Every no is the opportunity to learn. When I hear the word no, it forces me to introspect on myself to see where I need to continue to grow and improve. No adds the fuel to my fire to challenge me to want to be better every day.
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 McKenna Reitz.
McKenna Reitz is an inspirational speaker and a Challenge Coach who works with men and women to transform their life’s challenges into gifts and opportunities so they can pursue their purpose with clarity and confidence. After losing all her hair due to Alopecia, McKenna uses her journey of having this autoimmune disease to help others overcome the loss in their life by resetting the mindset of their “loss” into growth and opportunities in their lives.
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?
Thank you so much for having me! I grew up in Sylvania, OH (a suburb of Toledo), and I am grateful and blessed growing up knowing that I was loved every single day by my parents and grandparents. I was taught the true meaning of hard work and success as I watched my dad create a very successful business from the ground up while mom impacted thousands of students’ lives in the classroom. I loved competing, as I swam and played softball for ten years before I fell in love with the game of volleyball. Junior high years were the toughest as I was made fun of every day ironically because of my hair as it was super thick and wavy. Kids can be cruel and I, unfortunately, allowed them to dictate how I felt about myself and my self-esteem became non-existent until I realized that I was pretty good at a sport called volleyball. The game gave me self-confidence, gifts, and opportunities that have molded this amazing journey of life into what it is today and I am forever grateful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” -Captain Jack Sparrow
When I lost all my hair, I was focused on doing anything and everything in order to grow hair again from topical creams to medicines that compromised my immune system to weekly steroid injections into my scalp for six months. Nothing was working. That is when I realized that I was focusing all my energy on something that I could not control and what I needed to do was to put all my energy into my mindset about the problem. It completely changed my point of view and little by little I started to begin to accept my hair loss. Not only did it transform my thoughts about hair loss but about my entire life.
How would your best friend describe you?
My best friend would describe me as a go-getter, one who fights every single day to accomplish her goals with extreme passion and excitement! She has a strong character, not afraid to fail, very observant, loves to connect with people, an incredible friend with a positive attitude, and a good soul.
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?
Vulnerability, relentlessness, and passion. The vulnerability has truly freed me of my own thoughts of worrying about what other people thought about me and allowed me to be honest with myself and those that surround me. I am relentless in everything that I do, regardless of size and importance, I go all in. Passion connects me to my why. Why is “it” so important to you? We must create that connection to the task at hand and it is then you will find your reason because your passion will give you the strength to accomplish anything you set your mind to.
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?
Since a very young age, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. All the teachers through my education while also seeing the impact my mom had on her students motivated me to want to do the same. I never changed my major in college as I had my heart set on becoming an educator. I was always taught to make sure to find a good job with great benefits and a good retirement to start preparing early. I never thought twice about looking at another career. I have been in the classroom teaching Advanced Placement Psychology and coaching varsity volleyball for the past 16 years knowing that I am where I needed to be. Every day I am grateful to teach life to high school juniors and seniors regardless if they are in my psychology class or playing on my court, I know I am making a difference.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I have reinvented myself by first finally believing in myself. Being able to look in the mirror and say, “I am enough” and “ I am worth it,” has completely changed my mindset and purpose in life. With my newly found sense of identity, I am empowered to not only share my story with the world but also work with others to transform their life’s challenges into gifts and opportunities so they can pursue their purpose with more clarity and confidence. My goal is to be on stage and television around the world empowering others through my story to transform their life’s challenges into amazing opportunities. I am on my way as I have already booked several interviews with nationally syndicated television shows like The Dr. Oz Show, theList, and Cheddar, and will also be giving a TEDx talk in April in Philadelphia.
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?
In November 2015 I lost all my hair due to an autoimmune disease called Alopecia. I remember my mom saying to me, “God gives the strongest people the toughest challenges.” At the time I didn’t understand why God had to choose me to have this challenge because I was so focused on the problem at hand; regrowing my hair. I felt as though Alopecia was taking my identity away from me strand by strand as they fell out of my body. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and lost. When my body had gone through enough with the topical creams, the medicines that compromised my immune system, and weekly steroid injections into my scalp for six months, I learned that I was approaching the situation all wrong. Yes, it is natural to want to solve the problem but there must come a time when you need to become consciously aware that the problem is not the problem. The problem is the attitude about the problem. When I started to focus on my mindset about alopecia, my perspective on life completely changed. I learned that everyone is battling something. Everyone has a story. Mine just happens to be visible. I discovered the true meaning of empathy. I began to learn through my extremely vulnerable and transparent social media posts that I was having a significant positive impact on others. It was because of this that gave me a deeper purpose in life and finally understood why I blessed with having alopecia. I want to help others to transform their life’s challenges into gifts and opportunities just like I have done in my life.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set 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?
It is truly amazing how and why things happen in our life. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, we might not understand why at the time but we eventually see the light. I always had difficulty believing in myself growing up as I was always comparing myself to others wishing I was someone and something I wasn’t. I was so focused on allowing my physical characteristics to define me when it truly is our character that defines our identity. It is how you show up every day and how you make people feel when you are in the same room as them. It is amazing that it took me losing all my hair to finally learn who I am and to truly love myself. I can’t reiterate enough that it takes time. You have to be patient with yourself, embrace the process (as difficult as it will be), and lean on others for support. I am blessed to have the most amazing support system that has loved and supported me unconditionally throughout my entire life.
How are things going with this new initiative?
I wake up every morning ready to take on the world. I am deeply connected to my why and that energizes me to conquer my day! When you find your true purpose in life, it gives you that sense of meaning and understanding of why you were put on this Earth. So I would say, life is good.
