Kahlil Gibran once wrote that, When you work with love, you bind yourself to yourself, to one another, and to God. He alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving. Work is love made visible.
Cynthia Kersey is a woman whose work does indeed make love visible. Her work is a work of love, and she generously shares her love with all who meet her. She’s an inspiration about what it takes to live an unstoppable life.
Cynthia Kersey is the global spokesperson for what it takes to become unstoppable, which is the title of her first best-selling book. Since May of 1998 Unstoppable has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in 13 different languages. It was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best-selling paperbacks and has been a popular featured selection for Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club, among others.
Her clients include Xerox, Johnson & Johnson, and Aetna. Within the direct selling industry, she has given over 100 keynote speeches and seminars and has trained thousands of independent distributors.
Cynthia has appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her Unstoppable has received rave reviews from national opinion-makers and readers alike, including Scott DeGarmo, former editor of Success Magazine who said, Unstoppable is this generation’s Think and Grow Rich.
Her latest book, Unstoppable Women, provides a 30-day challenge to turning your life around and becoming truly unstoppable. Cynthia’s passion is giving back, and she has established a non-profit organization, the Unstoppable Foundation, to raise funds and awareness for women’s issues world-wide.
Conducting the interview is Debbie Ford, the number one New York Times best-selling author of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. She has been a guest on many national shows including Oprah, the Fox Channel, Good Morning America, and others.
Debbie’s penetrating book, Spiritual Divorce, has just been re-released in a new and updated version. Debbie has put together as part of the re-release of the book an amazing slew of wonderful gifts which you can get by going to www.DebbieFord.com/SpiritualDivorce.
Debbie Ford: Thank you, Chris. Hi, everybody! I am very, very excited to be here and very excited to interview Cynthia. I was telling them earlier, I’m a little bit nervous. I’m not sure why, but very excited because Cynthia, you just sound like the most extraordinary woman. Your love just shoots right through the phone. It came right into my heart. I love that, and thank you. I think that you’re probably going to tell us about being unstoppable, but I think what you showed to me just a little bit earlier was just so amazing. I just love it.
Cynthia Kersey: Thank you, Debbie. I really need to go on record before we start. When I found out that you were interviewing me I was so excited because I have been a fan of your work. I want to recommend that everybody on this call, if you haven’t read Debbie’s books, immediately – even if you’re not getting a divorce – go and buy every book that she’s written. Because she’s really brilliant and has a great ability to, from an authentic level, really communicate things that all of us as human beings go through.
For me, you’ve really been able to facilitate a deeper level of accepting in my own life and self-loving. Thank you for your amazing work. I’m so excited to be with you and everybody else on the call tonight.
Debbie Ford: We are just waiting for your wisdom. Cynthia, this is your call, and tonight is about you sharing your extraordinary process with all of us.
In Unstoppable you share so many inspiring stories about purpose and passion. How have your passions, the things which are most important to you . . . well, first, I would say, what is most important to you? And how has what is important to you led you to this book and where you are today?
Cynthia Kersey: Thank you. I worked for Sprint Communications. I started as an entry-level telemarketer, and I worked my way up to the top of the organization. I became a national account manager and I sold the Kinkos world-wide account. It was a multi-million dollar contract.
So I’m making great money, I’m getting recognition at the top levels of my organization, and yet I wasn’t passionate about my life. And that really began an exploration of what am I passionate about? What do I want to do?
Initially, the journey, I kind of went in a weird way. I started thinking, Well, what business would I want to start, and what kinds of things would be interesting to me? I realized that I was approaching it all wrong. I first needed to find out what gives me joy. Then once I figured that out, all these opportunities became really clear to me. I realized, through a process, that what I’m passionate about and purposeful about is I love to encourage people.
As a matter of fact, when I was 18 years old I learned that Cynthia means reflector of light. I even had that engraved on a bible, when I graduated from high school my father gave that to me. I’ve always resonated with being reflecting light, but I didn’t get it until my early 30’s of how I could bring that forward into the world.
