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Author Jill McAbe: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life

An Interview With Pirie Jones Grossman

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50's.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear? In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill McAbe.

Jill McAbe is a bestselling author, teacher, and coach in business success, finding one’s purpose, and the science of high performance and change. Her best-selling book, It’s Go Time: Build the Business and Life You Really Want, teaches the order of operations for building expertise-based businesses. McAbe established BOOM U in 2018, an online coaching and training business helping professionals, experts and coaches scale their revenue and create work they are passionate about.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I have dyslexia, so I struggled throughout school. I had one specific traumatic experience when my teacher in grade two chastised me for submitting an assignment with letters written backward. She had me sit facing the corner, with my back to the classroom, and told me I was stupid. My mother transferred me out of the school where that happened and I received remedial support, but I never did well in school afterward. What made it even harder for me was that each of my three siblings was exceptional in some way: one each in sports, academics and the arts. I felt like a failure in comparison, especially when I would come home with Cs and Ds and it was just accepted that was how I would perform. But my mother, who was an expert in early childhood education, always told me: “Some people are good at school and some at life. Jill, you are wise, and you will be good at life”. I believe my quest to pursue a meaningful life was because of my mother’s frequent reminders that my lot in life was to thrive later on as an adult.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote is by Desiderius Erasmus “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”

At the midway point in my career, I studied an award-winning change leadership model based in behavioral science. At that time, I learned that there are decades of science that show us that change is not hard; rather, change is an equation. When you know the equation, you can make almost anything happen. As I studied this, I was excited about the possibilities. As a vision and strategy consultant, I was blown away by how the application of this model would enable burnt-out teams to come alive with ground-breaking ideas and then execute them in a matter of months. As a result of applying this model, I have seen first-hand dreams become reality dozens, likely hundreds, of times for myself, my clients and my students.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. I have an insatiable curiosity. I am fascinated with the point of life and what it means to be human. One aspect of dyslexia is a fixation on the reasons why things work. For example, in my former work as a vision and strategy consultant, my goal-setting skills were central since every project starts with a goal. Back then, I was perplexed by why some goals work out and other goals don’t. If goal setting is so effective, why aren’t all goals achieved? At that time, despite reading several academic books about goals, none explained why goals work. My curiosity led me to investigate if recent neuroscience could help. I reasoned that if I could understand the mechanisms in the brain that cause goals to work, then I could develop a goal-setting tool that enabled more success. I was fortunate to have contacts who put me in touch with a neuroscientist researching at the forefront of goal cognition and the brain. I finally learned what makes goals work and created a tool that levers this science to make it easier for my clients and students to achieve what they want. Right now, I am fascinated with the idea of Einsteinian time.
  2. I am determined and persevere when I have a goal. At 40, I had a lot going for me. I had been an acclaimed restaurateur and then consultant and experienced much success. Then, one sunny day in April, I was hit by another car. The accident was so bad it made front-page news. I had back, rib, neck, and head injuries and spent the next 18 months in recovery. I was unable to work and even felt too depressed to socialize. Like many who’ve had and then lost it all, I fell into an existential crisis. I felt called to a more meaningful life, something in the service of humanity, but could not figure out what that might be. After eight years of searching — reading countless self-help books, watching talks and taking courses — I still felt at a loss. I was about to give up when I met a guide who showed me how to discover my purpose — a leading professor in the area of how to find one’s calling. Building my dream business flowed from there. I have since developed a process that helps my clients and students find their purpose, which, as it happens, links to the neuroscience of why goals work or don’t. When I think of determination, I think of Napoleon Hill’s caution not to stop three feet from gold. The idea of not stopping short of success keeps me going even when circumstances feel impossible.
  3. I have a strong sense of belief. I believe in humanity, in possibilities, and that it’s never too late for anyone to be the author of a life that lights them up! A client once said in a testimonial, “Jill focuses on your strengths and stretches your possibilities to an unlimited end.” It humbled me because I hadn’t realized that about myself until I read what she wrote. A recent example was during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto. I was working with a Rolfer, Jennifer Hayes. Because of my car accident, I’ve worked with many hands-on modalities, so I know exceptional talent when I experience it. Jennifer helped me eliminate physical restrictions no one else had. During a session, she confided in me her lockdown concerns. Without patients her income would evaporate. She couldn’t see other options for herself. I asked her if she thought she could help people over Zoom by teaching them micro-movements they could do at home. At first she wasn’t sure, but in my heart I knew that she could. She ended up believing in herself, taking the leap, and it turned out well! She became a client and created Body Flow: An online program helping people with chronic body limitations get their mobility back. Her program has been a success. Now, she has a way of helping thousands more people than she could before.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I have done many things in my quest to be good at life. After high school, I thought my direction would be in the arts. I spent several years studying and working in the theatre, but the grueling hours made me feel I was missing out on life. So (comically), I studied to be a chef, thinking the restaurant industry would give me more time to enjoy life! I opened a restaurant with my twin brother and we were fortunate to do very well. But it was another hours-intensive industry, and I still felt I was falling short of being “good at life”. My next incarnation was as a consultant. Running a restaurant is a great education because it teaches you manufacturing, operations, sales, and service. Much to my surprise, when I sold my restaurant, patrons impressed with our operations offered me consulting roles in their companies. Nearly a decade of consulting in over 20 industries enabled me to deepen my knowledge of business models. Yet my diversity became part of my problem. When it comes to marketing online, being good at too many things is a disadvantage as it leaves potential clients confused about what you are truly good at. Being good at many things caused me to struggle with what to focus on. I fretted about picking a viable idea, as I felt I was too late in my career to risk picking the wrong one. The irony was that by struggling with the question of what to do, I fell further behind.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

