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Maryl Petreccia: “You don’t HAVE to. You GET to”

I wish someone had told me that my first why, my first vision, my first idea was really the warm-up round. Knowing that would have allowed my hard-driving alter ego to lighten up and not be so dogged and demanding on me. I could have reframed that initial work as part of the creative process […]

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I wish someone had told me that my first why, my first vision, my first idea was really the warm-up round. Knowing that would have allowed my hard-driving alter ego to lighten up and not be so dogged and demanding on me. I could have reframed that initial work as part of the creative process instead of holding it to an impossibly high standard that my professional future depended on it. The first iteration of my mission I called, BECOMING THE WOMAN OF YOUR DREAMS. I gave that name to my process, my program, and my first book. Over time, my inner wisdom knew that my first book and program had a different name.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Maryl Petreccia.

Maryl Petreccia is an Entrepreneur, High-Performance Joy Coach, Solutions Specialist, and Author to Best-Selling book, GPS to Joy, a memoir within dealing with multiple deaths, grief, and ultimately finding your way back to joy. As the well known Joy Expert, Maryl first started the Joy Activation ProcessTM — a process born of her own experiences with very disruptive changes and challenging life transitions and grief. Maryl discovered how to deal with heart-wrenching loss and plot a new path to reclaim her joy. The next adventure is The Joy Continuum.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in the early ’60s and grew up inside of an immigrant family culture and mentality with two working parents. Many of my friends’ moms were nurses, teachers, and/or stay at home moms. My family took a different path. My father was both the primary provider and more mom than dad while my mother stepped into the women’s’ rights movement and flexed her feminist muscles leaving teaching and at home parenting behind to pursue her doctorate in Psychology. In my mid-teens, in crowds, my parents would soon be referred to as Dr. and Dr. Gladstone. On the one hand, my parents carved the way for progressive family dynamics and women’s equality, yet her hyper-drive for validation led to complex health issues and my siblings and I were left to take care of ourselves much of the time. I quickly became large and in charge and my diplomacy skills were developed early on as I was the bridge between my mother’s force and my father’s gentleness. As the firstborn, I was strong-minded, independent, and capable that I could do, be, and have anything I set my mind on. My belief in myself to make anything happen was never in question, nothing ever dissuaded me from knowing that to be true regardless of any contrary circumstances I ran into along the way.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

This career of being an author and a joy coach began in 2014 with a promise that I made to my late husband and my future self just days before brain cancer took his life. When he and I finally had some time alone, I could see the deep worry in his eyes. I held his hand, softly kissed him, and made a new vow — that I would live a life of joy to honor the life he had given me with his love, even though I knew damn well that the only vision for my future had been created with him. I was overcome with grief and overwhelmed by the stark reality that I was now truly on my own and that I would need to learn how to dream again and discover what would make life worth living as an individual. As I pursued a purpose worth feeling alive for and unfolding my passions, a new mission emerged; to guide women to powerfully leverage even the toughest transitions where most would crumble as their gateway to what’s next. I knew the deep work it took to truly come back from the grief and finally feel joy and happiness again. From dreams to practices, I became passionate about guiding women to connect to their inner strength, trust the very messy process of getting beyond grief, and use tools to craft fulfilling lives.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I knew nothing about building an audience through social media. So I dug into learning it with a course. In one year and a little (lotta!) help from my friends, we built a following of 45,000 twitter followers! What that required of me is the more interesting part of that story. It took me getting used to being recognized in public when I had been mostly invisible in my life. It took me dealing with the reality that for a long time, my Facebook lives had under 10 views. It took me not shying away from being on camera. Then a country western star started to pursue me! It took me around the world and across cultures. Through all of my learnings to be a part of this new digital world, I’m continually surprised at how wonderful people are.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The truth is there are always funny moments along the way, some that don’t seem so funny at the time (i.e. being ripped off and financially scammed by a “reputable business manager) or learning how to do my first Social Media live streams! As you read above, Social Media is a different beast than speaking in front of crowds and my first few live streams were interesting to say the least! From the sun was in my eyes, I lost my talk track, my family interrupting, and a few other funny moments. From there, my publicist and I regrouped, came up with a clear strategy, talking points, and I began to nail my Instagram and Facebook live streams. If you can’t have some humor in business, you’re definitely doing it wrong!!

