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Known to be a “pathologically positive” person, Jenn Swanson has been educating, encouraging and empowering others to succeed for more than 25 years. With a background in healthcare and education, a Master’s Degree in Public and Pastoral Leadership, and a passion for wellness in the workplace, Jenn brings energy and enthusiasm to all she does.
Her weekly podcast, Careers by Jenn, is heard around the globe, and her book, “What They See: How to Stand Out and Shine in Your New Job” has been a popular read for those starting a new job. Jenn lives near Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, and is delighted to be joining our show today.
In this episode, we focus on what drove Jenn to be so positive, and, shockingly, it began with one of the least positive things a child can go through – a parent abandoning their family. Jenn shares her story and the amazing maturity, strength and clarity she showed as a young child that set her up to become the positive, caring person she is today.
Key Points from the Episode with Jenn Swanson:
- At the age of 2, Jenn’s father left her mother, her and her as-yet-unborn brother. He did not just move out, but completely left them, with no contact for many years.
- That lead to a feeling of being different on top of the struggle of getting by financially.
- At the age of 12, Jenn’s father and mother reconnected as her mother sought help for some behavior struggles her brother was having, and that meant Jenn had to see him and this alternate life he had created.
- What struck her was what a waste all of the feelings she had been dealing with had been – the pain, confusion, anger – all of it. None of it was making the situation better or different. So she decided to write a letter of forgiveness to her father, and wrote out 12 pages explaining what the impact on her his choice had been, what it had meant for her, and then actually put in the mail and sent it to him.
- She wasn’t looking for a response, but more the catharsis of releasing the pain from her system so she could move forward. This is what struck me – you see this action in some people who faced what Jenn faced, but almost never until they’re adults dealing with the impact of their childhood experience. Jenn did this on her own as a pre-teen.
- We dug into why that might have been, and it wasn’t something Jenn had thought about before, so we talked through it. One key thing growing up was that her mother kept things very open where you could talk about your feelings or express them. She would go on long walks with her mother where they talked a lot, did art projects and other activities where expression of your thoughts and feelings was encouraged.
- She also had a strong sense of her faith and the idea that there is something bigger, which was a feeling that grew into her current work as a part-time minister.
- The lesson she took from all of this is that the act of forgiveness is not about the person being forgiven but rather about the person doing the forgiving. We can’t control what the person who is being forgiven does with it, but we can control the freedom we feel when we forgive someone and let go.
- The opposite of peace is fighting things, and you can’t fight reality. That fight would be wasteful, so Jenn asks what we could do with what we have rather than denying its existence.
- Acknowledge that things happen, life sucks – something bad is happening all the time. So how do you manage, where is your resilience and where can you take your hope from so you can move forward?
- She has found that the most insightful people with the greatest wisdom seem to be those who have been through the greatest hardship or struggle – if they have a gratitude mindset about where they are rather than fighting where they had been.
- A common idea that my guests have often shared came up again in this episode, “It doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us.”
- As a bit of advice, Jenn suggests people not write out all of their feelings and hit “Send”, but take a bit of time to think about it once it’s written and then decide what to do with it.
- She spent time helping people talk about how someone else’s behavior made them feel rather than how they did this to them. “I felt this way about what happened,” instead of, “You hurt me.” It creates space for more introspection and reflection, and helps keep the other person from digging in with defensiveness, which can stop a productive discussion before it gets a chance to get off the ground.
- Jenn shared a beautiful idea she’s been reminding people of a lot lately. She said, “You are your best investment.” Spending the time, money or both on yourself, being willing to do the hard work, prioritizing your need for rest and recovery all pay huge dividends. You need to invest in yourself and your self-growth.