Know why you want to do this. It becomes your guiding light, your reason for doing what you do. It can always withstand any circumstance that appears when you have tough days or are struggling, feeling down, or frustrated; when you know your why you can reconnect with it and keep going. It carries forward from listening to your heart. Since I connected my why to my career, it has opened more doors than I ever thought possible, and it is just the beginning.
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 Michelle Forsyt.
Michelle Forsyth is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and author/productivity coach who teaches women how to find and share their voice with the world. Michelle pivoted after a successful career in the corporate world to become a successful freelance virtual technical assistant and transitioned to becoming an author and productivity coach helping women with productivity, achieving their goals, and fulfilling their dreams. You can find more about Michelle at her website: stepsteppick.com and get more momentum and inspiring tips with her Monday Momentum Builder newsletter.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/0e5854c8a07e5d064703717312ea05ef
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?
As a child, I dreamed of being a novelist. I imagined becoming Agatha Christie or Sir Author Conan Doyle, where I created intriguing stories of murder to be solved by the fantastic amateur detective I invented. A
family member with the best of intentions said to me that “Little girls didn’t want to grow up to be writers; they want to be teachers or nurses.” This idea affronted me, and it created the first niggling of self-doubt. I still held my dream in the back of my mind, and as I got into my teens, I began researching how to become a writer. It planted the next giant seed of doubt. I decided I would not be able to “really” be a writer until I was in my 40’s. Little did I know that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. While I dabbled with writing and even published a short story in my 20’s, I did not actively pursue writing until I was, you guessed it, in my 40’s.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be yourself.” My transgender wife taught me the importance of living your true authentic self, always. I honestly thought I was pretty honest and genuine. However, in my previous roles, I often hid my feelings and my opinion as I thought they did not matter. As an executive assistant, my priorities were on what my boss or team needed. It became more of a struggle to share my opinion. Today, the more I live my life without fear, the more opportunities appear. When in doubt, be yourself. If the other person does not like who you are or your opinion, that’s okay. As long as I am being myself and being respectful, then I am content to keep moving.
How would your best friend describe you?
My best friend describes me as an old soul, smart, funny, creative, loving, and passionate. She says I am one of the single most persistent people she’s ever known. She knows that if I set my mind to make something happen, I will do it. She knows I never give up, and I will always fight for what is right, especially when it comes to my family.
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?
To accomplish what I have so far takes a loving heart, absolute respect for the process, and diligence.
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 first chapter truly began at 15, when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I slept 18–22 hours a day for two years and had to drop out of high school. Then, at 19, when the doctors thought I would be able to resume “living,” I developed Fibromyalgia. Eventually, I was able to write my General Equivalency exam and receive a high school diploma. I even had graduation pictures taken at a portrait studio to make me feel more “normal”! I struggled with my symptoms for many years, and while my symptoms improved to a more manageable state, I could not work full-time until I was 28 years old.
At 28, I was newly single, with a year of community college completed (but not graduated), virtually no work experience, and no driver’s license. Because of these circumstances, I worked in my most natural field that required the least amount of effort: administrative assistant work. I built up a career based on limited education and maximum self-taught skills until I moved from administrative assistant roles to becoming a technical administrative team manager for a regional financial institution. While it was a fantastic career, at 43, when the opportunity came up for me to work with my wife as a virtual technical assistant, I jumped headfirst into marketing, writing, and transferring my virtual assistant skills into this online world. It was a fantastic learning experience; however, I traded a corporate job to become a freelancer contractor vs. following my true passion for writing and coaching.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
At 47, I shifted my career, which is when I “reinvented myself” or became my true self. This career change came about because of the pandemic. I realized, if the world could change this drastically overnight, then I could do change too. My wife experienced severe mental distress because of the pandemic and was no longer able to work with me on the technical virtual assistant work. It gave me the chance to reevaluate my career and the direction I was heading. Instead of continuing to focus on other people’s goals, I asked myself, “what do I really want to do?” The answer was simple and easy. I was already coaching and writing on the side, but I decided to make it my full-time focus. I love what I do now as a writer, author coach, and productivity coach. After years of dreaming of writing and teaching, I’m finally doing it.