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 about that?

After a disastrous hair appointment, I would soon meet my now sister to me / money manager. When my hairdresser turned my hair purple (I was 23 years old), even though we had just met, she said to me, “honey, we need to go to the drugstore NOW and do something about that hair! By the way, I’m Jackie.” After many laughs and having an instant bond, so began who Jackie would be for me through every milestone in my life from then on.

When I almost died giving birth to my preemie, she was there within hours of my hospital admission. When I needed a safe house from my domestically dominating ex-husband, it was her house I went to. When I was broke and completely downtrodden by my ex husbands treatment of me during our divorce, she bought me a plane ticket to join her in NY for the weekend. After David, my late husband died, she said, “honey, come down here to Cardiff and stay in my extra bedroom as long as you need to. And if you want to move down here, you can’ live more than 10 minutes from me.” Jackie has always been by my side supporting me, believing in me, feeding me, sharing her family with me, and her wisdom. I love living 8 minutes from her, she gave me entry to a new world of friends and experiences and takes an interest in how my business is evolving. Her support continues and I support her in the same way.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Helen G., one of my wisest transformative and business coaches gave me the inner tools to set myself free of the fear of failure. She said, “do what is SO delicious, SO compelling, SO deeply connected to who you are, that it won’t matter if it fails.” That began my quest for that pursuit and career endeavor that would meet that measure which became my first measure of personal success. This mindset around what failure is and isn’t allowed me to give myself a wide girth for moving through the inevitable learning curves of my current career and frankly, everything else in my life. She also taught about the power of failure to quickly guide our choices. I now have a huge capacity to see failure as an opportunity to redirect my actions and I don’t take failure personally. My tip? Have a powerful intention, a plausible course of action, and let go of any heaviness you might give to an outcome that’s not what you want. Rather, see failure as a failure to perform or achieve a desired outcome versus a personal failing. Whatever you choose to pursue, use failure as your sign that you need to redirect and use a new approach and see what that produces. It’s NOT personal!

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I love being with people, listening to their stories, learning about what fulfills and frustrates them, hearing about where they have been and what they are dealing with, and what their hopes, dreams, and stalls are. I especially love learning about what matters most to them now. I know that changes as we change and as our circumstances change. When I leave someone better than I found them, more empowered, with a new vision that before was a blur, with optimism and a plan based on what matters most, then I feel that I’ve made the best use of my day.

The main message I have for the world is this: when what you choose is both selfish and selfless at the same time, then you are on the right track. That can look like many things. It can look like acting from love for yourself and others as a way to guide your life. It can look like choosing joy over suffering even when it makes no sense. It can look like gratitude that involves slowing down, NOT doing, and getting connected to that gift life gives you. When you reflect on what matters most to you now and choose from there, you’ll find that is both selfish and selfless, and that’s a good thing.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

I have 4 tips to bring your best to effective speaking.

1. Take your audience on a journey that you’ve imagined ahead of time.

2. Craft that journey by knowing your audience, who they are, and what they are navigating that your speaking can support. That takes some sleuthing to get into the hearts and minds of your audience but it’s worthwhile to execute on your commitment to contributing to them in the highest way.

3. Use that information to craft a person that you can see in your mind’s eye when you are on stage. This helps create a real connection with the group.

