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Rising Through Resilience: Marilynn Champion of PrePaid Legal On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Exercise should be a part of everyone’s life. Fresh air and sunshine can do a lot to change your mindset. My cardiologist, Dr. Duello, told me that walking a hour hour a day can help you avoid 40% of all cancers. Done on a regular basis, it can become a peaceful time of reflection. My present goal is to strengthen my legs. I want to be able to walk all the way up the mountain without running out of breath.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marilynn Champion M.S.

After graduating from Duquesne University, Marilynn Champion taught English in an inner city high school. She then became interested in educational counseling. After completing her Master’s Degree, she became a fundraiser for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, and became a Director in PrePaid Legal. This led her to become the vice president of ABC Financial, a mortgage lender in Englewood, Florida.

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?

I began my career as a teacher in an inner city high school. I learned quickly that these students needed more than what was being taught in the classroom if they were to succeed. I later became a fundraiser and worked in my community to establish housing for people in need. This led me to became a mortgage broker.

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?

When I became a mortgage broker, I learned that I had been taking a lot for granted. I knew that owning a home required specific knowledge. I was dismayed to see how many people didn’t know how to build their credit so as to qualify for financing.

In many cases, I counseled people and asked them to come back to me in six months. That gave them adequate time to establish enough credit history so that I would be able to get them the financing to buy their first home.

I think this is one of the most important things that everyone should know before they get out of high school. We need to change the school system so that everyone learns the basics about handling money.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

ABC Financial is no longer in business, because the head broker retired. But the way we handled people who needed help getting a mortgage made us stand out in the community.

We always made sure that people knew the reason why we could not get them funding. Other brokers thought we were wasting time, but we were doing what we thought was the right thing to do. Everyone needs a hand at some time, and we did what we could to help those who needed our guidance.

We helped get financing for dozens of first time home buyers, as well as those who needed creative financing. Sometimes we got little too creative, but none of our people ever lost their home. We took risks, but our system worked.

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?

One of my college professors hired me to take care of his children whenever he and his wife wanted an evening out. He said that he was surprised when his four year old read a child’s book to him. He hadn’t realized that I was teaching them phonics.

He said that I had a gift for teaching, and that I should pursue that field after graduating. I did follow his advice, and I was able to help some of my students change their lives. But I felt that teaching was just the beginning of my journey.

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?

I believe that resilience is a combination of being flexible while refusing to give up. Resilient people are those who know what they want, and will find a way to get it. They see challenges as simply being part of life, and they are always looking forward.

Resilient people know how to stay focused on their dreams or their goals. They don’t deviate from their goals, unless they acquire new information that requires an alternate solution.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I will paraphrase a quote from Napoleon that demonstrates how I define courage. He said that “Courage isn’t about having the strength to go on… it’s about going on when you don’t have the strength to go on.”

Resilience involves a flexibility of thought. Courage combined with resilience is a winning formula for success.

Courage implies that you face your battles and won’t give up. Resilience is that inner flexibility that makes it easier to be courageous. Resiliency also implies a mindset that goes with the flow, if the situation changes.

Oak trees break when they face a strong wind, but palm trees sway with the wind. Palm trees are perfect examples of resiliency in nature.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My husband’s life story demonstrates never-ending resilience. Edward took care of his dying wife throughout her long struggle with cancer. He never gave up, and he was by her side until the end.

It meant working two jobs for several years to get her the best doctors available, and he did it heroically. After her passing, he went to grief therapy so as to start his life over. He focused on rebuilding his physical health as well.

Shortly after meeting him, I was diagnosed with end stage liver disease. He never gave up on me, and spent countess nights by my side. I wasn’t sure that he could go through that ordeal a second time. We were told repeatedly that I might not receive a liver transplant in time.

The first night that the doctor gave us this discouraging prognosis, I was lying in the same hospital where his wife died. I will never forget the look on his face.

After the doctor left the room, he said “You are going to get a transplant. This is going to happen. So what if there aren’t many people with your blood type. You only need one person on the planet to be your donor. I know you are willing to fight for your life, and I am, too.

I learned later that only he and my son really believed I would survive. I’ve known a lot of people, but I’ve never seen anyone more resilient in the face of challenges.

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?

My liver transplant ordeal immediately comes to mind. The first doctor at LifeLink, then located n Tampa, told me I was told old. She said most likely I had heart disease or diabetes or something else that would prevent me from getting a transplant.

