Resilience are those steel beams that hold up sky scrapers. They may sway in an earthquake and at times seem like they’re going to fail, but don’t. The traits, of resilience is the ability to steady oneself when they’re about to fall; resilience is being a warrior and not a victim. Never giving up on what you believe in. Resist saying, “I can’t” and say, “I can” instead; even if you’re unsure.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Veronica Slaughter, D.C.
Dr. Veronica Slaughter was born in the Philippines to an American father and a Filipino mother in 1951. At eight, she, along with her siblings, were kidnapped by their father and brought to the United States. In spite of her turbulent childhood, she was able to achieve the American Dream through her resilience and determination. In 2017, she retired from her thirty-five-year chiropractic practice in California and moved to the beautiful island of Maui, where she continues to live with her many animals. She has one son; he lives in Northern California and is the love of her life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you for having me. I immigrated to the U.S. at eight in 1959. It was a strange new world for me. I felt lost and stumbled over the English language. Basically, I didn’t feel like I belonged. My young life was full of self-doubt, shame, and insecurity. In the end, I knew I wanted to be better and do something great with my life. I had to prove to myself and others that I had worth. This is what drove me forward no matter how many times I fell. I wanted the American Dream that everyone talked about.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I have so many meaningful stories. I’ve learned so much from my patients. One story that sticks with me, happened early in my career. A healthy young man came into my practice with back pain. He was a marathon runner, a vegetarian, and possessed the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. He told me he had to cut back on his training because of low back pain. He had been to multiple doctors and taken multiple medications before coming to me. After three treatments in one week, there was little improvement in this young man. At this point, I sent him out for blood work, an MRI and a full physical. He had asked if all this was necessary, being 23, healthy, and an athlete. Because of his good health, I believe the other doctors focused on muscle spasm. It turned out he had testicular cancer; that’s what was causing his back pain. What I learned from this early case, was NEVER ASSUME, never judge a book by its cover, and always error on the side of caution. This young man made a full recovery and was able to freeze sperm so he could have children in the future; and he did. He named his daughter Veronica. I was beyond honored.
I was grateful this challenge happened early in my career. It served me well for 35 years. I’ve never missed a diagnosis because I know my limitations. I carry this lesson throughout all aspects of my life. Being a doctor is part, detective, teacher, friend, and cheerleader. Being a mother is no different.
What do you think makes your work stand out? Can you share a story?
From my first day of practice, I’ve used a low-force chiropractic technique called Activator. Activator was new at the time and many of my chiropractic friends said it was a big mistake to use it solely. Patients were used to the hands-on snap, crackle, pop method. I wanted to be different so I became the best at this ONE method. When a new patient came in, they’d say, “I need to hear the noise when you crack my back so I know it’s working.” This became a teachable moment for me. I was able to explain exactly what was happening during an adjustment and how the noise meant nothing. I told each patient to stick with me for three visits using Activator and if they weren’t better, I’d refund their money and refer them to a hands-on doctor. No one ever asked for their money back and I became one of few doctors that used this method exclusively. People that were afraid, elderly or children, came from all over to get this low-force instrument adjustment. I stood by what I believed in and I believed in this particular method. This elevated me in the community.