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 specific trigger was COVID-19. If that had not happened, I highly likely would still be a virtual technical assistant, dreaming of more and wondering if it would ever happen. I could only see a future of getting by, maybe writing a bit, but not going for it. I saw 20 years from now, and my dreams drifted away without ever becoming real. My Mom also inspired me to take action because she only started living her real purpose when she turned 70 after having survived colon cancer. I was terrified I would be the same; one day, I would be 70 years old and not have done anything that I wanted to do. Fear of never fulfilling my dreams became more potent than any fear I felt about sharing my voice with the world or coaching other women.
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?
First, I let go of writing fiction. As a virtual technical assistant and even in my corporate career, I wrote emails, newsletters, blog posts, websites, and more. My brilliant wife got me to realize that “writing is writing.” Once I accepted that all writing is terrific, then it allowed me to see the immense opportunity.
Second, I realized I coached all through my corporate career. For every single job I had, I trained other people, created process documentation and training material, and most often, I provided direct 1:1 training and mentoring to colleagues as well as people I supervised. Like writing, “coaching is coaching,” and I had decades of experience sharing with my clients.
I found both the writing and coaching by paying attention to what I did when I wanted to have fun at work. While the administrative work is natural, and I love organizing, it was not satisfying or fulfilling. I helped my clients by doing stuff for them, but it made no difference if I or someone else did it. I realized I needed to have an impact, to make a difference in people’s lives.
When I recognized this, I knew that I could transfer my existing skills into coaching other people to create the life they want. Helping people fulfill their dreams is a much more fulfilling career choice (for me anyway)!
The barriers I had to overcome were internal. Self-limiting beliefs, lack of confidence, imposter syndrome all appeared when I began this journey. Having a supportive partner with my wife makes a huge difference in overcoming these obstacles because she is my coach and my rock. I also made a list of my accomplishments and skills. I reminded myself that I’ve been helping people in this capacity for over 20 years. I finally saw that I had enough experience and expertise, and I could reach people in this way and make a difference in their lives.
How are things going with this new initiative?
In a word, things are amazing. Since many of my clients never considered writing a book, never thought themselves as a writer, it is remarkable the impact of seeing their growth. I am incredibly proud of what they have already created and will continue to develop. I feel like a proud Momma watching her kids grow into creative, inspiring leaders. While many of my clients are first-time authors, at least one is more experienced and working on her next book. All of them are excited to share their ideas and see the potential of creating more and impacting the world themselves with their voices.
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?
I am incredibly grateful for my wife. Not only has she taught me the importance of being my authentic self, but she also believed in me, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Now, don’t think for a second that my wife will only tell me how amazing and smart I am; she always tells the truth. If I’m moving in a different direction or losing focus, she keeps me on track. She shares her beautiful, brilliant mind with me and helps me each day by sharing her love. Because she always tells the truth, it reinforces my belief in myself. If she didn’t think what I was doing was worth doing, I guarantee she would say it to me. When she says I’m beautiful, smart, and have what it takes, I know it’s true.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The thing that has surprised me is how much a difference knowing why I am living this way. I’m a massive fan of Simon Sinek and his principle of starting with your why wholly transformed my business. I was in another coach’s group coaching program where I was introduced to this concept. Everyone, including myself, keep talking about this concept of knowing your why. It’s a simple yet powerful truth. I had no idea this would change how I act in my business, yet here we are today. When in doubt, I connect with my why and encourage all my clients to do the same. Because whenever imposter syndrome or any form of self-doubt appears, knowing your why makes it possible to overpower those thoughts and emotions.
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?
Absolutely! Imposter syndrome and self-limiting beliefs were the norms for me. I overcame these limiting beliefs by putting the work in on myself. Affirmations, meditation, coaching, and more all helped me to become the person I am today. Especially with writing, it is a very personal and sometimes emotional process. As I’ve written my upcoming book, Step, Step, Pick: How to Use the Power of Momentum to Tackle Tasks, Finish Projects & Fulfill Your Dreams, I’ve gone through many emotions and challenges of wondering if it is worth the time and effort.
