What life calls us to do is remember who we are, remember what we are, and remember how to be in a healthy relationship.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Anita Sanchez, Ph.D. Anita is Aztec and Mexican-American, is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the international bestselling book, “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times” (Simon & Schuster). She bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. For more information and to download the free song that is based on the book, visit www.FourSacredGifts.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve always been a dreamer, having especially powerful positive dreams at night and waking dreams, too. As early as 4 years old I vividly remember my recurring dream of what I was going to be when I grew up. It was the earth, with many stick people of different sizes and colors, men and women who had their hands on each other’s hearts. In kindergarten the teacher asked all of us to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Of course, I drew the earth with many diverse people with their hands on each other’s heart. I proudly stood in front of the room and told my friends that one of these stick people was me. The kids laughed and the teacher said put away the crayons. I still remember that moment because I wasn’t embarrassed — I could feel that this was what I was going to be when I grew up. At age 26, I became an executive director of our community YWCA championing the health and well-being of women and their families. During my nine years as an executive I also was elected to the world YWCA, teaching people how to envision and manage conflict in themselves and with others. It was during this time that I got language for what I wanted to be and worked on getting my doctoral degree in Organization Development. I started my career of helping people of diverse backgrounds to discover and trust their gifts so that they could be a life-giving connection to themselves and others. I have owned my own organization, providing development consulting and diversity and inclusion training for Fortune 500 corporations, nonprofits, and government. I am still living that dream of connecting the hearts of people all over the world.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After three decades of building my consulting and training company, I was compelled even more than ever to share the wins, opportunities and challenges along my journey — as a woman of color, Latina, and indigenous business owner — with other women. At a Transformational Leadership Council meeting, I shared how the four gifts given to me and all humanity from indigenous Elders from around the world supported me in healing my childhood abuse, poverty, and racially motivated death of my father. These gifts provided the power to forgive the unforgivable, the power to heal, the power of unity, and the power of hope in action. Business leaders and thought leaders from around the world listened and identified the gift(s) that were calling to each of them. Afterward, I sat at a table of women who shared about their journeys and challenges to their well-being along the way. A young woman next to me said that what I talked about should be a book. I said that I was writing a book, not a business report or training design. She and talked more and she gave me a title for my book — “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times.” It felt right. I then asked her, “Who are you?” She said, “My name is Zhena, I’m a publisher for Simon & Schuster, and we want your book”. My book came out in 2017 in hardback, e-book, and audio. It is an international best-seller. And on September 21, 2019 I will receive the 2019 International Latino Book Award for The Four Sacred Gifts in three categories: Most Inspirational Nonfiction Book in English, Best Self-Help Book, and Best Spiritual/New Age Book.
In an indigenous perspective we get to be good medicine to ourselves and one another. “Good Medicine” is anyone or anything that puts into alignment the spiritual, mental, psychological, and physical.
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 grew up with a father who worked hard to provide economically for our family, shoveled coal, drove a taxi, and bartended.. There were not role models of business owners or corporate executives when I was growing up except on television. When I began consulting and training in Fortune 100 corporations I did not know that you needed to have a business card. I had a doctorate, so I thought that was a good credential. A vice president of a large multi-national corporation took me aside and said that I could not continue to coach and train at the executive level and not even be able to leave a business card. So I called my college friend who was in art design and asked her to make me a card and fast. Well, the next week, I handed out my card and the VP smiled and said, “Did you have a college friend create this?”
Several lessons I learned: first, it is okay to ask, ask, and ask some more of others to advise you in detail what is expected of you — especially when entering a new environment or business sector; second, have high standards for whatever is representative of your brand — even a business card; and third, keep your friends — these are the people you can call on in good times and bad who will readily share their gifts with you.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
To ensure the indigenous wisdom-keepers’ voices are represented and heard inside the media, I am working with a PR firm to create a database of 10–15 women and men, indigenous leaders and experts whose lineage and wisdom enable them to present unique solutions to our most pressing global issues. Through this initiative, we will contribute to a fundamental shift in the cultural conversation: from one of separation and illusions to one of connection and unity. This indigenous wisdom will contribute to the movements to ensure the health and well-being of people, our children’s children, other species’ children, and our planet earth.
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?
In an indigenous worldview, we do nothing alone — we have people, nature, and more supporting us along the way. Separateness is an illusion. However, one of the people who does stand out is indigenous Elder Dr. Henrietta Mann of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes. When I was thinking of changing my career in caring for all people, raising the consciousness of our connection to one another, it was Henrietta who shared her counsel. She reminded me that others may not be able to see what I see, and that I was doing one of the most destructive things any human being can do: losing hope. It was in 1995, with her help and the help of many people indigenous and non-indigenous, that I continued to fulfill my purpose.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help people feel great?
· A Morning Practice: e.g walking, chanting, meditation, affirmations.