A centurion, named Bob, was brought into my office by his great-great granddaughter, Alice. Alice was a patient and wanted her Gramps to get adjusted for the first time in over thirty years. Bob said he never thought of going to a chiropractor at this point in his life because he feared having one of his fragile bones broken. I asked him if he was in pain. He said yes, every morning his shoulders and low back hurt. I explained to him that his walker was too low (Bob was 6’1”) which put stress on his shoulders and consequently on other parts of his body. Bob looked forward to his weekly adjustments. He always walked out faster than he walked in. Coming to my office became his weekly outing, followed by lunch with Alice. Not only did he get adjusted but was able to spend quality time with his great-great granddaughter. They became closer than ever. Bob died at 103 with less pain and happier than he’d been in years. His weekly visits gave his life purpose; it gave him Alice. **Kindness is an action word**
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Of course, my mother was the biggest influence in my life but I want to talk about my early mentor, Dr T.I. Saint. He was 70, 6’4”, wore a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots. He was gruff and always seemed in a bad mood. T.I. saw something in me that I didn’t. He believed in me and always said, “You are special Veronica, don’t you see that? Stop saying you can’t.” Dr. Saint was hard on me. When I was in medical school, he pushed me when I wanted to give up. I think I tried to drop out five times. Every time, he’d say, “Ok, if you do poorly on the next exam, you can quit and I won’t stop you.” I never wanted to disappoint him, so I’d study harder, and to my amazement, I’d get an “A”. T.I. gave me a part time job working in his office after school. When I couldn’t pay my tuition, he’d pay it for me. For a long time, I thought it was a government grant. Dr. Saint, which he was, would not let me quit. He died the year after I graduated. He clearly came into my life to help me achieve my dream. My American Dream. I wish he was here to see what his faith in me produced.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience are those steel beams that hold up sky scrapers. They may sway in an earthquake and at times seem like they’re going to fail, but don’t. The traits, of resilience is the ability to steady oneself when they’re about to fall; resilience is being a warrior and not a victim. Never giving up on what you believe in. Resist saying, “I can’t” and say, “I can” instead; even if you’re unsure. I was determined not to have people look down on me or see me as unworthy; this is what drove me. As a child, my wooden rosary that my mother had given me kept me strong through the dark years. My rosary was my steel beam. Today, it’s not my rosary that keeps me resilient, it’s the knowledge that my past didn’t dictate my future. Now when I feel anxiety, I put on paper what I want and how I’m going to achieve it. I make a plan instead of falling apart or giving into fear. In order to stay resilient, I’ve let go of people that pull me down. I surround myself with positive forward-thinking people. People that are kind. Kindness is what powers me with tremendous results. Kindness begets kindness and should never be mistaken for weakness. I feel like I can do anything with kindness and compassion on my side.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When I think of resilience, I think of my mother. She arrived in America in 1963, an immigrant, no money, a woman of color, a single mother of four with only a small Samsonite suitcase. Now that is resilient. She had a Master’s degree but was happy to clean houses on the weekends if it meant extra money for her children. She held her head up when faced with prejudice, discrimination, and ignorance. She never gave up on anything; not once. She eventually got her teaching credential in special education and loved it. When my father said to me, “Let’s hope you grow up pretty Veronica, because you aren’t very smart” the words seared into my brain. I was nine. I graduated at the top of my class in medical school because those words haunted me. I had to prove him wrong. Before I started medical school, I got married for the first time. I told my new husband that I wanted to go to medical school. He laughed out loud, “You’re kidding right?” I never asked him anything again. The marriage was a short one. I fought caring about what other people thought of me, it was what I thought of me that counted. It was hard but I kept my dream in front of me, telling myself, to keep moving forward. Giving up was not a choice. I was my mother’s daughter.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I know we all have set backs, some worse than others. It brings to mind, “What won’t kill you will make you stronger.” I’m not so sure I believe that. When I experience a setback, big or small, I ask myself, “Will any of this matter in ten years?” If the answer is no, I carry on.
Then, I had a setback that would matter forever. It would change my life as I knew it. I lost my confidence, my will to carry on, my hopes and dreams. Nothing had meaning anymore.
I lost my younger brothers, Vance and Vincent, less than a year apart. I fell into a deep sadness that I thought I’d never come out of. It was my brave and loving mother that pulled me through. By then, I had lost my sister Valorie, in a house fire, my brother Vance to cancer and my youngest brother Vincent, from an accident. I wanted to be with them. I didn’t want to be on this earth without them. I was alone; no one to catch me if I fell. I could always count on my brothers. They adored me and I them. While I was feeling sorry for myself, I failed to realize my beautiful mother had lost three of the four children, she fought so hard for. I wasn’t the only one in pain. She was a warrior and reminded me that I was one too. I emerged with great purpose. I wanted to write my sibling’s and my story. Share it with people that may be going through tough times. I wanted to tell them not to give up, that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Writing this book brought me great joy as I remembered my brothers and sister and how we loved and fought for each other. I want their children and grandchildren to know what amazing people they were. I want the world to know.
