Janice Litvin: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life
Don’t compare yourself to other people. It is a “buzz kill.” By that I mean, comparing yourself to others serves no positive purpose whatsoever. I wish I had been warned about this sooner.
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 Janice Litvin.
Janice Litvin is on a mission to help leaders and teams banish burnout in their organizations. She does this though keynote speeches, workshops and accountability groups. Her Banish Burnout workshops and best-selling book, Banish Burnout Toolkit, receive rave reviews and both are now part of the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) Recertification Library.
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 grew up in Houston in a Jewish home in which both parents were originally from the East Coast. My father was a meat packer, and my mother stayed at home for many years, volunteering for synagogue events and fundraisers, until she went back to school at age 50 to become an accountant and revenue agent for the IRS.
I loved taking ballet lessons my entire childhood and dreamt of becoming a professional dancer.
One thing I learned along the way as an adult is that if I don’t identify and reach for my own dreams, no one is going to give them to me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t ever be dependent on another human being for your livelihood,” said my mother when I was preparing to fly the coop to San Francisco. My mother taught me to be fiercely independent when it came to my career and my life, to take responsibility for my choices so that I could be happy in the way I chose to live. In that way I had the nerve to try new things and live the life I envisioned for myself, to not follow others’ desires or expectations when it came to my life, my dreams and my goals.
My mothers’ role modelling of going back to school at age 50 to start her second chapter inspired me to create my second chapter career that is the subject of this article.
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.
- Persistence. My father always role modeled never giving up. He had his successes and challenges with his meat packing business. And his mantra was “never give up hope.”
- Emotional intelligence. My mother taught me long ago how to read people through their faces and their body language. I have used this innate sense about people, which tells me a lot about them and their attitudes.
- Awareness of my market. For what is the new lasting trend. For example, when I was researching the world of health and fitness I found workplace wellness. From reading and observing, I could tell that it was still a growing trend that would create lots of opportunity for training and coaching in the areas of stress and burnout. I was uniquely positioned to help with my background and experience including changing my own stress habits.
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?
Before my second chapter I was ensconced in the tech world. I had done software consulting, software training, and then software recruiting for the tech sector for the prior 20 years. During the ’08 recession there were no jobs, so there was no recruiting. I was ready for a change, so I saw this situation as an opportunity.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
When the ’08 recession decimated the world of recruiter, I had to figure out something new to do. Since I had no work, I decided the smart thing would be to take care of myself, so I went to the gym. There I found Zumba Fitness and since I love to dance, I became a Zumba Fitness instructor in 2009. I am still leading Zumba classes today (now using Zoom).
After leading Zumba Fitness classes for a while, I felt the need for more of an intellectual challenge, but was not sure how to make that happen.
I invited an international Zumba Fitness educator named Pepper Von, of Step 1 Dance & Fitness in Sacramento to lunch to seek his sage advice. When asked what I could do to enhance my career, his response was, “what have you not done yet in your life that you still wish to do?” I replied, “professional speaking,” And that was it. It was so simple. There was my answer right in front of me.
From there I went back to school, as my mother had done, to study exercise science because not only was I interested in the science and psychology of movement, but I also felt the need to develop more credibility. At the same time I joined the National Speakers Association Speaker to perfect my speaking skills and learn about the business of speaking.
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?
The trigger, after the conversation with Pepper Von, were the sparks I felt deep down whenever I imagined standing on a stage delivering a talk. Since the ’08 recession left me with no visible means of income (other than my husband’s job) I had nothing to lose.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you hadn’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I knew that spark for speaking would not go away. The only thing left to do was educate myself so, I went back to school, as my mother had done before me. I studied exercise science, which included anatomy, physiology, sports nutrition, and sports psychology, my favorite. My market research brought me to the world of workplace wellness.
I overcame the barriers by working on my limiting beliefs as described below.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Very well. I recently wrote and launched a book, Banish Burnout Toolkit, which has opened many doors to speaking projects. My clients love having the book to give to their employees to anchor and continue the learning from my workshops. I also offer deep dive master mind groups.
In addition both my Banish Burnout workshop and my Banish Burnout Toolkit have been incorporated into the SHRM Recertification Library (Society of Human Resource Management).
My calendar is filling up much faster and one client had me present my workshop three times in one day because he did not want all of his employees to be away from their desk simultaneously.
Finally, to add more value for my clients, I have started the Banish Burnout Book Club as a bonus.
