If you have an inspirational story that you would like to share with the rest of the world, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Yitzi Weiner’s interview with Jillian Michaels, health and wellness entrepreneur and creator of the Jillian Michaels App
- What is your “backstory”?
My background is actually in fitness. Shocking I know. I got my start as a trainer when I was just 17 and training for my blackbelt. People would approach me in the gym regularly and ask me if I was training other people and one day I just figured – why not. Maybe I could make some money doing this. I got my certification and jumped right in. By the time I was 29 I had opened a sports medicine facility and by 30 I was on The Biggest Loser. The rest is “history” as they say. I did, however, have a 3 year stint where I worked at an entertainment agency from 24-26. I have never been so miserable. I got into the field because I started to get guilted by friends that I should get a “real job”. So I started in the mail room. Worked my way up to becoming a motion picture packaging agent. Then got fired for pretty much hating my boss. Bottom line, I should have stuck with my passion and followed my heart. Lesson one – the more security in life you seek the less you will have. The more you pursue your passion with patience, fortitude, and the ego strength to take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them the more affluence and abundance you will reap.
- Which person or which company do you most admire and why?
I of course admire great humanitarians, but professionally speaking I have always admired Suze Orman and Maria Shriver (despite the fact that both are actually humanitarians). They are truly great woman who care about people. They never let greed compromise their integrity. I love their originality, authenticity, and talent. They are true experts and professionals (which is a dying breed now days).
- How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At my company we call that the “quan”. Does the project have the following three qualities:
- Are we passionate about it?
- Can it make the world a better place or does it offer a better for you solution?
- Can it be profitable?
The project or product has to meet all three of the above criterion in order to make it onto our plates. So yes, I do believe that myself and my company make it our mission to bring people cost effective solutions related to health no matter what arena. It could be a better for you water, coffee, gym, supermarket, meal plans, fitness programs, etc.
- What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Trust your gut. The biggest mistakes I have EVER made professionally were because I didn’t trust my gut. I would second guess myself because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers or maybe I thought that the other person who was running a project knew better than me because they were supposedly an “expert” in their area of the business. This has got me into trouble across the board, whether it was crappy legal advice, crappy creative for tv shows, crappy marketing strategies for products we took on… the bottom line is that in each instance I had the gut feeling the direction was wrong, but didn’t push hard enough for the aforementioned reasons and paid for it tenfold – literally and figuratively.
- Be a realist. In the beginning of my career I was obsessed with being a positive thinker. HUGE mistake. This truly leaves you unprepared for pretty much everything. And the ability to anticipate and prepare is critical. This quote really says it all: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
- Only pursue your passion. Early on in my career I got caught up living the life I thought I should instead of the life I really wanted and as I mentioned above, it was the worst three years of my life. I took a job that I thought was the responsible thing and never made less money and never felt less fulfilled. You have your passions for a reason and you can and should make a living doing what you love to do. Cesar Milan is a guy who really loves dogs. Coco Chanel was an orphaned seamstress who really liked fashion. Martha Stewart ran a catering company out of her basement. And I am just a kid who did lunges to feel more empowered. It doesn’t matter what your passion, you can make a great living out of it and in truth you should. I believe each of us has those passions for a reason and it’s to share it with the world. If you want one professional responsible thing to do that would be it.
- Be fluid. So often we get stuck in our ways. We throw good money after bad. We push an angle that is no longer viable. We lose ground, money, and time. For me this lesson came with social media. I came from the world of traditional media – tv, print, radio etc. The concept of Facebook and twitter was so foreign to me and I just couldn’t see the light until it was almost too late. I really hurt my business by not appreciating it’s value and while I have been on the page (literally and figuratively) for awhile I definitely got hurt by not adopting it sooner.
- Take risks – especially when you are young. If you have a massive failure in your twenties it isn’t as hard as in your forties. Generally in your forties you are supporting aging parents, young kids, possibly a team of employees etc. So take big risks while you are young. The stakes are lower and the rewards are higher. And ultimately, in order to know any form of success- be it personal or professional, your ability to tolerate risk is critical.
Nia is a kind and passionate soul. I came across her when she was helping a homeless family that had come to see me for help. Nia is a mother of 5 children, has 2 foster kids, works 2 jobs and takes care of an ailing husband. She still has time to help homeless families with anything they need. No matter how little she has if she sees a homeless person, Nia makes sure to feed them and give them blankets or clothes or whatever they need. When I asked for a picture she refused to give one to me because according to her “Honey I ain’t do stuff to show people my picture, I do it because I am human!”
We love you, Nia!!!
I am passionate about promoting compassion in our society and I am honored to share my story about it.
Going through medical school and neurology residency, lack of empathy and compassion towards patients was a theme that came up again and again. Patients were not given more than 20 seconds to voice their concerns and needs, treated with impatience by burned out, emotionally depleted physicians. I witnessed a crisis of compassion fatigue among docs trying to make it through the day. When I had my first child in residency, with maternal instincts awoken within me, it became even harder to witness such depersonalized patient care. Thus I made a commitment to enter only the kind of work where weaving compassion into my approach to patients would be possible. Upon completion of clinical neurophysiology fellowship, I joined one of the local private neurology groups but very quickly it became crystal clear that the productivity based business model of that practice and my values as a physician were incongruent. Patients were double booked and if I took longer than allotted time, there was a knock on the door by an office manager, reminding me to wrap up. Such a hurried approach with a disincentive for giving top quality personable care made it easy to quickly part ways with that practice. I found a different group of neurologists where there was twice as much time I could spend with my patients. Yet after working there, I began to see that many patients that returned for a follow-up still wanted to spend more time with me to get all their questions answered, to feel heard, understood, and deeply cared for. So I have been working extra hours unpaid to be able to spend more time with them, completing reports later and finishing notes on the weekends. It is such a privilege to be able to walk alongside my patients with their challenging and complex neurological problems and use my scientific knowledge and my genuine compassion to help them get better and have a higher quality of life. I use western and eastern methods to help my patients feel better and proud to be referred to by my patients as “one of the most compassionate doctors”. I decided to broaden my outreach and start offering my neurological care including visits and EMG/NCS testing in the comfort of patient’s homes. I am honored to be able to have more time to get to know my patients, to become their true loyal friend who has a much deeper understanding of their health needs and long term goals of care.
