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A Golden Seat For A Treasured Row

An Interview With Front-Row Leadership Expert, Author, and 2018 Speaking Hall of Famer, Marilyn Sherman, and the Power Of Claiming Your Up-Front Seat For Success In Business and In Life!

(Photograph By Chazarey; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph By Chazarey; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

In the world of business. . .in the world of success, there is always that first step. That first footprint of deciding that we want something greater than our current status. There is a prevalent notion that comfort is dangerous to progress. Some are often stuck in a rut. Immobile, and unable to move into that first step-that initial push.

Then, you have those who did make the first step. They didn’t just leave one footprint, but many. Hooray! They made it into the audience. Yet, they are still. . .wait for it. . .stuck! Wait a minute. . .

*scratches head____ponders for a moment____walks around_____ponders a little more_____foot is still tapping____and you get the picture.*

We still don’t have an answer yet, do we? What must be that unsolved mystery? What is the problem? Afterall, we did make the first step. Not only did we make that first step, but we walked right into the lecture hall, in order to be seen and heard. Notebook comes out. Pen is in hand. And, after all of that, we still did not get the attention and validation, that we originally sought for.

Wait a minute. . .*ponders again____taps foot_____walks around for a time______Poof!*

The answer has finally arrived. Coming into the lecture hall doesn’t always mean that we are serious about our work getting noticed. What it does mean is that we definitely came as “students.” Yes? Those who take notes from the the bold and the brave. Those who listen intently to make sure they are jotting down the key points. And, thinking to themselves, that if they follow these guidelines (especially, when hearing them from the Big Leagues), soon and sure enough, they will be jumping onto a route of success.

That would be very swell and grand. The problem is that after all of that, no one SEES YOU. Yes, that is a huge problem, is it not? Because if no one sees you, it means that you are not getting the recognition, the networking gigs, and meeting the right people, who can get you noticed. Do you remember the time in grade school when many of the favored and smart kids sat in the front of the class. The “cool” kids, who sat in the back, often made fun of them. Yet, there was one thing that the smart kids figured out very quickly. Yes, they sat in the front of the class, to pay attention, taking notes, and understand the material. If they had questions, they were the first to get noticed. Keyword: noticed Let’s say they were just a few points away from getting a A-, A, or A+. Often times, what made that possible is their willingness to be noticed. Getting the teacher to consistently observe them and their efforts. A life lesson well learned, but so often forgotten. And showing us that way of getting our front seat is none other than a Shimmering Lady, author of Why Settle For the Balcony? How To Get A Front Row Seat In Life, who is making sure to get the front row glitter. . .

Marilyn Sherman

(Photograph Provided By Marilyn Sherman; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

The power of oratory is as old as the beginning of time.  To take sound, and project it into the Universe, to enrichen the masses, is a skill only gifted to the few.  How did you discover your gift for public speaking?

Quite early, actually. I am the youngest of 8 kids. So, coming from a large family, I had to learn to speak up. Then, when I was in high school, I was voted into a pilot peer-counseling program that a health education firm started to help young people deal with the pressures of expectations, drug and alcohol temptation, suicidal thoughts, etc. The training I received to become one of the first “Natural Helpers™” was exceptional and I loved it. The program became a big success and I was asked to speak about my experience from a student’s perspective, at a Heath Education Conference in Washington state. I had so much passion for the subject that speaking about it was natural. The feedback on my presentation was really positive, so just as actors catch the ‘acting bug’, I caught the ‘speaking bug’! I knew then, at age 17, that this was the beginning of my speaking career.

“I use words to paint a picture, to tell a story, or give an example, to remind people the power they have within themselves.”

There is an old saying that “words kill.” Then again, they also have the power to create.  How have you crafted your words in a style that breathes life into the ambitions and projects of business leaders?

I use words to paint a picture, to tell a story, or give an example, to remind people the power they have within themselves. I know words can trigger bad and good. I am aware that when I speak, my intention is to move my audience in a positive direction for their leadership, their relationships, their life. For example, I don’t want to get up and tell stories about me, that makes me the hero of the story. That’s boring and audiences walk away with a temporary high at best-if they’ve connected with me at all. Instead, I strive to tell stories that bring out the hero in the individuals in the audience; asking questions of their past, suggesting they remember a time when they showed strength and perseverance. So they leave my keynote or workshop with a long-lasting sense of strength and empowerment. 

(Photograph By Matt Bauer; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

“Once you realize that fear is not only natural, but can be overcome with action, people can make great strides as business leaders and entrepreneurs.”

What have been your toughest challenges, and frustrations, in pushing people to move past mediocrity? 

The challenge starts with the mindset. When people are open to hearing ways of improvement, that’s when change happens. When people reach a point in life where they think they know it all and they don’t see change possible, that’s when it can be frustrating. I hear people using the excuse of bad behavior by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” STOP! That may be what you were like up until today, but from this day forward, you can change. Even if you take it five minutes at a time, you can change for the better. I’ve seen it too many times not to bring that hope to anyone willing to learn how to improve. 