I thought about how I love to encourage people. How can I do that for a living? So I thought, I’ve always loved stories of unstoppable people. I’ve studied them, I’ve followed their example. I thought well, I’ve always loved stories about Walt Disney, who was on the verge of bankruptcy every 18 months for 30 years. They so inspired me.
I, literally, eleven years ago, quit my job. I had a six-figure income. I cashed in my entire life savings, downsized my life, and got rid of the Lexus to pursue writing a book about these unstoppable people. That was really the beginning.
What’s exciting about that, Debbie, and I know that you know this as well. When you know what gives your life meaning, and you know what you’re passionate about, you literally can design a life that is so joyful. There’s nothing that I do that I’m not passionate about. There are so many things to do, I don’t have time to do other things that would be off-purpose for me.
What happens is, and it doesn’t mean that everything works perfectly and there aren’t any challenges, but I’m focused every single day. I am living my purpose. I am encouraging, whether it’s through my books, my speaking, or my coaching. I just finished 18 episodes of a television series doing my coaching.
It doesn’t matter the medium when you’re living a passionate life. That’s the juice, it’s the greatest gift that we can give ourselves.
Debbie Ford: I love that. Let’s go, let’s go. Yes. S0, Cynthia, you and I know, it’s really, I feel, a gift from God and our own ability to get out of our own way and to go out and go after our dreams.
I’d like to talk for a minute because maybe this will help somebody, about the things that get in the way of people going after it. I know you probably have heard as many excuses as I have about why one can’t. I certainly have enough of my own. So what is it?
Cynthia Kersey: To use your terminology, it would be the story that we attach to what’s possible, or our belief system. It’s our fear. We’ve done certain things. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I’d never written anything more than a college term paper in my entire life. So I had no reason to think that I could even write a book, much less get it published.
But what really motivated me, and this is the power of purpose, when you know what you want, and why you want it. I think the purpose is the why. It really gives you the motivation to get out there and do it.
A couple of things that really develop a greater belief in ourselves are through success imprints. I started as a telemarketer and worked my way up to the top at Sprint. So I knew I had a strong work ethic. I was reasonably bright, I could learn anything, and I was willing to do what was necessary. So I figured well, I did it in that area, I would make it happen in this area, too, and literally cashing in everything. I was the primary breadwinner of my family. My husband supported me in quitting to write this book and pursue my dreams. So there was a lot on the line.
I sold my Lexus and got a $2,800 Volkswagen Jetta that my son was too ashamed to ride in with me. He wasn’t that excited that we’re downsizing our life because his mother wants to pursue her dream. The biggest thing that we all have to contend with is our limiting beliefs about what’s possible for ourselves.
As we look at success imprints, other times when we’ve overcome obstacles or we’ve done something that we didn’t think was possible, that is an imprint that proves, you know what, you could do something else. The other thing that was a powerful support was role models. I remember hearing Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield speak years ago when the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book came out.
I heard them speak at a conference, and they talked about writing this Chicken Soup for the Soul. Their purpose was to make a difference, and it resonated with me. I saw them as somebody I could relate to. I didn’t see them as these super beings; I saw them as men who had a purpose, who were passionate, and I thought you know what? If they can do it, so can I.
I really hope that I’m a model of what’s possible. I’m simply a woman who is grateful that I had the courage to take the step to pursue my passion. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I think that’s one thing I love so much about these unstoppable stories. You realize you don’t have to be a super-human to be unstoppable.
Thank goodness! It’s really about just having the willingness to step out and save, even though everything might look completely to the contrary of what you want to create in your life. If you step out and save, and you’re doing something that’s important to you it will all fall in place.
Debbie Ford: God, Cynthia, I feel like you’re just a train we could just hop on and go for the ride. I really want to acknowledge that. One of the ways I would describe the energy that’s coming forth from you right now is, and I’m sure you can relate to this, this kind of being over your skis. You’re over your skis, you’re not sitting back on the hill. You know, when you go skiing, you’re scared of the mountain. You kind of lean back and then you fall all the time. The minute you get over your skis you just kind of take off.
