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Sabrina Runbeck: “Bring Out Your Inner Genius”

Resilience is a mental muscle that must be trained if a person wants to be successful. To me, resilient people have these three interconnected traits: Number 1 is having the courage to act. We all have fears in life. This is just how our brain is wired to scan for danger. However, most of the […]

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Resilience is a mental muscle that must be trained if a person wants to be successful. To me, resilient people have these three interconnected traits:

Number 1 is having the courage to act. We all have fears in life. This is just how our brain is wired to scan for danger. However, most of the time the fears are irrational.

Number 2 is having the momentum to keep moving forward. Conversely, while success doesn’t lead to greater happiness, studies have found that a happier brain is more creative, resourceful and resilient.

Number 3 is having more self-awareness. It’s the best way to face our self-sabotaging tendencies and then having the will to overcome them.

At the same time, however, I’d say that it’s equally important to know how to rebuild your resilience. I was trained by Professor Shirzad Chamine from Stanford University, and in his research of 400,000 participants from 50 countries he found that the equation for achievement equals potential multiplies by PQ, or positive intelligence score. Our PQ combines the tendencies that create negative thought patterns in our lives, and the ways we handle challenges and turn them into opportunities.


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabrina Runbeck, MPH, MHS, PA-C.

Runbeck is a cardiothoracic surgery PA with more than 10 years of experience in public health and neuroscience. After overcoming burnout and a draining career, she became an International Peak Performance Speaker to recharge and empower ambitious young professionals, allowing them to rekindle their original passions and thrive there. She is also the host of the Powerful and Passionate Healthcare Professionals Podcast, author of an upcoming book about professional Asian women, consistent contributor on Instagram and LinkedIn, and she owns the website, SabrinaRunbeck.com.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/2561101020e9406724a32c25c48f52a5


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

I’d say it all began a few years ago. I came to work in what you’d say the least-optimal state possible — barely enough sleep, with a fever, and cramping hands. Perhaps the worst thing on the day was that my hands were inside a patient’s chest during his open-heart surgery. A fellow nurse gave me a DayQuil to keep me going, which I did, but then my body would refuse to move the next day.

I called my boss to take a sick day, and his response was “Just don’t make a habit out of this.” I was so frustrated, feeling so unappreciated. The treatment we give to our clients is full of compassion and respect, but that to our teammates, and even ourselves, is often anything but.

My incident isn’t unique, and that’s the most worrisome detail here. I was not living a sustainable lifestyle. I have to take care of myself. I stepped back and did significant research to find a strategy that will get myself out of constant exhaustion and feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. I went back to my roots of neuroscience and public health research, and discovered ways from other experts to create a system that turned my life around — so that I could turn yours around if need be! Now I’m a peak-performance speaker, and people have told me that going through my program “is the best thing I did in my adult life” and that they were “finally able to find my excitement again.”

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There was this example in the New York Times best-selling book “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy that I really took to heart. Let me explain with an example.

May I make you an offer?

I will give you a choice right now and you can have 1 penny today that will double every day for the rest of your life, or you can get 10,000 dollars onetime payment tomorrow.

What would you choose?

If you have picked to receive a onetime payment, what made you make this decision?

If you picked to take the penny today, how long do you think that penny will become 10,000 dollars?

In fact, you only have to wait for 31 days.

Hardy taught me that we can compound money as well as our time, knowledge, and resources to achieve greatness. “Greatness comes from small beginnings,” indeed! I, like the penny, choose to multiply, connecting with like-minded people to advance farther. Through the power of mastermind, I am now joining 18 Asian women to co-author the book Asian Women Who BossUp. We are now standing together to show that women, especially Asian women, that they can be successful on their own and that whatever stereotypical views of us out there are being dismantled.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It’s all in the message, particularly the message to keep advancing so your uniqueness has the chance to surface.

