Cheryl created her approach to life when she looked at what keeps her happy. She combines her love of martial arts, her understanding of human nature and her sense of humor to demonstrate how to push through the malaise that keeps us serious and determined. Happy doesn’t live at the end of that tunnel. Funny can’t find you with that sour look on your face. Lighten up! You can be a responsible adult and still have fun. Cheryl is masterful with encouraging us to take chances on looking a little silly as we flex our “just because it’s fun” muscle. She’s passionate about supporting people to live creative and happy lives. Her mission is to create a world, humming with love and vitality. For a deeper look into what makes Cheryl tick, you are invited to read her life timeline below.
My Life Story: Part One
I was born in the UK and I grew up in London. It was the ‘60s. Back then, we wore psychedelic colors and flare leg trousers.
On Saturdays, we walked down Portobello Road to the outdoor market. What a delight! There were fabulous things everywhere with interesting and unusual people all around. I saw my first nuns there, wearing dark clothes and strange looking head pieces. I liked passing the krishnas in their saffron robes, especially when they were singing that hari Krishna song.
I took something off a cart once. No one was looking so I just picked it up. I was only 5. My mother walked me back to the cart and made me apologize. I was ashamed. The man said it was alright and since I learned my lesson that I could keep whatever it was.
We ate cockles soaked in vinegar from little ceramic dishes. They were little chewy things. I liked the taste of the vinegar. Funny what you remember. To this day, those Saturday mornings are some of my best memories.
I told the biggest lie of my life when I was six. Here’s what happened. Brits set off fireworks on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night. Mr. Fawkes is famous for being a man who attempted to blow up the houses of Parliament. Never really thought about why we celebrate that, but it is a night British people look forward to. Everyone gets sparklers, fireworks you can hold in your hand.
“Please to remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” children’s rhyme
At school, they drilled into us how dangerous fireworks are. Never get near them when they’re about to go off. Do what you’re told and stay out of the way. It all made perfect sense to me.
But something happened to me that Guy Fawkes weekend. I accidentally scalded my hand with hot water. My mother wrapped it in a rather impressive bandage and off I went to school on Monday.
That was just too good to resist. “Oh yes,” I said enthusiastically — immediately coming up with a good story to match the bandage.
I had quite an imagination at six years old.
Unfortunately for me, things took a rather dramatic turn at that morning’s Assembly. You can imagine my surprise when, on this particular morning, after our morning hymn, I was asked to come to the front of the gymnasium. I had no idea what to expect.
Every head turned to watch me make my way to the front where all the teachers were. I remember thinking, “I can’t be in trouble. It’s still early. I haven’t done anything yet.”
My teacher started off reminding everyone about how dangerous fireworks were. Then, she turned to me and said, “Cheryl, tell everyone what happened to your hand this weekend.”
Oh, no! For a split second, I thought about coming clean. But, I had EVERYBODY’S attention. I told the best story of my six year old life. You could have heard a pin drop. All day, I told my story over and over again, embellishing the scary bits for effect. I was a hero.
Fast forward to Christmas. My little sister was the Christmas Angel at our Christmas Pageant. She was adorable with dark bouncy curls and big round eyes. I was so proud of her. I think I had one line to say which I managed to deliver without any trouble.
And then it happened. My teacher approached us. “Terrible shame about Cheryl’s hand back on Guy Fawkes. Did she tell you we had her stand in front of the whole school and tell everyone what happened with the fireworks?”
“Fireworks?” my mother asked. Uh,oh.
The next day, I was back in front of the entire school at Assembly. This time, with my head hanging down, I recanted my excellent story and explained that my burn was the result of a mishap with the tea kettle.
A day of infamy. To this day, I can’t tell a lie without getting caught. My face is a dead give-away.
Fast forward to age 11. I loved my school. I was devastated to leave before the end of the term when my family emigrated to America. My mother married an American GI and his tour of duty in England was over.
What Happened Next
We left London and moved to a farming community in Southern Illinois. Population: 2,057. My dad was stationed at the local Air Force Base. We had some adjustment issues. People around town and at school had never met black children with British accents before. They either loved us or behaved badly with us. We hadn’t settled into our first school for very long before I got tired of it.
It was one of those moments where standing up for myself meant more than the eventual punishment I knew would be coming.
For some reason, the school administrator put me in the 4th grade with 9 year olds because I told her I was in the 4th year in school in England. Can you say “lost in translation”? I was eleven! Why don’t you put me in with the other eleven year olds and let’s see how I do. We’re talking rural community school with two grades sitting in the same room. I think I’ll be ok.
My first day with the 9 year olds didn’t go well. I didn’t know the pledge of allegiance. Well, excuse me. I’m from another country. I said something impolite (to a teacher!) I’d never done that before. But I tell you what, if she were standing in front of me right now, I‘d say exactly the same thing. No teacher had ever shamed me in front of my classmates before.
