Entrepreneur Mary Shores built a $40 million collection agency, overcoming tragedy and adversity with gratitude, and now helps entrepreneurs and businesses “defeat the freakout”, get into alignment and create their ideal life. Author of Conscious Communications, Mary explains how her “do not say list” transformed her business and shares other techniques to change the game in your business and life.
Melinda Wittstock: Mary, welcome to Wings.
Mary Shores: Hi Melinda. I’m so excited to finally meet you.
Melinda Wittstock: Likewise. I think the work that you are doing is so important. You know, on this podcast, we talk so much about the link between personal growth and business growth. And so let’s start where it all starts ’cause it starts in our head, right?
Mary Shores: I agree.
Melinda Wittstock: And so what are some of the things that you identify when you’re working with your clients? When people are stuck, what is it that makes them stuck?
Mary Shores: Oh, you know, I think that being struck, it can be the most frustrating thing ever and I feel like there’s a whole lot of reasons people can be stuck. So I sort of define, I would define that as there is something that you want. You have a desire. You can probably even envision it being completed. In other words, you’ve mentally thought through the steps and you know that the idea will work, but for some reason you’re just not moving forward with it or you’re just not gaining that momentum. And so what happens it you get this feeling of procrastination and you begin to be stuck. And there’s actually a lot of neurological processes that can explain procrastination and what’s going on in the subconscious mind when you are in a situation of procrastination.
So some of the things that I’ve identified that keep people stuck is, one of the things is they don’t actually believe that they can achieve it. I know that for myself, when I wanted to write book it had been a strong desire for me for about 10 years and I would literally go around and I would say to anyone that would listen to me, “I want to write a book, but I’m not a writer.” And the interesting thing about words, is that words are a mirror to your subconscious programming. So when you hear me say the words “I want to write a book,” it’s like you can see that written on my soul like I have this purpose that I want to write this book. But I have a big problem when the next words out of my mouth are “but I’m not a writer”, because those words are also revealing some sort of belief system in my subconscious that is a barrier for me in order to achieve that goal.
And so, this isn’t necessarily about writing a book, but how often do we say that I want to start that business, but I don’t have the money. Or but I don’t have the time. Or I want to lose 20 pounds, but I don’t, I can’t get to the gym. It’s what we say, what we want and then we cancel it out with the “but” excuse and that is a symptom of some sort of barrier belief in your subconscious programming. So that’s one of the things.
And then, I think another thing is, we just don’t know how. So we’ve got the vision. We know our idea is great, but maybe we just don’t know the very first steps to be able to take. So for example, going right back with me and writing this book, for years I want to write a book, but until I knew what the first steps were, like for example, I had no idea I had to write a proposal. I had no idea the very first things that I had to do. I actually thought people who wrote books sat down at a word processor or a computer and just started writing a book.
And so when you invest so that the cure, the answer to both of those first two things is that you have to invest in yourselves. Invest in yourself. Invest in your process of what you need to get done because when you make that investment in yourself, for example, I went to a writer’s workshop. I was then able to feed my subconscious the evidence that I could actually achieve this. And once I saw the evidence, I could then change my thoughts about the process, which then changed my feelings and then changed my words, which then changed my actions, which then became a result of which I wanted. And I think that a lot of times in the industry that I’m in right now, personal development, I hear that word alignment a lot without a definition of what it means. And so, there’s your definition.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, everybody talks about alignment. And oh, my goodness, there’s so many different ways that I want to pick up on all the things that you just said, but why don’t we start with alignment because a lot of people don’t really understand what that is. You know, for me, I think from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I think, I’ve seen businesses succeed and fail. My own. I’ve had big successes. I’ve had failures. Every entrepreneur had or has. Let’s get that out there. It comes with the territory. And I’ve seen so many others as well. And one of the things that really interesting about the businesses that I see succeed are they are kind of in flow. There is an alignment between the mission and the purpose and the values of the founder or the founding team, right? And what they’re actually doing in the business. That there’s some sort of connection on some level like an alignment. That you’re actually living the life that you’re meant to be living. Like you’re doing the things that you’re kind of meant to be doing. And we, as women, and men do this too, we often end up trapped in these lives of “I should be doing”. I should be doing this. I should be doing that. And that’s somebody else’s life. So, how do you begin this process really, of getting into alignment? Really knowing yourself ’cause that’s where I guess it begins.
Mary Shores: Yeah, and you also just said like five things that I can rip on for hours. So, I, you know, I think … Let’s just start with being an entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial journey is not necessarily going to be the most graceful journey. And my own journey has-
Melinda Wittstock: Sorry. I laugh because-
Mary Shores: It’s true.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s true. It’s kind of like the duck on the water, right? The duck looks really, like in flow and this is very graceful, looks very easy, but underneath the legs are going a little bit like crazy.