One of the most common questions people ask me is, “Sabrina, how can you just keep going and be bothered when things don’t work out?” My answer has been of course I’m upset, angry, or disappointed. I’m not a saint and don’t want to be one. For the longest time, I put on a tough front and finally after my divorce. I realized I have to honor my emotions. And I’m certain that I’m not the only woman who feels this way, considering the number of women experiencing work-related stress is 50% higher than for men of the same age. In fact, this pandemic has skyrocketed the stress level of those with a high demanding career, such as healthcare workers.

The reason I became an international peak performance speaker so that I can help young female health professionals overcome this stress and realize their distinct contributions to their fields. Nothing beats standing on stage, speaking and seeing the attendees’ expressions react to the message. So much is lost if it gets to be blog posts or text messages.

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?

One of my best experiences was learning from well-known speakers attending the Growth Summit that Brendon Burchard, Dean Graziosi, and Ethan Willis hosted. Watching the stage of amazing speakers, I noticed only three are female. How is it that 70 percent of consumers in the self-help industry are women, but most of the motivational speakers are men? I was inspired to be one of those women on stage, who used their stories to emotionally connect with their listeners and empower them.

I then went all-in as a speaker, studying under Pat Quinn and Pete Vargas III in the Stage to Scale program. I participated daily and helped my fellow classmates perfect their speeches. I also took the courage to compete in two international speaking contests Rise Up A360i and Toastmasters.

I learned from several top named coaches and trainers, but the system that had the formula I needed was Knowledge Business Blueprint, or KBB, created by Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi. After joining KBB my momentum really picked up. With a love of teaching, I volunteered to be a mentor right after joining the KBB Facebook community. I am currently running my own virtual summit and podcast as well as appearing on other people’s conferences and stages on a weekly basis.

OK, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a mental muscle that must be trained if a person wants to be successful. To me, resilient people have these three interconnected traits:

Number 1 is having the courage to act. We all have fears in life. This is just how our brain is wired to scan for danger. However, most of the time the fears are irrational.

Number 2 is having the momentum to keep moving forward. Conversely, while success doesn’t lead to greater happiness, studies have found that a happier brain is more creative, resourceful and resilient.

Number 3 is having more self-awareness. It’s the best way to face our self-sabotaging tendencies and then having the will to overcome them.

At the same time, however, I’d say that it’s equally important to know how to rebuild your resilience. I was trained by Professor Shirzad Chamine from Stanford University, and in his research of 400,000 participants from 50 countries he found that the equation for achievement equals potential multiplies by PQ, or positive intelligence score. Our PQ combines the tendencies that create negative thought patterns in our lives, and the ways we handle challenges and turn them into opportunities.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

There are so many, but chief among them is my mom. Lucy is a tough woman. Even though my dad cheated on her multiple times, she didn’t allow that to put her down. She raised me by herself.

When she was in her late 20s, she came to the U.S., and like many immigrants she had to start all over. Life didn’t get easier even when she remarried; she had to become the head of the household and then she got into a car accident. Between multiple neurology and physical rehabilitation appointments, she kept thinking about ideas to pivot her career and that of my stepdad, Jack. Although their love waned, she stayed so that she could give me the sense of a whole family. Being a single parent makes you susceptible to judgments. I dislike that notion.

My mom finally had the courage to get a divorce after I earned my medical degree and shared her fears with me. It was difficult for her, but it gave her the freedom to flourish. She now owns an accounting and financial planning service and became a CFO of a private high school.

Even though she is now single, her social life is more diverse than mine!

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

No better example than my ex-husband! “You are really not a good speaker,” “Look at the big well-known speakers, you don’t have that charisma,” “You shouldn’t speak on camera anymore” and more are the things he had said to me.

So, I joined other programs, but nothing seemed to be working for me. I got overwhelmed, discouraged, and burned out before I even got started. Then my ex’s words would ring in my ears again. I could have stopped, but I didn’t.

I know that work-related stress results in 190 billion dollars In healthcare costs yearly. Healthcare professionals are experiencing burnout at a much higher rate than the average American. Suicide, turnover, and lack of support have skyrocketed for healthcare workers.

