Eliminate “I could’ve,” “I should’ve,” and “I would’ve.” Nothing good comes from those words, inherently, they call for us to look back with regret on a choice we made and to beat ourselves up. Sure, you have to take responsibility for your actions, but using those words too often, for no reason, will inevitably chip away at your confidence and hold you back. When such thoughts come to mind, instead, redirect your focus to what you need to do next to forge ahead. We all make poor choices in life and most of the time there’s nothing we can do to take them back. We can, however, use them for guidance in making better choices and continue on the path toward success more enlightened. Some of the most successful people wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t have to navigate tough situations brought about by themselves. The key is, instead of dwelling on failures, evaluate them, unpack them, use them, don’t let them happen in vain.
Ohio native, Catherine Bosley, is an award-winning TV anchor and reporter, most recently in Cleveland, who launched her own business based on her most inspired lesson as a veteran journalist: everyone has a story that counts! That brought her a revelation regarding how her own life-changing comeback story can potentially make a life-saving difference for others in this “day of digital danger,” as she calls it. Her experience arms her with precious, unique insight she shares in her transformative and rewarding journey as a motivational speaker, including on the TEDx stage, an adjunct professor, online advocate, and through her forthcoming memoir, “The Bare Facts.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path
Not the usual events someone shapes their career around for sure! I narrow it down to navigating survival a few times, in the true sense of the word, and in ways I never imagined. My “drama decade,” as I call it, my 30’s, makes up that “story” as I found myself fearing for my life three times. First, blindsided by serious heart disease, then lung disease, then emotional trauma when I made a mistake which changed my life forever, and caused me so much grief it almost cost me my life at my own hands.
TV journalism was always my passion, and while, after years on-camera full time, I’m still at it on a free-lance basis and it plays a big role in where I am now in my life, I’m finding the most rewarding success through my own business, CJB Productions, LLC., where advocacy is the focus, more specifically, online advocacy. That includes motivational speaking, consulting, coaching to help others rise above some of life’s most tumultuous times and to provide guidance on how to avoid some hardships, like I endured, by making better and more vigilant choices. As much as my story, my drama decade, brought my once smooth, naïve, “living the dream” life, to a screeching halt, it opened me up to something greater: precious insight regarding the value of overcoming. My mission is to make it count by passing what I’ve learned along the way to others, and I’m so grateful to say it’s being received with enthusiasm beyond my expectations.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It was actually the hard times which paved the path for my journey. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing about the hurdles, but there was a time I felt those confounding challenges, one after another in a matter of only a few years, were signs I was meant for struggle, and vulnerable, maybe weak. It’s an outlook potent enough to change the trajectory of your life if you don’t take the initiative to reframe turmoil into triumph. That’s only clear to me now, in retrospect of what is my “triumph trifecta.”
At 31 years old, just as I was picking up momentum in my dream career as a TV journalist, everything came to a screeching halt. I was diagnosed with two severe congenital heart defects, told I would be lucky to make it 40 years old if I didn’t have open heart surgery. I still get a bit of sinking feeling recalling how I felt when I was given that news. It was terrifying, but I had no choice, I agreed to the surgery. My illness turned out to be a blessing in many ways. The recovery, especially, put so much into perspective for me regarding what’s important in life. Those small things, every day worries, all the “what if’s” so many of us dwell on that in some respects held me captive until then, issues in life out of my control, became less important which opened up time and energy to focus, instead, on what really matters: faith, family and friends. To top it off, I was told, with my “overhauled” heart, I would be able to run a marathon if I wanted. It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up! Embracing a passion for life I never knew, I completed 13 marathons since then, and marathon training happens to be how I met my husband as well! That whole experience evolved into ambition to enlighten others about the possibilities our seemingly dark moments have to bestow goodness.