Mary Shores: Such a great image. And it’s so true. So I think that, my personal journey as an entrepreneur, it’s been really uncomfortable and you’re interweaving this with all of the triumphs and tragedies that you’re also going through in your personal life and it just becomes like these two parallel universes that you live in. And I think that one of the big differences is, in an entrepreneur journey, you don’t have any sort of security as far as, you know, I see it all the time, where you have a good year or three great years and you’re gaining revenue every year and then boom, you have a 10% to a 15% decrease in revenue. And then you’ve got to study that and figure out how to get your next bump and get back on top of things. So that makes your life somewhat of a roller coaster. And when we, and being and entrepreneurial woman, you know, I’m very driven. I find that when I wanted to really take this path of personal development, I would hear some terminology that, I’ll just be really honest, made my head explode because I’m like, what the heck are you talking about with these words like alignment and just allow? I mean, that sounds crazy to me.
When I started to study alignment, especially, was one of the first ones that I did, I was able to make sense of it by first giving it a definition of meaning that my words, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my behavior, my choices were all moving in the same direction of what I wanted. And we hear a lot of people talk about focus, like what you focus on grows. There’s all these one-liners about focus. And from that I was able to take this concept and I created what I call my core four.
The core four is where figure out four areas of your business or of your life and these are the four core areas that you’re going to develop your processes around and what you’re going to focus on. Because the other thing as an entrepreneur is, that will take you out of alignment, is that you can be pulled in too many directions. And so for me, being the CEO of my business that I’ve had for 20 years, but also becoming a bestselling author, I have got, I’m getting pulled in 17 million different directions and I need to dial that back and ask myself, what are the four main things that are within alignment with my overall path?
And that’s another thing that you talked about, is like this idea of purpose that is, I think, really, really important that we are getting what we are doing in alignment with our purpose. And the thing about purpose though, is it’s become this elusive thing hiding behind a curtain where we’re supposed to go through something scary hero’s journey to discover what that is.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yeah. So that leads full circle back to what causes the procrastination ’cause you can so easily, like I mean, I’m just thinking of someone listening to us right now, thinking “Oh my God. This is a lot. All I’m trying to do is start a business here.” Like, “I have to know all this stuff?” Right? And what I think is interesting that I’ve learned with entrepreneurship is just start. You know, when Kara Goldin was on the podcast here, and she’s built water into an almost billion dollar company, she’ll hit a billion dollars in revenue this year. And that sounds like completely intimidating. But it started in her kitchen because she had these 20 pounds that she couldn’t get rid of. You know, she was exercising. She was eating right. But she had this Diet Coke habit and when she kicked her Diet Coke habit, suddenly all the weight fell off and all of that and she was drinking a lot of water, but it was boring. So she started putting fruit in it. So anyway, long story short, the immortal words of an entrepreneur is “how hard could this be”? And she starts figuring out that there’s nothing out there in the marketplace that can replace what she’s doing in her own kitchen. And she just starts one step, one foot in front of the other learning as you go and her quote is “You got to fly the plane as you’re building it”.
And if you knew all the steps in advance, I’ll admit it’s impossible to know all the steps in advance, but to think you have to is to put you right firmly back into that procrastination mode. You just can’t know. You got to just kind of put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
Mary Shores: That would be the third thing that keeps you struck, is overwhelm. So, I would agree with yourself and this woman that back in those days when I was first staring out, you know, you just do what’s on your desk for today. You’re just always taking one step in a new direction because every time you take on step in that new direction, and maybe that’s a little bit out of the comfort zone, but that’s what brings to you all those new possibilities.
And so the core four is really what helps me stay on focus, stay on point with what I should be doing because then if anything comes, if I’m spending energy on anything outside of those core four areas, those four core areas, then I know that, okay, stop. Raise a yellow flag. Get back on track and make sure I’m focused on these things because I can have such diffuse awareness of a million moving parts.
If you work on what you’re naturally gifted at, the more you’re feeding those skills what happens is you’re actually strengthening the neural networks in your subconscious mind to make those skills even more pronounced in your life. #WINGSPodcast #WomeninBusiness @mary_shoresClick to tweet
And so creating structure in the beginning was very, very important to me. And then getting back to that thing about purpose, because this is what you said and I agree with this so strongly, it’s like we’re taught in society as we’re growing up that we need to overcome our weaknesses when really what we need to be doing is feeding our strengths. And so the way that you get on purpose is actually not a hard thing at all. It’s that you’re checking in with yourself to make sure that you’re doing what you’re good at, like what is in your zone of genius, what you love and what is your naturally, bringing out your natural skills, gifts and talents. And if you bring, if you work on what you’re naturally gifted at, so whether it’s you’re a writer, whether it’s you’re the spreadsheet queen, whether you’re a finance person, the more you’re feeding those skills what happens is you’re actually strengthening the neural networks in your subconscious mind to make those skills even more pronounced in your life.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I can’t agree with you more. It’s so true. Double down on your strengths and hire out the rest. It’s one of the things that, I think a lot of women do get stuck though on this. I call it the start up sticky floor. It’s this place where you’ve taken the entrepreneurial leap and you’re creating a business around something that you love to do. Okay? So it’s your passion or it’s your, you have tremendous skills in this area or accomplishments. So you create a business around it. But you’re doing the thing that is the business and all the other things besides. And I’ve seen a lot of women hire to late, be so busy in doing the thing instead of being able to sort of start to replace themselves or start to find scale that they get stuck there and they’ve essentially created a job for themselves, but it’s worse because they’re doing all the things that they hate as well as doing the thing that they love. And the thing that they hate starts to cramp down on the thing that they love and they get stuck in that place. It’s the thing that prevents women from getting to, say, a million dollars in revenue. It’s the thing where we’re sometimes so perfectionists, like we want to do it all ourselves and we can’t kind of allow other people in.