4. Share yourself and your emotions as you speak. People find themselves in your authenticity, not a practice to perfection pitch. Your approach can inspire or leave them feeling sold. When I recently spoke at my virtual book launch for my best selling book, GPS to Joy, I knew the audience wanted to know what I learned about myself that was not in the book and what it took for me to grow in the face of my deep grief. I also knew acutely well that they were interested in how I got to the other side of that mountain. I imagined I was speaking to a friend who had just lost almost everything and wanted to find something that would give her the will to carry on and thrive. I had my thoughts on paper and I stepped into the story as if I was experiencing it so they could be on the journey with me.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

My experience is that audiences are generous and want to be inspired, emboldened, and informed by you. They want to be served by what you have to provide and will give you grace when they notice you doing your best. Fundamentally, everyone has a pain that needs to be tended to. That’s what they care about and that’s what they need most from you, not perfection at the podium. Connect to what you are there to do and your fear can become just a small thing to acknowledge while you continue on your mission to serve them. If you falter, it’s your response that dictates their reaction.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Thing 1: I wish someone had told me that my first why, my first vision, my first idea was really the warm-up round. Knowing that would have allowed my hard-driving alter ego to lighten up and not be so dogged and demanding on me. I could have reframed that initial work as part of the creative process instead of holding it to an impossibly high standard that my professional future depended on it. The first iteration of my mission I called, BECOMING THE WOMAN OF YOUR DREAMS. I gave that name to my process, my program, and my first book. Over time, my inner wisdom knew that my first book and program had a different name. Fortunately, I gave myself space to allow the new name to emerge, and GPS to JOY came to me as I was brainstorming book names with my best friend’s daughter. Being with her always brings out my fun, creative, wise side. When I stopped holding on so tight to what I thought HAD to be the answer, the right direction came in its own way and time.

Thing 2: I wish someone had told me that I am not naturally oriented to stepping into another expert’s system or program. I have learned that I work best when I am collaborating and approaching choices and options independent of a fixed process or structure. I think in constellations, not lines. Why that is important is because I have invested thousands of dollars with coaches who had “full service” programs that I believed would move me forward in a systematic way. Their programs did more for servicing the coach’s need to time manage over being client-centric. My higher self resisted stepping into their structure more than once until I finally stopped chastising myself for resisting going through someone else’s funnel. An example of this is when I registered in an 18 month program with the Business Academy. That program ostensibly included the creation of my personal brand website, the writing of my book, and having a basic marketing structure for myself, my book, my product, and coaching offerings. As things stand, the website is not scalable, the book did not include marketing support, and there were many gaps I had no knowledge about at the time. I now work with coaches one on one or in intimate masterminds so I can stay true to my own rhythm and pace as I gently unfold my gifts as an author, speaker, teacher, and coach.

Thing 3: I wish I knew how valuable mastering time and priority management is. This is important because when you have control over your time, you have control over your destiny and the quality of your daily life. I am a high achiever and I also can get hyper-focused and lose balance in my day-to-day which impacts my health and well-being. My current focus is wrestling that dragon aka my calendar. I suspect this could be an ongoing challenge for me but I will master it so I can walk my talk when it comes to serving the people.

Thing 4: I wish I had known early on that my contribution would stem from my way of being an extensively trained, transformative teacher and natural problem solver over the facts that I “know.” I spent many years believing that I needed to know more, or have specific certifications and specialized degrees so that I could be a trusted and proven resource. I have a certification as a Quantum Integrations Coach but few people are aware of that. Having this certification is important because people seek me by my reputation, who I’ve served, and how I’ve served in working through complex and difficult spaces that transitions cause. My friend (and client) Rachel lost her husband and was still grieving 3 years later. She continued to seek me out directly after he died and then intermittently over the years. She finally requested coaching in a program I developed, TheJoy Activation Process, and in one session, she set herself free from the deep grief and we composed a blueprint for her future. Within 6 months, she was engaged. This is one of many examples that reaffirms how I am to serve and my contribution to these conversations is for relieving people’s pain. Beyond pain, it is helping them create and step into a direction that takes them back to themselves and what fulfills them now.

