Rising Through Resilience: “I don’t try to solve the problem until I feel I have all of the facts”

An Interview With Author Anne Marie Cummings and Executive Business Coach Alexandra Friedman

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First, when something negative happens I take in all of the facts and simply digest them. I don’t try to solve the problem until I feel I have all of the facts. Once I have the facts and have digested them, I park the problem until I have slept on it. I wake up fresh and tackle the issue head on.

In my work as a coach and consultant, I speak with business leaders across multiple industries about their most significant challenges. One common theme continues to emerge — rapid change and disruption are the new norm in business, and the only constant is the demand for resilience. At the heart of resilience is the ability to adapt and recover quickly from adversity. I am certain that more than intelligence and talent, resilience is the single most important trait required to succeed in today’s highly complex market. My “Rising through Resilience” interview series explores the topic of resilience in interviews with leaders across all walks of business.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Marie Cummings.Anne Marie is the author of the Amazon bestselling book entitled “Baby Boomer Bonding; Luxurious Life without Breaking the Bank” Her book is not like most retirement books that focus on the financial side of retirement; Baby Boomer Bonding is something very different. This book focuses on life (and how to live it!) after you retire. It encourages physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and improvements and helps the reader set goals to achieve a better life. It also touches on how Co-Housing can provide support and companionship without having to live in a retirement/nursing home. After retiring from a 30-year career in technology sales Anne Marie went on a journey to reinvent herself and determine how to live a meaningful life in retirement. Her years of research and over 50 interviews with many of the leading authorities on retirement led her to the realization that most people are fearful of this final act of life and don’t get the joy out of this time that they should. She discovered that there are three main areas of concern for people as they retire; 1. How will I get mental stimulation and stay relevant; 2. How will I stay strong physically and avoid the dreaded nursing home; and 3. How will I live a good life and maintain my financial security until death. These concerns are addressed in detail in her book Baby Boomer Bonding. Anne Marie graduated from Carleton University with a degree in psychology and a passion for creating beautiful surroundings. She has always been interested in helping people live a good life in a comfortable setting on any budget. She believes that home is your safe haven and your safe place to fall. Although she was a technology sales professional for 30 years, she has always used her free time working with Charities that help people live their best life in a comfortable environment. Anne Marie has been involved in Habitat for Humanity whose vision is a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. She also volunteers at Furniture Bank which is a charity that helps people coming off the streets, new to Canada or from an abusive relationship establish themselves in a comfortable living environment. In addition, she has been a contributing designer to the Chair Affair an annual auction-based fundraising gala in Toronto. Finally, Anne Marie has two established businesses; one as a speaker, author and retirement reinvention consultant and the other in real estate development that allows her to maintain her relevance and help others do so as well.

Thank you so much for joining me! Our readers would love to get to know you. Can you tell us your backstory?

Well, after my undergraduate was complete, I intended to go to law school and become a family mediator however, my part time job, while I was in university, presented me with incredible opportunities to get into technology sales. My parents were horrified that I was going into a career in “sales” not “law” but my gut told me it was the right decision for me at the time. After an incredible 30-year career I was really longing to get off the gerbil wheel and live my life without boundaries. I decided to take a real estate investing course and made the decision to take the next year learning how to be a real estate developer. The goal I set for myself was that if I could replace my technology income with real estate income I would quit my job and move into real estate development full time. For the next year I worked 12 hours a day at technology and evenings and weekends at real estate development. At the end of the year I realized I was able to replace my technology income with real estate income so I retired from technology to pursue real estate full time. As I thought about my goals, I realized it would not be enough for me just to make money developing real estate; I needed to have a purpose as well. This is where the Marigold Mansion idea took shape. The Marigold Mansion is a Co-Housing Concept that bring people 55+ together to live in a supportive community. I buy and restore heritage mansions to their glory days and create communities where people live together as family and support each other as they age. The mansions provide private space for each person and also has common space for everyone to come together to share their day; eat a meal together or simply enjoy a quiet conversation. The whole concept is to ensure people can live a luxurious life.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success as a leader at Marigold Mansion?

  1. I surround myself with great people who also excel at their core business.
  2. I think outside the box and always keep a creative and open mind.
  3. In my mind there is only a positive outcome; yes, there are obstacles but they can be overcome. There is a solution to everything.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company stand out from the crowd?

  1. My Marigold Mansion Co-Housing company stands out because we only use heritage mansions to create Co-Housing environments. Saving history and creating luxury at an affordable price differentiates us from our competitors.
  2. Marigold Consulting stands out because I have walked the walk using a specific process and reinvented myself 11 times in my life so I know how to make it happen.
  3. When people who want to reinvent themselves and have a relevant retirement work with me, I show them my proven 8-step process that when followed will guarantee success.

How has your company continued to thrive in the face of rapid change and disruption in your industry?

My company has continued to thrive because it caters to an ever-growing population; Baby Boomers. Also, I am never rigid in my thinking. When you need to bob, you bob and when you need to weave, you weave. Life is never a straight line and you must be willing to be flexible and consider other angles.

I believe that “resilience” is the underlying trait of all successful businesses. How would you define “resilience?”

Resilience means having the ability to recover from adversity quickly. Don’t dwell when something negative happens. Find a solution and fix the issue. I am resilient because I have the ability to mentally and emotionally cope with a crisis when one occurs. I have the mental capacity that allows me to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking.

