You’re going to feel fear, uncertainty and even loneliness sometimes. It’s natural and OK. Our brains are designed to keep us safe, and foraging a new path involves risk so our thoughts can sometimes turn negative. It’s important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t let those sweaty palms and nerves stop you. Instead reframe the apprehension as excitement and remind yourself that you are safe.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Flemington
Bonnie Flemington, MBA, RNCP is a Certified Nutritionist, speaker, founder of Bonnie Flemington Wellness and leads a successful nutrition consulting practice that services busy professionals.
With a background in accounting and finance, Bonnie is familiar with the struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance and is passionate about delivering root-cause, accessible and realistic options that deliver results.
When not working on her business, Bonnie loves the fun, daily family adventures with her husband, 3 children and fur-baby, Holly.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Toronto as the eldest of three girls. I was always drawn to creative activities and my family fully supported all of my varied interests. I loved singing, figure skating and dance. I also spent a great deal of time in the kitchen cooking new and interesting dishes for my family. I was drawn to health and nutrition even from a young age.
My family experience is strongly rooted in business and entrepreneurship. My parents successfully grew a specialty coffee retail and wholesale business so I grew up surrounded by the ups, downs and opportunities of entrepreneurial life. Growing up in a house full of girls, the idea of “girl-power” and that women could do anything was a value I held strongly.
The combination of these experiences taught me first-hand that although success doesn’t come in a straight line, it is worth the continued effort when you are building something you are passionate about.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand-new ending” — James R. Sherman
I have been asked whether I have had regrets from the past, but I always say “no” since I look at all my past experiences as a part of who I am today and life’s process of getting me ready for great things to come.
I have always followed my passions as the universe presented them to me. From participating in exchange programs to moving overseas to study dance during high school, I always jumped in with two feet and immersed myself in the experience.
My attitude is that looking forward to what is possible is our strongest motivator. However, it has sometimes been challenging for me to know what I want. I have had to work at taking the time to slow down and listen to where my intuition is guiding me.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The first is definitely my passion for helping people get to the root of their health challenges and achieve their goals. This is what fuels the energy I give to my clients and business daily. Many clients come to me having already taken a number of steps to resolve their health issues without success. For example, I had one client in her 30’s suffering from arthritis pain in her feet every morning when she got out of bed and she also suffered from fatty liver disease. She had tried medications and other approaches but was still struggling. We were able to identify the best diet and supplements for her, and once we worked together to integrate these new routines into her life, her symptoms went away. She started jumping out of bed each morning full of energy! I love to help my clients make the connections that they didn’t see before and simplify their strategies so that the solution becomes easy to integrate into their life.
Another quality is that I take imperfect action. This can sometimes be challenging, as I have always had a tendency to analyse all the possible outcomes before making a move. But I’ve realized that taking imperfect action is the best way to learn. Early in my business, I decided to put a ton of effort into creating an online group nutrition and health program. After months of creating the program and doing the beta testing, I received the feedback that it was a great general health program. I was crushed (for a moment) when I realized that it didn’t solve a specific problem, and therefore it was not going to be the best value to my clients. But I was also inspired because I knew exactly what I had to do when I went back to the drawing board to create something much better. This experience taught me that I can’t possibly predict every possible outcome in advance, I need to experience it. I now focus on taking calculated risks and getting out of my own way so that I can keep moving forward.
Finally, cultivating community is one of the most important aspects of my success. No one is good at everything and the more I access support from others, the better the result. For example, I have participated in both formal and informal mastermind and thought leadership groups where I met like-minded individuals who acted as a sounding board and provided inspirational ideas, accountability and support to keep me on track. Having a group that you can be completely honest and vulnerable with is essential. These small groups have helped me do the uncomfortable work of looking at my business mistakes objectively and pulling out the learning pieces so that my next offering is even better. They have also been instrumental in connecting me with the right people to collaborate with on projects that ultimately increased my business. There is no prize for trying to do it all alone.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I never imagined that I would be working in the wellness industry. When I started my career as a business school graduate, I worked as a CPA at one of the big accounting firms on Bay Street in Toronto. I had come from a family of finance professionals so it seemed natural to choose this career path. I loved my colleagues, but the work didn’t create the excitement in me that I had thought it would. While I was there, I learned important lessons about client service, making connections and cultivating a positive company culture. Some of my favourite memories are the team dinners and wine tastings organized by the partner I worked with. This experience taught me that creating an atmosphere of fun is something I definitely want to have in my own business!
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
When I had my children, I initially made the decision to leave accounting and stay home. The experience of parenting full-time helped shape my understanding of others’ needs and developed my self-confidence. Mothering is one of the toughest careers that doesn’t get much credit! Ultimately I returned to work in the accounting field when my kids were small, which helped reaffirm that this career path wasn’t for me and opened me up to look for the next opportunity.
Working with three young children is challenging to balance at the best of times, but I started to experience burnout and joint pain that was impacting my daily life. These symptoms were easy to brush off at first, but it got to the point where I was struggling to walk my dog around the neighbourhood without limping. Eventually, I decided I was not aging well and needed to make a change.
I returned to my interest in food and nutrition from my youth. As I started to make changes to my diet, I noticed that my body was feeling so much better. I started to get a handle on my own health, and I was inspired to go back to school and learn how to help others optimize their health as well. I finally made the choice to move from bean counter to wellness guru.
