Community//

“Broken Blessing Gratitude.” With Raquel Eatmon & Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Broken Blessing Gratitude. I’m old school. I count my blessings each day through gratitude. This not only softens my heart but strengthens my ability to focus on what really matters. I not only seek out what’s working but also what’s broken- there is a lot to be discovered in our “broken” blessings. This practice reveals who […]

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Broken Blessing Gratitude. I’m old school. I count my blessings each day through gratitude. This not only softens my heart but strengthens my ability to focus on what really matters. I not only seek out what’s working but also what’s broken- there is a lot to be discovered in our “broken” blessings. This practice reveals who I am and the type of life I’ve created. When I pitch an idea or keynote for a company, I’m focused on bringing value to the conversation/presentation. I’m seeking ways to create a unique experience.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingRaquel Eatmon.

Raquel Eatmon is a business owner, author, former TV news anchor and a dynamic communications leader who understands the importance of taking risks. As CEO of Rising Media LLC, author of two books, founder of the Woman of Power Conference (WoPC), professional speaker and the writer behind the 10-year Be Inspired with Raquel Gannett newspaper column, Raquel lives her mantra of Risk Readiness every day and she helps others do the same.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Iwas inquisitive. The kid questioning everything, even the adults. This was a risky move because my family believed that children needed to stay in a “kids place,” respect the elders. Questioning their actions wasn’t disrespectful, it was needed to help me solve problems (at least that’s how I saw it) like low cash flows.

We didn’t have lots of money so I became innovative. I charged kids a five cent fee to enter my home and see my grandmother’s pantries. There was nothing special behind those doors, canned corn just like what most kids had on their shelves. I knew how to drum up excitement and promote new ideas. Kids actually paid me by dropping their nickels in the tiny red Raisinet boxes I taped to pantry and closet doors. I later produced a talent show at the community center, kids paid $3 for a ticket. I made over $300, donated half to the center and opened my first checking account with the other half.

My mother, a teenage single mom was loving and kind-hearted but she needed help. Thankfully both my grandmother and great-grandmother stepped in. Yes, I had access to three generations of mothers. Being surrounded by those women brought a sense or security, plenty of humor and some confusion.

My elementary years were spent at a Catholic school (we were Baptist). I was one of few black kids at the school. This was a painful transition for me, leaving my all-black neighborhood to learn with kids and teachers that didn’t understand my problems, enunciations or even my hair.

This set up a challenge for me. During the summer months I spent all of my time under the hot sun with kids that looked like me and talked like me. We played kickball until the stars flickered. It was my comfort zone until it wasn’t. As I grew up and experienced one too many of Mrs. Butler’s vocabulary exams, I changed. The kids in my neighborhood noticed and there began the divide, “Why are you taking like that?” they inquired.

I didn’t fit in with the white kids or the black ones. As an only child, I learned to comfort myself. Writing became my refuge and reading was my vacation. There was always commotion in our busy house with a continuous flow of visits from uncles and nearby neighbors. It was a colorful cast of players. After 8th grade my life changed for the better when my mother allowed me to attend public school. I quickly developed social and athletic skills. My inquisitive nature intensified as did my letter writing skills.

Our community was often overlooked on some basic items like road repairs. I wrote letters to politicians and city officials. I expressed that I felt overlooked because we were on the least desirable side of town. I wanted to help our community have a voice but again, adults weren’t listening to kids back then. I didn’t know it then but this would inspire my career in journalism. I wanted to shine a light on the powerless.

My childhood taught me a lot about myself and people. Living in two separate worlds has groomed me to become a stronger, more empathic communicator. I’m comfortable talking with the washroom attendant and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

Self realization, hitting hard times and a quest to make a difference inspired my decision to lead.

My very first day in the newsroom in Dayton, Ohio, it hit me in the gut, I knew I made the wrong decision. The salaciousness of chasing foul play day after day was not how I wanted to contribute to the world. Still, I stayed with it and progressed nicely landing in a top market, Dallas, Texas.

