LEAP! with Cassi Christiansen

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Howdee Leapers! Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends and happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans! Hope this latest post finds you in the midst of a beautiful summer (or winter depending on your hemisphere.)  Last month, we leaped with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith as she shared her story of  transitioning from allopathic medicine to functional medicine and the start of her own practice. This month, I’m thrilled to showcase another one of my favorite women of the world:  my mentor coach extraordinaire, Cassi Christiansen of Ulumination!

In late 2011, I discovered Cassi when I was searching for a mentor coach as part of my training with CoachU.  I reviewed a long list of mentor coaches and read Cassi’s short bio, instantly knowing she meant to be my mentor coach. Not only do we share similar values and ways of being, we both left behind lucrative corporate careers to start our own coaching practices AND we both worked very hard to become mamas to our boys.  Not only did Cassi mentor me as I completed my CoachU training, achieved my ICF coaching accreditation, and set up my business, she simultaneously supported me through my pregnancy with Toots, transition to motherhood, and ongoing fertility journey.  Fast forward 3.5 years later, our coaching relationship is still going strong despite having never met in person (we’re working to fix that!).  She’s a woman whom I deeply admire and respect, and I feel incredibly blessed to call her as my mentor coach and profile her in my LEAP! Interview series.

With Cassi being the one who is usually asking the questions, I couldn’t wait to turn the tables and ask her a few deep questions during our recent interview.   Although I already know a lot about Cassi given that we’ve been working together for a few years, I discovered even more similarities as she shared her story of leaving behind her HR VP job to become a coach.  When Cassi shared how she used to feel physically sick every Sunday evening, I remembered my own struggles with anxiety attacks and stress-induced illnesses when I worked as a management consultant and HR professional.  Like Cassi, I was forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t meant to be and secretly suffered as a result of my efforts to succeed at any cost.  As you will hear in Cassi’s interview, she finally took her big leap into coaching after letting go of her fears about money and status and listening to her inner voice which told her to TRUST.   For me, I made my big leap after my mother died when I realized that I simply couldn’t wear the mask any longer.  My inner voice told me to follow my passion for empowering women and realize my own dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and a mother.  What I love about our similar stories is that our leaps were so FAITH-based… we finally listened to our inner wisdom, trusted it to guide us, and became the women we were always meant to be.  What could be more POWERFUL than that????

So, without further ado, I hope you will take 30 minutes out of your day to listen to Cassi’s big LEAP! and read the interview highlights below.   I guarantee she will inspire and motivate you to listen to your own heart and make your next big LEAP!

XOXO

Christina


“When it comes to LEAPING, I would say all leaps must come from the heart so listen to what your heart is wanting you to hear.  And trust it.  Always ask for signs and guidance and once you receive it, take a little leap.  If it’s meant to be, the little leap will lead to another leap and you keep following the little leaps until you finally ready to fly.”

-Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Climbing the Ladder

“I’m a true blooded Oregonian.  I lived in Portland for the first 40+ years of my life in Portland and, then 4 years ago, we made a leap and moved to Bend, Oregon. We moved here just because we wanted to be here and raise our son here.  My career started with my degree in psychology and, when I graduated, there was absolutely nothing I could do with that degree.  I took an entry-level position answering the phones and, after a couple of months, I was then promoted to an entry level HR position. My first task was filing employee paperwork and files, so I literally started out as a file clerk. I then spent the next 14 years moving up from an entry level position to the Vice President (VP) level. I got to a point in my career where I had reached my goals- I was the first female VP and the first female on the Senior Management Team- and thought ‘Now what I am going to do?’  That’s what led me to coaching.  I hired a coach to help me and thought, ‘She has the coolest job ever, I want to do what she does.’ So, I went back to school to become a coach.  Since I was VP of HR, I started an internal coaching program so I could use my gifts and passions within my current role as I had never imagined owning my own business.  However, it didn’t take long to determine that, if I really was going to do the work I was meant to do, I’d have to leave corporate. This was the scariest decision of my entire life.  It took me two years to make my decision because it was so scary to me.  That was about 13 years ago and I have been coaching ever since.  I have built my whole practice around working with leaders who want to share their gifts with the world and make our world a better place.”

