Sue Shifrin Cassidy: “Make sure you have a supportive network of friends”

Make sure you have a supportive network of friends. I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without people who loved and cared for me enough to allow me to vent and cry my eyes out every time I saw them. There were many times when I would go to Dyan’s house to work and she […]

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Make sure you have a supportive network of friends. I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without people who loved and cared for me enough to allow me to vent and cry my eyes out every time I saw them. There were many times when I would go to Dyan’s house to work and she would open the door only to see me sobbing. I don’t even remember the number of times she carried me over to her sofa where I would fall asleep before waking up to work, but she does. That’s love.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Shifrin Cassidy.

Sue Shifrin Cassidy is a world renowned songwriter who has written songs for artists including Smokey Robinson, Meatloaf, Cher and Michael Jackson and earned a Grammy nomination for her contribution to Tina Turner’s Private Dancer Album. Her network marketing career has seen her enjoy a wealth of success globally, earning status in the Million Dollar Club Hall of Fame and #1 International Business. She is also a motivational main stage speaker, inspiring and motivating audiences globally. A mom of 1 son … instrument rated pilot and best-selling author of The Lifeboard: Follow Your Vision. Realize Your Dreams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

To say that I came from a unique family is an understatement. I was born in Miami, Florida. My father was a doctor whose patients included Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. He was asked to become the head of the Cuban Health Ministry and when he realized that Castro was a dictator he flew home and never returned to Cuba. My mother wrote children’s musical plays based on ecological themes many years before those topics became popular. When I was 15 years old, my father decided to give up his medical practice and become an entertainer. He invented a karaoke machine in 1965 and would accompany it with the violin (that had a trap door that a chicken fell out of… honestly!) a piano and a harmonica! I could write a book about my childhood, but suffice to say, we moved 28 times by the time I turned 18. I moved to London when I was 19 and lived there for 11 years, where I became a model and a songwriter, before returning to the USA.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had my son late in life and wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to experience motherhood and cherish those years, so I stepped away from my career when I had him. I had been working in the music business as a songwriter, working with the likes of Tina Turner, Cher and Meatloaf. Going back to that profession at the age of 58 was not an option… I was a dinosaur in my industry! I decided to start a totally new business in social marketing selling products that I really loved and believed in, that I could recommend because the company’s philosophy reflected my own personal values, such as being cruelty- free and botanically based. The hardest part was “getting over myself” and choosing to label myself as a “pioneer.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

In the early days, I was instrumental in taking the business overseas and launching it in the UK. The very first time I shared my business in the UK was around a kitchen table in someone’s house, with only 4 people listening to me. Fast forward to the last time in was in the UK and there was a queue of over 1,000 people waiting in line on Oxford Street to see me and hear what I had to share with them. It was a real pinch me moment and I do love reflecting on where I started and looking at how far the business has grown since then.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am an Aries, so I am someone who is very spontaneous. I totally live up to the Aries personality profile, and sometimes it can get me into trouble! When I was brand new in my business, I was on a call with some of the top leaders of my company. None of them knew me and when the very successful leader of the call made a statement, I blurted out something like “I totally disagree with you on this.” There was a dead silence… the woman asked “AND who might YOU be?” Today, we are good friends!

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite quote is one I penned: “No one has a crystal ball for your life!” That philosophy has guided me to make decisions I might have normally not made. I am also an Instrument rated pilot and that has taught me so many things which you can apply to everyday life, one of them being “Correct EARLY” I always try to live by this. If you let things get out of hand for too long, you may never find your way back and you could ultimately “crash and burn”.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always working on something new, that is what keeps me YOUNG! I am currently writing a new book which I hope to be able to share with you soon, and I am having a great time learning Instagram! I’m also nearly finished writing a new musical with the fantastic actress, who is also a very dear friend of mine, Dyan Cannon. The musical is about her life and I can’t wait to see it all come together on stage, it’s been great to get back into songwriting which I love and I feel like this has really re-ignited my flame for it… maybe I’m not too old for the industry after all!

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

My divorce was terrible. We were married for 26 years, together for 30 years. I learned a lot about myself and really had to find my inner strength to get through it. My divorce was a public spectacle, and it was hard for me to avoid being bullied and harassed. I did my best to be a woman of grace and dignity. I feel I accomplished that. It has been very hard to share what I have been through and I am only now just getting comfortable owning my life story. Slowly, I am coming out of my shell because I believe my experience can help others facing difficult decisions such as divorce…people who are having to start over again, especially later on in their lives, reinvent themselves and forge new careers, make new friends, live alone and so much more. I hope to help them feel relevant again and trust that the best is yet to come.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