I was a relatable news reporter/anchor. Relatability was my power skill. I decided to use that skill to propose a news franchise, a series for women. While this idea was somewhat self-fulfilling, I wanted to empower residents, and offer resources. My idea was rejected, there wasn’t an interest for this type of segment in local news.

Still, I persevered. A new anchor job would land me in Mobile AL. I thought I could ignite change there. But more rejection would come and this time it involved my appearance. A manager didn’t like my hair style or shade of lipstick. He didn’t approve of my enunciation of basic words like “The.” There was also some racial tension in the town that led to death threats. I found myself in a strange town, alone minus the 24-hour security guards.

The signs were always there. I ignored them. I was embarrassed to admit that this career choice wasn’t working. I would disappoint my family and the truth was, if I allowed it to surface, would also be disappointing to myself.

With all the drama I experienced, the pain of staying was insurmountable. One day, after a long hard look in the mirror before my 5 o’clock newscasts I made a decision and gave a two week notice. Knowing I could afford it financially, I planned to take a year off.

By the end of that year, a recession rolled in. My husband’s salary was cut in half. Things went awry fast. My paid-for dream car was gone (we couldn’t afford the upkeep), we downsized to an efficiency apartment and all our savings was gone, too. Everything I worked for, the life I worked hard to build was gone.

That space of ruin was painful but it was also inspirational. I took a chance on myself. I incorporated my company, Rising Media LLC and begin to build leadership training platforms for women (myself included). I no longer had the big bucks of the CBS marketing department behind me, I had to learn how to brand myself. I started taking risks.

My idea started with 30 attendees and a $12.00 registration fee. I coined it: Woman of Power Conference (using the singular word woman because I wanted participants to focus on self first). A few short years later it grew to over 300 attendees, registration of $250 and up. I gained support from numerous corporations such as Sherwin Williams, KeyBank, Vitamix and many others.

I curated most of the content and corporations began to see my leadership potential. I began keynoting for other conferences. I wrote two books and penned a 10-year running Gannett newspaper column, Be Inspired with Raquel.

Losing forced me to take a leap of faith and bet on myself. Give up or Get up were my only two choices there was no gray area.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

A friend of my mother’s, Diana Smith encouraged me to get out of my head and into my heart and do to work. “You are not your story. You are not what happened to you,” she reminded me many times over. She directed me to a 4-day leadership forum which changed my life. She also spent countless hours coaching me on calls and holding me accountable for the work I promised to deliver.

Diane was instrumental in helping me grasp the concept of self-love because she was so endearing toward herself. That deep understanding of the incredible value of self love brought me to tears. It allowed me to tap into a side of my personal power that I didn’t know existed until then.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Patti LaBelle was headlining a concert for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Dallas, Texas and I wanted to interview her. I wanted her take on how women can brace themselves through challenging times.

I worked my connections to land a one-on-one interview with the music legend. I was told that I had ten minutes to chat with Ms. Patti. I would’ve been OK with five minutes.

Before the interview, Ms. Patti offered me a glass of wine (yes, I was on the clock but when Patti LaBelle offers you wine, you accept). We chatted about life and she was so lovely to me, and very trusting. She validated me, made me feel like the most important person in the room.

The interview was well over ten minutes and one of the most memorable moments was when I asked her: Did you ever think that you would someday be this great, this fabulous? She paused for a few seconds and said, “Well…” as if she was going to explain something. Then she blurted out, “Girl, let me stop player hating on myself, yes I knew I would be great!” She gave me a hi-five and we laughed like old friends.

I still laugh about that moment today, and it reminds me to always speak myself up, always honor the woman I am becoming. The big take away from my time with Patti was to always validate others. Make people feel like they belong.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

I made a promise to mentor ten young women for ten years and the advice I give them is also the advice I’d give to other potential business leaders:

1) Chose the hardest road. That is where the big lessons are. If you go into it knowing that it’s the hard road, you don’t have any surprises.

