My desire is that women take the challenge to meet with 5, 10, 20, or maybe even one woman a week for a total of 52 women over the course of a year for the sole purpose of letting friends, colleagues, and family members know the meaning that they have brought to her life. And my dream is that this challenge is not a one-time act, but that it becomes a way of life, something that becomes natural — where we learn to recognize, listen to, and acknowledge one another. Once we begin to take the time to make heartfelt connections, to learn each other’s stories, the world becomes a smaller place and our human connections, our relationships to one another become stronger. And strong relationships are the number one predictor of happiness.
As a part of my series about how to live with Joie De Vivre, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shari Leid. Shari Leid received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Washington in 1992. A former litigator, having graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 1995, she currently operates An Imperfectly Perfect Life, LLC, a professional life coaching business serving women, helping guide them towards recognizing their power. She is the author of the recently released book, The 50/50 Friendship Flow: Life Lessons From and For My Girlfriends.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
From a very young age, I was a checklist person. After high school, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, followed by a law degree. Check. I married my law school boyfriend. Check. We bought our first home. Check. We became parents to two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. Check. Add a dog, and I was living the perfect checklist life.
Then, I started to really “adult” — and that is when the checklist became murky. I found that life threw curveballs that weren’t part of my checklist. In 2001, my dad died suddenly on my mom’s birthday. Later that same year, soon after adopting our daughter at 14 months of age from China, we learned that she had special needs that were best served if I quit my practice as an attorney and became available to accompany her to her numerous medical, educational, and therapeutic appointments. In my 30s, I received a surprise diagnosis of hip dysplasia in both hips which required bi-lateral hip replacements. Finally, when my 40s hit, I received a breast cancer diagnosis, which was followed by a double mastectomy.
It was during my breast cancer journey that I began to reflect on my life experiences which also included a catastrophic car accident in my 20s and my own adoption (I was orphaned in South Korea and adopted by an American family) that I recognized that these challenges were placed in my path for a reason. I realized that the strength that came from my struggles and the perspective I was able to maintain during these struggles kept me out of a place of victimhood or feeling stuck and I knew these skills that I learned were something that I could share with other women to help them find their inner strength and gain perspective during times when life decides to throw a few curveballs. This belief is what led me to the field of life coaching.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
At the end of my training to become a certified life coach, I was required to obtain a number of practical training hours with clients to obtain my certification. Naturally, I asked friends if they would be willing to trust me and become one of my volunteer clients. To my surprise, the first friend I asked — eagerly said, “Yes!” and wanted to start coaching immediately. The second friend– without hesitation also said, “Yes — sign me up!” Similar responses came from friends 3, 4, 5, and so forth. Not only did each friend eagerly agree to help, but many continued coaching as paying clients following the receipt of my coaching certification. This experience made me realize how each of us, regardless of who we are, all have inner struggles and areas of our lives that we wish to improve — and we benefit greatly from the opportunities to talk and share these things aloud with one another whether it be with a professional or simply a girlfriend.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Going back to work in my late 40s, after staying at home with the kids for over a decade and publishing my first book at age 50 has brought some humorous age-related challenges that I didn’t realize would be there. The biggest challenge for me that continues even after writing an entire book is to remember that there is now only one space after periods, no longer the two-spaces that I learned back in fifth-grade keyboarding class. I must have been in the after school pick-up line of cars waiting for my kids when that change happened, because apparently the rule changed to one-space years ago, and I clearly missed the memo. When I received my first book edits from my editor, every sentence was followed by a “delete space” notation, covering my entire manuscript in red marks. Still, to this day, when I write my first draft of any correspondence, blog, or story, I madly type as I brainstorm words onto a page–double-spacing after each sentence. After my first draft of any written material, while I edit, I take out that extra space that my typing hands are fighting to keep. I actually think it has helped me in my edits, because it forces me to look even more carefully at each sentence. I posted on social media recently, “In this time of social distancing — I feel like we can go back to two spaces after a period instead of just one.”
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 about that?