Being Pushed to LEAP!

“Leading up to my leap, I had reached most of my goals and climbed the corporate ladder more than I ever imagined was possible for me.  From the outside, it looked like I reached a pinnacle of success, but, on the inside, I was absolutely miserable.  Looking back, I can now see what was going on.  I had set goals which would make me look successful, like ‘I want to be the first female to do these things.’  What I really didn’t think about was who I would need to be to make them happen.  I worked in a good ol’ boy, patriarchal environment, and, to get to a VP level, I really had to be someone that I wasn’t. When we go against who we are, especially for an extended amount of time, it takes a toll on our soul.  That’s what happened to me- I was absolutely miserable.  On Sunday nights, I would literally get sick and vomit just thinking about going back to that environment.  At the time, I would blame the environment I worked in, but now I can look back and see that I was getting sick because I was being someone that I wasn’t.  My body was responding from a physical place by saying ‘This isn’t okay. You’re not being who you were meant to be in this world, and we’re going to give you every sign possible.’  At this same time, I was trying to get pregnant and I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which meant that the doctors couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to conceive.  So, I was convinced that my stressful work environment and being someone that I wasn’t were the underlying causes of my infertility.  Being miserable and trying to get pregnant really initiated my leap.  It literally felt like my soul was dying on the vine and that I was being pushed to do something different. I HAD to do something different.”

Getting Over Fears

“Once I found coaching, both for myself personally and then by becoming a coach, I knew that is what I was meant to do, but I was TERRIFIED to make the leap.  I never wanted to own my business because my dad had owned his own biz while I was growing up and it was a nightmare.  I always swore I’d get a steady, secure job with an every other week paycheck and benefits.  As an HR VP, I was making more money than I had ever imagined I could and had my corner office and parking spot.  I had worked for 14 years to reach this level, so I was terrified to give it all up with not knowing what was on the other side.  The other aspect was my ego.  I felt proud to say I was a VP and there was instant credibility in being someone who had ‘made it.’  Plus, I started coaching over 15 years ago when it was still very new.  When I said I was a coach, people would ask me, ‘which sport?’  So going from a VP to a something that no one knew about wasn’t easy on my ego. “

Trusting my Inner Voice

“Once I started coaching people, I knew I couldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself as coaching is all about moving through our fears and doing it anyway.  I knew I wouldn’t be as strong of a coach if I didn’t ‘walk my talk.’  I would not be where I am today without the self-development work I did with my coach.  We did the same work that I do with my clients now, focusing on questions like ‘What are my greatest fears? What’s the worst case scenario? Who have I been created to be and what have I been put on this earth to do? Why haven’t I given myself permission to be that person?’  During the two years leading up to my leap, I prayed daily and ask for guidance.  My inner voice kept saying, ‘If you have the courage to do this, you will be taken care of. I heard that same message for two years before I had the courage to believe it, trust it, and then leap.  Without my spiritual beliefs, I would have NEVER had the courage to LEAP.  People always ask me what I would have done differently, and I tell them that I wish I would have listened to my inner voice and paid attention to my body sooner.  This experience taught me to listen and trust myself, so now it doesn’t take me two years to make a decision.“

Co-Creating with Spirit

“I have a constant dialogue with my spirit.  My belief is that we co-create with the bigger Spirit, so it’s not just what I want, but what Spirit wants for me.  I often tap into this when I wake up and say my gratitude prayers for the morning and then I ask Spirit to show me the way, guide me towards what I am supposed to see, and trust what shows up.  I walk a lot outside in nature.  When I’m stuck with a question, I’ll go out for a walk, asking Spirit to show me the way and give me an answer by the time I finish my walk.  It’s hard for me to sit and meditate, so I like walking meditation better.   I also love yoga as it enhances my body’s ability to hear and sense Spirit.  Sometimes, I write in my journal if I need to work through something in a linear fashion.”