Luckily for me reinventing organizations is what I did for a living as a consultant, so once I identified my purpose and committed to my business idea, which for me was the hard part, I adapted the model I used on organizations to reinvent myself. I was motivated to adapt change leadership tools for reinventing organizations to work for reinventing individuals after one client I’d helped achieve tremendous gains confided in me that he was unhappy. Even though he was making millions, a part of him was unfulfilled, detached from his success. We were good friends, and I suggested that he could be a guinea pig, and I could use the tools I used on his organization on him. He was my first success story. I was my second. After finally discovering how to identify my purpose, which led to my identifying an aligned business idea, I used my adapted reinvention tool to launch my company, BOOM U.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

Although I enjoyed most of my clients when I was consulting, I did not enjoy all of them. The trigger that made me take the plunge happened on a fall morning while inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to lead a strategy meeting for one of my less enjoyable clients — a small team with zero passion for what they were doing. I don’t blame the team; they were overworked, underpaid, and undervalued by the second-generation owner who depleted the company resources being chauffeured around in a limousine while they used an antiquated computer system from the 1990s. It was bizarre. During that fateful drive, all I felt was dread about arriving at this organization. How can I reinvigorate a team with a boss like that? Also, stuck in traffic, I did not feel particularly “good at life.” I decided right then that, from then on, I would only work with people who wanted to do their best, to show up for themselves. I also decided I was done with rush-hour traffic and that I needed to change my business to work from anywhere.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

In my case, it wasn’t a new skill set as much as how to integrate my various experiences into work that felt impactful. Although my various careers once seemed disconnected to me, as I look back on the skills I picked up along the way, I’ve integrated learnings from each one into what I’m doing now. My background in theater has helped me with teaching, presenting, and creating videos. My restaurant experience left me with a tremendous service and work ethic. And I gained a vast understanding of business models and department functions through my consulting work. I have found the same to be true for my clients. Highly skilled professionals often come to me confused about what to do because they have so many options. It’s one of those false dichotomy questions. Instead of choosing or starting something new, I help people cherry-pick the best of their past and integrate it into a holistic present.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

I never thought I would be able to say this, but it’s going great. After nearly five decades, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I feel like I am “good at life.” My company has been growing steadily, and as I always predicted, when my work felt right, the other pieces of my life would fall into place. I have closer friends, better relationships, the home I dreamed of, and I’ve given myself permission to go after all my dreams. I am no longer looking for the solution out there. I am expanding what I am doing.