When you think of tenacity and endurance, what person comes to mind?

This is a tough one because so many people come to mind when I think of people with tenacity and endurance. If I have to choose one, I would select Oprah Winfrey. She was born to a teenage single mother. She did not have running water or electricity growing up; basically, she came from nothing. She was raped multiple times as a young girl by family members. She could have just fallen into a similar life that she came from but she didn’t. She made the most of the opportunities that she fought for and continued to grow year over year. She is now a philanthropist, humanitarian, entrepreneur, a fighter, a TV Host and she give back to help others make the most of their opportunities. You have to admire her tenacity and endurance.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway?

I have been told many times that something could not be done and I thrive in those scenarios. When I started my technology career in 1987, I had moved to a new city; never having lived away from home and I was doing something I had never done before; selling technology. I was afraid to fail so I worked night and day learning products and business and the psychology of sales so that I could meet my annual target. As it turned out, I achieved 240% of my annual target. At the awards dinner after the year ended a senior executive from my company came up to me to congratulate me on my success. He told me I was “very lucky” and that I would not be able to do it again. I responded with “Luck Schmuck, watch me do it again”. He smiled and I walked away. The following year I did 400% of my annual quota.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever?

Yes, one of my greatest setbacks came when I was packaged out of a position at a technology firm I was working for. They decided to downsize their management team and my position was eliminated. This was a difficult time for me because I was in a key role and had a very successful team that I truly enjoyed working with. In addition, I knew the decision was more personal than professional. I had a chauvinistic manager who did not believe women were equal and he made that clear on a regular basis. Although it was a difficult blow, I knew my skills could be utilized at another firm so after having a miserable weekend I picked myself up, straightened out my crown and called a recruiter to start the process of looking for a firm that appreciated my skills. I ended up landing an even better position at another firm and all was right with the world once again.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency?

Yes, when I was 10 years old my parents separated and we moved 500 km to a place where I had no friends. In the 70’s, there was a huge stigma around divorce; there was literally no one else at my new school whose parents were divorced. In addition, we moved from our beautiful home in a lovely neighborhood to a two-bedroom house in a run-down neighborhood. I thought my life was never going to be good again. Money was very tight so I had to get a job if I wanted any spending money. I decided I would deliver the morning paper before I went to school. I would get up at 5:00 to sort my papers and start delivering them; most of the time it was still dark when I was out doing my delivery and sometimes, I was scared. I thought I was the only one with problems. Usually, I had a left-over paper or two from my delivery and for some reason I decided one day to read the newspaper. I read stories about whole families who perished in house fires and others who died in car crashes and others who killed themselves. As I was reading these stories, I realized I was very lucky. I was alive, I had a roof over my head and food on the table and I had the ability to work (10-year-old work like delivering papers). Every day I would read about a tragedy that occurred and would thank my lucky stars that it wasn’t me. My problems paled in comparison and I started looking at my fortune versus misfortune.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. What strategies do you use to strengthen your resilience?

First, when something negative happens I take in all of the facts and simply digest them. I don’t try to solve the problem until I feel I have all of the facts. Once I have the facts and have digested them, I park the problem until I have slept on it. I wake up fresh and tackle the issue head on. One story that is fresh in my mind; happened last night. I have recently purchased a new property to create a new Marigold Mansion and I thought I had all of the funding in place to close on the sale which is going to occur on 15 January 2020. I got a call last night from the bank and they said the funding was approved as long as I met one condition. The condition they are asking me to meet will not happen prior to the close of the new house so the funding will not be advanced to close on the property. I gathered the facts last night and slept on it and this morning I came up with a Plan B to find the funding to close on the sale of the property. I will execute on the Plan B plan to ensure we close on the sale on 15 January. It won’t be easy or pretty but it will happen.

What are your thoughts on how leaders can create a more resilient workforce?

Be flexible with policies. So many corporations have such stringent rules of engagement and people are so quick to say “that is not the way we do it here”. Creativity gets squashed and new ideas are not presented because they don’t fall within the cookie cutter rules. Be supportive of creative thinkers who may fail when they try something new. Provide an environment that protects your employees from the stressors of failure. Teach employees how to turn failure into triumph. One thing I was taught at the first company I worked at was that my territory was my franchise and I needed to work it as if I owned it. This was so enlightening because I took risks and thought outside the box and it almost always paid off. Sometimes my bosses would shake their heads and wonder what I was doing but they always applauded my creativity to solve a problem or to get a deal done.

Extensive research suggests that people who have a clear purpose in their lives are more likely to persevere during difficult times. What is your purpose?

My purpose in retirement is to help people live in a beautiful space supported by like-minded people who are not necessarily their family. I want to keep people out of long-term care homes and help people live in place as long as possible. I want to help reduce loneliness by creating Co-Housing Communities. Loneliness is known to cause premature death by damaging the heart according to a new study. Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“Retirement only means it is time for a new adventure” Anne Marie Cummings

About the Author

Alexandra Friedman is an executive business coach with more than 25 years of experience enhancing the performance of individuals, teams, and companies such as Xerox, Peppers and Rogers Group, Microsoft, and The Wall Street Journal. She received an MS in Management from Loyola Marymount University and earned her Executive Coaching certification from Columbia University.

Resiliency Quiz: How resilient are you? https://www.friedmansolutions.com/assessment

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