Finding support and encouragement

“First and foremost, my biggest supporter was my husband, Jeff.  He married me as a HR VP and enjoyed all the perks that came with a big paycheck and great benefits.  However, within a few years of our marriage, he saw how miserable I was- he would watch me cry and throw up on Sunday nights and remind me that no job was worth that.  He encouraged me follow my dreams even if it meant a huge lifestyle change for us.  Second was my mentor coach, Pam Richarde.  Without her and the work we did together, I would have never leaped.  Thirdly, I worked with a self-employed consultant, Catherine Meeks, at my former company, and she was the first woman whom I truly admired for what she had built on her own.  Because this was the late 90’s, I never had a role model of a female business owner before her.  She believed in me more than I did myself and would always ask me, ‘What the hell are you doing here? Why are you putting up with this?’  Besides these three people, most of the people around me did not support me.  They thought I was crazy for giving it all up and told me that I would regret doing it.  But I think this was important because it made me trust my inner voice and Spirit even more.

Spirit, Lead Me…

“I’ve been coaching now for over 15 years and I still absolutely love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.  My practice has evolved and changed over those 15 years as I used to only focus on working with women leaders but now I work with men and love them just as much.  My work has become much more spiritual as I truly believe coaching is about creating the space for Spirit to work through us.  I’ve been doing more corporate retreats which I love and would love to branch off and start offering more personal retreats that include nature, yoga, and connecting with Spirit.”

Parting Wisdom

“Pay attention to your spirit, your intuition. Listen to that still, small voice which is calling out to get your attention.  Even if you don’t know exactly what it’s saying, take a little bit of action based on what you’re hearing.  Very rarely does anyone go and take a big leap overnight. It’s really just a combination of little leaps that lead you to the big leap.  The world is waiting for you to take those little leaps, and, before you know it, you can take that next big leap.  Don’t lose sight of how important little leaps are, because they help you gain momentum you need to take that big leap.  Even if you’re scared and unsure, please take that little leap and trust that it will take you in the right direction.”

“I believe that we all have been given a special gift and it’s our reason for being on this planet… is to share it and if we don’t share it, we will never live out our full potential and shine as brightly as possible.  So Leap, Shine & Love Yourself through the Journey and know your journey was meant just for you.”

Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Want to connect with Cassi or hire her as your coach?

LEAP! with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Well hello there, LEAPER! Welcome back to this inspiring series of LEAP! interviews featuring everyday women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.  I launched this interview series in April with Jackie Bassett, and then followed in May with Vicki Flaherty.   This month, I’d like to introduce you to another one of my favorite ladies:  the UBER-talented, “stylishly healthy,” and ALWAYS admirable… drumroll please… Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith!!  Dr. Rajka is a superstar of a leaper– she’s an American Board Certified Family Practice Doctor, a Doctor of Functional Medicine, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a world traveler/expat….  Oh, and did I mention that she’s the mom to two adorable kiddos (Liam and Liv) and the wife of a jet-setting Kiwi who works on global construction projects?

Rajka and I met in 2010 when we worked together with a handful of other women to launch the Qatar Professional Women’s Network (QPWN) in Doha, Qatar.   I immediately admired Rajka’s professionalism, her “can-do” attitude, and her personal warmth.   Our friendship blossomed when we shared a hotel room (and a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc) during a mission trip to Ethiopia to benefit the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and the Yezelalem Minch Orphanage.   After this experience, Rajka became a huge source of support and free advice when I was going through fertility treatments, and she happily threw my baby shower and gave me TONS of hand-me-downs when I was pregnant with lil Toots.  She was the only friend who brought me meals after my miscarriage and after I gave birth to Toots.  Rajka even let me practice my coaching skills on her while I was first starting up as my biz, and I learned so much from that experience.  Although we both left Qatar, Rajka has continued to be a loyal, encouraging friend.   Can you tell how much I love this lady????

To be completely honest, I could write an entire essay about how brilliant and beautiful Rajka is, but you are here to read about her story of LEAPING!  So, here are the highlights of our interview.  As always, I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute recording as well as reading the summary… some many great little nuggets of inspiration are tucked away in my conversations with Dr. Rajka!