Is there a particular person whom you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
First and foremost I am grateful to my mother. In her way, she taught me to be independent and to go for my dreams. I think my mother was born one generation too soon. After going back to school at age 50, she worked for the IRS for thirty years and begrudgingly retired at age 80 to take care of her health. Though she was a critical perfectionist, it is because of her that I learned the lessons that I teach and talk about today.
There are several other key people to acknowledge. The first is Patricia Fripp, first female national president of National Speakers Association. She happens to belong to the Northern California chapter, as do I, so I am lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from her on many occasions, culminating in her famous hot-seat coaching as well as receiving an invitation to speak to her business group, Golden Gate Breakfast Club of San Francisco. On top of all of that I am immensely grateful for her endorsements of my speaking and my book.
Two other National Speakers Association of Northern California friends, Craig Harrison and Susan Roane have supported me in invaluable ways. They have both endorsed my speaking and my Banish Burnout Toolkit.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my son Lee, the rapper, who goes by the moniker Leezythegifted. At 27 he is wise beyond his years. He reads many entrepreneurial books and imparts his wisdom and joviality upon me daily.
Finally I want to mention my husband, Joseph Litvin whose patience and full support have afforded me the time I needed to show a profit.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The day my book, Banish Burnout Toolkit, launched I, of course Iwas all over my social media. One friend responded with, “Is that what you speak about?” She then referred me to the GM at her company and three months later I was delivering my workshops for her company. Personal referrals make all the difference.
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?
This is a very poignant question that I confronted as part of my journey. Before then I acted as if as they say in the 12-step programs. I just put one foot in front of the other and kept plunging forward. But I did not have complete confidence in my abilities or value. I was intimidated by people whom I imagined were much smarter or more successful than I.
Interestingly I learned through the process of writing my book the origins of limiting beliefs in my friend, Dr. Elayne Savage’s book, Don’t Take It Personally: The Art of Dealing With Rejection. There I saw myself. I learned that I had internalized unreasonable expectations from my youth into limiting belief systems. I knew I could speak professionally, but I didn’t think I was good enough at first. I overcame those limiting beliefs by working with an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) coach.
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?
One of the many lessons I learned along the way is to hire coaches as needed. After I wrote & delivered my first few keynote speeches I decided my signature story needed tweaking. So I hired a high level professional speaker to coach me and am much happier with the results. Not only that she helped me infuse it with more humor.
I also looked for people who had overcome their own limitations to create their own success. I befriended various people in my business associations. Some of those are mentioned above.
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?
As mentioned earlier I set goals and made an action plan and simply put one foot in front of the other. I joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking craft and then, National Speakers Association where I attended local and national meetings and educational sessions to perfect my speaking and learn the ins and outs of the speaking business.
To this day, I am nervous before every speech, but I harness those nerves and convert them into energy and excitement for my participants.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. 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 Get coaching immediately. Don’t try to go it alone. Take care to do your due diligence before you choose each coach.
#2 Start my NLP work earlier. I believe I could have been more efficient in my progress had I focused on my limiting beliefs sooner.
#3 Don’t compare yourself to other people. It is a “buzz kill.” By that I mean, comparing yourself to others serves no positive purpose whatsoever. I wish I had been warned about this sooner.
#4 Pick a lane and stay in it. Trying to be all things to all people does not work and prospects can see right through it. I’m so much happier now that I have identified stress and burnout as my key topic. I have a lifetime of experience working on my own stress habits, combined with research into cognitive behavior therapy.
#5 I really wish I had written my book, Banish Burnout Toolkit sooner. It has made a huge difference in giving me credibility and supporting my marketing and sales efforts.
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?
I would start a Banish Burnout movement in which people learned not only to take care of themselves but also of everyone around them. I would teach people how to listen and communicate with empathy and I would teach people how to be emotionally intelligent and how to find joy in the smallest moments of their day.
The Banish Burnout movement would include a moment of empathy or gratitude at the beginning of every meeting. It would include teaching leaders that without employees they would have no company, so it is of the utmost importance to treat employees with respect in terms of culture and policies. Most managers are promoted for technical skills, but the World Economic Forum has declared that emotional intelligence is what is more important.
Another facet of the Banish Burnout movement would be changing the attitudes and stigma around mental health. Stigma comes from fear and lack of knowledge. The best way to combat those is to have leaders share their own struggles with mental health, which gets mental health out in the open.
Finally, perhaps the most important part of the Banish Burnout movement would be to teach leaders and teams how to help people identify where their emotional baggage is impinging on their ability to get along.
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. :-)
Arianna Huffington. She has started her Thrive movement and I would like to talk with her about how to make my Banish Burnout movement more impactful and far-reaching.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am findable in several places:
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!