I also became concerned about the notion that empathy has dropped by more than 40% since 1980s . To address this compassion decline, I founded and am currently a president of a 501(C)3 non-profit organization, Humans Connect Foundation, devoted to development of enriching programs for children and adults that can contribute to increase in empathy and compassion. One such ongoing program is Free Yoga every Sunday at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional park where children and adults participate in yoga and mindfulness exercises.
As a busy mom of 2 spirited young girls, I read more than 50 books on parenting to ensure I would get this whole parenting thing. I then became passionate about serving other parents who feel overwhelmed with plethora of advise. To help parents navigate this unpredictably tumultuous journey, I became a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and created a Facebook page Neurologist’s Guide To Parenting and from my unique vantage point share practical content on ways to cultivate empathy and compassion in children.
I wear many hats but that helps me stay balanced. As an involved parent and educator and a non-profit president during the second part of the day, I am a more devoted and compassionate physician during the first part of the day. I do not have the time or resources to fly overseas to help others internationally but I do what I can on a local level. I hope that my story can inspire others to give back using their unique gifts and talents.
501(C)3 website: www.humansconnect.org
LAURA LAFOIA AVA-TESIMALE
Laura Lafoia Ava-Tesimale is a Pacific American entrepreneur, humanitarian, community organizer, global peace activist, and motivational speaker. She was born in the village of Pavaiai, island of Tutuila American Samoa, raised in Hawaii and resides in California, USA. She is a steward of Mother Earth, dedicated to indigenous causes, empowering women-youth, strengthening families & communities. Most importantly, Laura is a devoted wife of 33-years to Mike Foimai Tesimale, and mother to Brittany, Nicole, her foster children, and countless orphans & vulnerable kids around the world.
Through the collaborative efforts of her One Global Family Foundation and its community partners such as Helping Hand, Manav Sadhna, UN Women, Be The Cause, UCO-DIC, SARAH, VICC, PICP, HIL, ORC… thousands of underprivileged children/families, refugees, homeless, and disabled poor are served/uplifted locally & globally.
Troy is a veteran who served our country in Iraq . When he returned he found out that his fiancé , Rachel had been diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumor. He was in a wheelchair and his fiancé in the hospital. They had a 9 month old baby that Troy took care of while coming to the hospital everyday. When the doctors finally told him that Rachel wasn’t going to make it, he brought her home and took care of her and the baby. Rachel passed away on June 22nd 2006 in her sleep with Troy and baby Charles next to her. Since then, Troy has been raising his son and created a support group for single veteran dads
Within an hour of reading a Facebook post about volunteering in Greece, I’d contacted an NGO, applied to volunteer, and was looking for flights. I didn’t yet know it but I’d found what I was looking for, and it would change my life forever.
In a six month period in 2015 I sold my house, relocated, and left my job. I’d worked in non-profit for years raising funds to help people lift themselves out of crisis, rarely if ever coming face to face with the recipients
Temporarily without a job, I searched for something meaningful to fill my time. I had no idea what exactly I was seeking but one thing I knew was that I wanted to help directly and hands-on.
The refugee crisis was just starting to receive international attention. Reading the horrors of torture, kidnapping, and war, from which families in the Middle East were fleeing, I felt compelled to help. I had no job but I had frequent flyer miles to bring me to the same shores of the EU where 2 million refugees since 2015 seek safety. I flew coach; they’d risked their lives to get there.*
As uncomfortable as I am with the term ‘refugee,’ it’s a useful shorthand for referring to the people I’ve encountered: people who’d lost everything, embarking on the perilous journey to Greece because the lives and homes they’d left behind were far more dangerous.
I’ve witnessed trauma, grief, suicide, self-harming, and many other types of suffering by those seeking refuge. One might hope the shores of the EU would be welcoming; instead, refugees are met with cold indifference and inefficient European bureaucracy.
I’ve been moved by the acts of selflessness by refugees themselves, and other volunteers who make helping them their lives’ cause. I will never be the same.
Jackie Menter is a refugee rights advocate and volunteer. In the past year, she’s made three trips to Greece to provide direct humanitarian aid to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. To support her efforts, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/WeWereStrangersToo. For more information email email@example.com.
SADEKA AL AMIN
I am so happy that I finally have a chance to share my story. I was born in very well to do family in Egypt and had a wonderful childhood. When I was 18, I was engaged to a relative who decided that because we were engaged he could rape me . It was one of the most horrific moments of my life. After raping me, as I sat there
on the floor crying, he got up, and said “If you say anything, I will destroy you”. I was fearful and didn’t know what to do, even though it was his fault the shame would be only for me. I fell into severe depression and stopped eating and couldn’t sleep. Every time I saw him he had an evil smirk on his face and I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with him. So I finally confided in my aunt who was like a best friend to me, she told me I had two options to either commit suicide or run away. Instead I decided to stay and face what ever comes my way. So one day I told my parents what happened and said I couldn’t marry a rapist. They were shocked and sad, and went silent. After about a week my father came to me and told me that he would break off my engagement! This was something that was unheard of in my family. The relatives boycotted our family but my father stood his ground.
Today I am happily married with 4 children and live in Australia. I believe today that running away from things never make them go away. I was willing to face the consequences and I am so happy I did.