I like to define resiliency with the quote from novelist Josephine Hart from her first novel-turned-movie, Damage, where she writes, “I have been damaged. Damaged people are dangerous. They know how to survive.” Her quote has inspired me for decades as ringing true. Resiliency is survival, and is the only choice out of a derailed life, especially when there is nothing to work with but resiliency, which sits at the core, the gut of everyone. When life gets tough, we all have the power to access our unique ability to acquire mental strength.
I had the pleasure to interview Daniella Cracknell. Daniella is the founder of the LEONARD GEORGE, a reputation development consultancy for entrepreneurs, philanthropists and creatives.
Thank you so much for joining us Daniella! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you for including me in your resiliency series. If not for the bounce back power of resiliency and the perseverance to continue on after multiple setbacks and start-overs, I would not have the resume I have today or stories to write a book based on the topic.
My backstory: I am a nationally-known media consultant and publicity expert. I create and promote renaissance brands, which are built on the premise of social impact. I have been a serial entrepreneur for almost a decade as founder of LEONARD GEORGE, a reputation development company for entrepreneurs, philanthropists and creatives, the first of three boutique businesses I now own and operate.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career?
You ask for me to tell you the most interesting story I can share from my career. Since I ‘made it’ in the cutthroat media industry out of little means but my own two feet, I have many stories to tell. But, you’ll have to read my upcoming book for those tales. This story starts with a pink slip from corporate America.
Corporate citizens often dream of becoming their own boss, creating a new lifestyle brand or writing a book, but rarely ever turn their dreams into reality. If not for that pink slip, I might have remained dreaming instead of becoming a doer. Still, it took a humanitarian trip to South Africa to the fuel the courage.
In turn, the magic of South Africa, not only reunited me with a family member I hadn’t seen in 16 years, but inspired the creation of my second boutique business in The Spa Dress®, an idea coming out of the economic downfall that stole, not just my media career as I once knew it, but that of hundreds of thousands in the media industry. To uplift our spirits, my colleagues and I were in dire need of a spa day, or two, to say the least.
Men network on golf courses; women network at spas so much so, when I handled publicity for daytime’s first reality series, Starting Over, our NBC client thought holding media trainings at a spa might be appropriate, and it worked, delivering on The Today Show best performances by our reality stars what a spa day can do to help rewire the mind, reinvigorate the body and rebuild the spirit from the inside out.
The ancient Romans believed in the power of bath houses to conduct business, and I’ve always found a hot bubbly soak a sanctuary for mind, body and spirit where great ideas come to light. The one thing missing, what to wear? Until now, short towels, bulky robes and shapeless wraps were the only spa wear available. Simply, that’s not enough function nor style for what a spa day is meant to do, lift you UP.
I also saw a problem in public displays of ‘towel dropping syndrome’ most prevalent at health clubs and in particular, hotel rooms opening doors for room service. So, I devised a solution in The Spa Dress® as the cover up that holds you UP when life gets you DOWN! Use as a slip-on-towel or a dress-before-you-dress. The Spa Dress® doesn’t drop when you need a towel to stay UP and leaves hands free for beauty routine.
Colors comes as motivational mantras to #UpliftOurGirls as a spa day should. So, no matter where you go, what you do or how you feel, The Spa Dress® can support the best of you. Reclaim your inner power in ‘Confidence Boosting Black.’ Lost your groove? Find your mojo in ‘Get Gorgeous Pink.’ And/or, clean the slate in ‘Starting Over White.’ Our motto, stay calm and spa on!
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?
I agree, none of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. While I am, for the most part, a self-made female small business owner and grateful to myself for having the mental strength and wherewithal to hang in when the tough got going, it still took a village to help me get where I am today.
One villager in particular is my grandmother who inspired the writing of my first book, which is based on 30 years of real-life letters from here, there and everywhere I wrote to my grandmother who lived in a tiny village in England. When she died, my inheritance was my life back in a box of letters — leaving me to ponder, if I knew then what I know now, would life have not gone so horribly wrong when it should have gone so right.
