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Madelaine Claire Weiss: “Good Work”

Good Work: One day in my mentor’s office, as I tearfully talked about how nuts everybody at work was acting, herd of cats as they say, he said simply and powerfully, “Just do good work.” What is so good about doing good work is that it helps reassure us and everyone else that, whatever is […]

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Good Work: One day in my mentor’s office, as I tearfully talked about how nuts everybody at work was acting, herd of cats as they say, he said simply and powerfully, “Just do good work.” What is so good about doing good work is that it helps reassure us and everyone else that, whatever is causing the problems, it isn’t your work. It also keeps the mind focused on something that matters, instead of something that only drains us dry, and gets no results.


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 Madelaine Claire Weiss.

Madelaine is a Harvard trained Licensed Psychotherapist, Mindset Expert, and Board Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach. Author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T.: 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life…Based on Science and Stories,” Madelaine is a former group mental health practice administrative director, a corporate chief organizational development officer, and an associate director of an educational resource program at Harvard Medical School. As a corporate trainer, Madelaine designed and delivered programs for such diverse organizations as Harvard Medical School, Legal Services Corporation, and AARP; has been featured on NBC, Fox TV, Bold TV, a variety of podcasts, including Major, Lindsey, & Africa’s Erasing the Stigma; has written for Thrive Global, Authority Magazine’s Editors List, UpJourney, My Perfect Financial Advisor; and conducted webinars for such organizations as the American Bar Association and the Harvard Law School Association-MA.


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?

Well, the childhood backstory is the story, or what people today call their “Why.” And here is mine:

Much like little Madeline in the children’s book by that name, “To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said Poo Poo,” and so did I too many times to my dad who grounded me regularly for it. So I spent a lot of time home alone writing books — with construction paper, crayons, sewn up the middle with a big needle and yarn — from a young age. And there is something about the release of my new book “Getting to G.R.E.A.T.: 5-Step Strategy to Work and Life…Based on Science and Stories “(including my own) that seems entirely related somehow.

And then when my father, who was a hard driving business man, died suddenly of a stroke at 42yo, given what a feisty little girl I was, I was pretty sure he died of me. That is, until the day I broke down with my mother who, in her shining moment as a mom, said, “No Honey, it wasn’t you, it was work.”

So now, if I can help one little girl or boy’s mom or dad, or anybody at all for that matter, find more hours in the day, more peace of mind, more freedom and fulfillment — maintaining high performance in all areas of life without burning out — I know that I am doing what I was put here to do, and will do for the rest of my life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That is hard; there are so many, but here is one of my favorites:

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. ~ Epictetus

In 2013, I left my 13-year position at Harvard medical School and pivoted to the work I am now doing, which also involved a move from Boston to DC. At my goodbye dinner, colleagues asked what I’d be doing next. When I said I’d be hanging out a shingle to devote myself fully to helping people master their minds for performance and well-being in work and life — they tried not to laugh.

Wait, they said, you think you are going to just walk into DC, and say here I am. Do you have any idea, they asked, how many people like you there are in DC? My answer was not as eloquent as how Epictetus put it, but yeah, that’s pretty much what I did: First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

How would your best friend describe you?

I actually had no idea how my best friend would describe me, so I asked her, and here is what she said:

  • Thinks hugely outside the box.
  • Great listener which cements friendships.
  • Loyal to family and friends and always displaying kindness and empathy.

Awww…

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?

The top 3 qualities that have helped me with my success in life, are actually commitments I live by: Commitments to Good Work, Good Care, and Good Company.

Good Work: One day in my mentor’s office, as I tearfully talked about how nuts everybody at work was acting, herd of cats as they say, he said simply and powerfully, “Just do good work.” What is so good about doing good work is that it helps reassure us and everyone else that, whatever is causing the problems, it isn’t your work. It also keeps the mind focused on something that matters, instead of something that only drains us dry, and gets no results.

Good Care: Because I consider myself an instrument through which to do as much good as I can in the world, then I consider it my responsibility to keep the instrument as fit, fine-tuned, and polished as I can. Here I am referring to things like diet, exercise, the books I read, the movies and TV I watch and, yes, very much the people I choose to let into my life.

Good Company: The Hindus talk about “Good Company” in this all-encompassing way; the food we eat, the wine we drink, and so on…the very best quality of everything we can find and afford, including and especially the people. We all have a hand in choosing well, but also and especially tending well too to the relationships we are blessed to have.

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?

My father, who was probably not expecting to die so young left us very little money. I wanted to help my mother but, at 15yo, no one would hire me, so instead of going to college right away, right out of high school I trained at the University of Pennsylvania to work in a clinical chemistry lab. From there I worked in a cardiac research lab, and then USDA Biological Control Lab.

But there was always a strong pull to the people that led me to a degree in Psychology, then to Social Work School and, when I became Administrative Director of a mental health practice, I put an MBA on top of that. My last W-2 employment was as Associate Director of the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School where I worked for 13 years, finally landing here in DC in 2013, after which I became Board Certified in Executive, Career, Life Coaching, the work I am certain I will do for the rest of my life.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

One foot in front of the other, always learning, always moving, never stopping, no matter what. As a mindfulness instructor, who has studied and practiced consistently for over 20 years, there is something about quieting the noise on the inside the let’s the guidance bubble up so we can hear it and use it. I know that sounds WooWoo but really is true.