· A Healthy Life requires oxygen, rest, food, water, and community.
· Gratitude for the four sacred gifts that support me to be in harmony with myself and others. The gifts are the Power to Forgive the Unforgivable, the Power of Unity, the Power of Healing, and the Power of Hope In Action.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
My mother, Frances, who had a seventh-grade education, was a voracious reader. She had us go to the library every other week to get new books to read. When the winter storms prevented us going to the library, my mother would pull out the dictionary. She would have us read a word and definition and use it in a sentence or story. She would say “Words matter” for they help us connect with one another.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It would be a Oneness and Harmony movement. The messages from the indigenous wisdom-keepers and me in my book “The Four Sacred Gifts” would be known and used by humanity to remember our life-giving connection to ourselves, other people, and the earth. What life calls us to do is remember who we are, remember what we are, and remember how to be in healthy relationship.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I mentioned, we grew up economically poor with parents who worked multiple jobs all the time. When a friend, family member, or neighbor needed something, my parents would openly share what we had. I appreciate my parents showing me that contributing to good in the world is not something you do someday: “Someday when I have money, someday when I have time, someday when I have less work, then I’ll bring goodness to the world.” There is no “someday” on my calendar.
I am fortunate to have discovered opportunities to contribute and to have been chosen to take on leadership roles in facilitating positive changes that the world needs.
Through my consulting and coaching, I bring new insight and healing to organizations and communities that are aspiring to become truly inclusive, welcoming the genius and the differences in their workforces and members.
I am honored to bring my expertise and my commitment to bringing forth a sustainable, just, and fulfilling human presence on the planet as a board member and volunteer leader of the Pachamama Alliance and Bioneers non-profit organizations. These are two brilliant organizations that are educating millions in seeing the world, and our presence here, in ways that deepen our understanding of our inextricable interrelatedness with care for all our relations, the land and all the living beings we share this earth with. At the Pachamama Alliance, we are co-leading a visionary drive to protect the sacred headwaters of the Amazon, the most bio-diverse and climatologically essential territory on the planet. With our local indigenous partners and other essential non-governmental members, we are building a movement to permanently preserve the sacred headwaters of the Amazon. In the process, we are supporting the health, well-being, self-determination, and cultural integrity of the tribal peoples across the region — peoples who are the natural custodians of lands that sequester carbon and generate oxygen and rivers of atmospheric moisture that drive healthy climate around the world. There is nothing self-less about doing good in the world. As an indigenous person I know that there is only one earth, one hoop of life, and your well-being and my well-being are interconnected.
At the same time, I am also, today, engaged in a campaign to celebrate and share indigenous wisdom about how to live in deep harmony with the natural world and each other. So much of what ails us today as a species can be healed if we will listen and learn from lessons learned over the millennia by native peoples who discovered and divined ways of being that provide mutual benefit to all living things. I am honored to be a messenger for indigenous Elders in sharing their wisdom and vision of a world in harmony and balance.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Follow your dreams; it is critical to your success. Sometimes the dreams we have are long-lasting ones, like my dream of connecting hearts of people all over the world. I am certain this dream is an expression of my purpose. Sometimes dreams are meant to be released so that you can dream new dreams. Every night tell yourself that you are open to the most positive possible future; be open to imagine that future. There will be some who say you can’t be this, can’t do that — the naysayers who may even think that their negativity somehow protects you. To them, I love to repeat this quote by Brandt Paul: “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
There is no such thing as failure! The challenges in our life help us grow muscle, strength, knowledge and wisdom. I ask myself the same two questions whether I have just had a huge success or whether I just had a challenge that blocked my ideal of what I thought was supposed to happen or not happen. The two questions are “What is the learning here? And what am I grateful for?”
Ask, ask, and ask again for what you want and for what you need. I had two beliefs that cost me lots of heartache and time not enjoying life because I was afraid to ask for help. First was the belief that other people are more important and very busy, so it is not polite to ask them for their support, help, and advice. I spent a lot of years depriving others around me of the chance to share their gifts and feel the positive hormones that come from helping someone out. The second belief was that I couldn’t ask for help until I got even better in my field. Luckily, I had mentors who in the early years found me. They saw my leadership ability and my practice of being in service to others. Now, when those old beliefs rise up, I thank them for trying to protect me and to be of help to me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Oprah Winfrey! I have watched her shows, listened to her Super Soul Sunday, and read her magazine (which sat beside the screen as I wrote my book). Oprah is a model of a whole human being who remembers how to be in right relationship with herself, other human beings and the planet. Her life story reminds me that we are not our circumstances (economic, racial, social, location…); we are sacred beings in human form. FYI, I was delighted to learn when she had her ancestry feedback televised that in addition to being a beautiful black woman, she is also part Native American, Indigenous. She continues to inspire me to be and to do my best.
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Thank you for all of these great insights!