I had to remind myself of that message, though, not too long after, when I developed a life-threatening lung illness — more dangerous than the heart disease. Lung surgery, endless breathing treatments, experimental drug therapy and about three months of not knowing if I would live, even a question my doctor couldn’t answer, made the open-heart seem not so bad. I credit that survival for making me that much stronger, and expanding my understanding of the value of perseverance and hope.
Finally, that revelation was put to the test in the most humiliating way a couple years later. In celebration of surviving the lung disease, for the first time in my life I stepped out of character. I cut loose on vacation with my husband in Key West. Images of me from the regretful night eventually surfaced online and my life was turned upside down — would never be the same. Yep, silly naked pictures and video. I lost my job as a TV news anchor, some friends, any sense of self-respect and almost lost my life at my own hands that time. My name, story and the dreadful images went viral. Invites poured in to share my story, rather my disgrace, on national TV shows like Good Morning America, Inside Edition, eventually, Oprah. I was the topic on The View, The O’Reilly Factor, and even David Letterman’s Top Ten List. On line comments poured in. Most were kind and supportive, none of which I felt deserved. Instead, I dwelled on the cruel comments saying I was ugly, stupid and had no reason to live. I believed them. I was being back then, in 2003, what today we call cyber-bullied, cyber-shamed — cyber-humiliated. Just in time, something kicked in, maybe grit to the rescue, compelling me to fight back, after all, I refused to give up against two life threatening illnesses. Three successful federal lawsuits later, my choice to endure what was emotional brutalization by opposing lawyers and some of the media, I got control of my life back. I was granted copyright ownership to all those images, giving me legal means to stop the dissemination which included taking on, of all people, Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine when they used one of my copyrighted photos. In the middle of it all, I reclaimed my TV career. Got back to work at a much better station! Just answering this question, I take in a deep sigh of relief, still in disbelief myself. So surreal.
Some call me courageous or strong, while I appreciate that, I can tell you through all three of those “survival” events, desperation was truly the driving force — perhaps a key ingredient in the recipe for grit. It’s amazing the strength of character you find in yourself when it’s what will make the difference between life and death, literally.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Honestly, it seemed every time I survived one rough time, I became more determined and optimistic with the next. There were certainly instances where I felt like I had nothing left to lose so why not drive on as hard as I could? Little did I realize, it must’ve been grit at work. The key, I believe is to not look too far ahead and remain steadfast in tackling the challenge of the day to the very height of your ability — and then some. I liken it to my favorite sport, running. The mental challenge of hill running can make you want to say never mind, and requires, sometimes, a great deal of conviction to stave off the misery of the moment as you stand at the bottom of what looks like a mountain. When I run hills, I shift my weight onto my toes to better dig in, and turn my eyes down to the pavement, concentrating on one step at a time, one breath at a time, trying so hard to avoid looking up at how much farther I have to go. Only when the road starts to flatten out under my shoes do I raise my eyes, and I’m there, at the top of that mountain — on top of the world for the moment. Every conquest brings profound personal reward that, for me, shored up the “drive” to take on the next hill, the next mountain, whatever it might be.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
When I think about realizing the power of my own “grit,” I go back to when I finally caught a glimpse of my struggle beginning to turn around. It was when I was rehired in TV news. During those days, shoot, those first few years back at it, I cringed at the sound of my own name, believing it represented my infamy. In fact, when I shook hands with people, I tried to avoid having to really say who I was worried my name would sabotage any credibility I might’ve restored. I believed EVERYONE had seen those disgraceful pictures of me as I was trying to reestablish myself, and when they heard my name they would think “oh, yeah…her!” It’s a fair assumption our viewers knew about my fiasco, the local newspaper even did a story speculating I was hired for the sensationalism. In addition, I knew it could be possible my new co-workers would resent me. Thank goodness, they were so supportive! But it all took me back to what I learned through my other struggles, from knowing great things can come out of what might seem like disaster or doom, to the power of perseverance. That’s what put my “grit” to work on a whole new level. I knew I had to put blinders on to my shame, reach deep inside my soul and work harder than ever; I had to prove I was more than one mistake, and focus on engaging my faith and the love of my family and friends to stay the course. I started back as a freelance reporter and eventually made it all the way to the anchor seat for years, received Emmy nominations, was asked to emcee and speak at civic events. Once again, I could respect, even like, the sound of my own name again.