Thing 5: I wish someone had told me that if a part of me is not ready to move forward, I am wise to trust the wisdom of my body and not ignore its messaging. Many times for inexplicable reasons, I would be reluctant to move forward on a project or an opportunity. Why it’s important to trust my physical body is because I now know that my body has information that precedes my brain. An example of this has to do with my book launch in 2019. I did a very small launch of the book GPS to Joy, and then my body told me to stop and do not promote the book yet. This made no sense intellectually but what I needed to do is allow more time to get stronger and less fragile. I had endured 9 losses and that took time to move through. When my body had processed all of the grief after the losses, I was given more information about my mission and crafted my current platform which is called The Joy Continuum. My body needed my grace and patience and more time. Rather than disregarding the subtle messages, it would have been better for me to relax, trust myself from my head to my toe, and wait for the signs from my heart to continue and carry on.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

In December 2019, the full expression of the joy mission came to me. I envisioned a global platform that I named THE JOY CONTINUUM. The Joy Continuum represents our journey to joy as we make our way through the stuff of life. Pillar one is called the RECOVER, pillar two is the DISCOVER pillar, and pillar three is the AMPLIFY pillar. On your journey to joy, wherever you are, I’ll meet you there. To that end, each pillar has a community, resources, courses, coaches, and a safe place as you navigate your journey to joy through the continuum. Developing courses, collaborating on books, self-help resources, creating programs, and bringing communities together with PODS of people wanting to generate joy (for now online) as a community.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

My self-care routines used to be driven by specific measures — what I could bench press, the number of squats I could nail, the distance I could run, the weight on the scale. I monitored my body fat levels in real time! After losing my husband and both parents, my priorities shifted, I viewed life from a different lens. I needed to bring simplicity back into my life and I needed to spend more time with my daughter. I am still committed to being strong, agile, and fit. However, now my self-care is inspired by what matters most to me and what brings me joy. I love dancing and hiking, and when I go for my morning long walks, half of the time I’m dancing to 80s disco and the other ½ I’m listening to a podcast. When my daughter is home, she joins me in on the fun. I take health and well-being seriously while infusing fun, delight, and play in the mix. Without self-care routines, I realize my reach to serve people will be limited. That being said, when I do what brings me joy and listen to my body, I have more energy. Reflection, meditation, prayer, and writing are also a part of the formula. I dive into my creativity by writing, journaling, sketching, and penning poetry. I acknowledge the gifts in my life daily and maintain a gratitude journal that sometimes has a simple picture in it. One of my favorite self-care routines includes gardening! My rose bushes are a wonderful refuge to rest my ambitions. Lastly, I reach out to my friends and family daily as part of self-care.

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, “You don’t HAVE to. You GET to.” TCU’s head coach had posted these words in the dugout when the team was playing for the world series of college baseball. My late husband and I were sitting quietly on the couch watching the game to kill time as he had just come home from the hospital after his first brain surgery. When I read that, I got teary eyed. Right then, I promised to give him the best of myself for the rest of our marriage. Not only was I his advocate and his caretaker, but I was also the one that would be by his side until death do us part. I didn’t have to, I got to. That right there has been the context I use for every choice I make in my life, no matter how hard the circumstances may be.

You are a person of huge 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 have a vision to impact, love, and support 1 billion women’s and girls’ lives with 50,000 healing, learning, and economic development centers infused with my messaging; choosing joy over suffering, choosing each other over isolation.

I would inspire an open source Joy Movement where 1000’s of people around the world would have the words “I CHOOSE JOY” go viral and drop right into their hearts. I imagine “Joy Pods” around the world where communities create their own “I CHOOSE JOY” micro-movements. Together, we embrace joy as a part of everyday life without regard to nationality, color, sex, status, religion. This movement would be for everyone, period. No other requirements involved.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

The person I would love to have lunch with is Michelle Obama because of the global impact she has made and her strong stance for communities, family, girls and women’s’ empowerment, and empowering her husband and family to continue to be a stand-up role models post-presidency. Melinda Gates, a philanthropist and strong global advocate for women and girls. She has been so instrumental during this pandemic.

The chance to collaborate with Michelle, Melinda, and other women with this sort of vision for our communities and the world would be so fulfilling and quite frankly, bring me joy!

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