My new initiative is my company, BOOM U and we help people ready themselves for their next chapter in business. One of my programs, called Ignite, is dear to my heart. In it, we help people struggling the way I did as I quested after “what I was meant to do”. We help experienced professionals looking to transition into entrepreneurship figure out their new business and take action. Because I work with people who have a tremendous amount of experience and credibility, many of my clients start teaching, mentoring, and creating experience-based businesses.

Transitioning my business online was not easy, and there were times I didn’t think I would make it, but I’m glad I stuck with it because this journey has resulted in my becoming the most complete and whole version of myself I have ever been.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to Trina Brooks. Trina was a long-time friend who took my program Ignite the first time I offered it online. At that time, she was working in a hospital, even though her true passion was writing plays and fiction. Identifying that her heart was not in her work, I offered her a marketing job with my company, BOOM U. Marketing is one of our services at BOOM U, and it involves a substantial amount of writing. In the past, I had hired young marketing grads to help me. But since my clientele is mostly over 50 years old, I needed someone with more life experience who also understood character study and how to speak authentically to different people and audiences. Years later, Trina has done so much more for me than help with writing! She is my right hand in this company and is equally dedicated to the success of our students and clients. I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without her. No way, no how.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Definitely the pre-release of my book, It’s Go Time, landing on Black Thursday. Writing my book was a serious goal for over three years. It took an incredible amount of courage to write it because I was introverted and reluctant to share my work since being humiliated in my grade 2 class. Nevertheless, I faced my fears and put my heart into writing It’s Go Time. Then, as part of a self-publishing group, I launched my pre-release on Amazon on March 12, 2020: also known as Black Thursday, the biggest single-day stock-market fall since 1987. I realized that I couldn’t continue publishing and promoting a book called It’s Go Time as people were being told to lock down, and the economy felt unstable. After years in the making, putting a freeze on my book saddened me. But, since we can often find (or create) silver linings, I used the year to update the book for a predominantly online economy and signed with a New York publisher, Morgan James, who helped me give my book a new set of wings. Figuratively and literally — the updated cover they did is sensational and captures the content brilliantly!

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Like many people who’ve achieved success, I have struggled to believe in myself a lot! Despite my career accomplishments, being ridiculed for being dyslexic in grade school always made me feel self-conscious, that I wasn’t as smart as other people and didn’t belong. At one point, after trying to make my dream business work and falling miserably short of my expectations, I was on the precipice of giving up. I was 48, and I thought that it was probably too late to achieve anything new. Fortunately, I decided to give it one last dedicated push before going back to consulting. I decided that I wouldn’t give up on my dream until I could say to myself that I’d gone all-in! At that time, I considered how I had been able to get such success for my clients and not myself. And I realized, it’s that I believed in my clients to an unlimited end, and that belief caused me to invest in them, make decisions, and take chances with the certainty that it would work out. However, I realized I had not been making decisions for myself with that same kind of belief and fortitude. So, from that point forward, when faced with challenging decisions, I started asking myself, “what would I do right now if I believed in myself the way I believe in my clients?” Basing my decisions and actions on answers to that question has led me to take actions that have led to my success.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I agree with you completely! Not only do I encourage my clients to get support from complementary practitioners, but I also do the same for myself! At any given time, I work with up to three people. A business coach, a life coach, and someone who can help me unhook from and rewire limiting beliefs. I believe investing in professional help is essential to continued expansion because reading books alone is not enough to see what one doesn’t see. Also, family and friends have come to know us one way, and in the early phases of reinvention, it’s hard for them to be entirely unbiased in what another kind of future would look like.

Some of my students cannot afford or do not choose to invest in the amount of support that I like for myself. In those cases, I advise them to curate their social circle carefully and only share their dreams and aspirations with people who believe in them more than they believe in themselves!

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

Despite having run an internationally acclaimed restaurant and my consulting success creating tens of millions in value for clients, I questioned whether I had the credibility to be the face of a business. Due to my dyslexia, I dropped out of high school, and (even though I went back and finished), I did not hold a University degree. However, I was admitted into a Masters in Leadership program based on my career accomplishments. It was a hard time for me because I felt intimidated by my peers. Many of them held leadership positions in healthcare and the military, and all of them had more formal education than I did. In retrospect, it was a bit silly of me because I was credible enough to teach business!

