There will always be a time when we have to choose. It may be as simple as what to eat for breakfast or something life-changing where you’ll need to choose right. In this episode, Carolyn Rivera will empower you by going deep into the power of choice. She shares the experiences of real people, making real life-defining choices that not only affect them individually but the people around them as well.
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Carolyn Rivera Show 6
The Power Of Choice
I am super excited for another great show. I know that most of you do some quirky things and I also do some quirky things as well. I’m not sure when I started this or who even told me about it but I do know that I have been doing this for about 30 years. Every month on the first of the month, the first word that you have to say when you wake up on the first of the month is rabbit. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. I don’t even know where I got it but if you do, then you will have good luck for the entire month. I’ve been doing this for quite some time and I got my mom and my kids to do it. I don’t think my kids do it religiously but my mother does. My mom always sends me a text, a picture of a rabbit on the first. Yesterday, I started the day with the rabbit picture on my cell phone. The good news is that we’re going to have another great month of shows because I said, “Rabbit.” Let me see how many of you readers, will begin to use this great tactic for the month. Are you going to go now and start this journey of saying rabbit every month? Let me know. Go to my Instagram, @CarolynJRivera14 and comment on my picture. Let me know if you’ve heard of this or not if I’m just crazy or where I got this.
For those of you first-time readers, thank you for joining in. I am going to do an overview of what we covered over previously so I can tie it all together. Previously, we talked about an important topic, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This topic is something that all of us face every day. We have our own experiences. Sometimes, when other people look or act different, we don’t even know how to handle it. We may feel uncomfortable. I want to thank Lindsey Roberts, one of my survivor sisters for being a guest and sharing her story. She shared with us how she felt when she was growing up. She didn’t fit in. She was this smart, quirky kid and because of that, she was picked on and bullied. That is a tough thing to have to go through.
Before that, we talked about “Career, wife and mother. Can we have it all?” Debbie Harrington was my guest. She talked about the difficult time that she had in climbing the corporate ladder because she did at a time when senior executives were not women. She talked about the sacrifices of wanting both a career and a family. Before that, I talked about creating new beginnings. Taking that step toward your dreams and to go after something that is important to you. I remember talking to you about Simone Askew. She was the first woman to achieve the rank of captain of the cadets at West Point. No other woman had ever achieved that rank before. Other women had paved the way for her just to get into West Point but the captain of cadets, being a woman, was simply unheard of.We all have the power of choice but not many of us know how to use it to our advantage. Click To Tweet
We also talked about “Every ending has a new beginning.” When one thing ends, something begins and we have different emotions for both of that. When something ends, we may feel sad but when something starts, we may feel excited. These are powerful emotions and how we handle them through that change is important. Finally, we talked about challenging the status quo. What it actually takes to do just that? I shared the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon where women weren’t allowed. She had to sign up using her initials so she didn’t highlight the fact that she was a woman. I shared with you my gymnastics story, where I wanted desperately to be on the gymnastics team but it was only for boys. I went out for it anyway and I challenged the status quo and became the first girl to compete on the boys’ gymnastics team at Forest High School.
Why do I tell you all of this? What do all of these topics have in common? They all made choices. They all decided to go after their dreams, to reach for the stars. We’re talking about the power of choice. We all have that power but we don’t always use it to our advantage. We all make choices every single day. We make about twelve decisions before 9:00 AM and research shows that on average, each and every one of us makes about 70 decisions a day. Some of those decisions are much more important than others. When you first wake up, you hear the alarm, you can choose to either hit snooze or get up. You may choose to go to the gym or not go to the gym. Those are simple examples of decisions and they come to us. We don’t even think of them as decisions. Each one of the decisions that we make can lead us down one path or another.
The most powerful thing that we have is the ability to make decisions. We can’t control everything. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control whether our boss is going to fire us or not. We can’t control events that happen but we can control how we handle those events. We can control our personal attitude towards the event or the situation. Sometimes, we often go in one direction and we let our emotions take over. That can be destructive. We can control what we focus on. We can control what it means to us and how we interpret things, our perception. We make those choices every day. Those choices are part of that 70. Don’t take it lightly. In this episode, we’re going to highlight choices and how they can lead us down the path of either success or failure.
