If you want to remake yourself and renovate your career, you should prepare for long hours on the phone and tons of follow-up emails to really convey your message and why you and the potential client share similar goals.
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 Ilyssa Panitz.
Ilyssa Panitz is a Divorce Journalist/Columnist. Ilyssa writes a daily column on Medium’s Authority Magazine called, “5 Things You Need to Know How to Survive and Thrive During & After A Divorce.” Ilyssa also serves as the Content/Editorial Producer for The National Association of Divorce Professionals and is the Co-Host of “All Things Divorce” on Clubhouse every Wednesday & Sunday evenings. Before shifting her focus to the subject of divorce back in September 2020, Ilyssa spent over 20-years doing sit down interviews with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and producing photo shoots at their beautiful homes.
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 spent my childhood on the stage. I would dream of being on Broadway, TV or in the movies. As a kid I devoted my Saturday afternoons to attending a theater workshop called, Showtime before being accepted at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan and then eight weeks at French Woods, a performing arts sleepaway camp. When my mom told me I could not pursue acting/singing as a career I said, what do you want me to do with my life? She said, figure it out! I knew I had the gift of gab and can strike up a conversation with anyone. I also loved to write, talk on the phone, and I thrive on a challenge. I just was clueless what to do with those qualities. During college, when I was trying to piece this all together, I took a journalism class (because the line to sign up was short). The teacher was the local anchor for NBC who told me, I was a natural for this. She got me an internship at her station and from the second I walked in the newsroom I knew I found my calling!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is actually a chant from Ellen DeGeneres’ character Dory in the movie “Finding Nemo.” It goes, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” It resonates with me because like the film, life is full of obstacles and challenges. Take a cue from Dory, no matter what gets thrown in your way, you have to keep pushing and moving forward. You can’t stop and give up because something is blocking your path. Navigate and then march forward or in Dory’s case, swimming through it all!
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.
- Never give up!
- Never lose your focus!
- Always know who you are and what you are made of!
- Whenever I need a reminder of this, I play Kelly Clarkson’s song, “Stronger!” It has become my mantra!
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?
Before pivoting my focus to covering the subject of divorce, I was a Celebrity/Entertainment Reporter & Producer. I was the girl on every red carpet, at all of the TV/movie premieres, plus I spent most of my workday conducting one-on-one interviews with the A-listers and travelled to where they reside for exclusive photo shoots.
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?
The idea stemmed from an interview I did with Marie Osmond (my childhood idol) back on January 3, 2017 at the NASDAQ in New York City. I asked the mega star, how she had the strength to overcome so much heartache in her life because sadly she had experienced so much sadness. Marie put her hand over mine and said, “Ilyssa, sometimes life is not meant to be fair, but it is what you do with it that makes you who you are!” Out of all the hundreds or maybe thousands of interviews I have done, I never forgot those very words and they stay with me to this day. Fast forward to August/September 2020 when I was in a personal transition and trying to find new meaning and purpose in my career too. I woke-up at 2am from a sound sleep because I heard Marie saying those words over and over.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I have always been a newshound and addicted to the media industry. One day while I was flipping through all the networks and noticed a pattern. There were a ton of Political, Entertainment, Sports, Medical and Weather Correspondents but not one channel had a Divorce Correspondent. The reason I thought of this was because on a personal note, I was going through my own divorce and desperate for information on this complicated matter. Here I was hearing facts on all of these other topics, but where was the one, I wanted? NO WHERE! So, “POOF,” the idea was born that I was going to reinvent myself and interview every expert in the field of divorce and deliver information to the public. As journalists, we have a voice that can be broadcasted on the airwaves and we are in a position to help communicate knowledge people are seeking. I made it my mission I was going to be that person when it came to matter of divorce!
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?