XOXO Christina


 “Functional Medicine looks at the root cause of a disease, rather than just treating symptoms with medication.  We look at balancing four realms: the mind-body, the energetic/spiritual, the physical, and the biochemical.  Finding the imbalances and getting them back into balance is where we achieve optimal health.”  – Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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Photo Credit: Sheryl Patrizi

Getting to Know Dr. Rajka

“My name is Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith, originally from Cleveland, Ohio.  I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a medical doctor. I was inspired by my own pediatrician- I thought he was so well-mannered and I wanted to be like him.  What I didn’t know is that allopathic medicine wasn’t going to be my whole goal.  By allopathic medicine, I mean being a physician who prescribes medicine.  For the first fifteen years, I practiced traditional family medicine.  I delivered babies, and took care of the babies and their moms in the hospital. I worked with children through to geriatrics, along with performing outpatient procedures.  I joined a great practice in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle, Washington.  From there, I ended up meeting my husband, and imagined that we’d live in one community for the rest of our lives. We’ve really been on quite an amazing journey since those early days in the Pacific Northwest.  After 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, we moved to Chicago for a couple of years, and then spent 8 years living as expats in Doha, Qatar.”

Embracing Integrative Medicine

“When I had a little breather while we were expats, I started to ask myself where I was going next. That’s where the first leap occurred when I transitioned from traditional allopathic medicine to a more integrative, holistic practice.  What inspired me to go this route is that there were a small percentage of patients who I just couldn’t get better, and I’ve had a long interest in integrative medicine to treat patients. This stems from my Eastern European upbringing. My parents are from Serbia and would often use home remedies to treat illnesses, such as applying lard and garlic to our feet when we had fevers.  Although we dreaded the lard and garlic, it always broke the fever! Additionally, I was inspired by my own experience with a fertility acupuncturist while living in Chicago.  She had me doing acupuncture and guided imagery work to support our efforts to conceive our first child.  I just knew there was more to optimal health than just prescribing medication.

Leaping from Allopathic to Functional Medicine

“The leap into functional medicine fell into place when we lived as expats and I decided to become more entrepreneurial.  I saw a need in the expatriate community to educate expats on good healthcare abroad.  Repeatedly, I had friends and former patients approach me for advice, so I started to give general guidance through my blog called ‘Expat Dr. Mom.‘ Through my research for my blog, I found a compelling article by Dr. Mark Hyman on Functional Medicine.  I also met a physician who trained in Functional Medicine who told me that her training in functional medicine was life-altering and she could never go back to traditional allopathic medicine.   Once I found this field of Functional Medicine, I started to re-train myself while continuing to work in Qatar and doing telemedicine consulting work from Qatar back to the US.   We were interested in relocating back to the US when I found an opening for a Functional Medicine physician with a practice in Boston.   The job was a great fit, so we relocated to the Boston area in 2013.”

Getting Over Fears

“One of my fears stemmed from traditional medicine’s tendency to criticize integrative healthcare.  Would I be able to practice something that would be questioned by my colleague down the road? However, everything I’ve learned to date is backed up by research.   We all know that there’s an art to medicine, so when we don’t have research, we treat and tweak the protocol for each patient, perfecting it along the way.  Secondly, I was concerned about where would I train and would I learn how to apply Functional Medicine.   However, I overcame this fear by training with the Institute of Functional Medicine and then landing my current position which is a working fellowship, enabling me to work while being mentored and trained along the way.”

Leaping with a husband and 2 kids

“My husband, Kerry, works in the construction industry, which is totally different than medicine. He’s the yang to my yin, so we complement each other and he always gives me an honest answer.  He’s my biggest support.  When I showed him the job opening in Boston, he told me that the next career move was mine.  So, when I landed the job, the kids and I relocated while he continued to work in Qatar for several months.   Together, we have two kids, who keep us on our toes and trying to balance it all.  Sometimes this means getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get myself ready and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner before we leave the house at 8:30 a.m. “

Next BIG LEAP!

“I’ve always wanted to have my own practice.  When I was practicing traditional medicine, I wanted to have a boutique-type office where patients experienced a highly personal level of care.  With Functional Medicine, I am now leaping to launch my own clinic. Part of it will be in person visits and part of it will be health optimization (via telemedicine) which can I can offer to anyone, anywhere.  I can connect back with people who live abroad and want optimization of their health.  I plan to start with a couple days in the office and then follow-ups with phone and/or skype.  I was planning to start my new business in August or September, but I recently had my first health optimization consult after receiving a number of referrals from abroad.  This opportunity to start my own practice stems from my husband landing a fabulous job in the Chicago area, so we’re relocating back to Chicago and then I’ll be starting my practice in a new city.”