Will you let your choices define you, destroy you or strengthen you? Those are the three things that you have to think about every time you make a choice. The power of choice is important to look back on because some of the choices we make, we’re proud of and others, we may not be so proud of. We might be embarrassed or upset about the choice that we made. The greatest lessons that we have come from those things that are difficult and the struggles that we go through. We have to look at the choices and find a way to learn from them. Use them as a learning experience.
I gave you an example of when I was working for a company and the reporting structure changed. I was upset. I did not like that new structure. I felt betrayed by my boss but the choice that I made at that time in hindsight was a bad decision. At that time, it felt right to me. I did everything in my power to get that reporting structure changed. I talked to my previous boss and I talked to my bosses’ boss. I talked to everyone and anyone who would listen to me. Everyone knew I was unhappy, including my new manager. With that choice came the consequences because the reporting structure did not change. I thought it was going to change but it didn’t.
Imagine, if you had an employee that worked for you that had been looking to leave your organization for the last six months who talked to anybody and everybody in the company about you. How would you feel? You will feel mad. I know I would. That was the situation I personally created. I created that tension. I created a lack of trust. I created a non-working relationship and it was all on me. I couldn’t blame anyone else. I wanted to but I couldn’t. I didn’t even give it a chance to work. The choice that I made could have defined me. It destroyed my credibility within the company. I decided to leave the company because of it. The sad thing was, I loved the company but my choice undermined my ability to be successful going forward.
The choices we make can make us or break us. It wasn’t until after I left that I finally realized I had handled the situation poorly. I didn’t communicate with the new boss and I wasn’t ready to see it as a learning experience. I wasn’t ready to find the good in how that new structure could help me learn and grow moving forward. After I left the company, I made some other choices. Choices that changed my life. I made choices that I would have never made if I stayed where I was because I was comfortable there. I opened my own consulting company focusing on building leadership skills for others. I put together a business plan for the company. I decided to take a step back and use my skills to help other people succeed.
For over 25 years, I’ve been working to help people increase their skills within the organizations that I worked for. I decided that it was up to me to open up my company and work with anyone and everyone. People who are ready to take that step to change their lives as I did. Another choice I made was I thought about writing a book for years but I never took myself seriously. We all think the things that we want to do. They seem unrealistic. Dreams out there somewhere in Never Never Land but then, I started putting the words on the pages. I made a choice to take action and make it happen. I got published in 2016 as a coauthor of The Change series book. I wrote a chapter in that book on vision. My chapter is called Are You Nearsighted or Farsighted in Your Personal Vision?
This book was a stepping stone to get me started. I continued writing and rewriting. This took a while but this year, I finished my book and it’s being published. It was a long journey but one that I am proud of. The book is called Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. That was a choice that I made. I started to do speaking engagements and it was great because I began to share my story. I changed my perspective and began to look for ways to help others. To ensure that I can share my stories with other people so that they can make the right decisions for themselves going forward. Although the initial choice that I made at that company was a bad one, the outcome helped me to challenge myself to do some things that I probably never would have done if I continue to work with that company. It links back to, “Every ending has a new beginning.” The choices we make can create those new beginnings but it is how you listen to those choices. Will a choice destroy you, define you or strengthen you? I let my choice strengthen me.
How can we ensure that the choices we make strengthen us? That they don’t destroy us? That they don’t define us? We make choices every day. Sometimes, we don’t even think about the consequences of those choices. We make these quick decisions and move on. We’re not as thoughtful as we make those decisions. I’m going to share a story with you of a man that made significant choices, created a new path and continued down that path. His name is Charles Mulli. He was born in Kenya and he had an interesting life. He was abandoned by his parents at the age of six and left orphaned on the streets. He grew up on the streets of Kenya begging for food and money throughout his entire adolescent years. It is one tough nut to crack. He was one of the forgotten, one of the people who are meaningless in society. That alone could have defined him. That alone could have broken him. Most people who have that beginning can’t recover but Charles Mulli didn’t give up.Each one of the decisions that we make can lead us down one path or another. Click To Tweet
At the age of seventeen after begging on the streets for ten solid years, he got his first break. He was taken in by a family and he basically worked on their farm. He put all his heart and soul into being successful because he felt gratitude. He was finally able to fit in somewhere. He found a purpose in life for the first time at the age of seventeen. He worked there and he worked hard. He did everything in his power to be successful, to rise up through the ranks and to finally see something going his way. He finally felt good about it. He liked it. He worked there for a few years. He saved all his money and made a choice.