I had previously had cancer, I was in my late sixties, and only 10% of the populations has my blood type. But I was determined to see my son get his PhD in engineering. He had worked so hard for so long, I was determined to be there that day.

Shortly after that, Edward came into my life. From that point on, there was no doubt that I would be a survivor.

Edward found a doctor who believed in me. He was one of the doctor’s who had treated his late wife. He knew this doctor would be willing to give me a chance.

And here I am, five years post transplant, and I still climb mountains whenever I’m in the mood. I am so grateful for all those who helped me fight through this ordeal.

Every morning when I wake up, I bless them in my thoughts. I don’t remember their names, but I have a special place in my heart for these people.

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 spent twenty years of my life in an abusive relationship. My money was gone, my health was bad, and I felt I had lost who I was. I only ended that marriage because I felt my life was in danger. He was a malignant narcissist, and I was afraid of his temper.

I was also delaying medical treatment for cancer at the time. I got that divorce decree just in time. I vowed that he would not win, not this time. That gave me an inner drive that enabled me to put into writing a book that I had wanted to write for many years.

Early in my teaching career, I realized that my inner city students needed more than what they were learning in the classroom if they were to succeed. I had to find a way to help them create a better self image, and appreciate their talents. They saw no future, they had no dreams.

While I was teaching and going to grad school, I attended seminars, collected books, and interviewed people who could provide me with information about using the power of the subconscious mind. In the process of writing The Mind Power Journal, I trained my brain to accept nothing but total healing.

So… what started out as a quest to help other people get past negative mindsets, ended up providing me with the conviction that my body would survive this challenge.

Day by day, I became more and more convinced that we do have the power to heal our bodies. It is a fact that our brain sends messages to every cell in our body, every moment of every day.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My mother had mental health issues. Everyone in the family walked on egg shells. She could be incredibly intimidating. My dear father gave up early in their relationship, and he spent too much time keeping her placated. The refusal to seek medical help was deeply ingrained in their mindsets.

One of her favorite ways to punish me was to lock me in my closet for hours at a time. When that became a pattern, I decided the way to deal with it was to hide a flashlight and a couple books, in the closet. I learned very young that reading is a great way to escape a bad situation.

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. As I mentioned, reading is a good escape if you are feeling discouraged. It’s a good way to train your brain to shift to a place find a solution. Sometimes all it takes is a little time for a solution to come to mind. Find a new area of interest, and learn all you can. I have recently been learning about birds in my neighborhood, and it has enhanced my appreciation of my surroundings. Learn something new every day.

2. If you don’t have a hobby that involves using your hands, you should try one. It’s been proven that engaging your hands shifts you to a calmer state of mind. When I was healing after a car accident, I learned to knit. I made a few scarves for friends, and that made me feel good.

3. Exercise should be a part of everyone’s life. Fresh air and sunshine can do a lot to change your mindset. My cardiologist, Dr. Duello, told me that walking a hour hour a day can help you avoid 40% of all cancers. Done on a regular basis, it can become a peaceful time of reflection. My present goal is to strengthen my legs. I want to be able to walk all the way up the mountain without running out of breath.

4. Collect inspiring quotes that speak to you heart. On my bathroom mirror, there is a quote by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is the first woman to serve as a head of state in Africa. Her message is “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” In my book The Mind Power Journal, I quote a psychologist who believes only big dreams are motivating to the subconscious mind.

5. If nothing else seems to be working, and your head is in a really bad place, there is a solution that works every time. Go to a local cemetery and find a headstone of someone who died early in life. That will put things in perspective, trust me. And one final thought…find a reason to smile every day.

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 think that in every neighborhood there should be an awakening that we are all on this planet for a reason. If you don’t know your neighbors, maybe you could start by smiling at people you pass on the street. I have often thought that in every community there are people who are willing to help others, but they don’t know how to go about it.

I believe that there’s a way to do this that would work. I would like to see a “Random Act of Kindness Day” in the community. It could be held in a community center, and people could exchange requests for help before that day.

Maybe baked goods could be the he payback for painting an elderly person’s door. It hurts me to see the estrangement between our young adults and the older members of society. Our society has become too divided, not only on political beliefs, but on other issues as well.

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 :-)

I have no one in mind.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is MindPowerJournal.com. There is a four minute video that I would like your readers to visit. I continue to try to make the world a better place.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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