102. The Next Five Minutes Are Yours to be FIERCE with Carolyn Colleen

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Carolyn Colleen is a fierce mother of three children, author, international speaker, entrepreneur, and business strategist focused on helping others achieve their goals.

Carolyn is the founder of the FIERCE Academy, an online program that helps women create life strategies that enables them to have the life they dream of—without sacrificing their families, careers, or lifestyles. She is also the author of F.I.E.R.C.E.: Transform Your Life in the Face of Adversity, 5 Minutes at a Time!

With a soon to be Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Behavior (May 2020), an MBA, and a BA in Business, Carolyn understands the importance of traditional education. She also knows that intertwining personal experiences allows people to maximize the information from her teachings, presentations, and workshop offerings. 

As a dynamic and innovative workplace leader, Carolyn has worked as a Program Manager and Business Development Consultant at Gundersen Health System, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Account Management Executive for Gensler, and a Client Service Executive at UBS Financial Services. She knows how to transition people and processes to achieve the next-level of success while also aligning with organizational objectives. 

From standing in a food line at the Salvation Army to Ph.D., Carolyn is avid about sharing her own life story and encouraging others to make changes that move them from fear to focusing on the pursuit of their passions. 

Key Points from the Episode with Carolyn Colleen:
  • Carolyn is a mother of three, author, speaker, business strategist, coach and more.
  • In her day job, she builds strategies for healthcare providers to help serve patients at the worst moments of their lives.
  • Her journey started in childhood with what happened to her being channeled into what happens for her.
  • Her mother had mental illness, which shaped her childhood greatly.
  • Additionally, she was sexually molested by a neighbor for years.
  • While her mother meant well, her untreated mental illness had a profound impact on Carolyn’s life.
  • Part of that included being reminded that she was adopted and had to earn her keep in the household.
  • Additionally, Carolyn’s mother was a hoarder, so the house was overwhelmingly full of towers of ‘stuff’ everywhere, and the smells that come along with that and the filth that builds up.
  • Her mother also opened their home to people in need, homeless and others down on their luck.
  • Some of those people sought to abuse that generosity by abusing Carolyn and her younger sister.
  • To protect her sister, Carolyn would offer herself in her sister’s place.
  • Being eight years old, Carolyn loved her younger sister dearly, and took on a great responsibility for her sister to protect and care for her in the absence of their mother’s ability to do that.
  • Her father traveled for work, so he was not around most of the time, leaving Carolyn and her sister alone with their mom with Carolyn to protect her.
  • When Carolyn went to school, she worried about her sister being alone at home with their mother given the issues their mom had.
  • There were days that were great, and days that were horrible – it was unstable and uncertain.
  • As a teenager, Carolyn had her first love, her first boyfriend, who she placed a lot of hope in to take her out of everything.
  • When they broke up, she woke up at 16 in the ER after trying to take her life.
  • She came home after a 72 hour suicide hold to a sister who was angry with her, and said, “Don’t you ever leave me.”
  • She realized how much she was meant to be there for her sister, and promised her she would never leave her again.
  • At 19, she found herself married, pregnant and with a man who sought to destroy her self-worth.
  • Her sister was just 10, and did not really understand the situation, being excited to have a sort-of little sister coming (since Carolyn had basically raised her sister) but also jealous and confused about the new person who would be taking Carolyn’s attention.
  • Carolyn’s husband sought to control her at all times, whether it was her weight, what she wore or anything else.
  • Carolyn thought this was love.
  • She believes we, as humans, choose partners who reflect our sense of ourselves.
  • When her daughter was born, she realized this was not ok, and had to seek better for the two of them.
  • She says she borrowed the love she had for her daughter until her own self-love caught up enough for her to do it for herself, too.
  • She had created a mental jail out of low self-worth and negative self-talk that her spouse was reinforcing.
  • She could have left physically, but was constrained emotionally and mentally.
  • When her husband saw the risk of her leaving, he told her he would take both of their lives so they could be together.
  • In between calls from him to check on her whereabouts and actions, she grabbed her daughter and a couple of bags, and went to the Salvation Army to escape.
  • She couldn’t believe this was her life, and felt paralyzed.
  • She had to think of a way to move forward and keep smiling so she didn’t scare her daughter, and find a strategy so this would not be her life.
  • Someone said, “You can get through this, one day at a time.”
  • Carolyn was floored. She didn’t think she could get through a day. It was too much.
  • So she started to look at things in five minute chunks, which was all she could face at that time, but became an empowering way to move forward.
  • She took all the tough, negative emotions, and use them as fuel to move forward.
  • She had to find a place to sleep that night, food to eat for her and her daughter, and that was it. And she did it.
  • While in low income housing, a stabbing happened outside her home, and she decided that this was not acceptable and one year from then, she would be out. She had no idea how or where she’d go, but that she must go.
  • She moved out one year from the date she got the keys to the place.
  • She had used that emotion to kick on her fight-or-flight mechanism to take actions in a positive direction for the next five minutes, which would build to ten, twenty, etc.
  • We can do something we don’t want to do for five minutes even if we just want to hide or do nothing.
  • The more she practiced this, the more she achieved, the more opportunities arose, and the more she evolved.
  • She soon found herself able to get through a whole day, and then she can create bigger goals and reverse-engineer them down to five minute actions.
  • The next period of her life was working full-time, being in school full-time, helping raise her sister and raising her daughter with no support.
  • She completed her undergraduate degree, then her masters and PhD.
  • You can look back and see what things you’ve faced that you can see as adverse advantages.
  • She has an ability to flex, have empathy and build large, complex, sustainable strategy because of her ability to see a path through unpredictable, difficult situations.
  • Carolyn has had amazing support throughout her life, and taught her that your family is who you make it.
  • She’s found that letting go of ego is needed to accept help from the community.
  • No matter what happened five minutes ago, the next five minutes is yours to decide where to go with it.


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