He chose to open up his own transportation business. He took a chance on himself and only one other person in his entire life had done that before but he was determined to succeed. He did just that. He did everything in his power and in his control to be successful and he was. He grew his company and he began to branch out. He diversified into many avenues. He built a fortune and became a millionaire. From the streets of Kenya, begging for food, he now lived like a king. He got married and had a family and life was great. He was finally living the good life, the one that he had always dreamed of. Until one day, it all changed.
After sixteen years of successfully building his empire, something pivotal changed for him. He was confronted by a gang, he was robbed, they stole his Mercedes and something in his heart sank. It changed. He looked into the faces of the attackers and he saw himself. He saw the pain in their eyes. He saw that they felt abandoned. He saw that they were nothing for themselves. They could not see anything good happening to them. He felt what they were feeling and his heart sank. At that moment, he changed. He tried to go on with his life as it was. He should be happy. He should be ecstatic. He was a millionaire. He had virtually everything that he wanted but he couldn’t. He could not continue with the life that he had. He kept seeing those faces of the boys knowing that he once felt the exact same way.
Three years after that experience, he made a choice to do something about it. He decided to become a father to the fatherless. He decided to change the lives of those orphans who had nothing because that’s where he grew up. That was his experience and he knew exactly what they were going through. People thought he was insane. He went against his family. He went against his friends and everyone tried to talk him out of it. They couldn’t believe that he would change his course after working hard to achieve what he’d achieved. He would give up everything but that is exactly what he did. He dissolved his businesses giving up millions and bringing in orphaned kids from the slums to live on his estate.
He shifted his own kids off to a boarding school to make room for other kids to live in his house. The passion that he felt was unwavering and after about six years, he had 320 kids living on his estate. His family was finally on board at that point. They had to become part of this journey because he was not changing. This was his life’s mission going forward. They eventually had to move out of his current location into a bigger location. They found a place with 503 acres and underground water so he can create a self-sustaining community. Now, it’s the largest rehabilitation organization in Africa. Some choices seem crazy and I believe when something bad or unexpected happens in your life, you have three choices. You can let it define you, you can let it destroy you or you can let it strengthen you. Focus on letting it strengthen you.
We’ve been talking about choices and the power of choices. The real power is actually in having the ability to make a choice. It’s not always in the choice that you make or where it may lead. Just knowing that we can all decide and that we can choose to take that step. I read about this fearless woman who made a tough choice. She too decided to change her life and her name was Cara Brookins. She was a wife and a mother. She had four beautiful children and from the outside looking, everyone would think that things were great but that was not the picture. She was in an abusive relationship. She lived in a world with domestic violence. Until one day, she took that step. She knew she had a choice and she changed her life and the life of her children.
Cara knew that when she left, she would be left with limited funds certainly not enough to buy a house and to take care of her kids in that way, to provide them shelter. The thought of staying one more minute in that place that was unsafe for her and for her kid drove her to that decision. She knew she had to leave to give her kids a fighting chance to start living a life without abuse and putting that abuse behind them. She had an empty lot and enough money for a house on one condition, if she built it herself.
I know what you’re thinking, “Was she a contractor? Did she have the skills to build a house?” The answers are no. She was not a contractor, she had no skills and she had no idea what to do but that was her only option. Her parents thought she was crazy. They didn’t want her to take a project like that. Could you imagine building your own house? She was determined. What does a girl do if they find themselves needing to learn how to build a house? You go to YouTube because that’s where you go. These days, everything is on YouTube. The funny thing is, that’s exactly what she did. She went on YouTube, she sat down with her kids and began to plan how they were going to build a house. This was going to be a family affair.