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?

One night two women walked into a bar… This is true too. Things were going along just fine for the two of us, but I guess at some point a lot of people, like my clients for example, begin to wonder if just fine is good enough. That night at the bar, when we stopped to think and talk about doing the same thing day after day after day for the rest of our lives, we both knew we were ready to take a big leap, whatever it took. The tree wants to grow, the bird wants to fly, and so did we.

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?

Well, it wasn’t exactly a “new skillset” because I had been seeing private clients here and there as a side hustle for year, but it was a huge change to give up my W-2 employment with an institution with which I had become identified and attached — to go it alone.

How are things going with this new initiative?

Awesome! But let me be clear. I loved the work I did for the Anatomical Gift Program. I loved assisting people with their donations to science, and I loved helping first year medical students learn something about how to stay in touch with their feelings without becoming overwhelmed. After all, isn’t that what we all want in our doctors, someone who can think and feel at the same time. It was some of the most important and nourishing work I have ever done.

But this work I do now is so deeply satisfying because it is so deeply transformational, right before my very eyes, one after another, changing lives for my clients and all of the (big and little) people counting on them to bring the finest versions of themselves to the world.

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?

In “Getting to G.R.E.A.T.” I talk about “Grandmom Rose,” who died before I was born, but whose picture sat on top of my TV set while I was growing up. Since I was grounded so much, and since everyone else in the house was out there doing what outside people do, I would look at her picture a lot — the picture of a woman always there to listen, never turning away, always looking wise, kind, and encouraging of me. Since then, there have been many others like her, and I like to think that there are young women in the world who feel I am that for them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

It’s all interesting to me. I never stop being dazzled by the privilege and pleasure of my work. One thing that’s really interesting, though, separate from my clients’ journeys, is this underbelly of entrepreneurialism that the academics and professionals in my life know nothing about.

Frankly, neither did I until I got involved in marketing and PR for my book. And what I found is an energy to do well by doing good that is electric and stunning to watch. Truth be told it’s kind of a kick for me to be thinking of myself as one of them, an entrepreneur in this chapter of my life. So, for example, with a course already online, and requests to do more, with the launching of my book, I am now going 100% into online groups and courses following the book chapters on how to get to great in all the many areas of our lives.

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?

It was not until I presented my honors thesis as an undergraduate that I even knew that I was smart, or that it even mattered. As my professors put it, “We doubt that she even knows how brilliant she is” and they were right, but that opened the way. Since then, there has always been someone appreciating my work, and cheering me on. And again, I love paying it forward by being the one to believe in so many others, before they are able to believe in themselves.

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?

My boss cried when I said I was leaving Harvard but was there for me every step of the way. In fact, the pivot was so fundamentally right that everything and everyone fell into place. Things tend to happen that way when we are doing right things right. But as per my story about Grandmom Rose, the support doesn’t necessarily have to come in the present moment; the person doesn’t even have to be alive. What we need most of all is an internal knowing, like the little engine I could, “I think I can, I think I can.” And that can come from anywhere, anytime, until it lives within us for good.

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?

Oh my, I have been out of my comfort zone for so long that I am not sure what it will be like if I ever plateau. Right now, as I take my business to the next level with my book, groups, and courses; I often feel like my head is going to blow off my neck. That’s when I bake cookies for my family, to make sure I and they remember who I am.

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.

Someday you will be doing things you never even dared to dream. Example: Just about everything I am doing in this chapter of my life is something I never did before. Seeing clients virtually, really? And now, cannot imagine any other way.

Every day you will find an answer to a question you never even knew to ask. Example: When Clubhouse exploded, I thought “Oh no, not another thing. I can’t take it. What the heck is that.” Now I am a moderator.

You will have to take care of yourself like you never have before. Eating well, getting plenty of rest, exercising, meditating — everyday, no excuses. Example: I used to feel pretty good about myself getting up at 7am. Now I’ve moved it to 6am, and I may have to move it again, and meditating twice not once a day. Fitness is everything. As my mom, used to say, “If you have your health…”

Spend time with people who uplift you and themselves. Example: Growing pains may include parting with people who no longer fit as well with the newer better version of you, you have become. I knew this for my clients; didn’t see it coming for myself.

No matter where you are now, you have no idea where you are going. Example: From the little girl who got in trouble for riding the tricycle out into the hallway in kindergarten, to this. Who knew?

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?

Most of all, “Commitment to Good Company,” the finest in all people, places, things that we can all be, find, and afford.

What do you want to be remembered for the most?

In business school, we had to write our epitaphs for a leadership course. Here is mine:

She helped us to be strong.

Because we were strong, we were happy.

And for that we loved her.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would be delighted to hear from your readers at https://madelaineweiss.com

All of my social media links — LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — are there.

Readers can also receive weekly posts and free exercises by going to the “Complimentary…” pulldown on the site.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

My very warmest wishes and gratitude to all!

Madelaine

And, hope it’s ok to say I’m a big fan of Yitzi…and Pirie, would love to talk with you about “Own Your Throne” and other things.

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