I had to go back to my roots in neuroscience and public health training. I also find coaches to remove my blindspots, take myself out of my mental gutter and prevent the thoughts of naysayers to define me.

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? Can you share that story with us?

When I was 12 years old, my life was uprooted. I moved around the world, then to the U.S., and a few months later I was spending all my weekends selling goods at a local flea market with my broken English. For a long time, this was my family’s only income. I thought this was a normal teenager’s life. I was just trying to navigate life in a different country while figuring out who I was.

Strangely enough, despite how many marks I was able to check, I was not satisfied. This is a common saboteur for professionals called “Stickler,” and my version of it is “Miss Nothing is Good Enough.” I then decided to break out of my comfort zone to become an international speaker to empower women in healthcare like me. Myself, too, as I had to learn to neutralize “Miss Nothing is Good Enough.”

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Growing up as an Asian woman, I embraced the power of working hard. I had to get up early and work with my family, among other things to better my family and myself. I put on a “mask,” let’s call it my “not-crying mask,” while continuously finding a way to get to the next level. I held a mentality back then that if I don’t push myself no one will. I think my efforts paid off when I got two master’s degrees and broke into the highly competitive cardiovascular surgery field.

None of this would be possible if I gave up. That’s part of why I’m doing this, so that other women can embark on their professional journey without feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, or underappreciated, without having to work until sick like I did.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1✅ Building Mental Immunity: For every one negative experience, it takes 3 positive ones to replace. We can combat unpredictable internal and external roadblocks in life by identifying and diminishing self-sabotaging tendencies that block us from creating harmony. This is a consistent practice of building the sage side of our brain so that we overcome challenges and create joy daily.

2✅ Change Your Story: Ambitious professionals make difficult decisions daily, an experience that can injure them morally or develop them psychologically. When we pivot our perspectives with logic, we can turn a bad day into a good day, a problematic situation into an opportunity.

3✅ Bring Out Your Inner Genius: Although most people are not burning out in their careers, they feel conflicted and stagnant. They lose their excitement and drive. Going with the flow versus being in flow are two different things.

4✅ Redefine Your Values and Goals: When people lose the reasons why they began their career and cannot create novelty, they lose their aim in life. Have a weekly alignment session to ask yourself: What are the top three values you will hold this week? What are some nonnegotiable activities that you have to do?

5✅ Boost Energy Instantly: In our “always-on” culture, the lack of energy leads to lowered focus and increased irritability. When done right, taking a two-minute micro mental vacation can create stamina and focus to brighten your day without reaching for another Monster or visiting the gym. Use this audio exercise to instantly bring back your focus and energy: SabrinaRunbeck.com/Energy

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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ignite the “Strong Women” movement. To me, women can have both, a powerful career and a passionate life. They do not have to choose.

Did you know that women have made up a majority of college-educated adults for roughly four decades? Women also tend to take on more responsibilities, even if some of those don’t align with what they are truly passionate about or efficient. Don’t you just wonder why women have not been standing up for themselves more?

In the field of medicine, 80 percent of the workforce are women but only 1 out 6 are in C-level leadership or are dean of schools. Additionally, Asians are not as well represented as successful career symbols. Women can be strong, unique, and feminine at the same time. We do not need to accept any other people or our own judgments.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Just coffee with Brendon Burchard will be awesome. His Peak Performance Challenge training was the first time I got a one-on-one coach and saw the power of personal-guided discovery versus self-taught discovery.

We are all smart and driven, and that’s how we are able to achieve all the successes thus far. Despite the strong self-determination and our ability to self-learn, we cannot see our own blindspots. When someone shows them to us, we will have a clearer view of what’s forward, and that’s essential when overwhelmed and undervalued healthcare professionals step out to create their own businesses. I want to discuss with Brendon what are the steps they need to take on their new healthpreneur journey so they can thrive without the pressure.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m very active on Instagram.com/SabrinaRunbeck, FB.me/SabrinaRunbeck, and Linkedin.com/in/Sabrinarunbeck

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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