I’ve been thinking about this question for a few days now. Every time I think about how to answer this question, a different face pops into my head. I have adopted a practice of gratitude for everyone who comes into my life, whether it be for a moment or a lifetime — positive or negative — and I recognize that each person I cross paths with plays a role in my life. My theory is similar to the belief in sliding door moments. The belief in sliding door moments recognizes that opportunities in life where the decisions we make alter our very destiny. Moments in which we turn left or right, towards change or towards more of the same are life’s pivotal moments in which new identities of ourselves are born and old paradigms and beliefs which no longer serve us fall away. I believe that every person we meet is both our teacher and our student. Similar to sliding door moments, each person has helped get me to where I am today — and it is impossible for me to point to just one person.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
I believe that everyone’s ultimate goal in life is not wealth, a collection of possessions, or a fancy professional title, but it is happiness. There is a correlation between happiness and longevity of life. Therefore, it concerns me to see the United States being ranked at #18 on the World Happiness Report coupled with a recent trend in lower life expectancy and lower rates of happiness over the last decade.
I view this report in combination with the work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulani outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerotology, which grew into the concept identified in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. In each of these studies, family relationships and relationships to the community are proven to be a very strong indicator of happiness and well-being. There are social foundations to happiness. High family satisfaction levels and regular social interaction provides for more daily positive moments. The United States is possibly the leading country experiencing depressive syndrome associated with social media with increasing screen times, spending much less time experiencing in-person socialization with one another. Our lack of social interactions and meaningful relationships coupled with our high obesity, depression, and substance abuse with a health care system unable to take on the magnitude of these three epidemics is all part of the formula that has caused our ranking to sit at 18th in the world and not higher despite being a global leader in wealth and productivity.
Can you share with our readers your 5 strategies to live with more Joie De Vivre? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Journal each day. I am now on my third consecutive year of journaling each day. My journal entries are not long. Some days, I write about what I am grateful for. Other days, I write requests for additional opportunities to come my way. And, many days, I write about my challenges and make notes to remind myself of what I believe my purpose in life is and how I wish to show up in life. I write intentions and short notes of gratitude and prayer for my husband, children, and friends — reminding myself to do my best to be present with love and grace, even when we’re in disagreement. After I write my day’s journal entry, I look back at my entries from the past years on that day. The regular review of past journal entries is so important. The past entries remind me of where I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago — which keeps me in gratitude for my life journey — I often see that most of my worries of past years turned out to be time wasted which prompts me to recognize the joy that can be found in each and every day.
- Look for the common story. When I meet someone new, I look for the common story. When I was younger, especially starting out in the legal profession at age 24 — I was easily intimidated by people who didn’t appear like me. They may have been in practice longer, older, of a different gender, of a different race, or simply grew up in a different social class than I did. I felt insecure because I didn’t recognize at the time that we all have a common story somewhere. Once I started looking for that common story, I was able to enjoy my interactions with new people. Finding the common story is a fun challenge and once you find it, there is an energy boost that you feel inside, almost like a jump start when that connection is made. Perhaps the common story stems from growing up in nearby towns, taking similar music lessons as a child, loving the same sports team, whatever it is — there is a common story. When you live each day recognizing that you share a common story with everyone you come across, you can release feelings of insecurity which frees you to live daily in self-confidence and joy.
- Remember that you are never stuck, you always have a choice. When we feel stuck, we live in despair or anger. Once we recognize that we have a choice in everything, we feel powerful. The choice may not always be between the most desirable options, but there is always a choice. One of my most powerful examples is something that I learned after 20 years of marriage. My husband and I had a bit of a tough 20th year of marriage. I can’t recall why it was a tough year, but it just seemed like a struggle to me. We weren’t communicating and we simply were going through the daily motions of marriage and parenthood. Leading up to our 20th wedding anniversary, I was feeling anger and resentment towards him. I realized my anger and resentment stemmed out of the feeling that I was stuck. Thinking about this further, I realized that if I were stuck, it was by choice. I journaled that instead of moving forward with resentment and anger, I wished to proceed with grace. I asked him for a meeting on our 20th wedding anniversary to discuss whether or not we wanted to commit to continue our marriage. Recognizing that we both had a choice and we were never stuck in a marriage freed something in both of us. Taking a moment to step away from the daily grind and each recognizing that we had a choice to stay in our marriage or to leave, brought a new sense of appreciation for our marriage. Independently, on our 20th wedding anniversary, we each chose to stay in our marriage. On every anniversary since then, we decide whether or not to stay married. It is not a lengthy discussion, but it feels really good to know that we are each in our marriage by choice. Recognizing that you always have a choice keeps you out of the despair or anger that feeling stuck brings whether it be in relationship, a job, or a living arrangement — and allows you to reclaim your power and live in daily joy.
