Reward yourself. As humans, we are emotional and encounter stressful situations daily. I find that rewarding myself, no matter how small, can help release any built up pressure and worries. Personally, my favorite little rewards are an ice cream shake or a gourmet cupcake!
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingCassandra Leite.
Cassandra Leite is the owner of New England Foundation Crack Repair who works with residential and commercial customers to help solve their basement waterproofing and foundation issues. Cassandra believes in offering a high quality resolution with transparent and friendly service.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
While growing up, it was just my mom and I. She was a solopreneur and had her own house cleaning and landscaping business. The flexibility of her profession allowed me to tag-a-long with her during school vacations. I watched her tirelessly work in order to provide a comfortable life for us. In short, this helped structure and played a good part in making me the person I am today. At the same time, this created the inspiration of wanting to have a successful business.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
Spending my summers and school vacation weeks watching my mom work allowed the opportunity to learn several aspects of being in business for yourself. I loved the idea of the ultimate autonomy and wanted to do these on my terms.
Once I grew older and became more independent, I worked in retail, nursing and customer service. After 8 years in a career in customer service, my position within the company continued to grow. Although, I was excited and eager to learn new duties, I quickly became bored and knew there were more opportunities I wanted to pursue. Meeting different people coming from a variety of backgrounds and seeing them fight for a better future made me realize how I also had to work hard earlier on. These realizations contributed to my desire why I would love to be my own boss.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
There are two people that contributed to the starting and continued growth of New England Foundation Crack Repair. In August of 2019, my husband, William lost his job. Although it was a stressful and uncertain time for us, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise and the necessary push to start the business. William, our partner, Paul and I always discussed opening a business of our own in their field of foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing. After many stressful talks and weighing our options, we took a chance and dedicated our time and money to this new venture in our lives. With their extensive knowledge in the field and my desire to run a small business, we knew we would be the perfect team. After 1 month of perseverance and while still working my 40 hour job in customer service, I had built the website, made marketing materials (business cards, uniforms), secured all necessary licenses, insurances, and paperwork, bought a work vehicle and secured our 1st job. These were some of the craziest and demanding days of my life, but also the start of the most rewarding ones.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
In most cases, I am the first point of contact for our potential customers and some people I speak with assume I am the secretary. I guess in some ways I am, but there is also a lot that I do behind the scenes to ensure this business is running smoothly! Many of the customers are surprised to see me when I go and work on the job sites. Being a female in this male dominated field has taught me a lot about my self and others. No matter what anyone thinks, I strive to work extremely hard in order to prove that I can accomplish whatever I encounter.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
The biggest advice that I would give to anyone looking to be successful is to always stay learning and create your opportunities. Admittedly, I dropped out of high-school in the 10th grade. But, this did not stop me from continuing to take in knowledge about anything and everything related to business. I constantly read business related books, listened to podcasts, did online courses and watched videos.When you want something bad enough, you can’t wait for a chance to present itself; you need to create your possibilities. There is an endless amount of knowledge readily available and I am sure you would find people from whom you can take inspiration from. You do not always need to look at the most successful people to become motivated. I have seen many people who come from nothing and run successful businesses. Anyone can do it. All it takes is patience and hard work.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The best book that I have ever read is ‘Power of Moments ‘by Chip and Dan Heath. I would recommend this book to all who read this interview. I was presented this book during a customer service conference. Geared toward interactions between organizations and people, it tells us about moments in life and their impact on us. A small take away from this book is that people tend to most remember their highs and their lows. This resonated with customer service as it highlighted some unique actions companies were exhibiting. Prior to reading this book, I was insensible to how what I say or do constantly affects others. This book gave me a new perspective on life and the memories that I make.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Success comes from the inside out. In order to change what is on the outside, you must first change what is on the inside.”
― Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability
I feel this quote wants to make me do more and work hard. It is about focusing on yourself to be the best you that you can be. You can not be successful if you do not take action.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Right now, I am in the very beginning stages of establishing a non-profit which would help at-risk youth. It would provide an opportunity to focus their time and energy on positive experiences to help prepare for the future. There are so many life-skills that are necessary and not taught in schools.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
- Practice and prepare beforehand. One should be prepared for the worst possible outcome. I try to visualize all the worst scenarios in my mind before the actual situation. This enables me to be able to not be surprised if anything comes up. I am already mentally prepared, and I already have a plan chalked out in my mind. This help with dealing with stressful situations without losing your train of thoughts
- Completing attainable goals. Achieving a goal or target is a huge stress-relief and triggers the brain chemical Dopamine, the “feel-good neurotransmitter.” When we feel good, we strive for more and can continue the cycle. A great example of this is Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball method. This focuses on paying the smallest balances first to gain momentum and accomplish ‘small wins’ which entice you to continue working with one less item on your to-do list.