2) You will lose friends but you’ll gain an entire army of people along the way.

3) Treat yourself well.

4) Never apologize for your greatness, people that don’t get you, don’t get it.

5) Listen more than you speak.

6) When you meet influencers or celebrities, instead of asking for pictures to beef up your social feeds, ask for career or business advice to boost your next business move.

7) Keep your word. Have integrity and expect it from others.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book that has made the greatest impact on my life isI Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I was a teenager when I read the book. I couldn’t put it down. I was enthralled with Maya’s story and why she silenced herself as a girl.

After a troubling childhood Maya took the high road and had many incredible accomplishments. I believed that I, too could do that. I knew that I could overcome any obstacle. I knew the caged bird sang because it could…even while caged. I kept this book and promised to meet Maya for a personal autograph.

Fast forward more than a decade, I’m a news reporter in Dallas, Texas and read that Maya is visiting a nearby college. I spoke with my producers about my covering her visit, no one was interested as it lacked a news angle. That rejection encouraged me.

I sat at my computer, researched Maya’s agent, emailed her and requested the interview. A response came quick stating that Maya wasn’t feeling well and no longer did one-on-one interviews but I could write her a letter if I desired. I desired. I sent a letter explaining my experience with the Caged Bird and how Maya has impacted my life.

For weeks, nothing, no response. The day before Maya’s arrival I get a call from her team that the interview is on! I quickly swapped schedules with another reporter since the T.V. station wouldn’t allow me to cover the story while on the clock. I paid a cameraman. We got it done and it was absolutely sensational. Maya was graceful and so giving. My heart raced with excitement. Oh, and that book, I took that same copy with me to the interview and got Maya’s autograph.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

My high school track coach, Wilbur Lanier wanted me to conserve energy during my races. “Eatmon!” he shouted, “Don’t waste time looking to the right or left side, trust me, your competitors are there. Use that energy to get the job done. Focus and run!”

This resonated with me beyond the high school track meets. It has saved me an enormous amount of time and has helped me stay disciplined. Competition is everywhere, going down that rabbit hole is dangerous and exhausting. Staying focus on my race, in my lane helps me to get the job done every time.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Currently, I’m rebranding for risk takers- I launched a new business campaign on my website that’s dedicated to Courage, Connection and Compassion. I’m connecting globally through a Podcast and Masterclasses.

I’m in pre-production of a podcast dedicated to providing stories and tips on living courageously. The Changing Room (working title) will examine lessons from my own life and I’ll interview experts to make sense of it all. Together, we’ll help listeners remove blind spots and myths and unleash personal power. These are uplifting, comforting conversations about the things we contemplate, celebrate and try to control.

Also in the pipeline are Masterclasses for risk takers. I’m building content to sharpen boldness, helping to elevate the voice of women. Inequality shouldn’t exist but it does. I’m dedicated to making sure women have the courage, skill set and a strategy to keep pushing this boulder uphill.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

Coping with stress isn’t easy for anyone but a thoughtful routine can be incredibly helpful. Here are a few ways I cope:

Love Heals. Quality time with loved ones including my husband Dexter and our dog, Statler is amazing! This brings me tremendous joy. I love sharing my life with them and I love being loved. These adventures keep me sane and present which contributes to emotional well-being and boosts the immune system.

Yin Before I Begin. My exercise routine drastically changes when I’m experiencing stress. Instead of HIIT or weight lifting routines, I’m walking through the woods and hitting my yoga mat for Yin Yoga. Knowing that strenuous exercise increases our stress levels, I opt for more relaxing ways to move the body. An hour walk creates amazing benefits.