- Recognize that life’s difficulties bring growth and change. I learned this lesson a month after my 22nd birthday. I was involved in a horrible highspeed head-on collision. An oncoming vehicle crossed the center lane of a highway and we collided head-on at a combined speed of well over 100 mph. In addition to significant orthopedic injuries, I received deep facial lacerations which were so significant that I began my hospital stay in the burn unit of Seattle’s level-1 trauma care center, Harborview Medical. Plastic surgery was required to close the deep and large gashes that covered my face followed by multiple scar revision surgeries that spanned a three-year time period. Each time I underwent a scar revision surgery, the scar site became much worse in appearance before a less noticeable scar resulted. One of my surgeons said, “It has to get bad to get good.” I’ve thought about that experience and the words of my surgeon several times throughout my life. When things feel like they are getting bad, I keep my eyes open for the good, knowing that it is somewhere around the corner. Being aware of the good that comes out of the bad has allowed me to survive the ugly and focus on the beauty that I trust will come. This trust in the belief that life’s difficulties bring growth and change allows me to find pieces of joy even in tough times.
- The person you disagree with can be the Scalia to your Ginsburg. One of the biggest life lessons that I have learned from looking at the lives of Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg following their deaths is that you can be friends with someone who shares a difference of opinion. The two justices were polar opposites on many fundamental issues, including their interpretation of the US Constitution. Yet, they were friends. I believe they had a genuine love and respect for one another despite their significant differences. Now, rather than become upset because a friend doesn’t agree with me, I simply say, “You’re the Scalia to my Ginsburg.” Life is much too precious and far too short to spend time focusing on our differences — focusing on our differences simply gives them strength. When we focus on our similarities, things that bring us together, we strengthen those bonds and we can jointly work effectively together. Focusing on what I love about another person instead of what doesn’t agree with me, allows me to live in joy each day with everyone in my community.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
When I received a diagnosis of breast cancer in October 2017, one of things that was very important to me was to make sure that everything I put into my body was healing whether it be nutrition or thoughts. I began listening to inspirational podcasts while in the car and while getting dressed and ready each day. I found podcasts that focused on happiness, gratitude, positivity, and stories of personal strength. The one podcast that I listened to consistently was Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. To this day, that is still my favorite podcast, having re-listened to several of the episodes. Each time that I listen to SuperSoul Conversations, I find that I gain a greater appreciation for my own path in life, a healthy perspective on life’s challenges, and a life lesson that helps me to continue on my desired path of self-understanding and growth.
During this same time period, in addition to podcasts, I also searched for books that stimulated my mind towards positive thought. My favorite book is The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It is one of the books that I reread. The book reminds me that when an obstacle presents itself, whether it be as frightening as a cancer diagnosis or simply a traffic jam that causes me to arrive late, the obstacle is actually not a stumbling block but an opportunity to move in another direction or in the case of a traffic jam to be reminded how blessed I am to own a car, to be able to drive, and to have a place that I need to be at. The message of the book makes obstacles not something to fear but something to take on with an awe of what it may be leading you to.
The additional resources that inspire me the most to live with a thirst for life, come from my girlfriends. I am currently taking on my second round of the 50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge, meeting one-on-one with girlfriends and asking them, “What is your mess that became your message?” I am conducting these one-hour meetings via Zoom. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, during my first round of the Challenge, I met 50 women in person over the course of one year to share with each of them what life lesson I’ve learned from having them in my life. I’ve found that through these one-on-one meetings, my thirst for life is fed each time through actively listening and talking with my girlfriends about real life struggles, triumphs, and lessons. I learn about life by learning through personal life stories from my girlfriends. Oral traditions of storytelling come from all world cultures, a lost art that is a resource worth resurrecting.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life quote that allows me to live a Joie De Vivre comes in the form of a question, “If today was your last day, would you want to do what you’re about to do?” The question comes up in a number of publications and can even be found in song lyrics. I think about this question when I feel unhealthy stress or negative feelings creep into my mind and body. This simple question helps me keep life’s challenges in perspective and it reminds me that in each day exists a wonderful new opportunity, a gift to be enjoyed. Once you realize each day is a gift, and time is a precious commodity that is not to be squandered, it becomes easy to prioritize your life with things that truly give you joy — a life that is filled with the people you love to spend time with and a life that is filled doing the things you love at work and at play.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I mentioned earlier, I journal each day. One of the recurring themes in my journal is a written request to make a positive impact on just one person’s life each day. My largest global movement flows from the idea that when you make an impact on one person, that impact is far-reaching, it is the butterfly effect.