That’s what I hear that you did. You decided to just lean over and go for it. I would ask you, because you write about all these unstoppable women, all these unstoppable people, what are the characteristics that you see in unstoppable people that people listening could actually work on to develop?
Cynthia Kersey: Good, great question, Debbie. The first characteristic that I identify with unstoppable people is that they’re driven by a purpose. The exact same thing we’re talking about tonight. Something that was so important to them that they weren’t willing to quit.
Take, for example, Anita Roddick. When she started the Body Shop years ago her purpose was to put food on the table for her two children. That’s a very basic purpose. When she went out to try to get money to open this store, nobody would lend her money for a start-up store. A friend of a friend ended up lending her $6,400 in exchange for 50% of the company.
$6,400 is still not very much money to open a store. So what did she do? She went out to a hospital supply store and got those inexpensive plastic urine containers. She didn’t use the nice packaging that Clinique and all of the other body lotion companies would utilize, because she couldn’t afford it. Then she and a girlfriend sat at a kitchen table and they hand-wrote every label because she couldn’t afford the designer packaging.
Then she had the audacity to ask her customers when they’re finished with the bottle to bring them back for refills. And, of course, now the Body Shop is a half a billion dollar organization, and Anita Roddick is a force for social change. She is out there. That woman is on purpose, and she is an inspiration to me.
When you find your why, and when I’m coaching people and we talk about the unstoppable challenge in creating a breakthrough in your life, the first thing is to know what you want, and then why do you want it. If you can’t come up with some compelling reasons why you want to make a change in your life, you need to come up with another goal.
Because life is going to happen. Our own belief system, we have to overcome that. The why is what keeps us going. I didn’t have any contacts in the publishing field. It was a completely foreign field for me, but I felt that I was driven by a mission, and I still do. I see myself as on a mission of God.
It’s kind of like, you know what? I’m here to be used and I’m available. I continue to do the work and I love and light in my life and I’ve already won. I’m already living my purpose, so however it ends up showing up, I’m 100% grateful. What happens is you just keep getting more opportunities to express it.
Friday I’m going to Africa for two weeks. I’m going to be visiting the Feed the Children Abandoned Baby Centers. I’m going to be going to this conference call that I’ve gathered the women, where we’re going to hear women stories from Africa, all over Africa, sharing their stories.
I think when we’re on purpose – this is something when I worked at Sprint. It’s interesting, and I’m sure that you’ve experienced this. When I worked at Sprint my life was really about me. It was about me, it was about my family, and about making money. It was just like, I don’t want to say surviving, but it was kind of that, and it was building the career.
When I really got my life on purpose and I tapped into that purpose and that giving it absolutely transformed my life in such a powerful way. It just gives me so much more confidence and certainty. If I’m of service, however it shows up to me, I’m grateful. I didn’t even pursue the television series, it came to me. Whether it is big or not, I have no attachment to it, because I’m just grateful to be of service.
I think that’s a really lovely way to live. Fifteen years ago that wasn’t my point of view.
Debbie Ford: I love that, and I want to ask you something because I always say it about myself. When people are like, how can I be like you are, and how can I get what you’ve gotten. And I always say, it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would look because at some point I decided, and this is what I hear you saying, where you gave up your will, your small will, your attention on you, the egos will for God’s will.
That’s what I hear you saying. Can you recall the time when you made that decision to surrender? Because I think that’s what you’re saying this passion and this purpose and this drive comes from. I know it comes from that for me, and most of the people in our business would say the same thing. It’s that bigger purpose which is really God’s will, or a spirit’s will, or a divine will, rather than our own.
Cynthia Kersey: Do you remember when you made that choice? Not so much the purpose, but the surrendering?
Debbie Ford: Yes, to that greater wherever it takes you.
Cynthia Kersey: Yes, and letting go of the attachment of exactly what it looks like?
Debbie Ford: Yes!
Cynthia Kersey: When I first wrote my first book I had mentors and models. Mark Victor Hansen, in 18 months he sold one and one-half million books. I’m thinking, well if he can do it, so can I.