Tips for Making a Big LEAP!:

“If I am faced with a tough decision, I use guided imagery and yoga to bring clarity.  I usually sit with a decision, let it soak in, journal about it, and then reflect.  I also go to my resources, like my husband and like-minded friends, to support me.  My tips are:

  • Surrounding yourself with like-minded others and leverage resources online like meetup.com, BNI for marketing yourself, and Ellevate, a global women’s network
  • Hire a coach
  • Set goals and track your results.”

“Dr. Rajka’s favorite mantra: Balanced and calm. Focused, flexible, and strong”

Want to connect with Dr. Rajka?

  1. Subscribe to her blog: drrajka.com
  2. Follow @Drrajka on Twitter or on Facebook
  3. Contact doctorrajka@gmail.com if you are interested in a consult

 

 

LEAP! with Vicki Flaherty

leap collage 2(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their dreams!

I hope you enjoyed last month’s interview with Jackie Bassett.  This month, I’m excited to feature Vicki Flaherty, an IBM leadership development professional, a poet, and a breast cancer survivor.  Vicki and I met in 2007 while working on an internal project at IBM and I immediately felt a strong click with her soulful way of being.   After I left IBM, Vicki became one of my first coaching clients and I learned so much from our coaching relationship.  She was—and still is—one of my favorite clients because of her openness, vulnerability, and willingness to go DEEP.  I chose Vicki for this interview series because of a significant leap she took after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  This leap culminated in her published collection of poems titled, “Mostly My Hearts Sings.” As you listen to my interview with Vicki and read the highlights, I hope you will feel inspired to listen to your heart, connect with your own truth, and tap into your creativity just as Vicki has learned to do.

Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Vicki.  However, I highly encourage you to listen to Vicki’s interview (approx. 30 min).

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

XOXO Christina


 “Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.”—Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Meet Vicki Flaherty… PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Learning & Development Guru.  IBMer. Runner.  Yogi.  Gardener.  Writer.  Poet.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  World Traveler.  Lives an “abundantly delicious life” with her husband, Jim, in the heartland of America (Iowa).

A Calling to Help People Succeed

“About 20 years ago, I worked for a small start-up company in workforce development and was awarded a corporate award called ‘Helping People Succeed.’ I didn’t realize it then, but that was the sign on the path of my career.  Today, I’m an IBMer and thrilled to work in the learning organization in leadership development. I’ve worked for IBM for 17 years and I’ve had 3 or 4 careers so far.  I started in our services organization doing consulting work to start, then I switched to doing career development work, then I moved into our learning organization, and have shifted into leading programs related to leadership development.  My latest responsibility is to support new executives in making that transition to the executive level, which is a pretty big leap in our company.  One of the initiatives I’m leading now is around mindfulness, bringing mindfulness and focus to the work that we do, and helping leaders to do this.”

Awakening the Inner Poet

“In 2005, I had gone through a workshop which was a very powerful, transformative experience.  Through the workshop, I determined that I wanted to find my joy, and I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my joy.  The workshop began this awakening process, and I started to dabble with poetry and words.   It was an important impetus to how I handled being diagnosed withbreast cancer in 2011. I’m very achievement oriented, but I didn’t always slow down enough to experience what I was feeling or celebrate what I was accomplishing.  With cancer, there were a lot of experiences and feelings I never experienced before, and I found myself needing an outlet to understand what was happening.   I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and started writing some words that described what I was thinking, feeling, and experiencing.  The words started turning into phrases, and the phrases started connecting together.  Suddenly a river of words and emotions was flowing and felt so cathartic.”

Leaping into the Darkness

“My poetry helped me process what was happening and lean into my fears.  I tend to be a very positive person, so, when I experienced negative emotions, I often didn’t have words for what I was feeling.  I knew I was going to have to physically change my body and the poetry helped me move through this. My poetry helped me get comfortable with putting my heart out there and being vulnerable.  I showed parts of me that felt very intimate, but I felt such power and comfort in sharing my poetry and knowing that others could relate to it.  I wrote a poem called ‘The Struggle,’ which is about the dark side of myself that was so difficult to face.”

