Identify your meaning and purpose. For everyone, this may look different but first, you need to identify your “why.” My “Why” are my children. I have to succeed in life because I want them to succeed in life. Then I had to find my purpose, my calling, and then help others, specifically single moms. By helping them navigate through life and help them persevere. What I am currently doing by walking in my purpose helps build resiliency.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Henderson.
Nicole Henderson is the CEO and Founder of Unstoppable Nicole, LLC, and is the Amazon Number One International Best-selling author of “Take It Back — Your Strength, Your Mindset, Your Finances.” She is a veteran of the United States Army, a Registered Labor and Delivery nurse for the U.S. Department of Defense assigned to the United States Air Force, a single mother raising 3 children, who uses her own real-life experiences to help women who have been victims of abusive and toxic relationships, gain mastery over their life. Through virtual and in-person workshops, Nicole teaches women how to push through the toughest setbacks, obstacles, and roadblocks they face day-to-day. She is a Certified Master Life Coach, Certified Master Spiritual Life Coach, Certified Master Business Coach, Certified Resilience Practitioner, and Women’s Wellness Mindset Specialist and offers a Resiliency Course for women as well as a training program to individuals who desire to become a Certified Life and/or Spiritual Life Coach.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I remember I got pregnant in college and I was paying for college myself. There was no money from my parents or a college fund set up for me when I got pregnant and in my junior year of college, despite how challenging my situation was, I knew I couldn’t drop out because of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to financially support my child.
I kept holding study groups with my classmates. I kept showing up to my clinicals with my big belly. I worked as a student nurse on the spinal cord unit at the VA Medical Center, up until the 8th month of my pregnancy, and then was transferred to the OR unit. The pay was good but not enough to support a child. I saved all the money I could. Once my son was born I only missed one week of class. During that week I was still holding study groups in my townhouse. I went back to class the next week with my one-week-old son in hand because I had to take my finals but I was still breastfeeding every 2 hours. I breastfed him in the middle of the final. Then my professor took him and burped him, put him to sleep, and laid him back in his car seat. He must’ve known a lot was riding on this because he never made a peep, he never made a sound, no one ever knew he was there. I spent the summer months that year with my son, not working and living off of the money that I had saved. However, when school started in the fall of my senior year, I resumed my routine. I would work at night, go to school and clinicals during the day. There were many overwhelming times. Despite being in a toxic relationship, I never stopped. I knew I had to earn my degree. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and was accepted into a fully paid ICU internship. After a year I cross-trained in labor & delivery and postpartum. I became the youngest charge nurse of the 24 bed postpartum/GYN unit. As for my personal life, I had two more children with different fathers.
As of today, I have left the toxic relationships and am now a single mother of 3 children. Although things did not work out with my children’s fathers, I always stay positive through it all. I’m always mindful of what my children saw and heard. I still always encouraged others around me and have been a help to others even when my days were hard. I realize, at that point in my journey, that’s when I exemplified perseverance. I was known to push through no matter what life threw at me — I faced it and I never gave up!
Now, I teach other single moms how to do the same. When I wrote the book,” Take It Back,” I thought about all the things that were taken from me and all of the power I gave away to men who treated me terribly. I began to ask myself, with all that women and mothers deal with, how can a woman truly be well? How can a single mom be well? How can she be independent until she gets in the right relationship or the right marriage that she desires to be in? How can she show her children how to be resilient? The answer to those questions is how Unstoppable Nicole came to be. I am determined to teach women what I know so they can be unstoppable. I know there are thousands of women in the place I used to be. They need guidance on what route to go. I seek to give them the skills and tools to persevere. I strive to give support and be their example, so they won’t allow the difficulties to hold them back. When connecting with me early or at any stage, I can help them get through obstacles and setbacks life throws at them, so they can get “unstuck.”! My motto is “It’s OK not to be OK, but it’s not OK to stay there.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
The most interesting story from my career is when I launched my book Take It Back- Your Strength- Your Mindset- Your Finances (July 2019). I remember doing a Facebook Live and the support that I had from so many family members, friends, old coworkers, current coworkers, people I used to be within the military. Having that amount of support was overwhelming. To see how many people throughout my life were excited for me, proud of me, and inspired by me — the little girl from the projects of NYC. The next morning my book was Amazon’s # 1 Best-Seller in multiple categories like Single Parenting, Parenting Morals & Responsibility, Family & Personal Growth, and Inspirational Personal Testimonies. Then, immediately a few weeks later, I was asked to be interviewed on national television, on NBC Palm Springs, “Tipping Point” in California! The feeling of people wanting to hear my story and to learn from me was so fulfilling. To top things off, when I read the reviews of my book, I saw how many lives I had touched and inspired and brought hope to. The lesson I learned from this experience was by never giving up, even when life hits you hard, there are people who need to see what not making excuses looks like, and you never know who is watching, but they need you to succeed so they can do the same. But you have to show up so they can know that the help they need exists.