Susan J. Farese of SJF Communications: “Be a lifelong learner!”

Be a lifelong learner! Keep learning skills, content, and procedures to enhance your knowledge and credibility as an expert in your field. Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. […]

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Be a lifelong learner! Keep learning skills, content, and procedures to enhance your knowledge and credibility as an expert in your field.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan J. Farese.

Susan J. Farese is the owner of SJF Communications Public Relations in San Diego. Susan is a veteran (former Army and Navy Nurse), filmmaker (producer, casting, actor and publicist), writer/poet, photographer and mentor. Some of Susan’s favorite pastimes are spending quality time with her husband and daughter (in or out of quarantine), birdwatching, writing and teaching poetry (especially Haiku), nature photography, watching and working on films, attending live theatre performances, and blogging.)

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thanks for asking! I grew up in Northern NJ in a small blue-collar town and have one brother several years younger than me. My parents, now in their 80’s were entrepreneurs. Mom, was a professional singer and dancer during her early teens into adulthood and owned a dancing school (until I came along) and Dad, was (and still is) involved in real estate, insurance and financial services. My paternal grandfather and great grandfather were also entrepreneurs.

I attended a predominantly Polish parochial grammar school up to 7th grade and my major extracurricular activity was taking dance lessons (from my Mom’s protégé student’s esteemed school) from age 3–14. I was outgoing and loved performing in recitals but didn’t really enjoy (or excel in) the technical aspects of dance. We moved to the Jersey Shore (Central NJ) and I started public school in 8th grade on to high school. That was a tough transition for me. I was quite shy for a while until sophomore year in high school when I gravitated to chorus, concert choir and then drama/theatre and ‘found my people’! My guidance counselor and I discussed college and since I enjoyed science, interacting with people and being outgoing, I studied nursing in college, obtaining my Bachelor’s degree (and ultimately Master’s degree several years later).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Most definitely my favorite quote has always been “The Journey of 1000 miles begins with one step” by Lao Tzu. So inspiring, motivating and also relevant to all the changes in my personal and professional life, even today!

How would your best friend describe you?

Hard-working, creative, dedicated, enthusiastic and relentless.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?

  1. I am creative and passionate in the arts
  2. I value and embrace change and
  3. I have moxie and drive

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

After obtaining my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, I spent 12+ years as a military nurse stationed in the US as well as overseas. My second chapter began in 1990.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

Beginning in 1990, I became an entrepreneur, with diversified experience, as a public speaker, nurse consultant, business owner as well as actor and communications professional and mentor.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

In 1990, I needed a break from bureaucracy and wanted to make a difference motivating and teaching others. I also took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment, and my type (ENTP) confirmed my entrepreneurial quest! I attended the MBTI consulting course and it helped me with my decision to change paths into entrepreneurship!

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

My skillset already included a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in nursing, so I was comfortable transferring my scientific and interpersonal skills to consulting and ultimately in the communications field. Due to several job positions and changes in the military and civilian nursing as well as personal, job and geographic relocations, I had the courage and confidence to go for it and I also learned to value, adapt, embrace change and reinvent!

How are things going with this new initiative?

It continues to amaze me how happy I am in my second (perhaps third) life chapters! I have provided communications services (to theatres, musicians, authors and businesses) for over 10 years and have been a volunteer, mentoring college students for their career/professional development in the Aztec Mentor Program at San Diego State University for the past several years.

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?

My husband has been extremely supportive of me with all of my life and job changes! I also am thankful to a professional artistic director and choreographer who invited me to join an advisory board of a professional theatre in 2011, which led me to doing public relations at that theatre for five years, then going freelance with PR in 2016.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

The most interesting story? That is a tough one because each client that I provide services for is interesting to me! How about a few that stand out? 1. We lived in Sweden in 1994 (because of my husband’s executive position) for nearly a year. I networked with Swedish faculty as a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the National Nursing Honor Society in the U.S. and presented seventeen workshops/classes throughout Sweden to University Nursing program faculty and students. That was invigorating and a true cultural exchange! 2. It is always surprising to me and I am humbled and grateful when I am referred by word-of-mouth and retained as a consultant, whether as a PR professional, Nurse Consultant, Public Speaker, Actor and being referred by word-of-mouth.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

I was a bit awkward and unsure of myself at the beginning of my professional PR career, but I always believed in and used my intuition, I am a lifelong learner, was usually outgoing, asked pertinent questions and eventually became confident!

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I joined organizations, researched, read up on topics and networked!

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

As I was leaving the military and rejoining the civilian life, I needed a break from bureaucracy. I attended a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Consultant course and soon discovered (and validated) that I was a natural fit for being an entrepreneur. By also brainstorming with my husband about what I wanted to pursue, I decided on motivating and teaching others at the time, and created my first company that provided professional, personal and staff development consulting and workshops.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Change is GOOD! Better to welcome and embrace change than to fight or resist it. My life completely changed when I became an entrepreneur.
  2. Trust, value and cherish your intuition, follow your passions!
  3. Vet your clients and research them — it might not be a good fit!
  4. Learn business skills (writing, branding, marketing, financial skills (such as budgeting, expenditures, revenue expenses, profits), drafting work agreements, etc.).
  5. Be a lifelong learner! Keep learning skills, content, and procedures to enhance your knowledge and credibility as an expert in your field.

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?

Yes, indeed! I am a published author and poet since the early 1990’s. I teach virtual (previously in-person) Haiku workshops and would love to inspire a major Haiku movement (especially with the National Youth Laureate Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman’s recent RISE as a poet and the subsequent recent emerging popularity of poetry as a result). More info about my Haiku workshops is on my website.

What do you want to be remembered for the most?

I have been an advocate for change and have embraced change and reinvention. I am creative in the arts. My life has been extremely rewarding.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Many thanks for interviewing me. It’s been a pleasure!

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