Three months before my book was to be published, I lost my 95-year-old mother. She stayed till I was strong enough to carry on without her.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
When my siblings and I were kidnapped in 1959, I learned, over the four years we were missing, that my determination would strengthen my resilience. I was determined to find my mother, protect my little brother from harm, survive the fears that each day brought. A particular story that furthered my resilience, was when my father sold me to a lady named Sally. I was nine or ten. She had a young son that I baby sat for. Sally saw what good care I took of my little brother Vincent and wanted to keep me so I’d take care of her young son while she worked. Sally was an adult dancer and worked nights. I didn’t understand the arrangement my father had with Sally till a week into staying with her. I thought I was babysitting for the week and was going to get nice things in return but when she said I was hers, I panicked. I tried everything to get her to bring me home but nothing was working so I formed a plan. I decided I would play dead. Nothing she said or did could get me out of my bed. I stopped taking care of her son, stopped going to school, stopped showering and stopped eating. After a week or so of this she finally made a screaming phone call to my father telling him she wanted her $5,000 back. She said I was ungrateful and stupid but nothing she said could have kept me there. I resisted all her tactics. I got hit by my father when he finally came to get me. There was nothing either of them could do or say to make me leave my sister and brothers. I prevailed. I was resilient. I was worth more than $5,000 dollars.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Write down what you’re aiming for
2) Believe it is already happening
3) Do the hard work towards your goal
4) Visualize you dream daily
5) Never give up on what you believe in
When I opened my first office in 1982, I had little money. School had eaten up all my savings and then some. My well-meaning friends and family said to start small; rent a room in another doctor’s office to save money. Work for someone else and try and build a practice. None of that sounded appealing to me. I was ready to go at it alone. I had been saving all my drive for this day. The first thing I had to do was find an office in a beautiful part of town. I negotiated my first years rent successfully. I had them put my name up on the door in big bold gold letters so that every morning when I walked down the hall to my office, I felt I had already made it; DR. VERONICA SLAUGHTER.
Next, after renting an apartment across the street, I went to a designer discount store and bought four outfits that I could mix and match. I traded my old Toyota in for a used 300D Mercedes. Little did I know what a headache that would be. I had taken out a business loan from the bank and knew I had three months to get things rolling. By the way, it was a struggle getting a loan without my ex-husband’s signature, who hadn’t had a job in years. Being a doctor wasn’t enough, I was only a woman and, in those days, a man’s signature was still the only thing that mattered.
I acted successful, I dressed successful, I talked and believed I was successful but most importantly, I did the hard work. I gave free lectures at every chamber meeting I could find. I talked to women’s groups and business groups till I lost my voice. I went to retirement homes and public schools to talk about posture and nutrition. I volunteered at church groups and hospitals. I talked to anyone that would listen. I handed out hundreds of cards. I would talk to strangers and recommend they do themselves a “Big Favor” and come to my office for a complimentary consultation regarding that limp, that stiff neck, that poor posture, or whatever it was I thought was bothering them. I looked like a successful doctor, so why not take me up on my offer. I was honest with my patients. My goal was to guide them in the right direction. Because of this, they sent their friends and family. I wanted them to be able to count on me for the truth even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. I continue, to this day, to be the person my friends and family can count on. They see me as resilient and capable of handling anything. What they don’t realize is their trust in me, is what feeds my resilience.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to lecture on the power of kindness. Maybe even give a Ted Talk on how one kind act can change another person’s life and the lives around them. That one small gesture is powerful; it’s the ripple effect. An example is, when I was ten years old, the old black janitor at my school in Florence Texas, told me I was smart. I was always asking him questions and he always had an answer. He taught me so much while I helped him empty trash cans in the classrooms till the bus came. I thought I was bothering him but then he said, “You’re the smartest little girl in this school, do you know that?” That was the first time anyone had said that to me. That one act of kindness, changed me at that moment. He gave me something to believe in. I held my head higher and felt different inside. I wanted to help other children feel good about themselves too. Well, I was able to do that and not just for children. My practice was a vehicle for me to help people feel good about themselves and all it took was a little kindness. Kindness doesn’t cost anything so give generously.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them :-)
For the same reason I loved Princess Diana, I love Megan Markel. I wish people looked at the world the way she does. I sense Megan is real, humble, kind; loving of all people and all things living. I’d ask her for advice on how to go about healing the world one person at a time. It’s exponential you know. I feel if everyone did a little, it would add up to the change this world needs in order to survive. We would continue to benefit from the earth’s gifts without injuring it the way we do. We could celebrate our diversity and cultures. We are all members of the human race. Let’s teach each other what love looks like. We all have something special to contribute.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My website has all the links to my social media, www.VeronicaSlaughter.com. There is also a place on my website to email me if you have a question on want to leave a comment. I hope all of us try and make this world a better place by using our voice, our written word, our sense of fairness and yes, kindness.