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 beyond blessed and grateful for my mom. She is my rock. Always has been. My mom (and dad) has loved me unconditionally since birth and has exemplified what a strong woman is both internally and externally. Throughout my life, she has been my biggest fan (next to my dad) and best friend who continues to support me and is always a shoulder to cry on. When I started losing my hair, my mom was always right by my side doing everything in her power to help slow down my hair from falling out and being a shoulder to cry on. I will never forget, it was towards the end of November where about 75% of my hair was already gone and I was standing in the shower with my hands full of hair crying uncontrollably. I got out of the shower, quickly got dressed, jumped in my car, and drove one mile to my parent’s house. I walked into their house with nothing covering my head allowing them to see me for the first time almost bald and I just ran to my mom and she just held me as I cried. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you are going through in life, there is nothing better than being in your mother’s arms. At that moment in my life that was exactly where I needed to be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I will never forget when I was still wearing wigs, my family and I got into our car after an event and I took my wig off almost immediately after getting into the car because it was extremely itchy and hot. Our youngest daughter, Maddox, who was about three and a half at the time said to me, “Mommy, I can’t wait to be an adult so I can take my hair off too!” That moment is forever ingrained in my mind. The perspective that my daughter (who by the way was only six months old when I lost my hair) has about hair and literally thinks we have the ability to take it off when we become an adult truly changed my life. Here I was, 36 years old and so concerned about how I looked without hair and my daughter just sees it as something fun we can do when we get older. This was the beginning of the end of wearing wigs for me.
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?
Always. I used to always compare myself to my peers, wishing I looked like them or was smart like them. I never believed in myself even though I had success on the volleyball court, in school, and in life. I always needed validation from others just to feel sufficient. Even when I had the thickest, most beautiful brown hair I was still extremely self-conscious. It is amazing that it took losing all my hair on my entire body (and lots of time after that) to finally look in the mirror and see beauty for the first time in my life.
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 have learned that vulnerability and transparency are the key components to everything within our lives. I have been open and honest with my husband and family about why following my true purpose in life is so important to me. Having my support system behind me is what has made this all possible so it has been essential that I communicate with them constantly about how I am feeling, where I am going and what I want to accomplish in my life.
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?
Do you know who created your comfort zone?! YOU did. If we truly want to follow our dreams, we must take action and that means that the only way we will achieve them is by stepping outside our comfort zone. As humans, we never grow inside our comfort zone, only outside of it, and as Simon Sinek says, “ is where the magic happens. If the challenge we face doesn’t scare us, then it’s probably not that important.” In June 2019, I attended the National Alopecia Areata Foundation National Conference in Seattle, WA. with my mom for the very first time. At this point, I still would not go out in public without wearing a wig or a hat. I remember walking into the hotel lobby to see so many people that looked just like me and were walking around proudly bald as I was standing there with my hat covering my head continuing to act as my security blanket. The mere thought of taking off my hat increased my heart rate immediately and my entire body would be filled with anxiety. The morning of the second day of the conference, as I was working out I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought to myself, “today is the day. Today, I am going to walk out of my hotel room bald.” I went back to our hotel room and told my mom my plan. And she replied, “are you sure?” There was no better time or place as I was surrounded by people who truly understood my journey and supported me unconditionally. As I finished getting ready to head to my first workshop of the day, I put my hat in my purse (just in case), took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked out. Walking to the elevator I prayed that I didn’t see anyone until I arrived on the main floor. I needed this time for me. I walked into the elevator and watched the doors close with relief as I had the elevator all to myself. But guess what?! The elevator stopped at every floor on the way down and people joined me on the elevator every time that door opened. I wanted to throw up as I was being flooded with anxiety! When the door opened on the ground floor, I realized I survived. I walked out of that elevator with my head held high. Since that day I have never turned back. Every day going out bald became easier and easier and proved to me what my true purpose in life truly is.
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.
- Truly believe that things take time. When I lost my hair I prayed every night that I would wake up with either a full head of hair again or the courage to embrace my baldness. Of course, neither happened. Why? Because I have learned through my journey that everything takes time especially when it comes to our mindset. We also need to understand that everyone is on their own journey and we should never compare our journey to anyone else’s journey just be inspired by it.
- No one is going to believe in you unless you believe in yourself. When we don’t believe in ourselves it shows in our behaviors with others which in the end causes them to not have confidence in us. Be proud of who you are and what you stand for as we all have a unique story that this world needs to hear.
- It is okay to ask for help. I have always done everything on my own and never wanted to ask for help because I either did not want to impose on anyone and I also like to do everything on my own because then I know that things are going to be done and done correctly by my standards. However, what I have learned is that I will never achieve greatness alone. I need the help of others. We need to accept help as it puts trust into others and their abilities as it creates amazing connections that will also create endless opportunities for all.
- Every no is the opportunity to learn. When I hear the word no, it forces me to introspect on myself to see where I need to continue to grow and improve. No adds the fuel to my fire to challenge me to want to be better every day.
- It is okay to celebrate the small wins. A win is a win regardless of the size. Every win is just as important as the last because any win gives us that extra shot of dopamine from our brain that makes us feel amazing, and motivates us to have a constant supply of dopamine. Celebrating helps us appreciate our small wins which in turn boosts our sense of confidence. This proves to us that we are making progress and successive approximations towards the ultimate goal.
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 help my new friend, Inga, with her #gobold campaign to empower women to support one another unconditionally as we are all battling something!
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
I want to be remembered as a mother who loved her daughters unconditionally, a wife who was loved, and a woman who empowered others to always live their life with clarity, confidence, and purpose.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I would love to connect with readers on Instagram @mckennareitz or at www.mckennareitz.com where readers can download my ‘5 Day Reset Your Mindset’ freebie, connect with me and also find our Challenge Yourself: Coaching + Leadership Podcast!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!