The Struggle by Vicki Flaherty
feeling the walls
surrounded in darkness
in the cocoon
no light
only tiny fragments
of hope linger
in the air
like smoke
from a fire smoldering
into the unknown
tension thick
like mud unsure
what’s in here
even more uncertain
what’s out there
fear filling the air
wanting desperately out
struggling against the edges
the barriers
holding things in
spinning circles
dizziness pushing ‘round
falling to get up
only to sit still
in the gray silence

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Leaping into the Light

“Even during this cancer experience, I leaned toward finding the light, finding the grace, finding the opportunity and possibility, while going through struggles and moments of darkness.  The poetry told the story of my diagnosis, my journey to acceptance, the dark moments, the coping, and the release toward the end.  Sharing my poetry, being vulnerable enough to share my deepest feelings – was my LEAP.  Facing head on my emotions – the dark and negative ones, the ones I typically rushed over or pushed away – was the opportunity that came with my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  My book, ‘Mostly My Hearts Sings,’ really opened the door for me to more fully listen to my heart and follow it, especially in my work.”

Leaping with Grace, Joy, Hope, and Faith

“Through my journey of looking inward, I found parts of myself to call upon for support.  I have a friend named Grace who brings calm and confidence to me. I have a friend Joy who brings light and gratitude whenever I go. I constantly hold Hope in my heart and she helps me to dream and make the leaps towards my dreams.  I hold Faith in my gut and she gives me the courage to let go of my fears and believe in things that I can’t see but I know might be possible.”

Leaping into the Future

“When I interviewed for my current leadership development job, it took a lot of courage to be completely authentic and honest during the interview process.  I wanted my new manager to understand that I was going to be bringing not only my mind to work, but also my heart to work.  I’m bringing that singing heart to work, and I have some great opportunities to let my heart sing at work, especially related to cultivating a culture of mindfulness.  As for my poetry, I’ve written more poetry since I published ‘Mostly My Heart Sings.’ I’m thinking of pulling together another collection. I’m open to the possibility of publishing more, but I’m not sure what it will look like yet.”

Parting Words

“Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.  My poem, ‘Truth’s Whisper,’ is about tuning into your inner truth.”

Truth’s Whisper by Vicki Flaherty
My truth
speaks quietly.
It whispers
so that sometimes
it is hard to hear.
In quiet moments
of stillness
I feel its breath
upon me.
It’s voice is clear:
Be who you are, completely.
Your light is for giving.

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Want to connect with Vicki Flaherty, buy her book, and continue to enjoy her poetry and inspirational writing?

LEAP! with Jackie Bassett

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(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Introduction to LEAP! 

I’ve always been a leaper-  no, not a leper…a LEAPER!  At a young age, I would leap onstage without hesitation and I’d sing, dance, and perform in front of hundreds of people.  No sweat!  I leapt early and often, which meant that I learned to LOVE leaping, how ALIVE I felt mid-leap, and where I landed.  Some of my greatest achievements happened because I leapt.  With a suitcase and a few boxes, I moved to D.C. to start my first job on the Hill after negotiating a way to complete my remaining grad school credits from our nation’s capital.  I quickly leapt from politics to management consulting, trading in my short walk to work for cross-country flights.  I said “hell yes!” to that last-minute overseas assignment in Amsterdam which was supposed to last 2-3 weeks (I stayed for nearly 9 years!). I offered my popcorn to the handsome Dutchie sitting next to me on an airplane.  I pushed to move my position to the Middle East and encouraged my Dutchie to do the same.  I founded and led a professional women’s network in a part of the world where women have been historically oppressed.  I left my corporate career to re-train as a professional coach and start she dreams big.  I jumped on a plane to visit a fertility clinic in Dubai when I ran out of options in Doha.  Despite my fears and many obstacles, I just kept leaping in the direction of my dreams: to develop and empower women, to start my own business, to become a mother.

I leap because I’m meant to leap, because I’m driven to leap, because I don’t want to live a leap-less life.