But what’s the not process for you about kind of, you know, when you find your zone of genius, right? The thing that only you can do. What is that line where you start to relinquish control of some of those things to be able to build a business?
Mary Shores: I love, you’re very fun and descript terminology. You’ve got a skill set for creating these images like sticky because, yeah, I work with a lot of small businesses in, especially in my local town that I live in, Champaign, Illinois. And what I find is the number one mistake small businesses make is that they do not create a structure. They don’t create that skeleton of their business so that their business can grow, like you said scale. And one of the things that I did right early on was that I took everything that I was doing and I documented everything. I’m a huge person about documentation. And what that allows you to do is to work on your business instead of in your business by creating that job for yourself.
So, yeah, while it’s true that when I was, just like Hint Water and started my business in my dining room and I had to do every single job myself. I mean I had to print the envelopes. I had to make the sales calls. I had to make the collection calls. I had to do every single job there. I had to go to the bank. And I had to do all the accounting and blah, blah, blah. But, as I was doing that I was writing down step by step work instructions on how to do every single process. And I remember I had this red binder so that when I got my very first employee, which was about six months after I started, I had this red binder of everything from how to open the mail in the morning to, in fact, I make this joke. There’s a work instruction on how to write a work instruction.
So the companies that get certified in some sort of management processes, this is what they’re doing.
Melinda Wittstock: This is such important advice. You have to create it yourself. You’re the beginning of the beginning of the beginning. And there’s just you, right? So all the things you do, document because eventually you’re going to have to have someone else do those things so that you can focus on only the things that you can do.
This is so interesting too because I think a lot of founders, in effective, end up robbing their own companies. ‘Cause Mary, think about this for a moment. If you’re doing the thing that only you can do and maybe it’s a huge strategic deal that’s going to bring all kinds of revenue into your company for many, many years. Or maybe you’re creating intellectual property, a technology or a new process or something that’s really disruptive to an industry or whatever. What’s your hourly rate when you’re doing that as opposed to your hourly rate when you’re fixing a broken link on your website? Or you’re entering receivables or whatever, into QuickBooks?
So, in other words, really understanding the value of your time and the value of your time to your business.
Mary Shores: Well, because we become work hoarders. Work hoarders means you’re trying to, like you said, doing everything yourself instead of letting go, loosening the grip on those things. And we do that for many different reasons. For example, entering things into QuickBooks could be because you have a privacy, you don’t want your employees in QuickBooks for whatever reason. So I could see that being a barrier, but also there is that belief that you can do everything better. And that one, I remember overcoming that especially because I, this is kind of funny, but in the early days of my business I was anal retentive about answering the phone because I literally believed that nobody could answer the phone as good as me. And I’m, still to this day, if I call my office and I hear someone answer the phone without a certain amount of energy I will say that person no longer answers the phone. But after a couple years, one time one of clients called and they said, “Mary, why are you the person answering the phone? You’re the president of the company.” And that was the last time I ever answered the phone, but then what I found was that my staff was actually answering the phone better than me because I really had trained them so well. So I needed to loosen my grip over hoarding that part of the work.
And you know, you said some very specific things like breaking a link. So if it’s going to take you five hours to fix a broken link or fix something, then really someone should be doing that, that can do it in two minutes because what could you spend your time in that five hours doing? So that’s another thing with the core four that, you know, I personally would be trying to fix a link because I don’t know how to do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, yeah. It’s true. We all do have this perfection gene. You know, someone in my podcast said perfectionism is fear dressed up pretty.
Mary Shores: Oh, that’s a good one.
Melinda Wittstock: But I thought that was an amazing, amazing quote because I think that’s also procrastination as well. At the root of these things is a fear. It’s kind of like, “Oh, am I good enough?” It’s a fear of failure, of being exposed, but it can also be a fear of success, like, “Wow, I’m not worthy of this.” And a lot of those beliefs are so deep down rooted and stuff that we learned when we were toddlers, you know? Right? It’s like that zero to seven period when all that stuff gets imprinted in our brain and sometime we don’t even know the things that are driving us.