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company stands out because our team is transparent and non-judgemental while we serve. This makes it easy for us to work with a wide range of single moms to accomplish their goals in a stress-free environment. We are versatile in that we have worked with newly single moms, seasoned single moms, and working, stay-at-home, and CEO-level single moms. I have a client who allows me to share her story. She was left to be a single mom with a four-month-old and a five-year-old. Her husband just walked out one day and left her alone, to raise two young children. When this client came to me she was beyond overwhelmed and scared. She didn’t know what she was going to do about childcare, she didn’t know how she would be able to continue to work as an active duty shift worker( working 12-hour shifts.) She was stressed out, she said her hair was falling out, she was overweight, stress-eating and she just didn’t have the support or a plan. We immediately worked out an individual plan for her and her children. Today, she is more resilient, she is out of debt, her hair has grown back, she is at a comfortable weight, she eats clean and she and her children have their own place. She was able to get out of the military and go back to school and pursue her career as a registered nurse. She put in the work that I and my team planned out and now she is ready for her next level of goals. She told our team she was at the lowest point in her life when she came to us and she felt ashamed and a failure but we made it easy for her to get through it because we didn’t judge her situation or her previous choices. Also, we shared examples of our setbacks and that gave her hope that she would be able to come through this with our guidance.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, I am grateful for my mentor Chris Holder. The day I met him, he was speaking on financial literacy. He took down my email address and phone number. The week after that conference he contacted me and began to work out a plan to build my savings account. Within three months I had saved 10,000 dollars. At that time he told me I should write a book. I told him I didn’t want to write a book. I wanted to help people but I am the type of person that wants to be in the room and help people. Chris told me my story could save someone’s life, and I could reach so many more people if I put my story out there. He also added that my book could go so many places faster than I could and places I will never set foot in. He was absolutely right because the book became an international bestseller in places that I had never been to. He is still today my business mentor. I am grateful for his advice, and his sense of helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for both themselves and their family.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I would define resilience as the ability to withstand adversity by adapting well and bouncing back from life-changing situations and difficulties. Some characteristics and traits of resilient people are problem-solving skills, optimism, strong social connection, keeping calm in stressful situations, past successes, engaging to support others, faith, coping with stress, sense of humor, strong sense of purpose, not easily discouraged, and work to attain specific goals.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience the person that comes to mind is my Nana, my mother’s mother. My grandmother was born in 1913 and she had 10 children, six boys, and four girls. I have a lot of aunts and uncles cousins. My grandmother, standing at 4’10, wonderfully raised 10 children. Her sons stood from 5’10 to 6’5 but yet they all feared and respected her, even though she came up to some of their waists. My grandmother also kept our family together. She didn’t allow any mess. She always made everyone feel like they were family even after some relationships broke up, people remarried, everyone was welcome to our family function and still felt part of the family. Three of my uncles were drafted for the Vietnam war. I could not imagine how my grandmother held it all together; all three of my uncles did make it back, but two of them came back with PTSD, which was unknown and undiagnosed at that time. My grandmother loved and supported them through the hard times and still keep our family together with my one uncle PST was so bad that he would live on the streets because he felt camouflaged as a homeless person I remember seeing him Countless times when I was walking to another neighborhood where my friends live and I will tell him to go home. My friends were asking me if I knew him, and I’m like, yes that’s my uncle. I was not ashamed because I knew he had a home and we, his family, loved and cared about him even though I didn’t understand at that time the war did this to him and there was no help for those soldiers back then. Whenever I would tell him to go home he would, and my grandmother would wash his clothes, get him a haircut, and nicely shaven. He would look normal on the outside but sometimes forget he was home and start yelling and speaking as if he was back in the war. My grandmother would just redirect him and she never gave up on him. My grandmother faced something a mother/parent should never experience. She lived longer than 4 of her sons. I was present for 3 of the funerals. It pained me to see my grandmother crying, which I never had before. She grieved, but she coped and still kept a sound mind through those horrific and sad times. She told me it was because of her faith in God that she could go on with life. Her strength and resilience to keep going with an abundance of love still to give even though life wasn’t fair. Her strength and resilience to overcome adversity and loss helped me to know that having resiliency skills is key to getting through any tough times I would face in this life.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Society told me as I was growing up that I would never aspire to do anything else but to live in the projects my whole life, be on welfare, have babies, and the cycle will repeat itself for generations! I particularly remember standing in a long line that wrapped around my block. They were handing out blocks of cheese. I overheard some of the people handing out the cheese saying those things about how this would be the rest of our lives living in the projects waiting for our cheese. They said we would forever live off of government assistance and not be anything more than that. Not only did I, but I and all my siblings are successful. Three of the four of us graduated from college, me with my bachelor’s, my brother with his master’s, and my sister with her Ph.D. My other brother is a supervisor of a medical transportation company. I bought my first home at 25 years old on my own, with no co-signer, and in a great neighborhood. I am a registered nurse, CEO, # 1 best selling author and I chose to turn back and help others instead of degrading them. Once I was in a position to help I chose to use my position to encourage others instead of discouraging others. I chose to be a positive change.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
