Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in suburban New Jersey. On the one hand, it was a typical upper-middle-class white childhood. The atypical pieces that stand out are:
1. My parents divorced (my father left my mother for another woman) when I was six years old. Divorce was a rarity at the time. At that same time, I also had trouble understanding what teachers were talking about in class. The combination made me feel like I was a freak. I used to say, “I’m a badly dubbed movie.”
This brought forth my compassion and care for the underserved, the unnoticed, the unpopular, and the unwanted – both humans and animals. It taught me that people matter, people want to be seen and want to be heard.
AND many decades later, I learned that I have had hearing loss and tinnitus my whole life, which ultimately impacted my comprehension of my teachers’ lessons. On the positive side, my lip-reading skills and ability to observe body language have been gifts; my hearing may be awful, but my listening is a superpower.
2. To escape the Nazis, my father fled Europe as a stowaway on a boat to Cuba and then emigrated to the US. The Nazis had murdered my paternal family members, and I grew up learning about death and dying.
The experience of learning to talk about death and dying was profound as it is usually a taboo subject. When I was losing friends to the AIDS crisis, other illnesses, and accidents, I could be there for them and their loved ones openly and compassionately. My ease of listening, asking questions, and allowing space for whatever someone needs at the moment. I also had experiences in the post-death process, such as funeral arrangements and communications with others, personally or professionally.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Understanding my money story and how it hampered my decision-making process. My fear of being old and unable to care for myself kept me focused on paying bills and saving money rather than strive for opportunities to elevate and enrich my life.
And, of course, to learn about my hearing loss/tinnitus far earlier.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
- You need to narrowly define your target audience.
- You need to create a linear process for your practice.
- You need to categorize people.
- If you don’t have assets under management, you won’t be taken seriously.
- You need to charge more, or you won’t be taken seriously.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I am a survivor of physical and sexual assault. The episodes forced me to face lifelong fears and insecurities. I had a great therapist who appreciated that my instinct of danger was intricately woven throughout my entire body (physical, mental, emotional) and taught me to create an immediate second instinct to validate if my fear was justified or not. I describe it as the visualization of a breath. Allowing air and light into my dungeon gave me the impetus to push myself to experience life in ways that have helped me show up as a human being.
It taught me what I call “revisit, rethink, reframe.” When revisited, there are experiences in our lives that can actually be rethought of like the seeds of transformational growth.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Coming to the conversation curious creates learning opportunities and offers others the validation/security/trust that they matter, they are seen, and they are heard by me.
What is your morning routine?
During the week, my alarm goes off at 5:17 am. I head to the living room for a timed 30-minute book read, do my daily Elevate brain app, and then watch the morning unfold with my dog sleeping beside me. Then feed her and walk her.
Three mornings/week, I do a 7 am Zumba class. The other two mornings, I either jump on the computer to catch up or go back to my chair to read the paper, do sudoku or crossword puzzle, write, and call friends back East.
Saturday mornings, I am up at 5:45 am to attend to my dog before my partner and I head to our volunteer service at a local food bank.
Sunday mornings, I sleep-in, which I always hope will be something like 8 am…it is always earlier!
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Prioritizing my desire to be of service. Expressing gratitude and vulnerability with earnestness and authenticity. Being intentional.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
This is still a work in process and discovery! Classical music in the background drowns out some of the noises that distract me, and each piece reminds me that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Satisfaction occurs when all three are actualized.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The list is long! Here are 2:
Enneagrams and Relationships. Understanding your personality and those around you, appreciating how our personalities align or conflict with each other has been valuable both personally and professionally. As I say, I learned other languages to hear and see someone as they want to be seen and heard.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Michael Brown’s murder was a turning point in my life as his death led me to examine my white privilege. Bryan’s book turned that pivotal moment into the first step of my journey down the road of truth and reconciliation that has become a fundamental piece of my life’s work.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Another long list!! Here are a few:
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” – E.B.White
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser
“The genius of the ‘and’ versus the tyranny of the ‘or.’” – Jim Collins
“What we know matters; who we are matters more.” – Brene Brown
“Let God walk through the door first.” – Rick Bolanos
“Come to the conversation curious.” – Emily Scott