We had to leave town. I don’t know how my dad managed it. We had just moved to a new country. He had 3 children, two of them not his, on a military salary. But he managed it. I’m proud of my dad and grateful for the sacrifices he made both emotionally and financially. We were anticipating a new life, a better life in the States. So far, I was unimpressed and very homesick.
The next school was bigger, but not much better. I was placed in class with eleven year old kids. I held my breath as I listened to each child struggle with the lessons on my first day. What’s wrong with these children? I was in a class for slow learners. I really am slow to anger, but my eleven year old blood boiled. I’ve always been bright. Why couldn’t they see that?
I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and tell everyone at home that school was great. Time went on. I got bored. One day, my teacher asked me to stop reading Treasure Island and to pay attention to what he was teaching. “I’ve already learned what you’re teaching,” I said and continued on reading.
To punish my rudeness, he kept me in my chair during recess and told me to write pages about my behavior. I started to write. And I kept on writing even after class started again. He didn’t ask me to stop. He waited until I was finished and then eagerly took what I had written to his desk.
My parents were called to the school. I died a thousand deaths waiting for them. Something shifted. Whatever I had written caused my teacher to reconsider my placement in his class.
I got bumped up to Honors Classes. Even as I write this, I’m moved to tears by the risk I took that day. That decision helped define who I am as a person.
High school, college, etc.
Even when I was a Flight Attendant, I wanted to go to HBS. Why? Because, once, in the middle of an argument, my husband, Mark said, “I make more money than you so I make the decisions around here.”
“Is that what works for you? That doesn’t work for me.” I thought to myself.
It’s funny what sets us in motion. I ended up graduating from Harvard Business School! I’m grateful to Mark for what he provided over the years we were married. I left soon after graduation day. We were together eleven years.
I worked briefly for Jenny Craig International supervising 5 stores and supporting staff who coached clients in losing weight. That was fun – for about 6 months. Then it got repetitive. I don’t like teaching people the same thing in the same way over and over again. Staff turned over quickly. Training was constant.
Career: I went back to consulting. West Hudson! I loved that company and everyone who worked there. Doug and Richard split off from our old company and started West Hudson in California. I joined them when there were just a handful of people making things happen. During the week, traveling on the road, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together. We got drunk, complained about everything, told secrets, got irritated with each other, knew each other’s habits and how to get on each other’s nerves. We shared cars and computers and we took good care of each other.
After a few years, the company grew and was acquired by Allegiance Health Care. Then, Allegiance was acquired by an even bigger company, Cardinal Health. I prospered along with every one else. But, I didn’t like working for a large company. Not many of the original WH people liked our new structure. People left. I left one day thinking I would take a summer off. Summer flew by, then 6 months, then a year. I just never went back.
I had a relationship with a man for 12 years during the time I was on the road consulting every week. He complained about my travel schedule. Where have I heard that before? Near the end of our relationship, he got a job – traveling! By that time, I had stopped traveling. Hmm…two people, pulling in opposite directions.
My Life Story: Part Two
Since then, I’ve taken time to get to know myself – by myself.
I wonder, who am I, without someone else around, telling me who I need to be, to gain their approval?
I’ve been taking personal development courses for over eight years. I analyzed myself from the inside out and I got happy, really happy. I’ve trained in boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jits and Muay Thai (kick-boxing). The last two were added in because I fell in love with UFC Mixed Martial Arts fighting.
I trained with Kenny Florian and his brother, Keith Florian, at Florian Martial Arts Center in Brookline, MA. For boxing, I went to Peter Welch’s gym in South Boston. My first boxing trainer was Jimmy Farrell at the L Street gym also known as The South Boston Boxing Club.
I love being around fighters. I’m learning to love men differently from how I’ve experienced them in the past. It feels like the more masculine they are, the more feminine I become. No more pulling in opposite directions. No power struggles. From now on, I’m choosing to be with people who are on the same side of the table with me.
In my work as a consultant, one of the things I did best was to teach people how to gather information to build an argument for changes being implemented. I taught people what to say, what not to say and what kind of body language to use to get others to take them seriously. When people got stuck, which always happens whenever someone is learning something new or taking risks, I thought of ways to pull them forward.
The best is yet to come!
If you’d like to catch up on my juicy, blogging life, hop over to my Bio page on whodoyourespect.com
I’ve connected all of my favorite skills together to create “DramaGuru Revelation”, and other lessons shared on WhoDoYouRespect.com
UPDATE: June 2016
I’ve created a community forum called “The Cornerman Game”. Check it out! Everyone needs a cornerman at some point. Learn how to be a good cornerman for yourself and for the people you want to protect.
DramaGuru is a science fiction game requiring the player to engage in tasks that reveal blind spots and encourages participation in learning to manage fear. Being able to distinguish how you fight, where you’re strong and where you need more work is the only way to make improvements, if you want to win more often.
photo credit: keep calm, dunce, puppy