Allison Jones: “Tame your inner critic”

Tame your inner critic. During a crisis it’s hard enough to cope without beating yourself up. Take the time to reaffirm who you are and that you have gone through tough things before and have come out on the other end. Never forget your power. Choose that inner hero and keep reminders of how capable […]

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Tame your inner critic. During a crisis it’s hard enough to cope without beating yourself up. Take the time to reaffirm who you are and that you have gone through tough things before and have come out on the other end. Never forget your power. Choose that inner hero and keep reminders of how capable you are and I would like to add a 6th item which is self-care. It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t take care of yourself. Sleep, good diet, exercise, talking to people with common interests and a healthy outlook can do wonders for anyone going through a hard time.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management 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 Allison Kelly.

Allison Kelly Jones is a southside Chicago native who joined the military after high school and traveled the country as a federal contractor and subject matter expert in human resources, business development and federal personnel programs. She was the on-air talent for her eponymous business show on CBS AM, “The Big Talker” in Washington D.C. Allison spent a vast amount of her career mentoring and coaching many people to personal and business success and has been sought after to deliver powerful and contemporary lectures on topics that engage, empower, and inspire people to live their most genuine and happy lives. Her philosophy is, “we are here to learn who we are and what we are here to do and whatever it is, it is to be shared.”

Manifestation is truly the only way to have the life you desire most, and Allison instructs people on how to manifest their dreams, doing so as a personal and business coach and also as a professor of business in Arizona.

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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I am a southside Chicago native from a large family with a highly dysfunctional environment. I am also a sexual assault survivor who excelled in school to offset the chaos at home always knowing that education would be my ticket out.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

I am a business adjunct professor who has used her senior executive business, HR and recruitment background to help people identify their passion in their career and put it into action. An example of that is mentoring young professionals in becoming an asset to an organization with a saleable and scalable competitive edge. I use my ability to motivate others to see their abilities and not their limits, to challenge their perspectives and give in to the power of Divine Energy and all the possibilities.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I served in the Army in the late 80’s, early 90s as a Veterinary Health Inspection Specialist (equivalent to a USDA food inspector). I hated my job even though I was stationed in one of the most beautiful places, San Diego, California. It helped me to understand early on that we are happiest when we are serving in purpose…on purpose! I am also a veteran who suffered military sexual assault and I have become a sexual and domestic abuse survivor advocate spreading the message of domestic and sexual assault, particularly now when people are sometimes isolated with an abuser.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

A: Being diagnosed with BPD in Hawaii. It saved me because I had an exceptional team of mental health care professionals dedicated to help me understand the illness which helped me fight the stigma. Through that process, I began healing and helping others, majoring initially in psychology with an understanding that mental illness doesn’t make you sick, rather it’s the secrets off mental illness and an inability to grasp the issues surrounding mental illness, doing what is necessary to become and remain stable no matter what.

We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

I was in Washington D.C. during 9/11 and there are lots of stories of the best of humanity, but one that sticks out is a single female soldier who had just been assigned to the Pentagon. She didn’t have much of a support system in place yet because she was newly assigned. Unfortunately, she was one of the casualties that fateful day and her very young daughter had to be given a dependent ID card and benefits and she came to our office where I served as Chief, ID cards/DEERS benefits. Her family wasn’t there at the time to help, so a family she didn’t know but lived in her neighborhood took her in and made sure she was okay. I will never forget her little face, feet dangling in the chair, sad because she didn’t know about her mother or where she was. It makes me fear for our world and our country at times that we have lost so much humanity and civility.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

Anyone can be a hero. Anyone who has the heart and humanity to step in even if the cost is high. The military, our first responders of course, but everyday people can be counted as our most brave and selfless.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

It’s possible that the military enhanced my leadership skills, but I feel I am a born leader. My teachers made sure of that. I never balked from it or feared it because I am solutions based and don’t care for excuses. I will take the lead so that things get done and in the military there isn’t a lot of time to “dilly dally” trying to wait until someone feels capable, you’re either ready to rock or not. So, I often found myself leading voluntarily or “voluntold” but either way, I happily accepted the challenge.

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?

A: I had so many mentors that I hadn’t realized were in the gap the whole time. From early educators to elders in the community to some of my superiors, I have always had people speaking into my success. In particular there is a woman from my past that challenged me at work all the time. I felt picked on, hostile, defeated and one day I asked to speak with her. I told her I felt I was doing more than the others for the same salary. She responded that not all experience that I will need in life will equate in dollar value, but in experiential dividends. She further went on to say that she saw something in me and that my success would only be limited by the limits I place on myself and my attitude. She and I are very close and she is mentioned in my book.

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 how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?

A crisis means different things to different people based on their ability to handle chaos or unexpected conflict. A crisis is a time of intense difficulty, struggle or trouble and right now, there are not many people who are encountering some type of crisis whether it’s relational, financial, emotional, or mental. But surviving and thriving has more to do with attitude than any action a person can actually take because the way we view things has the ability to render us unable to act in crisis. A crisis very rarely “creeps up” out of the blue. There are always tell-tale signs that something is brewing, so I would advise that issues that are difficult to manage, to handle or to accept should be examined for the “why.” Meaning, why is this so hard to handle? What are you afraid of/fear? What images are stirred within you that make it difficult to approach the issue and resolve it? Without examination, it’s not easy to thrive or survive a crisis.

Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?

The first thing a business should do if they find themselves in a crisis or before a crisis is an organizational assessment or risk assessment to identify the areas, people and circumstances of an event that may become an issue they may need to explore and mitigate, and ALL businesses have issues. Secondly, building “buy in” or getting consensus from others is ideal to include everyone from top down, form the board members to the cleaning staff, everyone should be a part of the solution of a thriving organization because its people make the difference. Next, an actionable plan should be considered and put in place even if a crisis is not happening. A plan that is designed and intended to address the current issue, as well as past issues and the way ahead. Finally, committing to open and honest communication helps to stabilize the organization because a crisis shakes an organization and the people who work for it. Many businesses who failed to do this last item have found high attrition and turnover rates in their organization and a shrinking talent pool.

There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?

Simply stop. Don’t move one way or the other. Give yourself a moment to see how the crisis looks up close, scan the body for signs of trauma or anxiety and allow yourself the opportunity to understand what’s actually happening. Once it’s been ascertained what the crisis is, the next thing is to assess what is in your control to change, move or discard. Afterwards, you would want to outline a list of people or resources that may help you move the needle to deal with the crisis. Everyone who encounters a crisis needs support at some point, on some level, so making sure you have the tools, resources and people in place to deal with the issues is important.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

A willingness to confront the real issue. Resiliency only happens when a person is willing to face what the crisis is, identify their role, the role of others and what situations or conditions they have control over. Letting go of old habits of how things are handled helps as well because using old methods to attend to the latest disruption in your life or your business may not be as effective or may no longer work. If they did, there would be no crisis to manage. Also, being realistic and open to solutions or the feedback of others can change the trajectory of crisis management.

When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Myself actually. I choose myself because despite the obstacles, regardless of the cost, in spite of every challenge I have been able to navigate through each challenge, crisis and roadblock through faith, determination, instinct, hard work and ultimately grace. It takes more than sheer will to remain resilient, there must be a willingness to examine oneself, look for the cracks and repair and heal so that you are able to manage your life and become resilient when chaos or the unpredictable happens.

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?

Prior to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I was suicidal. I wasn’t fully supported and had no idea what was happening to me. Because I didn’t understand, as I went through my treatment, I started college and majored in psychology with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist, because I wanted to understand my illness and treatments. I wasn’t going to leave my emotional stability or life to others. By learning more about the disease, I learned more about myself and in turn was able to bounce back and live the happy life I’ve always wanted.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be honest about the issue or situation. Never lie to yourself or play a crisis down (emotional or otherwise). Always tell yourself the truth.
  2. Don’t fear what you have the power to change. Change isn’t always big, sometimes merely changing your attitude about a situation can lead to the biggest accomplishment of lasting change.
  3. Look for your support system. There are always people, whether they are familiar or not who can help you survive and thrive. Look for support groups, friends or family who can encourage, support and lend a helping hand while you get yourself on target.
  4. Take the chip off your shoulder. Ego is the worst thing you can deploy in a crisis. Being open, vulnerable and honest with yourself and others about what’s happening with you can be the best tool to survive and thrive in a crisis.
  5. Tame your inner critic. During a crisis it’s hard enough to cope without beating yourself up. Take the time to reaffirm who you are and that you have gone through tough things before and have come out on the other end. Never forget your power. Choose that inner hero and keep reminders of how capable you are and I would like to add a 6th item which is self-care. It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t take care of yourself. Sleep, good diet, exercise, talking to people with common interests and a healthy outlook can do wonders for anyone going through a hard time.

Ok. We are nearly done. 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. 🙂

I would start a kindness movement. Our global outlook is so dismantled and although we have advanced in so many ways technologically, it has become like an autonomous echo chamber. People have lost civility, civil discourse and being kind to one another. I would ask that people do something simple and kind, like opening a door, saying please and thank you in a micro and ultimately macro way so that people feel seen and restore a sense of care for our fellow man and humanity throughout the world.

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 LOVE to have breakfast or just tea with Oprah. I’ve always been fascinated with her lovingkindness even when not receiving the same. Also, Taraji P. Henson because she recently shared her struggle with mental illness openly and with love. Deepak Chopra also comes to mind as well as Sadhguru, two people that I find creates the space to apply Divine Energy and awareness of ourselves in the world. Finally, Chelsea Handler because beyond her honesty, ballsy humor and wit, is a person who is an unabashedly naked in her truth as she is online (she may be a nudist).

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is, Instagram the same and my book, “Measure Twice, Cut Once, Navigating Negativity in Toxic Relationships is on (kindle) and Barnes and Noble (hardcopy).

Thank you for these excellent insights!

Thank you for this opportunity to share.

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