And I’m not alone.  I’m surrounded by inspiring women who take mini and massive LEAPS every single day.  With so many trail blazin’, risk-takin’, big-dreamin’ women in my network, I often reflect on how blessed I am to be surrounded by such talent and courage, and how I want to shout their amazing stories from rooftops around the globe.  I’ve been dreaming about this day for a few years now… dreaming about the day that I would launch an interview series featuring inspiring women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.   So, I’m taking another LEAP as I launch the first interview in this exciting new series.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of “Lean In,” encourages women to lean into their careers, and I want to encourage women to go beyond leaning… I want to encourage women to LEAP!  I hope these interviews will motivate you to LEAP in the direction of your own dreams and give you encouragement for your journey.  No more excuses, just do it… you were meant to FLY!

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas, inspirations, passions, and dreams of leaping. Ready, Set, LEAP!

XOXO Christina


 

When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart.” –Jackie Bassett

Have you ever fantasized about quitting your job?  Just resigning and and then taking a looooong trip to Maui…. then coming home to start looking for a job that aligns with your values and passions, while giving yourself plenty of time and space for writing, meditation, exercise, connecting with your loved ones… just BEING present, reflecting on what you want most in life and how you want to leave your mark on the world.  Hmmm….sounds divine, doesn’t it??? Maybe even a little cray-cray? But oh how freeing, how FABULOUSLY FREEING!

Well, I’d like to introduce you to a woman who did more than fantasize about quitting her job, she did it.  Not just once, but TWICE. Yup, TWICE. Meet the courageous Jackie Bassett, a talent, strategy, and operations consultant who recently resigned from IBM to pursue her passion for putting people first.  Not only is Jackie a former colleague and dear friend, she is also one of my clients and a fantastic example of a woman who isn’t afraid to LEAP.  In our recent interview, Jackie shared her story, wise advice, and motivational quotes with me in hopes of inspiring other women who dream of pursuing their passions.

Jackie Bassett

Jackie Bassett

Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Jackie.  However, I highly encourage you to listen to Jackie’s inspiring interview (approx. 40 min).

On Learning to Leap

“Growing up in a small town in Illinois, my favorite pastimes as a kid involved reading home plan magazines and drawing sketches of my dream home.  At 8 years old, I ‘knew’ what I wanted to do with my life.  I started my career as an architectural engineer because I was good at math and science and I loved architecture.  About 7 years into my career as an engineer, I wasn’t feeling inspired by my job.  The engineering problems didn’t feel challenging enough– they felt like slightly different applications of the same formulas.  I found myself getting more interested in the business side of things, and I often went to my boss with ideas for how we could improve things.  He politely told me he really just needed me to be an engineer.  That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I chose to leave my job.  I took some time off to reflect and that’s when I decided to go to business school.”

On Leaping AGAIN

“After business school, I became an internal consultant at IBM.  I focused on strategy consulting, operations consulting, and, over time, talent consulting, which is what I found I loved the most.  Then a few months ago, after 8 ½ years with IBM, I decided to quit my job.  I still loved my job a lot – I had great clients, I worked on interesting projects, I had just been promoted to the senior leadership team, I was making good money, and I had the privilege of working with some really extraordinary people.  You might be asking, why on earth would I walk away from that?  Passion can really make you do crazy things!  It was becoming increasingly clear to me that my passion for people was so strong that I wanted a career that was more focused on solving people-related challenges.  So, I chose to leave my job to pursue my passion for the second time in my career.  This time, I’m pursuing my passion for people, specifically my desire to help companies thrive by putting people first.  My goal is to find a talent-related job with a company that has a people-first culture.”

On LEAP-spiration

 “Part of my inspiration came from my earlier life experience when I chose to leave engineering to pursue my passion for business.  It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life, and I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had stayed in a job that didn’t inspire me.  So, I learned early on that taking the leap is a far better option than not taking it.  I’ve also found inspiration through the stories of other extraordinary people who took leaps and ended up the better for it.  One of those extraordinary people is my mom.  She is probably the most courageous person I know.  She has taken many leaps in her life, such as selling her home and business to travel around the country in a camper with her life partner.  After her life partner died unexpectedly, she decided to move to Hawaii, where my sister lives, and enroll in massage therapy school at the age of 60.  Today, she is one of the happiest people I know, living in Hawaii, practicing massage therapy and providing daycare for her granddaughter.  My own desire to lead an inspiring life is a big motivator for taking leaps.“

On Decisions of the Heart

“I couldn’t have made the leap if I didn’t feel strongly that it was the right decision.  When I tried to logically weigh the pros and cons, the cons outweighed the pros. So, I threw out my pros vs. cons list, because my gut told me it didn’t matter.  This was not a decision driven by logic–it was driven by my intuition.  When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart, not the head.  Your head will always try to convince you to play it safe.  I just know that, if I didn’t take this leap, I’d regret it.”