All four kids were going to help on this journey to build this house. They sat down, watched video after video and then they began to plan it out. They went to Home Depot and they asked a ton of questions. They would go back home and watch the video. The next day, they would put it to work because when they build the house, they didn’t have smartphones. They couldn’t put the phone up on the job site and watch the videos. They had to take notes, remember what they saw on the picture and do what they remember seeing the day before. Even just talking about it, that’s insane. Could you imagine the determination of this family? They were rebuilding their life together and finding a way to create a future and to see the finish line at the end. It’s impressive that they kept passing inspections. The inspectors were shocked when they found out who was actually building a house. There was no one who thought that this is a good idea except for Cara and her kids but they had no choice or they did have a choice.
That was the choice that they made. The choice to continue against all odds and against everything that people would say to them. It took them nine months of back-breaking labor to build that house but they did it together. They built a five-bedroom house in Arkansas. It cost them $130,000 to build that house. Later, it appraised at $500,000 but this is not about the money. This story is the story of choice. First, Cara chose to leave a bad, abusive situation where she felt threatened every single day. She felt scared for herself and for her kids. She finally chose to leave. She chose to rebuild that family unit because living like that, they were all broken.We can’t control everything but we can control how we handle things. Click To Tweet
They used this experience to come together, to gain confidence together and to rebuild their family together. The power resides in the ability to make a choice, ability to decide and the ability to take that step. Some people don’t because it may seem scary. It may seem unrealistic to achieve the impossible but once they do, they feel the excitement of success and change. Where do you sit? Do you see the power of choice? Do you know that you have the ability to choose? You need to ask yourself those questions. You need to take an inward look at yourself. Are you letting your choices destroy you? Are you letting your choices define you? Are you letting your choices strengthen you?
It’s time for A Dose of Life Served Weekly. Let me hear your experiences and your choices. Are you taking those decisions? Are you making those decisions? Are you letting the decisions destroy you, define you or strengthen you? I want to hear from you. I have my first guest. What is your name and where are you from?
This is Jacob Maya and I’m from New Jersey.
Welcome, Jacob Maya, from New Jersey. I’m glad to have you part of the show. What is the choice that you made?
Mama C, this story goes back to maybe 25 years. In the early part of my career as a human resource professional, as you know human resources, they are the policy and the procedure police. I had a young lady who was younger than I was at that point. She came into my office and want to know about the company’s bereavement leave. What qualifies a bereavement leave and what doesn’t? I explained to her that there are specific situations, your mother, father or grandmother into that nature. She said, “My situation doesn’t cover that.” I was curious and I’m like, “Explain to me why are you grieving. What are you grieving?” She said, “I’m about to put my dog down.” She caught me off-guard and she caught me by surprise. I thought it was a joke. I saw the pain on her face and she started crying. I’m like, “This is serious.” I said, “We don’t cover pet bereavement leave. That is not something that the policy covers.”
She was an activist. She was an advocate for employee rights and things of that nature. I promised that I would elevate the situation so that was my commitment to her. She left my office and she was upset. I went back to my team and started talking to my team. They also thought it was a joke. They thought it was like, “What? Bereavement leave for a pet? For a dog?” They know who she was. I said she came into my office and she explained the situation that she wanted to know about our bereavement. She wanted the time to grieve for her pet which she had for seventeen years.
Did you believe her that she was telling the truth?
I actually believe that. At first, I didn’t but when I saw her face and the pain that she was in, she’s crying and upset. What turned me around was when she said, “I don’t care if it’s paid leave. I’ll take it without pay.” I don’t want to put that against me because we have attendance policies. I committed to elevating the situation. I talked to my team and they thought, “No, we shouldn’t do that.” I elevated it further. I went to my CEO. One night, I confronted him. I went to my CEO and said, “Here is the situation.” He looked at me and she stood forward, “Is this a joke?” I’m like, “This is not a joke. It’s real.” She’s obviously hurting and he asked me an important question. At the time, I was working at Washington, DC and this is on Washington DC. He said, “How would people feel if this story made the front page of the news of the newspaper?” I’m like, “I know we have a lot of pet lovers out there. I think we could be seeing a good light.” He’s like, “Let’s think about this.” We had a conversation.