If you liked Renee Zellweger’s journaling in A Bridget Jones Diary, Jennifer Aniston’s late bloom in Friends with Money and Gwyneth Paltrow’s cultural debacle in Sliding Doors, then you will enjoy our story centered on the UPs and DOWNs of a self-proclaimed ‘breakup expert’ who juggles romantic relationships and family debacles that parallel her professional breakdowns, as told through letter exchanges with a villager named Grandma.
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?
In shifting the main focus of this interview to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience, I like to define resiliency with the quote from novelist Josephine Hart from her first novel-turned-movie Damagewhere she writes, “I have been damaged. Damaged people are dangerous. They know how to survive.”
Her quote has inspired me for decades as ringing true. Resiliency is survival, and is the only choice out of a derailed life, especially when there is nothing to work with but resiliency, which sits at the core, the gut of everyone. When life gets tough, we all have the power to access our unique ability to acquire mental strength.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
The characteristics of a resilient person, in my opinion, is a person who perseveres no matter the circumstance, and often remains cool, calm and collected under pressure, exhibiting grit and grace despite struggling with life gone awry. A resilient person may never show signs of distress, albeit too busy holding a sane mind together. Yet, operating with a hidden handicap, equally as challenging as a physical handicap like a broken leg, but not so visible for anyone to notice a hardship.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience, I think of the story of Joy Mangano, creator of the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers played by Jennifer Lawrence in the hit movie JOY, which also starred Bradley Cooper. Joy’s journey hit similarly close to home.
As such, she’s on my list of people with whom I’d like to have a lunch, just to say thank you for the inspiration to keep up the good fight after all things in love, life and work, for me, broke down as they had for her … until, her resiliency saved the day.
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?
Yes, more times than not. If I had listened, I would not be anywhere but nowhere. My father, however, told me I was, like him, a dreamer and that was a good thing.
So, I wake up most days with a dream. If you don’t dream, then you never know what you could dream up as real. As for my father, he lived an actor’s dream life. His reputation among Britain’s leading actors began at an early age when discovered by a talent agent during a school play. He quickly rose to theatrical stardom on London’s West End and then with leading roles in British film, television and radio, a mainstay on the BBC.
Until, at the prime of his life, he was unjustly struck down by a debilitating mental illness that cracked his world apart, and that of mine. Sometimes good luck comes with bad luck, and not as one or the other but a mix of both. What you do with your luck depends on your resiliency to digest both the ups with the downs, and weather the storms they bring.
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?
Good question as the book I’ve eluded to writing in this interview features, in each chapter, a colossal setback. When I thought I had overcome one, I’d face yet another. Hence, enough to fill a book. One to share today:
At age 10, when I moved with my mom and stepfather from the UK to America, I was advanced in my education by a year. So, assigned courses one grade ahead. However, I had not yet learned cursive writing, one area where the American education was ahead. This was a setback. I could not read what teachers wrote on the chalk board, necessitating the principal to place me in a lower level literature course.
I’ve been catching up ever since. As I wrote in the early chapters of my book, my grandma was fearful that without a proper English education, I might become educationally challenged. She would save me at least in the area of penmanship. So, in writing practice, I wrote to her often, and with regularity, I could count on my grandma returning letters I had written with red ink circling my misspellings and incorrect grammar.
Not that I intended for my letters to be returned, but here they now are today talked about in an interview. In those letters, I wrote of a promise I would fulfill after my grandmother’s death. I now say, be careful what you write. Your words may come back to haunt you as mine now have in a game changer in and of itself. One dream I never imaged was to be an author. So, can you ask me this question again when I announce the release of my first book, how a weakness turns into a strength over time?
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
An experience growing up that contributed to my building resiliency was growing up in a foreign country, the United States, a culture that speaks the same language yet has cultural differences that have often kept me locked in a state of cultural confusion with one foot in the UK and the other in the US.
Adding to the experience, being separated from my beloved father by countries with only overseas correspondences to keep us bonded and me up to date on the ins and outs of his mental illness. I had not known my father as anything else but mentally ill.