Broken Blessing Gratitude. I’m old school. I count my blessings each day through gratitude. This not only softens my heart but strengthens my ability to focus on what really matters. I not only seek out what’s working but also what’s broken- there is a lot to be discovered in our “broken” blessings. This practice reveals who I am and the type of life I’ve created. When I pitch an idea or keynote for a company, I’m focused on bringing value to the conversation/presentation. I’m seeking ways to create a unique experience.

Tea Time. Letting the water come to a complete boil, pouring a cup of goodness and sipping into a slumber is a ritual at my house. The tea and the act of preparing it can bring balance to a hectic day.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

I have a strategy to fire on all cylinders when it comes to prepping for peak performance. I call it my Risk Readiness Rituals. These knock off the pressure and allow for a zen energy.

Meal Prep. Five days out of a high stakes event or workload, I plan and prepare healthy eating- high energy menu and meals. I’m 100% convinced that my mind works better when I feed my body nutritious foods. I incorporate a variety of colorful plants and mix in powders for an extra boost. Hydration is equally important so sipping on mint-cucumber infused water definitely comes into play. No alcohol, caffeine or chips (which I love!) and 9 hrs of sleep.

Prayer Hands Emoji. Morning and evening prayer/meditation are part of my Risk Readiness Rituals. I have an old rule that I have lived by for over 10 years: Spend more of your time meditating than you do putting on make-up and you’ll do something special with this life!

Seek Out The Funny. Laughter has always relaxed me. I’m stuck on plugging in my National Lampoons Christmas Vacation DVD. If I’m short on time, I fast forward to the scene of Clark and Cousin Eddie having egg nog. It taps my funny bone every time!

Pumped & Prepared. I’m armed with a go-to list of positive channels. From my music playlist to youtube motivational videos- everything that inspires and empowers.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

  1. I generally brush my teeth for 2–3 minutes twice a day, that’s a lot of time to do mind control work. I don’t scan my cellphone or watch TV, I look into the mirror and do affirmations. Over and over again I train my brain and body to know and feel that I’m Happy, I’m Safe, I’m At Peace, I’m Successful.
  2. Each morning, I find solitude through meditation. The sessions are between 15 minutes to 60 minutes. It’s simple, I work on clearing the mind of thoughts, focus on breathing and allowing a space to just be.
  3. Visualization is important. I imagine my future self, the work I’m doing and how it feels. I make it real. I have a wonderful example of how this works. My husband and I are remodeling our dinning room and kitchen. A complete gutting of floors to ceiling. Very unattractive but I’m excited because I know what’s coming. I know how beautiful and functional it will be. I know how I’ll feel cooking and entertaining in that space. I know what having a cup of tea will feel like during the evening. The same with future goals. I may be experiencing the effects of problems and pandemics, it’s unattractive. Things are being gutted. But I know I have tremendous services to offer clients. My voice can help impact workplace culture and the world, no doubt about it. Newness is coming.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I stay on track and ward off distractions through these simple techniques:

  1. On The Clock. I work in 52-minute increments only. I zero in on the task at hand. I shut all alerts from emails, apps and cellphones off during each focus session. I take a 13–15 minute break and stretch out and hydrate the body.
  2. Sound Waves. I listen to classical music or brainwave sounds.
  3. Raquel Reminders. I currently have eight daily alarms on my cellphone. Each one is titled to remind me of who I am and why I’m doing this work.
  4. Passwords Power. My passwords don’t mention my dog or favorite vacation spot, they are positive words to reinforce my goals. This tiny thing helps me stay focused on my journey even as I’m logging in.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Success is earned through daily practices and holding yourself accountable. I don’t buy into the myth that you have to sacrifice something or someone you love to pursue your goals. Completely untrue.

Small and big moves each day are how you excel to the next level. These are also part of my Risk Readiness Rituals.