A big part of what I felt would be a complete comeback was to make the “naked nightmare,” as I call it, just go away, as if it never happened. Despite success in my reclaimed TV career, despite finding this inner strength, or character I never knew I had to rise above, something didn’t feel quite right. It occurred to me my experience had become part of me, part of who I was. Surviving global humiliation is not something to be erased. Also, at the height of the nightmare, I vowed if I could survive it, I would somehow make it count. It struck me the most effective way to do that would be to share my story on my terms, in detail — as opposed to having others attempt to do so as the media often did during the darkest moments. I was elated, perhaps, set free, when I decided to write my book and speak on what happened as it occurred to me how much value my story has, how relevant it is today. But that meant reliving it — reliving it all. It meant revisiting a great deal of pain and guilt, even suicidal thoughts from the past. I have to admit, at first the trepidation was almost too much. Again, I had to dig deep and am so glad I did. Now, every time I tell my story, one I was so ashamed of, I’m empowered!
So, how are things going today? 🙂
That question makes me smile! Thinking back to my life just a few years ago, I would’ve never imagined I would be where I am right now — lifted up by the potential attached to each day and basking in a peace like I’ve never known. To me, having that sense of calm about where you are is precious. It’s the most telling sign all is good and you’re on the right journey. Part of that I attribute to being true to myself, appreciating the richness and value of my own narrative. You know, until I started to branch out with my vision, I don’t think it even occurred to me I had such thing as a narrative!
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
1. Stay steadfast in taking on the challenge of the moment. I mentioned this in an earlier response and find it so important. Of course we should be aware of what tomorrow might hold and prepare, but often putting too much thought into looking ahead or letting yourself be overwhelmed by the overall goal can potentially steal or dissipate crucial energy. Distraction over what might happen in the future, whether bleak or bright, can sabotage your today. Every day I sat in a federal courtroom taking on Hustler Magazine, David vs Goliath style, I knew the brutal trial was going to consume my life for several days with no guarantee the jury would side with us. Those thoughts would be enough to make anyone want to hang their head and walk away. Instead, by putting my all into the present proceeding — all my attention, my courage, my grit — I saw it through, one day at a time, to victory.
2. Just try one more time. Perseverance was the first “big” word I learned as a child, and still my favorite word. My mom used it in reference to my determination when I wanted something. I became obsessed with the possibilities implicit with that beautiful word. Eventually, you will succeed or, perhaps, find a better way to achieve what is you want to accomplish or overcome — by trying one more time, maybe it means trying a different approach one more time. While covering more challenging news stories, it often seems my success, a few times award winning success, depended on that one more interview, one more question, one more phone call, knocking on one more door, or considering one more angle. Applying that MO to any endeavor can, not only set you on your way, but can set you apart from the rest.
3. Eliminate “I could’ve,” “I should’ve,” and “I would’ve.” Nothing good comes from those words, inherently, they call for us to look back with regret on a choice we made and to beat ourselves up. Sure, you have to take responsibility for your actions, but using those words too often, for no reason, will inevitably chip away at your confidence and hold you back. When such thoughts come to mind, instead, redirect your focus to what you need to do next to forge ahead. We all make poor choices in life and most of the time there’s nothing we can do to take them back. We can, however, use them for guidance in making better choices and continue on the path toward success more enlightened. Some of the most successful people wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t have to navigate tough situations brought about by themselves. The key is, instead of dwelling on failures, evaluate them, unpack them, use them, don’t let them happen in vain.