I always knew I was tough because I am a born and bred New Yorker (LOL) However, what I discovered as I immersed myself on this new beat, I am titanium, and nothing can break me! No matter how times I got knocked down, I kept getting up because I was determined to do something when it comes to going through a divorce. Now when I listen to these professionals talk about all aspects of divorce, it makes me realize how much I have overcome and how it gave me the power to use my experiences to raise awareness and help others. Many people going through a divorce have contacted me and it pains me to listen to what they are dealing with. They are confused and feeling hopeless, which is natural when you are thrown in the midst of chaos, your life has been turned completely upside down and your heart is shattered in a million pieces. What is worse, while they are trying to understand the legal system, everyone is telling them: “The sun will shine” or “There is a light at the end of the tunnel” and they are thinking, “WTF, I am drowning over here.” That is where I come in! My philosophy has always been when someone says good news, bad news, you start with the bad so you can end on a high note! I now devote my life to teaching my readers/listeners everything about divorce and reassure them, why they are going to survive and thrive once this is behind them. Since I moved my focus, the response has been amazing. Everyday divorce pros call me and look to join forces plus people going through this transition tell me how they find comfort from my columns.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
I am growing/expanding, and I have never felt so inspired. Since I launched this new initiative a few months ago, I am now working with The National Association of Divorce Professionals, Co-Host a discussion twice a week on Clubhouse called “All Things Divorce,” write a column for Authority Magazine called, “5 Things You Ned to Know to Survive and Thrive During and After a Divorce,” plus I have a few others things I should be ready to announce shortly. What is even more surprising, now I have the press calling me for interviews!
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?
My parents Arline and Steven Panitz. I am not going to lie, there were times I felt sad, lost, and just needed a good cry. Never, ever did they stop believing in me and instill in my head over and over that now I must believe in myself. They also reminded me of when I was a flighty teenager who only cared about my friends and the phone and what I have achieved once I found my calling as a Journalist in college. Their support, their guidance and their strength continues to lift me up and it is why I am where I am!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The reaction and comments I get from my columns has been overwhelming but there was one I received that brought me to tears. It was from a woman going through a difficult divorce. She wrote me how my articles have been a huge source of support and encouragement to her. Not only did she thank me for writing them but said, she waits for them to post every day!
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?
Ummm, yeah! Whenever you embark on a do-over you are always filled with self-doubt. Plus, I was changing direction in both my personal and professional life at the same time so the “struggle to believe in yourself” hit me from all directions. Like I said before, I am forever grateful that my parents never let me fall and if they saw I tripped, they were there to catch me and remind me of why I can do this.
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?
As I said earlier, I was craving information on divorce. Just Googling stuff was exhausting. When you are overwhelmed, because divorces are incredibly time consuming, on top of trying to sustain a job, take care of a family and some sense of normalcy, you turn to places that it is easy to get the facts and for me that was television. But nowhere, as I channel surfed, did I see a Divorce Correspondent on any of the networks or their programs. I decided to take the lead and start something new.
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?
You want to talk about Hollywood and the celebs, I am your girl but talk about divorce, are you kidding me? This is such a complicated maze with layers and layers of convoluted legal terms, laws, not to mention all the players involved plus the numbers and the financials, my head was spinning at the thought of tackling this. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Are you crazy girl?” But then my inner voice said, “This is your mission, and you are the perfect person to do this! People need you; children need you; the world needs you and you have the ability to make a difference!” I have never looked back. Every day I am excited to find a new angle, and hop on the phone with someone, write a story and take this to the next level!
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 may have to take a financial step backwards in order to make a giant leap forward.
- If you want to remake yourself and renovate your career, you should prepare for long hours on the phone and tons of follow-up emails to really convey your message and why you and the potential client share similar goals.
- Remember, there will be good days and bad days. What I mean is there will be days when you close deals and other days when you can’t get past first base. It is okay and part of the process. Remember Dory’s philosophy, “Just keep swimming!”
- You are stepping out of a familiar zone and into unchartered territory. You may make mistakes and not have the answers like you did before. So did other innovators and it helped make them successful.
- The tax benefits! If you are running your business from your home, you may be able to write things off.
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?
That divorce does not have to be doom and gloom. I always say if you play the word association game and say the word ice cream, people’s faces light up and they say words like delicious and recite their favorite flavor. If you say the word “divorce” and everyone’s face turns to a frown and they think: how awful and sad! I want everyone to shift that mindset and instill, it is not all bad! There are endless possibilities that await and so many positives that lie ahead such as: getting your happiness back, meeting someone better suited for you, carving out “you” time, reconnecting with people you lost contact with, becoming the CEO to your own finances, and taking charge of your life!
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. 🙂
Reese Witherspoon! I admire everything about Reese, and I am in awe of how brilliant/talented she is. What’s more is this Oscar winner went through a public divorce with two minor children and came out swinging. She is a movie mogul, top business leader, devoted mom, got remarried to a wonderful guy and she is respected by everyone in her industry. If Reese reads this, tell her I would love to collaborate with her!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am in all social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Linked In under my name: Ilyssa Panitz
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!