I’ve began a movement called the #5050friendshipflowchallenge with this idea coupled with the belief that everyone we meet is both our teacher and our student. I challenge women to sit down one-on-one with other women who have come into their lives for the purpose of telling their friend, co-worker, family member, or even a new acquaintance what they have learned from her. I challenge women to set up at least 20 one-on-one meetings, via Zoom or in person, over the course of a year. It requires time, planning, and thought. It is not easy. It forces you to take time out of your busy life to focus on what is often neglected but which holds such huge significance — our human connections. The challenge requires a commitment, which becomes part of your life for a whole year. For the people you choose to meet with, the gift you’ll give them — of being seen and heard — is remarkable. When you recognize the importance of the people in your life, it will keep you living in a world filled with gratitude and grace. The first time I took this challenge, I chose to meet one-on-one with a total of 50 women over the course of a year to share a meal or simply coffee in different restaurants, but you can meet anywhere. In my second round of the challenge, I’m meeting one-on-one via Zoom. It does not need to cost anything other than the gift of time, which has immeasurable value.
The 50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge has five steps:
- Set a date. One on one.
- Set your intention and let go of ego.
- Share your admiration and your observations.
- Ask questions.
- Finally, write it down, take a photo, keep a journal, and capture the moment.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Last Christmas, my then 17-year-old son, requested a MasterClass subscription. When I logged on to the website to purchase a subscription for him, I found myself not only purchasing the gift subscription but also a subscription for myself. I now watch a class segment or two each day. Recently, I watched a Robin Roberts’ MasterClass titled, “Effective and Authentic Communication.” In a segment of the class, she shares that she learned from her mom to make her mess her message. The simple statement stuck with me and prompted me to begin the second round of the #5050friendshipflowchallenge, meeting with 52 women individually via Zoom and asking each of them, “What is the mess that became your message?”
In addition to encouraging women to take the Challenge and commit to sitting down with at least 20 friends or even a whopping 52 friends one-on-one either in person or through a medium such as Zoom, for the purpose of sharing with them the lessons that they have taught her by being in her life or to dive even deeper and ask a question such as, “What is the mess that became your message,” I also plan to turn my notes and lessons from this project into a book, a follow-up to The 50/50 Friendship Flow: Life Lessons From and For My Girlfriends, that can be journaled through. The women who I am meeting with throughout the Challenge are of different ages, religions, races, political views, economic, and educational backgrounds — these are real women in my life that real women can relate to. And what will become apparent is that we all have relatable messes despite our demographics. The wisdom that these women share will offer perspective, hope, and ideas with pages to journal and self-reflect. The project is meant to not only affect the direct participants, myself and the women I meet, but to have far reaching effects. I hope it prompts these one-on-one meaningful meetings. Through reading and journaling through the book, the reader will find a greater understanding of herself and will benefit from reflection on the messages that came from her most challenging times.
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 am hoping that the #5050friendshipflowchallenge is the movement that will bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. My desire is that women take the challenge to meet with 5, 10, 20, or maybe even one woman a week for a total of 52 women over the course of a year for the sole purpose of letting friends, colleagues, and family members know the meaning that they have brought to her life. And my dream is that this challenge is not a one-time act, but that it becomes a way of life, something that becomes natural — where we learn to recognize, listen to, and acknowledge one another. Once we begin to take the time to make heartfelt connections, to learn each other’s stories, the world becomes a smaller place and our human connections, our relationships to one another become stronger. And strong relationships are the number one predictor of happiness.
Thank you for these excellent insights!