4. Always remember “this too shall pass.” Maybe you’ve heard the saying nothing in life is permanent, except change. It’s so true! When you’re experiencing a tough time, it might not seem like it’ll pass, might seem more like it will be part of your life forever. Before you know it though, it’s just a memory, and hopefully you wiser for it. I find keeping that in mind makes any challenge more tolerable, helps me buck up and keep centered enough to stay the course. What about when you find yourself out of work, devastated by an argument with someone special to you, or constantly dealing with an unruly child? Bring on the misery that becomes your whole world…for a while. In time it all works out though, the misery passes, maybe even gives way to positive developments like a better job, a deeper relationship with the special someone or the realization your kid is actually brilliant!
5. Make it personal. That means take care of your “person.” Allowing life’s simple pleasures to rejuvenate the spirt can make for amazing mental clarity, essential to grit. It starts with nurturing the love in your life, we too often take for granted. Truly making time for those who mean the most to you can do magic, as you laugh, cry, put down your defenses and soak in the most precious human connection. Also priceless, making time to show yourself some love by doing even the smallest things that bring you joy and allow an escape. Maybe it’s alone time, maybe it’s charity work, finding some way to give to others, maybe it’s worship or a hobby. For me, running is one of the greatest gifts I give myself, especially during the most stressful days, but also during great times! It’s where I find my most quality time with God. It also brings me a sense of control, balance, accomplishment and restored faith I can take on whatever comes at me next, and I can do it a better person.
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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
I am so blessed when it comes to the people in my life. I am surrounded by people I truly trust, where there is mutual, unconditional love and respect. My family and close friends mean everything to me. Knowing they were and always will be in my corner certainly lays the foundation of my grit.
Also, I have to mention two others on more of a professional level who I credit for getting me through. Steve Doerr, now a news director in Atlanta, was the news director who gave me my second chance in TV in Cleveland, when many other news directors around the country scoffed at my campaign to try to get back into news. Steve believed in me, he understood the despair which comes with a mistake like I made, as well as the value of giving and receiving a second chance. I truly feel my comeback meant just as much to him as it did to me. When you think about it, he also took a risk in hiring me to some degree which motivated me even more to succeed. My success would be his success. Steve cheered for me from the very beginning and still is! I will forever be grateful to him.
The other person, is the late Gary Hanson. He was a former news director of mine who I was also blessed to have believe in me, even in my college years when he visited campus to talk to aspiring journalists. He eventually went on to become a professor. We lost touch after my scandal erupted, I was too embarrassed to correspond with him. Years later though, after I was back at work in news, I learned he was very sick, and I had to reach out. We met for coffee and he asked to know the whole story. When I finished, after an awkward silence, I’ll never forget his response. He said he watched the news coverage of me along the way, including the federal trials, and was impressed. IMPRESSED of all things. “You managed to repeatedly get up and dust yourself off,” he stressed, sitting back with a proud fatherly look. That was the moment I truly felt “dusted off.” He also intimated I should share my story on a bigger stage. That meeting gave me permission to embrace my story and determined the next path I wanted to take with my life: make it count — celebrate the victory and all it offers.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ll never forget how one mother came up to me in tears after a speech I gave regarding rising above cyber-harassment and said “I wish we knew about you when my teenaged daughter was going through the same kind of hell.” While her daughter survived, I got the sense she’s also scarred so I have to believe much of what I said resonated with her deeply and gave her hope there is healing. Most importantly though, I think the “you are not alone” message I convey is profoundly impactful. As both a TV journalist and a “survivor,” I so recognize and appreciate how I can use my “voice,” or my platform to reach others in a few ways. The rise in the number of teenage suicides as a result of bullying, especially online cruelty, is certainly a tremendous part of what motivated me to put my story to work.