The biggest mistake is not preparing beforehand for the possibility of a divorce and losing your identity, denying the situation and staying longer than is healthy for both parties. When I began my business at 58 years old, I was attempting to contribute to paying our very hefty expenses, which I happily did. When it became obvious that we would separate and eventually divorce, the gift I gave my husband, the father of our child, was to ask for no financial support or assets. I was able to take care of myself financially and show not only him and our son, but other people, that you CAN stand on your own two feet and start again.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

I know people who have experienced amicable divorces and remain friends. I think that is so wonderful. Most people can’t get there. In my own case, divorce showed me that once I faced the inevitable, I didn’t die, not only did I live through it, I flourished. I grew as a person, I regained my confidence and self-respect, and in the end, I had the gift of love and closure between myself and my former husband. His dying words were said to me and I’m so happy and thankful that we were able to achieve this before he died, especially given everything we had gone through and the years we had been together.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

Personally, I have not even made an attempt at romance or a relationship. I am dating myself and loving it! A new relationship is not on the horizon for me, but if I were to give someone else advice, I would say that I believe that you have to be happy and comfortable with yourself before embarking on a new relationship. If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you? You also need to be in a position where you can leave any baggage and old resentments from your previous relationship in the past and not let them spill over into a new one.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

The most important thing people can do is to take responsibility for their own actions. We are each 100% responsible for our roles in the marriage. If, as I was, you have been in a long term relationship, it is easy to lose yourself and hard to see how you can be a whole person without the other person in your life. I am here to tell you that you CAN! It starts with BELIEVING that… then believing you DESERVE to have what you want in life. That YOU MATTER! It isn’t easy… but it’s worth the effort to find and value YOURSELF again!

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Make sure you have a supportive network of friends. I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without people who loved and cared for me enough to allow me to vent and cry my eyes out every time I saw them. There were many times when I would go to Dyan’s house to work and she would open the door only to see me sobbing. I don’t even remember the number of times she carried me over to her sofa where I would fall asleep before waking up to work, but she does. That’s love.
  2. Find something to lose yourself in. It could be a new job, moving to a new location, learning how to paint, getting a pet…….doing something to occupy your mind. (I have done ALL of these!) I moved to a new state to work on a musical every single day. Getting back to song writing was really interesting. I had writer’s block for at least a dozen years. Music came pouring out of me and it’s the best work I have ever done!
  3. I learned this flying airplanes… Stay on course! Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time your mind starts to wander off into anything that starts to hurt your heart. Say “Thank you for sharing. That was then and this is NOW. I don’t do that anymore!” I still do this to this day.
  4. Make sure you are gentle with yourself. Hug yourself often, even if just to remind yourself that you can feel SOMETHING! My self-hugs are a part of my daily routine. I also jump up and down a lot and I force myself to SMILE! You simply can’t feel bad when you smile! It’s hard-wired into your brain! Try it!
  5. Keep yourself healthy by exercising and eating well. DON’T consume anything that will make you upset with yourself. Once in a while is ok, but don’t make a habit out of it. Make sure you start or continue a personal care program. The goal is to start focusing on YOU when you have been so focused on him/we.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

It is really helpful to have some kind of therapy with a good therapist who can help you learn how to start processing your grief. This was critical for me. Also, the things I stated above are part of a program of self- care. Many people learn that they are “co-dependent.” There is a great book called “Co-Dependent No More” by Melody Beatty that has significantly helped people recognize their tendency to “live through others.” Another great book is “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

In addition to the books I mentioned. I created a vision board to help me get the jumble out of my head. It helped me focus on the future life I wanted to create. (I wrote one called The Lifeboard: Follow Your Vision. Realize Your Dreams, published by Chronicle Books that is now out of print). Visualization, meditation and affirmations are really important! I have a goal setting system that includes how to write and say affirmations that I use and share with others.

Because of the position that you are in, 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. 🙂

Are we just talking about divorce? If so, I would wave a magic wand, and sprinkle anti-guilt dust over the world. So many people remain stuck in relationships and work situations that they feel guilty about leaving. Old habits fill the soil that sprout guilt, fear and resentment. I would have left my marriage much sooner, but I was so worried about how a divorce would affect our son. Once I finally left he asked me “What took you so long, mom? Kids grow up and leave to start their own lives and you live with yourself forever.” That was a real eye opener. Children need to see examples of stability and love, parents need to be healthy and happy, whether it’s in the marriage or in new relationships. They need to know that if it doesn’t work it’s ok to leave and their kids will be fine in the long run.

We are very blessed that 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 and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)..

Most of the people I would most want to meet have passed away, but if it were a living person, possibly Hillary Clinton. She has endured so much. She has stood by her man and she has been mercilessly bullied and criticized. I would love to know how she truly feels about her choices in life and how being publicly vilified has affected her.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Instagram: @imsuecassidy

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!

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