are today, as opposed to the lies that we told ourselves 30 days ago.
SG: Or even make decisions based on who we know we're becoming. It's not about having it all together before you make a move, but looking at the person you're going to be in another 30 days, having faced those challenges.
CK: Definitely. That's really where we want to go.
SG: That takes a little courage right there. You tell the story of Zoe Koplowitz, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 25 and went on to win the title "slowest woman ever to complete the New York City Marathon." She said that "looking stupid is an inherent part of risk taking and goal achievement." That's something that stops people: the fear of looking foolish.
CK: No doubt.
SG: I loved your own story about when you climbed the pyramid, El Castillo, in Cancun, which is quite steep. You were okay going up, despite your fear of heights, but then, coming down, it was really scary, and you had to sit on your butt and go down a step at a time. That may look foolish, but to me, it was courageous.
CK: Absolutely. It's the paradox of success. What's courageous for me may not be courageous for you. But the point is that each time you put yourself out there and you stretch and you take that one step, you've created an unstoppable moment. It's being less attached to exactly what success looks like, and just continuing to be open, to do the work, and see how it unfolds.
The triumphs, the success imprints, building our self-esteem is always about when we overcome something to get it. That's how we grow in our confidence. So, if we're not having to overcome, where's the learning? Where's the lesson? If you inherit some big trust fund, while you may look successful, you don't feel it, because you didn't have to do anything for it.
SG: That's a really good point. A myth that's being busted now is that you have to have self-esteem and courage before doing something, and you actually get it by doing something.
CK: You're absolutely right, Sharon. That is where it grows.
SG: People get scared, and they think that's a bad thing. But if you're not feeling at least a little fear, you're not challenging yourself enough.
CK: I agree. Whenever you try to make any change, you're going to be fearful. That can be good, because at least you notice that you're pushing yourself, and not making it mean, "I'm afraid, so I shouldn't do it." Fear is always going to be there, so don't make it mean, "I shouldn't do it, I'm not good enough." It doesn't mean any of that. It just means, "I'm feeling uncomfortable."
SG: And, as you said, it's by overcoming fear that you build your self-esteem and your courage.
Cynthia, thank you so much for sharing your unstoppable wisdom with us. Is there anything you would like to add?
CK: One thing . . . I’ve created the Unstoppable Women Challenge, and my mission is to inspire a million women to commit to taking one step for at least one day to change their lives and to make a difference in the life of another woman. We’ve set up a page on our website where people can make that simple commitment (www.unstoppablewomen.com).
And if they sign their name to the FREE roster, they get a free 17-page jump-start kit that helps them clarify a breakthrough goal in their life and get entered into a sweepstakes. Additionally, for every 10 women who sign up and make that pledge, we're supporting women in transition, through either homeless shelters or abuse, by scholarshipping them my book and my audio program.
I think the key to being an unstoppable woman is, help yourself, help somebody else.
Cynthia Kersey's motto is, "I refuse to be around people who don't recognize my brilliance." This feels like an audacious statement to many of us. But having people around us who believe in us helps us to be unstoppable. Who are the people in your life who support your brilliance? Who doesn't? Choose one of the following actions:
"It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but how we respond to those events."
"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records."
"Early on, I discovered that the road to success is paved with rejection. 'No' is not forever. No is only 'no' that day from that person. You can always go back to the same person tomorrow with new information. If you're committed and you're dedicated, you'll eventually find a way to turn that 'no' into a 'yes'."
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
The Road to Success is Paved with Failure: How Hundreds of Famous People Triumphed Over Inauspicious Beginnings, Crushing Rejection, Humiliating Defeats and Other Speed Bumps Along Life's Highway . . . Joey Green
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