It might sound trite, but it’s so true: If I can rise above, so can you! It’s the message I stress to inspire and give hope to others every opportunity I get, from taking the stage at larger speaking events, to meeting strangers who are looking for courage, to more intimate moments with family members and friends facing struggles. I use my experiences, especially my global humiliation, as examples of how to rise above, how to understand there will be “life” after whatever it is someone is going through, and most likely, it will be more fulfilling than the life they’ve known before the set back.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
It seems there’s always something new coming up! Topping the list — my book! I’m hoping to have it out the first half of 2019. Like many books, The Bare Facts has been years in the works. The memoir details my story from a perspective few are aware of when it comes to the torment of coming under attack online. It takes the reader through the downward spiral no one sees coming, and I honestly don’t believe many fully understand yet. The humiliation and the inner struggle are a couple themes I believe many will be able to relate to and be most affected by. The journey also takes the reader to the triumph of survival, even glorious comeback. I look forward to others having my tale in their hands, to take it in on their terms, reflect on the life lessons I hope I offer, and make it count in their lives.
Then, there’s the speaking! I recently launched my new website featuring my speaking business. I offer a variety of topics based on themes I pull out of my story and designed for audiences of all kinds. Getting a standing ovation to my TEDx speech was such an honor and fired up my passion to share my messages of caution and hope in person whether it’s from the stage, in a more intimate group or even one on one. The idea of being out there with people, and hearing their stories as well, I believe can only perpetuate kindness, understanding and more mindfulness when it comes to making better choices in this day of digital everything.
There are few other projects in the works I can’t expand upon quite yet, but hopefully soon! Of course, one involves work on a podcast — can’t pass that up! I can also say I’m putting a lot of thought into another TEDx sometime soon.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I’ve worked for many different companies and under a variety leader types myself, I’ve also been the leader so I have a great deal to draw from. I think we overanalyze this subject to the point of making it a mystery when really, I believe, the way to make employees thrive is ridiculously simple: make sure they know they are appreciated. From making sure they are in the role best suited to their skills and passion, to communicating with them honestly and regularly and valuing their opinions and aspirations, to bringing a box of donuts to the office once in a while. That treatment always motivated me as a worker to go above and beyond. The key is it has to originate from true appreciation. We all know when a compliment or sentiment is less than genuine and how that can backfire.
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. 🙂
Great question! I’m constantly brainstorming for a movement to showcase the goodness I believe is most people.
One idea is a “say it forward” social media movement. With so much cruelty moving forward online, this would be a counter-trend where we might reach out to or tag people — anyone from someone special to us to someone we meet in passing, and shout out something positive to or about them for the world to see! Might be especially meaningful if that person is going through a rough time, had a bad day, or did something special which stood out to you. Those on the receiving end then follow through by “saying it forward” to someone they feel is in need, or deserving of a kind sentiment. Not only a “lift me up” for the receiver, but wouldn’t that be cathartic for the sender, too, that “giving” feeling? I’ve thought about starting a Facebook page to set it into motion.
Or, a campaign more directly in line with my mission of warning others about how, with one poor choice, the cyberworld can turn a real-life world upside down permanently: “for all, forever,” Maybe a hash tag trend to start! I envision it becoming an everyday phrase people employ as a reminder to themselves and each other everything you send into cyberspace, no matter your so-called “privacy” settings or how many times you think you deleted, is for all to see and out there forever. Like “just say no.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are two quotes, actually. The one I often recite to others is “the biggest risk is not taking any risk,” Mark Zuckerberg. So true. When we resist stepping out of our comfort zones due to fear of what could go wrong, we never know what could go amazingly right! Fear of change or something new can be so stifling, even debilitating — that is — if we let it be.
Just as important, I believe, is the phrase I use so often, “Make it count.” I’m talking all of “it” life hands you, good, or bad. Learn from “it.” Use “it.” This repeatedly comes to mind as I take inventory of my strength, of my motivation — of my GRIT.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I encourage everyone to check out my website, CatherineBosley.com, for more on who I am and how I can help you, maybe someone you love or even your company survive and rise above life’s struggles and this “day of digital danger.” You can also find me on
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.