One of the biggest setbacks in my life was right before I gave birth to my daughter. I was in a toxic relationship that I was trying to save and keep afloat and financially loaned too much. I take full responsibility but this took my household and my children to unnecessary hardship that I caused. Before this relationship, I had two children and I and my two sons would go on a vacation for eight days every year as soon as they finished school. This was our time together somewhere fun. As a single mother with all the financial responsibilities and work commitment with busy lives, it’s always renewing and refreshing to spend alone time with your children and our stress-free fun environment. This was crucial for their well-being and our bonding. When I love I love hard and as a woman, I’m a nurturer by nature I would never like to see anyone without especially if I had enough to help but with that, you can help too much you can help to the point where I was financially in a bind maxing out credit cards my credit score dropped bills were late but I still helped and kept loaning more. I wasn’t in a place financially where you could take my son’s on a yearly vacation for three years in a row that hurt me so bad each year when the time came around and no matter how hard I tried to save up enough money for us to go something always came up. The day that my daughter was born, I held her hand and looked into her eyes, and my strength was renewed. She reminded me of how powerful, focused, and impactful I’m supposed to be. I knew that whatever I accepted, she would accept, whatever choices and decisions and the way I would be treated she would be watching, she would be learning and coming to think that was the standard of how she is supposed to be treated. She would think that was the norm. That is when I begin to make better decisions and take my life back. I learned not to lend money. I, unfortunately, had to leave the toxic relationship. I was able to get out of that debt. I made smart investments. I started to be able to pay my bills on time. I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck. I was able to take my sons on that vacation. I know my daughter mimic’s everything that I do and I’m now proud that she is seeing the best of me. She is growing up in a healthy environment. She is seeing her mom as an entrepreneur, CEO and she tells people her mommy is Unstoppable Nicole and that I help other moms and their children! She’s in-ear shy of mostly all my zoom calls adding her opinion and praying for others. Before the Covid pandemic, she was able to get on stage with me while I was given an award and that is the best comeback ever. Having all three of my children seeing the impact I’m making in the community so they can do the same.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I was born and raised in New York City, Spanish Harlem to be exact. When most people here I am from Manhattan, New York, they automatically think of “The City that never sleeps,” or New York, New York “The city so nice, they named it twice. ” They think of Times Square, Broadway shows, Wall Street, Skyscrapers, and luxury high-rise buildings. Most people have no idea that New York has projects. Growing up in a rough neighborhood was very challenging but it gave me StreetSmarts it increased my commonsense. Although I lived in a bad neighborhood and lived in poverty my mom was able to put me in a Catholic school because of the low income. I received a good education and was able to learn in a safe environment unlike some of the public schools that were in my neighborhood. Also, my mom put me in a program called the fresh air fund when I was five years old. It’s a program where inner-city youth go and live with family in the suburbs for two weeks in the summer. I know a lot of people cringe when they hear that I was only five years old, but that is how bad and unsafe my environment was. Being in an environment where I lived with a family in a house bigger than I’ve ever seen before and within walking distance to the beach was incredible. They belong to a yacht club therefore I belong to the yacht club. They taught me how to swim, play the piano, I could go outside and walk the dog and play in the front yard without fear of being harmed. Being in that environment showed me there was better and I didn’t have to stay where I was. I adapted to the change of environment so easily. I adapted to the family whom I love and they loved me as well. The next summer I stayed for a month and then the rest of the summers I would stay for two months. We didn’t even use the program anymore, they just would come to the city and get me because I was their family.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
The first step is to build optimism. A few years ago management came and told our staff that they would be closing our unit and we would no longer have that job. For some this was very devastating, some looked for different jobs, others left and went elsewhere but I looked at the glass half full. I still came to work grateful that I had a job I knew it wouldn’t be a short turnaround time should the unit closed therefore I came to work and gave the best patient care as I had before I stayed courteous to my coworkers. I kept telling my coworkers that I didn’t think we were going to close that our unit was much needed in the community and tying would reveal that I visualize us still being there and being a service to our community I kept my coworkers calm and reassuring them that no matter what happened we would end up in a better position should this one end. I always spoke positivity over the situation while being grateful that we were in the loop of the changes that could possibly occur. I was mindful and aware of the need to focus on the positive. I was successful by being optimistic and seeing the bright side of things. I was able to recognize the obstacles and difficulties ahead but I remembered a situation that happened in the past as they had tried to close the unit before. I remembered what I did back then, how I didn’t worry, how I stayed grateful, I focused on the positive and things worked out before. I knew they would work out again. They didn’t close the unit and we still have our jobs. Having optimism allowed me to persevere through this difficult time of uncertainty and helped me build resiliency.