On Overcoming Fears

“My number one fear has probably been the fear of what people will say when I tell them I’m unemployed.  Unfortunately, we’re so often judged in life by our ‘professional label.’  When you meet people at parties, their first question is often, ‘What do you do?’  If I say ‘I’m an unemployed consultant,’ that’s probably not a great strategy for making good connections.  So, I’ve had to think carefully about how I answer questions like that, finding ways to tell my story in a way that communicates who I really am: someone who is driven by my passion, so much so that I’ve made major life decisions based on my passion.   I also constantly have to remind myself that what others think doesn’t matter, what’s important is how I feel about myself, and I made the decision that I know was right for me.

On Connecting with My Soul

“I’m not a religious person, but I’m a very spiritual person. Several years ago, I read a book by Neale Donald Walsh called ‘Conversations with God,’ which changed my life.  One of the main messages in the book is that we are creators of our own lives.  At some level, our soul chooses everything that happens to us.  I believe deeply that, by following my passion, envisioning the job I want, praying for it, and working diligently to make it happen, I will find the perfect job at the perfect time.  What helps me to connect to my soul is daily meditation- stepping out of my head, breathing deeply, and just being.  Daily reaffirmations that I’ve made the right choice and that I will find the right job at the right time are also helpful. Being able to exercise regularly makes me feel calmer, happier, and relieves the anxiety of not having a job.”

On My Support System

“I have an amazing family and such supportive friends!  I rely on my family and friends to support me through this big change.  My husband, Nigel, has been my champion.  He was incredibly supportive of my decision to leave my job, even though I think he thought it was a little crazy. He knew how important it was for me to make this leap. Every day, he helps me by giving me career advice, suggesting possible employers, and brainstorming blog topics with me.  In addition, my coaching with Christina has been such an amazing source of support.  I had reached a point in my career where I was just letting my career happen.  Our coaching sessions motivated me to be more deliberate about driving my career in the direction I wanted to go. I think everyone should have a coach, and I suspect we’d see a lot more people taking bold leaps if that were the case.”

On Looking Ahead

“In the short term, my plan is to focus on three things:

  1. Keep looking for that perfect job by networking- meeting interesting and inspiring people and having great conversations with them.
  2. Build my brand. I have a new website, peepsfirst.com, which is a blog about putting people first.  I’m focusing on creating interesting content, publishing it, and promoting it through social media.  Not only do I love writing, but I love that this will help me build my brand as someone who is passionate about putting people first.
  3. Keep enjoying this gift of time- time to write, time to read, time to exercise, time to reconnect with the people who are important to me, time to visit my family, and time to just be. Once I start working again, things will be extremely busy, I’m sure, so I’m appreciating the time I have at the moment.

In the longer term, I’m still figuring that out.  I will have a wonderful job where I can focus on my passion for people, but I don’t yet know exactly what that will look like.  Stay tuned!”

(UPDATE: Since the publishing of this post, Jackie accepted an offer to return to IBM in late June 2015 and is now working in an Organizational Development role within IBM Marketing.)

On Inspiring Others to LEAP!

“First and foremost, follow your passion.  I believe wholeheartedly that, if you use passion as your beacon to guide your decisions, you will live a life of joy and inspiration.  Believe in yourself.   In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’  This quote ties to my belief about having the power to create anything we want in life.  If we don’t believe it, we can’t create it.  Don’t be afraid of taking a risk.  Even though making the leap might feel like a scary risk, ask yourself: might it not be an even scarier risk if you don’t leap?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain

Want to connect with Jackie? 

jackie.bassett@verizon.net

Twitter: twitter.com/peeps_first

Facebook: facebook.com/peepsfirst

www.peepsfirst.com