It turns out it doing my masters was critical for an unexpected reason. During that time, I connected with two leading academics who help me discover why I had not been successful in starting my dream business to that point. The first was the neuroscientist who helped me understand how to wire our subconscious brains for more success. The second was a leading researcher in the area of how to find one’s calling. Research has confirmed and re-affirmed that entrepreneurs who know their purpose outperform the market by 10 to 12 times. Since I was creating my dream business at such a late point in my life, I knew I wanted to know my true purpose to fast-track my performance. True to the research, once learning mine, my business success followed rapidly. So although I was out of my comfort zone in academia, critical elements of my work came from that decision.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Focus on the right project at the right time. When I first started, people gave me advice about how I needed to be all over social media. I wasted hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on posting, blogging, and putting content “out there”, which is not a wise use of time when someone is just starting. What led to me doing this was not having a clear and complete understanding of what it would take to build my dream business. So instead of being strategic, I was being tactical and letting the latest exciting idea distract me from what needed to be done. Since I think very few people know how to build a talent-based business from the ground up, I share the order of operations for building a new business based on one’s expertise in my book It’s Go Time.
  2. Be coached in the smallest room you can. I am constantly looking to learn and grow. I used to take these en-masse business coaching programs with 1000s of people in them. Despite investing substantially in terms of money and time implementing their material, I had lackluster results. Perhaps it is the dyslexic in me that needs to understand things at a deep level, but I needed closer attention than I could get in those en-mass programs. When I started investing in higher-touch coaching and getting myself into smaller rooms, my success soared.
  3. When you’re struggling with anything, find the (subconscious) block! Some success blocks we know we have because we can pinpoint a belief we picked up from a parent while growing up. Others are more insidious; because we don’t know they are there and holding us back. In my book, I give several examples of blocks that keep people from achieving financial or entrepreneurial success. Recently, I discovered an insidious block that has kept me from feeling on top of things. I noticed that I was constantly feeling behind. And I thought to myself; this has to be a reality I am constructing for myself. Why? I had to work with a professional to discover the answer, and we discovered the source: In my first managing job, I was really on top of things. You’d think that would have been a good thing, but my senior manager sat me down and told me that nobody liked me because I was too officious and by the book! This memory was long forgotten, but a part of me remembered it and set up instructions in my brain not to be on top of things. In general, if I had paid more attention to finding reprogramming limiting blocks sooner, I wouldn’t have struggled for so many years to turn my life around!
  4. Take one hour a day for reflection/meditation to ensure my compass is clear (or fall victim to everyone else’s agenda!). Every successful person I know, and I don’t just mean business success, but people who enjoy their life, take time to meditate. Yet sometimes with all of the diverse concerns of my team members, clients, students, and family, I tell myself that I don’t have time to meditate. And then I remember the old Zen saying, “If you don’t have time to meditate for 5 minutes a day, then you need to meditate for 20!”
  5. Have faith in yourself. The number one thing I wish I was told when I was starting would be, “Have faith in yourself, Jill. Believe in your abilities. Listen to your heart. You’ve got this.” Everything changed for me when I dug deep and found the courage to believe in myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That the scientific process of making dreams come true becomes known to all.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

Joe Dispenza. I admire his work and some of my clients even call me the Joe Dispenza of business! Joe and I share many beliefs. We are fascinated by some of the same phenomenon. Over lunch, I’m confident we’d have a fascinating conversation, and who knows, perhaps even create some Einsteinian time as we explore possible collaborations.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

For anyone wanting to reinvent themselves in an expertise-based business, my book, It’s Go Time: Build the Business and Life You Really Want, is available on Amazon and will be in major bookstores from the fall of 2021. Readers looking for personalized help creating work they are passionate about can learn about our programs at www.jillmcabe.com/boom-u/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for interviewing me! It’s been such an honor to share my second chapter story with you and your readers. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Pirie Jones Grossman

TedX Speaker, Influencer, Bestselling Author and former TV host for E! Entertainment Television, Fox Television, NBC, CBS and ABC.