Mary Shores: Well I think that, I think another thing that I’ve done right is that I’ve been able to build this superhero level of a workforce. And I have very little turnover in my company. In fact, the one lady has worked for me for 17 years and everyone else is pretty much more than 10 years. And what I have found is, leadership, leadership is so vitally important. But when I hear the word leadership, sometimes I get overwhelmed by that because I think it means that I have to be nice and spunky and a cheerleader all the time. And that’s just not me. And so what is me though, is you know, I say I’ve built this workforce not because I have always made the best decisions. Not because I’ve been a nice person or because I’ve always done everything right and been just perfect in my leadership, but I’ve been able to build this workforce because my business is built on a mission. And when your business is built on a mission you will just naturally attract the people who have a similar or alignment, like we were talking about before, have a similar mission in life or there’s somebody that wants to support you in that mission.
As a leader the impact you make is so very important. And part of that impact you make is being more the chief strategy person and then allowing and giving opportunity to your team members to flourish in the best ways that they can flourish. #WINGSPodcast #WomeninBusiness @mary_shoresClick to tweet
And it makes all the difference because leadership today, you know, when we talk about this letting go of the day to day work things and hoarding work, it’s all about understanding that as a leader the impact you make is so very important. And part of that impact you make is being more the chief strategy person and then allowing and giving opportunity to your team members to flourish in the best ways that they can flourish. If you let them do that they will just amaze you. Whether you have a small team of one other person or a larger team or a ginormous team, the more that you invest in your people, the more that you talk about the impact that you’re making, because we’re living in a time that, I think, there’s a lot of pressure to build companies and structures that are very much humanitarian plus. Meaning that we are moving the human evolution forward and stopping this idea of humanitarian minus.
You know, I was saying recently that when I was a kid I loved to play Monopoly. And here’s the thing Melinda, the only way you can win at Monopoly is you have to bankrupt all your friends.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yes. This is really true. This is interesting. And that whole paradigm of business is shifting. I love what you said because some people call it conscious capitalism. Some people call it evolved enterprise. But whatever, I think women are uniquely suited for the new collaborative structures where everybody can be kind of in the right seat, doing the right thing that really makes their heart sing in a really collaborative way and that by doing good for the world, those business models are actually more profitable. So it’s a direct tie in to social impact businesses because increasingly the Millenials and the Gen Z and all these folks only want to buy from companies that are like that anyway. And they only want to work for companies that are like that. So I think there’s a huge transition going on right now in the type of companies and, you know, frankly people are more productive when they’re happy. It’s as simple as that.
Mary Shores: It’s so true. And the whole thing about the millennial shift, I mean I see it. I’m feeling it. And I’ve been able to create that within the structures of my business, but I own a collection agency which traditionally is looked at as a very negative stigma industry. And so I think that this is a good time when we’re talking about that purpose. If you’re worried about being on your path or you’re worried about the type of industry that you’re working in, because we all don’t get work in the necessarily, oh you know, where wouldn’t it be more fun to have something way positive like a flower shop or something that’s really doing good work. But what I realized is that when I brought my natural skills, gifts and talents that I could change my own business to, to be in that humanitarian plus structure, which I did years ago because my mission is that I want people to feel good about paying a debt. Because having a debt is a burden and it’s a psychological burden that gets in between people. You talk about being stuck. Having a debt can keep someone down because there’s this underlying feeling of shame and unworthiness.
And so right from the beginning of my company, I wanted to take a different approach than the other collectors were taking. I wanted to use a sales approach versus using shame, threats, intimidation and fear, like we’ve talked a lot about fear. But you know what’s interesting is, the sales approach failed. And the reason it failed is because, number one, I was up against all the fear mongers. So the fear mongers were winning out every time. But number two, the sales approach, people can feel when you’re trying to sell them and it wasn’t addressing the real problem, which was the shame and unworthiness. And once I figured that part out, not only did I reform my own company, but now I’m changing the entire industry.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Oh, that’s so interesting. How inspiring. You know, I want to ask you about that because you started that collection agency when you were young, you know, 24. What led you there? Like why a collection agency? And what was going on in your life at 24?
Mary Shores: Yeah, I think it’s interesting because you don’t really think of personal development expert, debt collector.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, exactly!
Mary Shores: And I did go through a real existential crisis. When I got very serious about taking a more personal growth and development path, I was worried that, that would not be in alignment with being a debt collector. I was worried that I wouldn’t achieve my growth goals if I was in this industry that can cause harm to people. And so I was, I have a section in my book called Karmic Debt Collecting that kind of tells that story so I’ll leave that for another time.
When I was 24, I was the youngest person in the country to ever open a collection agency. And I believe that when I was a little girl, you know, I just, I was always and entrepreneur. When I was nine years old, I had a bank in my garage and I made all this fake money and I had all the other kids, all the other kids wanted to play house and I wanted to play bank. And I had the accounts. I had my fake money. And people would come through my garage and handle their accounts on their bicycles and tricycles and those old plastic big wheels. I know.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it.