One of the hardest things about making such a dramatic shift in career choices was shifting my own definition of success and working through the fear of stepping away from my intended path so that I could move in a new direction. Through this mindset work, one thing I have noticed about those who choose a “second chapter” is that they are not completely “reinventing themselves” at all. They are actually re-discovering the driving purpose from their past and taking it in a new direction. For me, combining my entrepreneurial family upbringing and my interest in health and nutrition has become that purpose in my life.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
My doctors told me my health experience was a natural part of aging, but since they didn’t give me other options, I decided to learn more. Studying in the field of nutrition, I learned that we have an incredible amount of control over our health outcomes and destiny. It seems obvious to me now, but at the time, I didn’t know that what I ate made a difference in how I felt! One of the most profound learnings and the trigger for starting my business was understanding that my joint pain was directly tied to the level of inflammation in my body and by reducing it, I could feel dramatically better. Regardless of what imaging shows, inflammation is something that we have control over with our diet and lifestyle choices. Aging doesn’t have to be riddled with aches and pains but instead something we can enjoy and even embrace!
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Through the process of making this career shift, I have learned that the real work happens on the inside. It starts with awareness of our thoughts and beliefs and the willingness to be vulnerable and reach out for help when needed. This process of looking within has allowed me to acknowledge the strength of mind I didn’t realize I had.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Great! It feels fabulous doing work that makes a difference in my client’s lives. Some of my favourite client stories include a woman who can now get out of bed in the morning without pain, another who was taking a daily Advil for pain who no longer needs it, and a man who eliminated his fatty liver and normalized his blood pressure and cholesterol for the first time in 10 years.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive friends and family, I can’t narrow it down to one. What I have found to be the most helpful is simply when someone has expressed to me that they believe in me. It seems like a small thing, but someone else’s belief helps me in those moments when I am struggling to believe in myself.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Since I started my business I have actively engaged in education and speaking opportunities. At one of my early community presentations, I finished the presentation by mentioning my group nutrition coaching program and had three people enroll that evening! It was a pleasant surprise and helped me to gain momentum and realize that my business is providing a much-needed service.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Absolutely! When something in my business hasn’t gone as planned or I have experienced a rejection, my inner critic can come out and cause me to question myself. I have worked to become aware of this negative self-talk and have learned that it is something that I can control and change. I have invested in a business coach to work on a process for dynamic visioning and it has been worth all the effort. I have been excited to see that the positive mindset benefits trickle into all aspects of my life.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Even though I grew up in an entrepreneurial household, earned an MBA, a CPA designation and completed extensive nutrition education, I still didn’t know how to run a small business. I enrolled in programs aimed to help start-up entrepreneurs and then subsequently joined mastermind groups that provided me with the support I needed.
Two early programs that helped me develop were Meghan Telpner’s Culinary Nutrition Expert Program and her Business Development Program. I was drawn to Meghan’s story that, like me, she got into the nutrition field because she was unwilling to accept a health limitation that medicine couldn’t resolve. Her business has helped thousands of people and she has done it in a way that exemplifies what is good about life, gives back to the community and incorporates her family into the mix. That is something that I aim to achieve as well.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
It is interesting to me that the more progress I make in my business, the more I become comfortable with doing things that were previously completely out of my comfort zone. For example, in the past I never loved public speaking, yet I do a lot of it now. I have found that while doing something for the first time can be scary, you can get used to anything and are then ready to build on the experience and take the next step.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You’re going to feel fear, uncertainty and even loneliness sometimes. It’s natural and OK. Our brains are designed to keep us safe, and foraging a new path involves risk so our thoughts can sometimes turn negative. It’s important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t let those sweaty palms and nerves stop you. Instead reframe the apprehension as excitement and remind yourself that you are safe.
- Don’t try to do everything yourself. When I was starting out, I thought that I had to do everything. But after I hired the help that was long overdue, I realized that so much more can get done and more quickly when you have support. For example, one thing I needed help with in the beginning was getting all my technology set up. It was key to get all my program information and processes set up so that I could focus on the delivery. And my executive assistant is incredible at keeping me organized so that I don’t feel the need to work 24/7! Harnessing the talents and ideas of other people will take your business much farther than you could achieve on your own.
- Take imperfect action. I spent a lot of time researching and feeling like I needed to get more and more education before I could offer my services. I quickly realized that if I was going to wait until everything was perfect, I would never get started. Once we start, our fears diminish and we feel more in control and optimistic. While there is always more to learn, the only way to learn it is to move forward and do it.
- Stay in your lane. There are many exciting opportunities that aren’t the right fit for your business. You can’t be everything to everyone. Early on, I found it was easy to veer off course when I was offered opportunities. It’s important to stay laser focused on your vision so that you can become the best at your niche and expend your efforts on the opportunities that align best with your purpose and the mission, vision and values of your business.
- Believe in yourself. Rather than focusing on the things that might not work, you need to be able to step in to that person who has already achieved what you want so that your actions match the direction of your desires and you can take your business where you want it to go.
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?
I am a deep believer in making a contribution that will inspire self-worth, self-care and the care of the planet we call home. Everything and everyone is interconnected. I would love to inspire a culture of health empowerment starting with small steps like cooking and sharing meals at home and starting community gardens.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to share a breakfast or lunch with Dr. Mark Hyman. He has published numerous books communicating about health and wellness and developed programs bringing this information into communities. I follow his work and share his philosophy and vision. I would love to have the opportunity to learn more about his experiences in community health empowerment and discuss his vision for furthering this work in the future.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have tons of helpful articles, downloadable resources and delicious recipes on my website at https://bonnieflemington.com/ Also available on my website are details about my 12 week program.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you and you too!