  1. Risk Readiness Tracking– This is a list of the Top Ten areas in which I want to see improvement. This list is taken from data gathered from my yearly Impact Sessions (an annual review on how I’ve impacted my family, community and world). I reflect on how to make a greater impact in the upcoming year which is how I arrive at my Top Ten. Every Sunday a new chart is tacked to my bathroom wall, every night I check off any area I excelled in that day. The end of the week, I tally up. This tracking keeps me accountable and honest in improving my life in search of helping others improve theirs.
  2. Stare Down the Wolf. I tackle the toughest thing on my list first, essentially I stare down the wolf (or eat the frog). Prioritizing this way gives an immediate boost of confidence upfront and more relaxed approach to the less stressful, easier items.
  3. Keep Growing. Life is a continual flow of learning and growing. I enroll in trainings and masterclasses. I’m an avid reader. I like to exchange ideas with others on their life lessons.
  4. Have Enormous Fun. Enjoying life is a big part of the journey. I enjoy live comedy shows, long nights on patios and unrushed dinners at my favorite restaurants.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Daily Implementation. Whatever your goals are, you must take the necessary steps each day to draw closer to success. I take small bites, I’m like the human edition of Pac-Man. I’m eating all the dots inside the maze, one at a time. Chomp! Chomp! Eventually I’ll get to the big, flashing energizing dots but the tiny tasks come first. Small habits prevent overwhelm and burn out. They have always led me to bigger and better things.

On Stopping bad habits…

Gain Clarity. There is a moment right before you make the decision. I call it Cusping: Where one thought ends and another begins. I get really raw with what happens in that tiny space between the two thoughts, between me making solid choices or blowing the whole day. Between me eating brain food or mush. This is why we strengthen our minds through meditation, so that we can control it versus activating our old emotional storage unit. We create better, smarter habits by being present during the Cusping phase and choosing the thought that is going to inspire the change we want. The more we choose the empowering decision, the easier this process becomes.

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

For me, it starts when I wake up, the actions I take during the a.m. usually predicts how the day will unfold. Everything affects us, what we see, what we’re listening to and all the things in the background. Here are a few ways I find my way to the flow.

  1. Smile in Bed. Seriously. As soon as I wake up, before moving a muscle, I engage one of the 42 muscles in the face and I smile for 30-seconds. This releases feel good chemicals in the brain. I’m thinking about being alive, and all of the wonderful opportunities waiting for me in the day.
  2. Exercise is a great flow companion. Sweating out toxins and breathing deeply followed by a deep stretching session is great!
  3. I wholeheartedly believe that we can carry a lot of blocked energy in the body when we don’t do the necessary work involving negative emotions and old baggage. This can prevent us from seeing clearly and working optimally. Body tapping or Qigong and tai chi are excellent ways to coordinate body and mind, which can help put us in a balanced mood.
  4. Dopamine Chaser. Warm showers help creativity surge. Warm water relaxes me which inspires the brain to work at it’s best. Some research suggest that showering can cause some sensory deprivation (ears tune out noise and focus on the sound of running water) which can help with finding flow.

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 for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would hold global Compassion Chats, a way to help us communicate through our differences. This movement would ignite courageous leadership. Each organization in attendance would be charged with the task of signing a CCO: Chief Compassion Officer to help improve internal communications with teams.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

On the other side of my dream luncheon table is the incomparable Viola Davis.

I’m impressed by her story, her ability to rise through the rubble. Viola is unmatched. Her journey from surviving an extremely challenging childhood to smashing Hollywood records (the first African American actress to hold the “Triple Crown of Acting” of acting: Academy Award, an Emmy and two Tony Awards), is heroic to say the least. She is tenacious.

I’d enjoy sharing a meal with Viola to chat about courage, compassion and her personal principles. In her profession, I can’t imagine it being easy to be authentic, yet she does it. Viola has pledged to help end childhood hunger, a charity that is also near and dear to my heart.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raqueleatmon/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RaquelEatmon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raquel_eatmon/

Facebook:

Subscribe to my newsletter: https://www.raqueleatmon.com

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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