Mary Shores: And this was really me. This was really what I was doing. And I know you started your first business at 18. I was going to Lutheran School and I got kicked out of school because I used to sell things in the cafeteria. My dad was a beauty supply buyer for a large beauty supply company and he would bring home boxes of inventory and I would just take it to school and sell it. But not to dad. It was like, “Where’d that inventory go?” It was in the attic for years. I don’t think anyone-
Melinda Wittstock: He didn’t even notice?
Mary Shores: No, who cares. But I remember the school calling my mom and they were very seriously upset with me for doing this. But my mom, I think, was on the inside, a little bit proud.
So my parents had started a collection agency in 1986 and whenever … So this made me an expert, by the way. Because when I was 13 my job was licking envelopes and stamps. So of course, when I became 24, and in that kind of naiveté of what you don’t know is a good thing. You know, we were talking about that before ’cause you feel you have to know everything, but honestly, my naiveté served me because if I could have known everything, I would have been frozen. I wouldn’t have done anything.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. That was the point that I was making. You’ve got to just, you know, like thank God for the sort of fog or not knowing.
Mary Shores: And you what? Enjoy those moments because they’re not always going to be there. And it’s scary. When you have the whole picture it can be overwhelming and scary. But in my early days I had an opportunity to … My mom was going through actually some really terrible times in her life. She was losing her business and so it gave me an opportunity to go to some of the clients that I had built a little bit of a relationship in my stamp licking days, to say, “Hey, I’ve opened my own business in another town and if I could, if you give me a chance to have some of your accounts I’ll do what I can do.” And honestly, I thought I knew everything. I didn’t know anything.
So, I had a handful of clients to start off with, so it wasn’t necessarily that my heart’s desire was to be in the collections industry. But my heart’s desire was to be a businesswoman. So I took the opportunity, and you know, I grew up in the ’80’s so you know that’s a very opportunistic time. When you see an opportunity, you take that leap. And you don’t worry about whether it fits. And so I think that, that’s why I started to develop this communication strategy, words that work, I really was melding who I was as a person. I was bringing that to my business. It was honestly the most brilliant thing, I think, that could have ever happened in my life.
It all just worked out perfectly in the end.
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me more about that communications strategy that you developed. It sounds magical.
Mary Shores: Yes. It is magical in the fact that we’re human beings and we all have needs. And I developed this in the laboratory of the collections industry. And then I transitioned it into an entire personal development system, which is in the book Conscious Communications.
So what it is, is its all based on neurology, psychology and neural chemistry. Meaning that we have human needs. We’re psychological beings, but that our brain runs on a set of neurological programs in our subconscious mind. And what I discovered was, through the power of words, that our clients and our customers and anyone who owes us money or even in a medical situation, were very triggered by the words that are spoken to us. And so I created this do not say list, which was one of the first things that I did. I actually eliminated the words no, not, can’t, won’t, however, and unfortunately from business period. And it may sound silly, but it literally increased my revenue 34% in the first year.
Because people are very … Think about when you call, if you have to call the cell phone company or you have to call the cable company. And you know before you even make that phone call that they’re ‘going to be like, “No, I’m sorry. We can’t do that for you. Our policy is …”, and it just, it makes you have this contempt for that company or for that industry. And so for me, I wanted to do the opposite. It’s like, I don’t want to trigger someone’s fight or flight and have them in a boxing room with me. I want to align with them. I want to make them feel good. And I was able to do that by researching words that would actually trigger the opposite of fight or flight, which is the parasympathetic or what’s known as the rest and digest. So once I got people really in that rest and digest mode, because it’s all about what nutrients are being pumped to what parts of the brain. And they can’t be … Someone cannot be in a solutions mode while they’re in fight or flight. It’s just, it’s humanly impossible.
Melinda Wittstock: This is just fascinating. I love this. And so what are some the words that get people into that mode?
Mary Shores: You know, letting … It’s phrases. So I call it planting seeds of happiness. And if you imagine for a moment, you know, if you’ve every called, if you’ve had business situation or you’ve been in a sticky situation using your words and then you got that one person on the phone, who for whatever reason you knew they were going to handle it. And you just could, you could let it go. and you could breathe that sigh of relief. They’re saying things that build confidence. Like I just want to assure you that no matter what has happened already in this process I am going to figure it out. I’m going to do X, Y and Z and the result will be A, B, C.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mary Shores: And you say that to someone, it builds an instant connection. It builds trust. It builds confidence. It builds rapport. And even sometimes out of a bad situation. So for example, when I was writing my book I had a situation with my editorial company that they fired my editor and I was freaking out. Freaking, right, because I had a deadline and I was just, this could put my book deal on the line, right? So you talk about going instant fight or flight, but the owner of the company got on the phone with me and she said, “Listen Mary, this is what’s happened,” and she said, “This is what I’m going to do in order to fix it.” And she spoke with such confidence. She did not deny the problem. There’s such a tendency to deny. Instead, she validated. I know this sucks and this is what we’re going to do to get through it.