I had a lot of goals. Very specific goals about how many books I’m going to write, when I’m going to get on Oprah, and I want to make X amount of dollars. Some of the things came through and some of the things didn’t come through. I remember having such disappointment. I couldn’t believe it.
Wow, they sold a million and one-half books in 18 months, and I haven’t done that. Honestly, Debbie, it was a process of really shifting. What my focus is now is I really focus on my inner work. As I continue to grow, as I continue to be this vehicle of light and love, and share the work and the insights that I’ve gained, I really have just kind of released what it looks like. I really feel like it really is God’s work.
So if it’s meant to be, and I think this has really happened over the last couple of years, whatever it looks like is not as important to me. And I mean that sincerely as just so I stay doing what I love to do. I’ve really gone into deeper levels of contribution.
When I went through a divorce, and after 20 years of marriage my husband and I separated in December of 1999. My book had only been out a year and one-half. That’s not much time, being a brand new author, supporting myself on a brand new book. I was devastated, getting separated. I was in my parent’s house with my son over the holidays and feeling really sorry for myself.
I remember thinking after a couple of days, you know what? I can’t control what happened here, but what I can control is how I respond to this. I don’t know what I’m going to do next holiday season, but it’s not going to be at my mom and dad’s house feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to do something for somebody else.
I came home and I called my mentor, Millard Fuller, who is the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and I told him what had happened. He had just gotten back from Nepal. He said, Why don’t you raise some money and build some houses for Nepal? It’s beautiful – five of the seven largest mountain ranges in the world are in Nepal.
I thought, that sounds good. They say if you have a great pain in your life you need a greater purpose. So I thought, how many houses would I need to build to offset this pain in my life? I literally came up with the number 100 houses. I really hadn’t raised money to do hardly anything before. But those 100 houses felt bigger than my pain at that point.
The whole next year, when I was out there speaking, and there were some days when I would have preferred literally just staying in bed with the covers over my head, I would think about the people in Nepal who didn’t even have a simple, decent place to live. That purpose motivated me. It really was important to have something bigger than me.
I was doing what I love to do, but at that point it needed to be even bigger than me. That whole year when I’m there speaking, I’m sharing this project. The next year I raised $200,000. I took 18 people to Nepal and we built the first three of the 100 homes. Literally, when we were in Nepal building the homes, there was a woman. One of the three people who got the houses was a woman. Her name was Shawndra.
She had eight brothers and sisters. She had worked for 18 years in a cookie factory to save the money to buy the land in the hopes of one day building a house. She owned the land. We came there and we built her a home.
When we were leaving she was crying. We had an interpreter, and she said, Thank you so much. Please don’t ever forget me! And I thought, forget you? You are what got me through the most difficult year of my life.
The act of purpose, I just moved into a surrender knowing, you know what? As I show up, as I’m willing to continue to reach out, and to give, and to love, and to really share this work which I love so much, it’s just such a joy to be able to do that, no matter how it looks in my life.
Debbie Ford: I want to ask you about that. Because what I hear from you is a deep spiritual faith, and that you’ve worked really hard and had a lot of painful events that led you to get to that deep place of faith. I think that most people, if they could just choose it, just like that, they’d want to choose it.
What spiritual practice – like I pray on my hands and knees every day, I love to pray. I’m just pray, pray, pray. What do you do that you would recommend to other people, if they’re not already doing it, can start to do?
Cynthia Kersey: I do several things. I pray, I meditate, I read the Bible, and I read all sorts of works that really inspire me. I really have been moving into a deeper place of seeing myself as a co-creator, that God is really my spiritual partner, and seeing that at a deeper level.
It’s like I really believe that God is my spiritual partner. I need to really, even more consistently, spend time with Him. I mean, really spend time in communion and co-creation. I think doing that, I am really affirming the things in my life that I want to continue to bring forward in a more powerful way. One of those things is just giving. That really gives me the most joy. How can I continue to give in a deeper capacity?
I do my affirmations. I would say that’s my primary practice, my spiritual practice.
Debbie Ford: That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with us.
Cynthia Kersey: You’re the first person who has ever asked me that question. I do a lot of interviews, but you’re the first person who has ever asked me that.
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