The second step is to build social support. When I had my son in my junior year of college I knew I could not finish and graduate without support. My nursing class rallied together around me. Literally, my son was a community baby. Whenever I have clinical which last 12 hours, my son would be with one of my classmates then when I had an actual class he would be with his godmother which was also one of my nursing classmates. We did this rotation for a whole year. When I started my first nursing job my coworkers rallied around me and did the same even when I had another child and was a single mother again. They would pick up my sons from school when I couldn’t because I was still on shift at work they would take my son to their basketball games and football games and cheer them on when I couldn’t because I was on shift they would keep them overnight whenever I had to work the night shift. I am forever grateful for the support system that I’ve had through these years and that I still have even now as a single mom with three children. It’s secondhand nature for me to give social support any time I can. I know how important social support is. I expect nothing in return, I’m just grateful I can be of support for others. Having social support helps build resiliency.
The third step is to identify your meaning and purpose. For everyone, this may look different but first, you need to identify your “why.” My “Why” are my children. I have to succeed in life because I want them to succeed in life. Then I had to find my purpose, my calling, and then help others, specifically single moms. By helping them navigate through life and help them persevere. What I am currently doing by walking in my purpose helps build resiliency.
The fourth step is learning to cope with stress. I was very disappointed when my relationships didn’t work out and that was very stressful but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t give up, so I had to learn to deal with the stress so why ask for help when I needed it I rested when I could. I accepted the situation I focused on the things I could change. I stayed grateful for the things that were going well. I changed my eating habits and ate cleaner. I started an exercise regiment. I took responsibility for my choices and made the necessary changes and this helped build my resiliency.
The fifth step is having Faith. When things are hard and difficult and your life knocks me down. My faith in God always helps me deal with a difficult situation. I make it a priority to forgive others. I pray for myself and others. I meditate and read The Word and study to see If I’m in alignment with what God has told me to do. I journal the positive aspects of my life. I write down what I’m grateful for even though I’m going through this hardship or trial. Having faith restores my hope and this helps build my resiliency.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I would inspire would focus on real-life learning for all children in school. It would be to teach them how to balance a bank account, teach them about credit, teach them skills early online that they will be able to use right out of high school such as coding, video technology, first aid, cooking full healthy meals, learning serving size, age-appropriate resiliency classes and being skilled by the end of the eighth grade in these. An educated child, a healthy child, a skilled child, a resilient child will bring greater good for our future generations.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would be honored to have a private lunch with Mrs. Michelle Obama and Mr. Tyler Perry. Mrs. Obama exemplifies resiliency and she empowers others every time she speaks. She takes actionable steps to help communities. She would definitely be a great resource to guide me into helping single moms and their children with resiliency programs which would, in turn, reduce stress, lessen crime, lessen bullying, inspire and impact change for the betterment of the household and communities.
I would also be honored to have lunch with Mr.Tyler Perry because he understands women at a whole different level. His plays, TV shows, and movies speak to the heart of what women go through — the heartache, struggles, and successes. His advice as Madea is hilarious but true. The lessons his characters’ learn are life-saving and real. I can see myself in a lot of characters in everything he has produced. He empowers people with resources so they can empower others. I know working and being mentored by these two leaders would allow me to have a greater impact on my community and worldwide.
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