There is a step in the process that’s all about validation because as human beings the way that our neurology works, we really can’t move on. In order to get ourselves out of that fight or flight mode and into the opposite, we need to check the box in our brain that says we’ve been heard.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Oh my goodness. This is so important. So with this communications system, I mean you could have changed the destiny of the cable television industry, the banking industry. I mean airlines, United Airlines. I mean think about it.
Mary Shores: I think about it all the time ’cause-
Melinda Wittstock: I’m sure you do. I mean no, but really, this is so elegantly simple and yet so unattainable for people. Why is that? Why are people so hardwired into that kind of negative way of speaking? Is it just really the limiting beliefs from how they’ve been acculturated and how they’ve grown up and what’s going on inside their heads to-
Mary Shores: I love your question Melinda because it gives me a chance to bridge the business side of this program with the personal development side because there are a lot of parallels here. I think from the business side we’re conditioned to respond to certain things in a certain way. Okay? So from childhood we just have what I call conditioned responses. And we have to overcome, so just like we were talking about before going on step in a new direction or getting your toe outside of that comfort zone. In order to work the conscious communications systems we need to dip ourselves outside of the box of those conditioned, what we’ve been taught. So, that’s the belief system part that you’re talking about.
I think in business, like we were talking about structure and building a structure and building a mission. What happens is the company might be built on a mission, but do the reps that are one the phone, are they plugged into that mission? And how many times are people just put at a desk and told to do a job without adequate training? And so what I find is … Words that work, what we’re talking about, it is simple and elegant and people actually think they’re doing it until they hear recordings of themselves. Until they realize that they’re not doing it because, for example, we’re taught that the words however and unfortunately are in fact sympathetic words. And in certain situations they may be. But in business situation there is no good news coming after the word however or unfortunately. So the moment you hear that word what happens is the body drops into fight or flight and you’re not even hearing whatever they said after that because you can’t. You can’t hear it.
But what does this have to do with our personal development and growth? It’s the same thing. Our bodies are like libraries that are storing everything that has ever happened to us. And our tendency is to criticize ourselves beyond belief. It is a form of self abuse that does not allow us to grow into our fullest potential and express ourselves in that highest reality of what we can be. And I know that we’re living in a time that we really buy into the idea of infinite possibilities existing for all of us. And I think we can get a little bit confused, meaning that infinite possibilities, means that only good things are happening. When the truth is, infinite means it’s a spectrum. So I could fail miserably or you know, I could get an invitation to be on Oprah tomorrow and anything in between is possible. And so the way that you connect yourself to those things that you want instead of constantly swirling in the chaos and the uncertainty of all of the things you don’t want, is by that same kind of method. It’s like you have to feed your system with everything laser focused, laser clarity on what you want and how to get there because this causes empowerment.
Just the same way, if I can train reps of what to say and what to do where they understand inside, outside, backwards and forwards what they’re doing, when you manifest from a place of empowerment a true … And that’s a buzz word. So I want to get back to that word. But when you manifest from a place of empowerment, everything you create is going to come through stronger, faster, better than anything you create from a place of dis-empowerment. Because creating from a dis empowerment state, it’s not sticky like you said. It kind of, like it’ll get going, but then it’ll fizzle out. Or some sort of something will happen to get in your way.
Melinda Wittstock: This is true. I mean I think even manifesting from a place of joy. If you’re creating your work, if you’re doing your work and it’s giving you joy. Like you’re in that fun place. It’s another part, I guess, of empowerment as well. Like magic happens from it.
I like what you were saying though, about this sense of the infinite. When people talk about abundance mindset or scarcity mindset, so we do live in an abundant universe so you get an abundance of whatever it is you’re thinking. Right? And however it is you’re doing that work, what you’re creating around you, the people around you. Having people around you that are not toxic to you, that are actually constructively helpful to you. Educating yourself, being around … A little bit earlier on the podcast you were talking about how part of the overwhelm is kind of connected sometimes a little bit to isolation. And a way to get out of it and how you did, was surrounding yourself, investing in yourself, being around other people who are, who can teach you, who you can learn from. That’s such a huge part, I think, of success.
My goodness. I just think this interview is meandering all over the place. But all these things are so connected.
Mary Shores: They really are. And I completely agree with you that joy is an element of empowerment. You cannot feel empowered if you’re not happy. And part of being happy is having that flow. You mentioned flow earlier and you mentioned like, I think it’s getting into that flow state that we all know that when things are just … It’s like Moses parted the Red Sea. Everything is just working out exactly the way it’s supposed to and that’s what I mean by manifesting from a place of empowerment.
But what I want to take a moment to say is what are the steps to get there? Okay? Because a lot of people do teach these. Sometimes I think they’re a little bit ‘woo woo’ concepts, but they don’t step back to say, “How do you create that in your life?”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Mary Shores: Right? And so it’s a good time to say, “How do you get there?” And so one of the best ways to get there is having a daily practice. I can share with you some of the things that I did were simple. I have to keep things simple in my life because complicated just does not work for me anymore. It used to. In fact, I think I used to actually thrive on it, but anymore, especially now that I’m in my 40’s, I have to keep it smooth.