The primary way I’ve overcome this belief system is by taking action. Fear is a sign of success on the horizon. If you are afraid to do something, it just might be the thing you need to do. Even two years ago, I barely attended networking events and only did what I had to do to create the business relationships I needed.
While I sometimes need to take a deep breath first, I do not hesitate to participate and take on new challenges each day. The more often we challenge ourselves, the more success we find, and it gets easier each time.
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?
I’m very thankful that I already had a support system in place with three core people: my wife, Mom, and my best friend. These are individuals I trust will always tell me the truth and be my cheerleaders and challenge me when I share my goals. It is essential to have cheerleaders in your support system, and equally important, those people will be honest and share their points of view. These other opinions help you formulate your ideas and be sure you are moving in the direction you want to go. While their views may be different than your own, listening to their viewpoint is vital because when we get started with something new, often we have blinders on and do not see a bigger picture. They may see something that you may have missed and could hamper your results if you ignore that missing piece. It also expands your view and allows you to make a more informed decision to move forward, sideways, or backward that you may not have uncovered without their input to ultimately move forward in your life and business.
I immediately shared what I wanted to do with my support system, and I continue to share updates on my goals and business growth. My support system is part of my team, not just an external force. I look at them like my counsel. Yes, they cheer me on, which, of course, encourages me to move forward. When I’m challenged with something, they also give me insights and ideas that I may not have seen without sharing the idea with them. A support system provides objective opinions and different insights than you’d come up with otherwise. Having such a great support system makes entrepreneurship’s ups and downs far less lonely and more fun. You are not on the journey alone.
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?
With this chapter, I spent most days outside of my comfort zone. I’m a naturally shy person and lacked self-confidence for many years. Some of the things I’ve done over the years to improve my confidence are taking leadership training like the Dale Carnegie program and Toastmasters International. The most significant source of my belief, though, comes from showing up each day. I joined and participated in networking groups (also, thanks to the pandemic, it is much easier to attend networking events). I do Facebook lives Monday — Friday on my business Facebook page to keep pushing myself because I share my life with the world with business and personal stories. The more I do these activities, the more comfortable I become, and my comfort zone keeps growing each day.
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.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/-96rGqi4izY
- Know why you want to do this. It becomes your guiding light, your reason for doing what you do. It can always withstand any circumstance that appears when you have tough days or are struggling, feeling down, or frustrated; when you know your why you can reconnect with it and keep going. It carries forward from listening to your heart. Since I connected my why to my career, it has opened more doors than I ever thought possible, and it is just the beginning.
- Listen to yourself, your heart, your body, and your clients. When I began listening to my heart, I found like-minded people who wanted the same thing as me — to get their books out of their heads and into the world. Listen to your body when it needs to rest, too, or you won’t be able to help your clients or be with your family.
- Show up every day for yourself, your family, and your clients. It is not just getting through it until you can go home, retire, sell the business, or whatever the case is for you. It is investing yourself into the heart of your business with each decision, whether it is deciding to greet everyone with a smile or increasing healthcare options for your staff.
- Our thoughts are real. As a young adult, when I told myself I could not be a writer until I was in my 40’s, it was right because I let it be true. Instead, if I told myself I am a writer at any age, that would be true too. Please pay attention to what we think about and, if it is a negative thought, ask, “Is that real, or am I afraid to try?”
- Be yourself. When you live your life with authenticity, you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do or say because it will be based on who you are. Since I started showing my honest self to people, clients, family, and friends, I demonstrate it with every action I take.
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?
My movement would be when women focus on their dreams and use the power of momentum to move forward and accomplish anything they want.
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
I want to be remembered as a woman who cared deeply and lived by what she taught. I want to inspire other women, whether they live with chronic illness or not, to chase their dreams.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check me out on stepsteppick.com and you can begin receiving my Monday Momentum builder newsletter where I share practical insights and strategies to turn your dreams into reality. I am also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmforsythwrites, Instagram: @michellemforsyth, Twitter: @mmforsythwrites and of course, LinkedIn: @michelle-forsyth
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!