- Write everything down. I am constantly jotting down notes, whether on my phone, post-its, or in a notebook. This way I know that I can free my mind and focus on something more positive, but I can still go back to my ‘to-do’ list when I am more mentally available.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
- Reward yourself. As humans, we are emotional and encounter stressful situations daily. I find that rewarding myself, no matter how small, can help release any built up pressure and worries. Personally, my favorite little rewards are an ice cream shake or a gourmet cupcake!
- Smile and Laugh. The old saying is that “Laughter is the best medicine.” This is a physiological tip that I learned to instantly de-stress in most situations. Not only do you get a nice mood boost, but laughing can help physically release tension. In most cases, you can accomplish a good laugh quickly by calling a friend/family member or watching a funny video online. If you are not pressed for time, I would recommend to attend a local comedy show once in a while.
- Do what makes you happy. Participating in a hobby or engaging in any other activities you enjoy creates a zone where you are solely focused and not thinking about your stressors. Then, when it’s time for your high-pressure moment, you are already serendipitous.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I use this technique from Betty Shine’s book “Mind Magic” where you form this place in your mind. It’s like your ‘happy room’. And whenever you need to relax and focus you can just visit the happy place in your mind. A simulated technique is also used by the TV series Sherlock Holmes where the protagonist stores information in his ‘mind palace’.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
One of the easiest tips that I promote for enhancing focus is to make sure your work station is organized and cellphone free zone. You can also do some deep breathing techniques, meditation, eat well and exercise daily. In short, a healthier lifestyle makes a healthier mind, but let’s be honest; this is easier said than done.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
As they say habits are hard to break and that’s true. Anything which controls you or which you are compelled to do will harm you and your output rate. When you need to repeat those habits the likelihood of your productivity might drop as a result. It’s vital to keep our habits in check and ponder over how we spend our leisure time so that we are able to nip the evil in the bud. As an entrepreneur I find helpful when a routine of good habits is incorporated in my being and it definitely affects my work/business.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
Perseverance is key to both developing positive habits and breaking negative habits. A dedicated mind-set and desire is a great start to altering your habits. First of all, you need to acknowledge any bad habits that you may have. If you cannot accept your bad habits, you would never be able to break them.
There are benefits to have support at such times. Some people prefer to seek help from family and friends while others choose to remain incognito and anonymously reach out to strangers online or through groups. It is rare to break or develop a habit overnight. By focusing on something more positive, you will help enlighten your mind. Be persistent with your desired outcome and you will find your way.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
You achieve the state of flow when you start doing something that you enjoy, can control or allows you to problem-solve. I run a business because I realized earlier on that this is what I would love to do and the opportunity to solve problems excited me. Each day is different and I never know what to expect. Every new project inspires me and gives an adrenaline rush that I never got while working any of my previous jobs.
In order to achieve more flow, I would advise to take chances. You never know what you are missing out on and what you may enjoy. If you like to do an activity, but it is hard, keep practicing. Everyone had to start somewhere.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would like to use my space and platform to raise more awareness regarding acceptance and kindness. As the saying goes “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes,” this is a simple but powerful reminder. We never know what others are experience in their day to day life and we become quick to negatively judge. The mood elevator is a tool that was created by Larry Senn in order to visually notice our feelings and emotions. The middle of the elevator is a content feeling where you can be described as ‘curious, interested.’ If you continue to go down the mood elevator, you encounter feelings such as frustration, defensiveness and being judgmental. Alternatively, when you go up on the mood elevator, you experience feelings such as patience, hopefulness and gratefulness. By being more in-tune with yourself, you may stop to notice where you are on the elevator and hopefully made a change to a higher emotion.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Pink. She is such an inspiration to me. She exerts this power and confidence which is so admirable. She is not afraid to be herself and encourages everyone to not care what others say or think. Pink’s dedication to supporting the many charities and groups she is involved in is commendable. Her personality seems so down to earth and I think we would get along great!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Most of our service information can be found on our website, www.NewEnglandFoundationCrackRepair.com. But we have several social media pages where you can find pictures of us working and our current projects.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.