One of the things that I do is I have this daily practice that’s called, I call it the daily desires diary. I simply write every single day three things I’m grateful for, three moments that I’m proud of and three things that I desire. And I want to talk about, from a neurological perspective why this is so important because when … I grew up Lutheran, as I mentioned. It wasn’t anything extreme. I have no complaints. It wasn’t a bad experience at all, but I think that I had certain beliefs systems. And one of these belief systems was that I needed to pray at night to, like I had a debt of gratitude to this deity in the sky. And what I’ve realized from my 20 years of personal development work is that the reason that gratitude is so powerful in your life is because it strengthens the neural networks in your own subconscious mind that allows you to see the things in your world that are good. And once you do that, what happens is, is you become aware of all the opportunities around you.
How man times was there an opportunity that there had been, it had been there all along, but you had a blind spot to it?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. You know, it’s really interesting. When I went through a really difficult time in my life it was gratitude practice that turned everything around for me. So I completely, completely understand that. And there is so much to be grateful for. And it changes the type of people you attract into your life as well. It really is a wonderful, a wonderful trigger. So I love this. I do something very similar. There’s actually a book called The Five Minute Journal, which does something very similar to this where every morning you wake up and you write down what you’re grateful for, what would make today great. And very, very similar. And then in the evenings you write down what made today great and you can also sort of visualize what would have made today amazing and set an intention as if it’s already happened. And that’s been an absolute, must do every day for me for years. And it is truly game changing.
Mary Shores: I was, I participated in a documentary recently called The Global Resilience Project and I don’t know when it’s coming out, but the people, they’re from Ireland, that are doing the research for this Global Resilience Project, they chose 50 people around the world who they chose specifically for their bounce back factor for that resilience piece. What they were looking for was people who had gone through a number of tragedies or a huge tragedy in their life and were able to bounce back and not just recover, but actually thrive. So one of the things, as they did their research, they were looking for the commonalities in each one of the 50 people. And sure enough, they were there. The first one was gratitude.
And I think that, like I said, when I was a kid I was taught one thing about gratitude. But when I studied the neuroscience of it, it just made so much sense because then I could look at gratitude as how it’s building this muscle in my subconscious versus something that I’m supposed to do because I … It’s more dutiful that way I suppose.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And you studied the neuroscience, but you also went through your own tragedies. And talk about someone whose bounced back, Mary. My goodness. Can you share a little bit about what you went through?
Mary Shores: Yeah. And you know during our little pre-show talk I was telling you we had a lot in common, but actually I discovered gratitude the very same way you did. I had gone through something several years ago and I had not time to recover from this. It was like, ’cause I had to work and I had things to do. So the one thing I did for myself was started this gratitude practice. You know, I guess I’m one of those people that, I came from a lot of tragedy. I was abandoned at a very young age, at three, and then again when I was 16, I was out on my own. So I grew up in an unstable household. By the time I was 16, my mom just, she just couldn’t raise me anymore. So I was out on my own and I managed to still graduate high school, but I ended up a teenage mother at 19. And my daughter was born with severe, severe brain injury. And when I, I just want to explain what this looks like.
So, she was blind. She was deaf. She was unable to swallow or have a suck reflex. So she had a gastronomy tube inserted in her stomach. She was fed via this tube, but she was also on life support for her first weeks of life. She wasn’t actually expected to live and she did live for a year and a half, which meant that I was living my life as a 19 and 20 year old girl, without any understanding of this. When I look at pictures of myself during that time period I’m checked out. I’ve got that deer in the headlights look and I am completely checked out.
So I was living in these hospitals, children’s hospitals and I was sleeping on the emergency room floor. I was seeing and witnessing things that you just can’t ever un-see in your life. I mean everything from looking at little children vomiting green from the chemotherapy or seeing a five year old burn victim and knowing that they may not live through the day. It’s just, it’s something that a lot of people get really fascinated with how did she go through that and then recover and start this business?
I think that it was truly the way that I looked at the situation. I talk a lot about, in my book, that one of the ways to really empower yourself is to pay attention to the stories you tell. We’re natural storytellers and we connect with each other through these stories that we tell. And every time we tell that tragic story we’re really re-enforcing the neural network that the neural network inside of our subconscious that can actually lead us to a victim hood mentality. If you’ve had tragedy in your background, which most of us have one way, it’s not always the same. But on some level we’ve had things that have affected us. And I’m not suggesting that we ignore those things, but in order to step into empowerment the best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on the part of the story, the most beautiful part is in the moment when you figure out how to move on.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. You know, and getting out of victim hood, that’s a really interesting thing because there’s no power there. And as long as you’re like, “Oh, this happened to me,” yeah, you can be stuck.
We started the podcast, we started talking about being stuck and how to get out of that victim hood. So is gratitude really the way? That is the first step to get out of that?