The point was, he said, “Give her the bereavement leave but keep it on the down low. Let’s not publicize this so we can come together again and talk about it.” I’m like, “Great.” She took the leave and what the story has a perspective for me because at that point, I wasn’t thinking about who are we to determine how a person grieves and who they grieve for. We changed the policy to include not pets but to say, “Exceptions could be made under extenuating circumstances.” That gave us an open door to say, “We granted this leave for this person for this reason.”The choices we make can create new beginnings. Click To Tweet
At first, it was a dilemma for me because one, “Do I have a case for this employee? Do I have to say no without elevating it?” Fast forward twenty years, the story hits home because I had a dog now for fourteen years. I’m like, “I love my dog and if this is to happen to him, I don’t know what I would do. I didn’t think of it at the time but it was her right to take time off and grieve for her loving pet.” The choice that I made was to advocate for her even though a lot of people weren’t in favor. I took it up the chain, I was glad that the CEO left it up to me. We changed the policy and now, I look back and a lot of companies, they have leaves for pets. Even in some companies, you’re allowed to bring pets to work.
These days, you certainly are.
I’m glad I made that decision to elevate it and advocate for the employee. Now, it’s common to see this. That was a decision and choice that I made. As the years go on, it adds perspectives.
Jacob Maya, thank you for sharing that story with me. It sounds like you and your company were trailblazers at that time.
That story from Jacob was amazing because they were trailblazers back in the day. Now, it seems as though that policy would be something that is not out of the ordinary. Certainly, years ago, that was unusual. If I think about what I would do in that situation, I don’t even know. It is something that I would have to think twice about and the fact that he took it all the way to the CEO. I loved what the CEO said in terms of, “If it was on the front page of the daily news, how would that make the company feel and look?” That is a great perspective to have and they made that choice.When something bad happens in your life, you have three choices: let it define you, destroy you or strengthen you. Click To Tweet
We talked about the power of choice and again, it’s something that at times we take for granted and sometimes we find it difficult to even make a decision. There was a story of this kid that went into a candy shop. He got his allowance and he was excited to take his money and buy something. When he got there, he felt overwhelmed. He felt like there was so much to think about. He looked at his favorite candies and he thought about buying those. He thought, “Maybe I should try something new. Maybe I should buy something in a bigger package that will last me longer.” He wanted something that was delicious. He wanted a candy that would last more than one day. There are many things to think about. He wanted something that he knew what it tasted like. He wanted to try something new. After 30 minutes of going back and forth like this, his father finally insisted that they leave. He left the store without buying candy at all because he couldn’t decide. He had the power to make a decision but he couldn’t decide what to do. The power is having the ability to choose. Don’t give up that power.
I talked about Charles Mulli who redefined himself through one of his decisions. He grew up in the streets and turned his life around because somebody gave him a chance. Through one event that he had no control over, it changed his life forever. He changed his life because of it. That was his choice. He decided to give up wealth to help those orphan children. He became a father to the fatherless and he found strength in giving back. I talked about Cara Brookins, a woman who is living in an abusive relationship, scared for her life and her children. She made the choice to leave a place that was tearing her apart. She was at rock bottom with only a piece of land and a little money, she took control of her life. She made a decision to provide a better life for herself and her kids. She built a home from scratch with no skills and no experience. When she finally finished the house, she created her new beginning. She made a choice to start over.
We all have the power to make decisions so take that step. Allow yourself to choose and once you decide, evaluate it. Remember, some decisions we make are bad decisions. You have three things to think about. You can let the decision destroy you. If you make a poor decision, it can be devastating but don’t let it destroy you. You can let a decision define you. The choices we make create a picture of who we are and how we operate. You can let the decision strengthen you. Learn from your experiences whether good or bad. Take those experiences and learn from them.
Share your stories with others so they can learn from them as well. That’s the power of choice. We have the ability to choose. Ask yourself those questions, “Am I taking those choices to heart? Am I making the choices that I need to make? Am I learning from every single experience so that I can continue to learn and grow?” That’s what it’s all about. This show is all about you. Follow me on Instagram @CarolynJRivera14 and share the topics that you want to talk about.