Others though, knew him during the height of his success as a leading British actor. His contemporaries went on to star in Hollywood films while he was unable to shake his role as a psychiatric patient.
In sharing a story of the experience, I’ll take an excerpt out of my upcoming book:
My first time in a mental hospital my Uncle David was with me. I was glad I had his hand to hold on to. Seeing mental illness is not easy to digest nor understand with any logic. I was not used to seeing my father behaving ‘funny.’ On most visits he appeared calm, sedated by medications but a hospital visit was much different.
The three of us were engaging in ‘normal’ chatter. Until, we set out to make a cup of tea in the small hospital kitchen. Dad had disappeared into a pantry, supposedly, to find sugar only to resurface moments later with a full pound of white flour sprinkled purposely all over his face, and head to toe as if a clown to entertain me.
I have to say, I did giggle, which made Dad smile more. Perhaps, he imagined himself in character from a play he had once been in. Here though, he had gone in one door ‘normal,’ then like a light switch, out the other as ‘funny’ like a skilled actor.
But, my father was not on stage. If only he was playing a role of a mental patient, then perhaps Mom and I might have led a different life. We may never have left England, and I may never have lived this American life.
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.
I agree, resiliency is like a muscle that can be strengthened. You ask for steps someone could take to become more resilient. In my opinion, start by rewiring your mind with hope and inspiration. Second, reinvigorate your body with insight and action, and third, rebuild your spirit with connection and support! Those are 3-STEPS I myself put into practice to reset the course of my life so my second life chapter could be open to experience better.
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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement to heal a world of broken hearts, yours as well as mine.
Mother Teresa says it best, ‘the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” It is why I started The BREAK-UP Biz™ to help those stuck in breakup misery break UP to better love, life and work experiences, and not feel so alone.
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 🙂
If there was a person in the world, or in the US with whom I would love to have a breakfast or lunch with would be the new Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. As small as the world is, she and I both worked on shows with comedian Howie Mandel. But, that’s not the connection I’m going to share with you here.
One of my clients, the late British musician Billy Franks, was one of her husband’s friends, apparently close enough to share text messages and play his guitar at Prince Harry’s private parties. Subsequently, the two co-produced the charity single A Beautiful Game as a fundraiser for Sentebale.
When Billy learned of my work in South Africa, we thought perhaps Prince Harry might want to collaborate again in hosting a concert to raise funds for impoverished youth on the private sanctuary of Mosaic South Africa where I had led humanitarian initiatives before. This was one text that didn’t get to Prince Harry because Billy had died.
During Billy’s life, his two albums with Virgin Records and six singles all made the UK chart, and he had toured with U2, REM and The Who. But before all that, Billy Franks was a foster kid living in extreme poverty in the worst part of London. It was an accidental run-in with the dramatic and musical arts at age 8 that turned Billy’s childhood around, enabling him to make sense out of a life that at first seemed unfair, unjust and on a road to nowhere.
I know the importance of the dramatic and musical arts. My violin was my everything, and while I was not an impoverished child under the care of a single mother, my father lived on British welfare. He was too ill on most days to work again. But, he never gave up on the idea of his dream life returning.
If my father had been my only parent, an impoverished London life might have been mine too. So, for the impoverished everywhere, I tell Billy’s story on which a book, A Far Cry from Sunset, and documentary of the same name was made. Billy wanted to prove that through hard work, dedication, passion and talent, you can truly click your shoes like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and wake up to different circumstances.
A Far Cry from Sunset chronicles his journey with three American school teachers who traveled through five countries on two continents to get 10 major recording artists to record a tribute album for one unknown songwriter–HIM. So, as I remember the good Billy put into the world out of his own resiliency story, I will leave you with his song All Mine.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You ask, how can your readers follow me on social media. With this platform speaking to such an influential group, it would be a most rewarding experience should your readers give me a thumbs up on this book idea by becoming the first to review my upcoming book.
Since the book is still in development and not yet with a publication date, for now, the best would be for your readers to sign up to my email list where I can alert them as soon as news breaks. In the meantime, I’m social on:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this series on how resilience, in time, leads to good things no matter what might appear today as the contrary.