I had the pleasure of interviewing Founder, Jodi O’Donnell-Ames, Hope Loves Company, the only non-profit in the U.S. with the mission of providing both educational and emotional support to children and young adults who have had or have a loved one battling ALS in their lives.” Jodi is a former teacher and massage therapist who, after losing her heroic husband to ALS, and witnessing the toll ALS had on her entire family, realized that children caregivers needed to be recognized and supported. Jodi has been featured in Real Woman magazine, on The Today Show and on Caucus-NJ with Steve Adubato. She is a recipient of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference award, the AFP Philanthropy award and the TIAA 100 Difference Makers awards. She has combined her experiences as a mother, teacher and leader to create and provide free programs ALS children caregivers need but were not in existence.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get to be where you are right now?
Jodi recalled the day when her late husband Kevin was diagnosed with the terminal illness, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 30. Jodi and Kevin were the proud parents of a toddler and were beside themselves with fear and uncertainty of the future. Kevin became paralyzed, speechless, ventilator and feeding tube dependent. Years after Kevin lost his battle; Jodi remarried Warren Benton Ames and became a mother to his children, Nora and Adam who had lost their mother to ALS before the age of 11. Having no resources in place for her children who were all grieving, Jodi vowed to create them and did.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How did this quality help you overcome obstacles on the path of becoming an influential and inspiring leader?
Extrovert. I love connecting with people and find something interesting and exciting about most everyone I meet. With any goal, having people to share and explore possibilities is imperative. Having the chance to connect with thought leaders and compassionate people inspired me to dream and to put action into my dreams.
What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the hyper-competitive world of running a business or an organization?
I believe that mental strength comes from having a strong belief in your goals while being able to visualize the end result. Starting a non-profit is exhausting, there is not auguring that. However, I have never lost sight of my goals which means that tomorrow is another day to bring Hope Loves Company closer to fruition. I have set three goals each day and have been able to meet those goals which mentally invigorated me and my purpose.
A lot of people in the business world feel as if talking about mental health makes them appear weak. How do you feel about showing mental strength and setting an example of what it takes to have a strong mental stamina to succeed?
I am very comfortable sharing my personal experiences and recognized the body-mind connection from the time I was a teen. I created physical and mental strengthening goals then and at 53, still can and do practice. We as a nation should be talking about mental stamina more than we do. It’s much harder to maintain mental stamina then physical in my opinion.
Is there a particular person, a book, or place of wisdom that has inspired you to become a successful and mentally-strong leader?
There are many people and books and I refer to them again and again. I am drawn to women who have succeeded beyond expectations. Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey, Eleanor Roosevelt are my top three. Two books that come to mind are Thrive by Arianna Huffington and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
Can you give us 5 tips on maintaining strong mental health stamina to succeed in the modern business world? Tell us a little about why each point matters.
Can an imbalance in private life cause a mentally-strong leader to deviate away from the path of success? Why? How to alleviate this problem?
Absolutely. Most people spend more hours at work than at home. If one of those areas is out of synch, the imbalance can parlay into others areas of life. I learned from a great teacher once to put on an invisible coat before coming to work and before heading home. I wrote down all of my personal worries mentally before going to work and then put that piece of paper into my invisible coat and left it there. Use the same visualization before you head home. Of course, it does not always work, but being cognizant of the behavior is a great first step.
What works best to maintain strong mental stamina as a leader? Yoga? Meditation?Listening to music? Something else?
Yoga, meditation and music are all great ways to maintain strong mental stamina. For me personally, active mediations work the best. Since I can’t sit still well, active mediation like gardening, dancing, and walking provide the best results. Experiment with all three and compare the outcomes. Sometimes mixing them up for diversity is also productive.
In 2019, what will be the best way to recharge energy?
Podcasts! Podcasts cover all topics of interest and are a great way to relax, learn, grow and thrive!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
When I shared my idea of Hope Loves Company, many people said it would never work. But the truth was, it was a vision and my heart filled with so much joy when I saw what it could be one day and how children would be supported during difficult times. Don’t let the naysayers get to you. Place quotes around your house so that when you receive a negative response, you can refer to a positive quote for inspiration. Keep going!
If the readers of this interview series would like to read more about you, how they can reach out?
My nonprofit, Hope Loves Company’s website is www.hopelovescompany.org.