Mary Shores: Gratitude is one way. I think that there are so many ways to discover who you really are, but I think that gratitude is a simple thing that all of us can do and that no matter where you’re at on this journey of life gratitude is really going to help you. And a lot of us already have a gratitude practice, which is why I also love to say, “Let’s take time every day to say what we’re proud of for today.” Because this same kind of thing, when you take time to reminisce what are my proud moments for today, you’re still, you’re re-enforcing that neural network. So you’re getting in control of your focus because, you know, I remember the late, great Wayne Dyer would say change your thoughts, change your life.
And Melinda, I tried so hard to change what I was thinking about and it was impossible for me. I’m like, “Wow, who knew that would be so hard?” But if I do this daily practice than what happens is my thoughts eventually, naturally start to change on their own because I have changed my point of focus. And so even if you’re just taking five minutes a day to do that daily practice, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be what I say. When you’re doing that, what you’re doing is you’re giving yourself five minutes of concentrated focus on concentrating on the things that you want. On concentrating on the things that are good.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. That’s absolutely right. Yes. Because sometimes self help or personal growth can become a job. People can stay stuck in that, in the hard work around all of that. So it’s interesting what you say about kind of like just a shift of attention and you start doing this. I found that in my own life, for what it’s worth, as I started to take on a lot of these different practices be it from meditation to gratitude to visualization. But this whole concept of surrender and letting go, like whenever I was triggered by anything, just using that as an opportunity to let that emotion or whatever just go. Like that’s, oh how interesting. Like what’s that saying about me? Well, I don’t even need to know. I just let it go.
The more that I started to do this, the more really interesting, it’s almost a divine kind of synchronicity started to show up in my life where the right person appears at the right time for whatever you’re working on or whatever your intention is. You start to, as you say, you start to spot opportunity. They were always there, but you start to see them. And then you started to become more and more confident in terms of being able to act on those. You start to make it less about yourself when something goes wrong. It’s just interesting. Your life is a lab as an entrepreneur and your life is a lab anyway whether you’re an entrepreneur or not. It’s all about constant learning, but not taking it personally when something doesn’t quite work out.
So I’ve just found that progression … Everybody has their own path to get there, but just starting to take the steps makes all the difference in the world ’cause it has a momentum.
Mary Shores: Yeah, it’s so true. And I love what you say because this whole conversation, we’ve been teetering on the line of business development, personal development and then also a lot of spiritual development stuff. The one thing that I have believed ever since I was a child, is that science and spirituality are talking about the same thing, but they’re using two different languages. And throughout the ages, the saints and sages of yesterday’s years that lived thousands of years ago, they were teaching all of the same principles that you and I are talking about today and maybe they were just framing it in a different way, but what I have found is it doesn’t have to be hard work. It just needs to be following some directives because I don’t believe in going into 10 years of psychotherapy to find out who in the second grade told me that I was a terrible writer.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it doesn’t help.
Mary Shores: It doesn’t help. And it’s a waste of time. I mean I’m not suggesting that therapy doesn’t work when you’ve got a specific reason to go to it, but if you’re just trying to step into your highest expression of yourself, the way that I find to do that is just always investing in yourself, always taking that one step in a new direction. We all have these barrier beliefs and the way to overcome them is to plant the seed of a new belief.
So instead of going backwards and doing all of the hard work trudging through the mud of trying to rewrite those old beliefs, why not just practice seeing if you can install a new belief? ‘Cause that’s a lot easier.
Melinda Wittstock: It surely is.
So Mary, we have touched on so many different things through this podcast. What a joy it is to talk to you, so thank you so much for taking the time. And of course, you’re going to have to come on again, right? ‘Cause we have so much more to talk about.
Mary Shores: Yeah, there really is. It would be my pleasure.
Melinda Wittstock: So how can people find you and work with you?
Mary Shores: The best way to find me is through social media, meaning that you can check out my website, which is maryshores.com. I would love for your listeners to connect with me on LinkedIn under that same name. If you send me a request I would love to be connected. And I always tell people, you know, if you’re curious about me or my story or you want to learn the steps that I teach, check out my book on Amazon, Conscious Communications. And if you read the description and a handful of reviews, you will know right away if this book is for you or not. And we’ve given actually all of your listeners a download, a free download, of the first chapter of the book as well as that daily desires diary that I was speaking about. So you guys can all try that today if you want.
Melinda Wittstock: That is awesome. Thank you. That is so generous and I am definitely going to go ready your book. It sounds amazing. And I love just the practical tips that you gave too about the do not say list. I’m definitely going to implement that. I think that’s fascinating.
So let’s all implement that and report back to Mary how we do and how it changes our businesses and our lives.
Mary Shores: Yeah and if you want to interact with me personally I do have a Facebook group called Fearless Ambition and so would love to have you there if you want to interact back and forth. I’m happy to do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well Mary, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Mary Shores: Yay! Thank you.