From your perspective, what are the challenges faced by up-and-coming business leaders and entrepreneurs? 

By far, people get in their own way. The number one obstacle that people face is fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of asking for the sale, fear of being seen as pushy, even fear of success.  Once you realize that fear is not only natural, but can be overcome by action, people can make great strides as business leaders and entrepreneurs. Another big fear is not measuring up to others. People allow the comparison to others play with their minds, and they stop striving for their goals; thinking they’ll never measure up to what they see on Instagram or Facebook.  Seriously. If people only knew how much is photo-shopped or planted, they wouldn’t take that fear so seriously. I like to say, “Don’t compare your reality with someone else’s Instagram filter.” Focus on how amazing you are, what progress, you’ve made, what you had to endure to make it this far, and let that fuel you to keep on grinding to make your dreams come true. 

(Photograph Provided By Marilyn Sherman; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

In one of your lectures, you talk about your humor file, and the beauty of laughter.  How has the use of laughter (and having a sense of humor) been lacking in the business world? Whether it relates to contracts, business plans, construction of business meetings, and so forth. 

I’m glad you brought this up. We take ourselves way too seriously! We live in a time that feels potentially so heavy and dark that we cannot wait for the bright light to come and rescue us. To prevent us from allowing the weight of negativity to affect us, I suggests creating a humor file. This is a file or a place, where you can easily access all the things that make you laugh!  Most people can remember hysterical laughter-that milk came out of their nose-but, they can’t recall what it was that made them laugh. From now on, keep track of things that make you laugh hysterically, that make you slap your leg, that make you snicker. When you write down these things (whether you see them, or hear them), or even an incident that happened that made you laugh, you can access them anytime you need to take a smile break from a hectic day. Laughter is the great stress equalizer! When you laugh, you relax. You release endorphins in your brain, and you feel better about your circumstances. It’s not a band-aid that fixes everything, but when you stop and take a laugh break, you have more clarity to handle your challenges better. Plus, when you recall the stories, jokes, situations, or photos in your humor file, you get to relive the humor, which may make you laugh all over again or at the very minimum, it will put a smile on your face. Try it the next time you are stressed or feeling overwhelmed, review your humor file and enjoy! A bonus is, when you are joyful and relaxed and share a funny story with someone else. You get to make someone’s day with laughter too!  

Sitting at the front row has its perks and benefits.  “The closer you think you are, the less you actually see.” How would you grapple with this famous quote, while also getting people up to the front row? 

First off, I’ve never heard this quote, so I’ve not grappled with it. My Front-Row philosophy is about living the life you want and feeling worthy of living it in the front-row, however you define it. Your front-row is probably very different than my front-row. My passion and obsession is to encourage people to define what their front-row is, and to have the courage to go for it. They are worthy of living their life how they want, and when you get to say, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this!’ that’s a front-row moment. I want more people to have front-row moments that add up to a front-row life. Don’t forget, once you get there, you now have another goal or aspiration. So, then you set your sights on what’s next. My dad used to say; “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe, you rot.” That means, don’t get too comfortable with where you are and settle, because you may become complacent. What used to be a front-row seat is now in general admission! Most importantly, you and only you get to decide when your front-row is! That means, only you get to decide when it’s time to move to another version of what your front-row is. Never let fear or lack of self-worth keep you struggling in the balcony of your life or general admission, when you deserve to live your life in the front-row. 

(Photograph By Matt Bauer; Edits Lauren K. Clark)

You have gone around to guide people on getting, and sustaining, their front row seat.  From a metaphorical perspective, what is your personal, front row seat? What is its color? Its design? How is it set-up?  What was your journey in not only getting to the front row, but tackling center-stage?

You’ve heard that people teach what they need to know, right? Well, I’ve lived in the balcony and I’ve allowed fear and self-doubt keep me down. If I’ve learned to overcome self-doubt to accomplish my life long dream of becoming a hall of fame motivational speaker, then my audiences and readers can too!  My front-row seat is being on stage in front of an audience who loves to learn, laugh, and is willing to hear a message of hope and inspiration. Of course, now I want to touch more lives so my goal is to be on bigger stages, bigger audiences, streaming online, so my message goes viral. In addition to manifesting my career as a speaker, I manifested my relationship. I’m not alone in having made bad relationship decisions in my past. I decided to create my ideal mate by writing out a list of all the traits that would be my front-row relationship. After detailing 356 traits, (I was VERY specific) I narrowed the list to the top 10 traits that were musts for my future man. On that list, he had to speak fluent French!  Why not, I thought, it’s my list!  Well, lo and behold, I met a man at an event who was 9 out of the 10 things on my top ten list!  And, he happens to be a French Baron who grew up in France and moved to San Diego where he met me. We will be celebrating 14 years of marriage this November 19! The journey to the front-row has been amazing filled with challenges, joys, and setbacks. But, I persevere. I teach others to do, as well.  When you get to the front-row, there really is nothing better!  Other than, helping others to their front-row. Now, THAT’s rewarding!

