A story of self-discovery, Stevie Nicks, personal style, and so much more…

In February, I traveled back to California primarily to deliver to powerful talk to a high school’s student body. The school had a very special request for me about what they wanted me to talk about. Student and faculty representatives specially wanted me to share my ongoing journey into redefining success. I ruminated over what to talk about for weeks, often finding myself waking up in the middle of the night. What would I talk about, how would I say it all – and without saying, what would I wear?

While the opportunity to inspire teenagers with my story was exciting and enticing, neither the topic nor audience were typical. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. In the end, I realized that the subject is exactly my typical talk, and the audience is absolutely my typical crowd.

You see, I’m always drawing upon life experience as my ongoing journey into redefining success continues. It’s important to share that stuff, because my successful clients are also searching to redefine success for themselves. Successful people struggle, too. It might not be politically correct to say so, especially at a time when privilege is under scrutiny and redefinition. But, we all face the challenges of the human condition. Given my life experience to date, I know this to be true.

The hardships I faced earlier in life gave me strength so that my ongoing journey into redefining success could happen. Pushed by ambition, and by their driven parents, these teens needed to hear the message the school representatives asked me to deliver.

To provide perspective to a teenaged audience, I had to level with them. I talked about the hardships I have faced. Being loved by parents who didn’t know how to care for me. Rape. Bullying. Undiagnosed dyslexia. A nearly friendless childhood. All of the yucky stuff. I couldn’t show up wearing a dragon embroidered Gucci jacket without explaining the significance of such a triumphant transformational journey.

I had a small notebook in-hand to refer to, just in case I needed a reminder of any talking points. It never occurred to me to refer to it, not even once. I wanted my clothing to send a reminder to myself and to the audience of who I am today. But, I wanted my natural and introspective speaking style, and my body language to reflect the journey. The most important goal at the time was to ensure an authentic connection with everyone in the room.

The high school where I spoke is not so different from the one I attended. Both schools strive for very high achievement. Even though I graduated high school 32 years ago [yikes!], not so much seems to have changed. The scholastic and social pressures I felt then still exist for kids today. Today, because of the Internet and immediate access to information, teens want so much so fast. This is a key difference between then and now, and yet, desire for success, money, and achievement is hardly anything new. It’s more about the speed today.

So, this talk about my ongoing journey into redefining success was anything but fast. Within 40 minutes, I took people on a slow-motion hop, skip, and jump through my life. The story wove in the constant figures of my life. My parents, Stevie Nicks, and people who I knew as kids and now count as friends, made for a deeply personal story that connected the past to the present. I wanted the kids to consider the flow of life, that it moves forward, even when it feels super challenging.

If you can gift yourself the time to watch the entire video, I’d love to know your thoughts and reactions. Thanks for watching it. Please consider sharing it with those who you know that you think would benefit from watching. Sharing this story is one of the greatest privileges of my life. And the journey continues…