(Photograph Provided By Marilyn Sherman; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

After speaking to a crowd in their venture to get a front row, how do you “take a seat,” and relax from the intensities of the day? 

One of my FAVORITE things to do is sign books after a keynote presentation. This is the time where people come up to me, tell me a quick story, tell me something that I said in my speech that moved them, and that’s amazing. Or they share tears or laughter with me, or even give me a hug and ask for a selfie for social media. This is the validation, that what I’m doing is making a positive difference in the world. Then, usually my Frenchie takes me to dinner and we relax with a nice meal and of course a nice bottle of wine!  

With keys in hand, you unlock your door, enter inside your home, you kick your heels off, and relax on the couch.  How would you continue this narrative of relaxation and restoration after work? 

It can be pretty intense work in terms of the build up of an event, the actual event, and then the travel surrounding the event. I put my heart into each and every event, so when I get home…I do like to just relax on the couch and catch up on time with my husband and sometimes turn on TV and chill. I do this without guilt too, as I need to wind down after an event, and before I gear up for the next one!

(Photograph Provided By Marilyn Sherman; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Since laughter is your anecdote while on your tour, or speaking, what are your favorite things to laugh about? 

I love a great pun, a great joke, or a great story that takes me in a direction I hadn’t thought about. I also love to make other people laugh, and so riffing with other fun and funny people is one of the greatest things!  The most fun comes from just letting loose with people laughing at the craziness of the world. When I’m traveling and not with a group of people, I’ll search for bloopers online, or funny videos. They always crack me up, too!

What fruits do you think describes your personality and style, while you are on the job? Name 3 and describe. 

I’m thinking of a pineapple because I have a pretty hard, outer shell. I’ve had to because there’s a lot of rejection in my business. But, I’m super sweet on the inside! Plus, the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality. I’m all about understanding the customer experience and being hospitable to others. And, because I’m so in tune with hospitality and treating customers right, I’m sensitive to people who work in hospitality that just don’t get it. It boggles my mind how front-line people can ruin a brand by not understanding the principles of basic hospitality. Finally, I love Hawaii, and I have such great memories of my visits to Hawaii, that I smile when I think of this fruit that comes from Hawaii!  After these descriptions, I can’t think of any other fruit!!!

Outside of laughter, how have you used your inspirational leadership to address the stress and burn-out epidemic among business leaders?

In addition to laughter, there is always hope. I like to illustrate stories of hope and inspiration that give people the burst of positivity they need. For example, there was a story of a 9-year-old boy who saw one of his classmates get embarrassed by having to only eat bread at lunch because his family hadn’t paid their lunch bill. He used his allowance and paid the school lunch debt of his whole 3rd grade class.  Now, if that doesn’t inspire you with hope for our future, I don’t know what does!!!

Others have benefited from your words.  Yet, how do you use those same words for your own benefit?  Do you journal in your diary?  What loving postings do you write to yourself every morning?  What positive words do you speak to yourself when you get out of bed?  

I have a strong faith and I had a premonition of our Mother Mary. She came to me and told me, everything is going to be all right.  When my thoughts wander to doubt and fear, I’m reminded of what Mary said to me. When I write in my journal, I celebrate things big and small as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I deserve to sit in the front-row of my life and I’m so grateful to be in a position to help usher others to theirs!

(Photograph Provided By Marilyn Sherman; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Well, how does treasure row sound for you? Fabulous, doesn’t it? Hmm. . .I’m sure that you can feel the shimmer and shine, just by the very menation of your personal seat. Sitting in the front of the class doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It means you have your own, little spotlight. What a way to shine! Yet, its only at the point when we get tired, and even frustrated, when we decide to move up a little closer. Inch by inch, slowly, but surely. For many, it is going to take some time. It means that we are getting used to seeing ourselves as being worthy of attention. Worthy of getting. . .noticed. Afterall, do you feel that you deserved to be noticed? Are you worthy of acknowledgement? These are very important questions, don’t you think? Maybe it is why you have decided not to even make the first step into the lecture hall. Its better to hide outside, and rely on intercoms or tech speakers, than to walk into a huge auditorium, filled with 100’S or 1000’S of people. The only problem with that is you will end up staying. . .unnoticed.

Not ready, yet? Ok. Yet, why don’t you at least make a few steps into the lecture hall. Stay in the back, temporarily, and slowly ease your way up a new row for each month. Its practice and its a way of releasing energies of nervousness, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and whatever preventing us from reaching the spotlight.

Before you know it, you have the confidence and self-awareness, to walk up to the front row, dig your heels into the treasure chest and select a finely polished, personally inscripted. . .

Golden Seat!

For more information on Marilyn Sherman, and Front-Row Leadership, click on the following links: http://www.MarilynSherman.com, [email protected], Twitter: @Frontrowgirl

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