Rising Through Resilience: Monica Ortega of Pivoting Productions On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Be proactive about your mental health. Even if you’ve never felt depressed or anxious, I always say to treat it like a bear attack; even if it never happens, you want to know what to do in case it ever does. I build out a list of things that help alleviate my depression or anxiety (do this when you’re in a happy place). Then when I start feeling depressed or anxious, I pull out the list and start doing trial and error down the list until I can stop the spiral. These may include getting active, going into nature, calling a friend, etc. Find what works for you and keep going.
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 Monica Ortega.
Monica is a professional on-camera host, author, speaker, and coach. She created the travel show Monica Goes back in 2014 to inspire others to break out of their comfort zones and go on adventures. In 2020, Monica started co-hosting the podcast Stumblin’ Forward and published the bestselling book “The Power of Pivoting — How to Embrace Change and Create a Life You Love”. Her goal is to inspire others to face their fears, break out of their comfort zones, and learn to lean into the pivot.
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?
Of course, thanks for having me. I’m originally from Michigan and then bounced around living in Chicago, England, Nashville, Los Angeles, and now Denver Colorado pursuing different passions in the entertainment industry. Spending so many years singing, acting, hosting, and auditioning in different cities, I got really good at rejection, resilience, and pivoting. I started my travel show Monica Goes because I realized that I’m afraid of everything and I wanted to show people that if I can face my fears, anyone can. When the world came to a halt in 2020, I decided to write about my journey and the tips and tools that have helped me navigate so many changes in the hopes that it could help a world that was pivoting. The book has turned into coaching, speaking at events, and adventure retreats and has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done!
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?
Oh man, I always joke that I feel like I’ve lived about 30 lives so there are LOTS of interesting stories! When I was in college I worked at a ranch/resort in Michigan doing stunt shows, acting, and riding a bull singing the national anthem at rodeos. I remember at the start of one season my boss handed me two 60 lb speakers and said “See that little sound box at the top of the ladder? I need you to get these speakers up there.” I told him that it was impossible and he replied “You’ll figure it out, see you at lunch!” To this day I have no idea how I managed to do it, but I did, and I learned that day that nothing is impossible and there’s always a way to figure something out.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Yes! I think it’s the combination of mindset work with the lessons of facing fears through adventures. I love doing things that scare me because the feeling afterward is empowering. Learning to harness that feeling when your next fear starts kicking in can be life-changing.
The first time I went white-water rafting I was terrified. To the point that I actually tried to cancel the trip twice before finally going. At the end of the day, our guide took us on some extreme rapids and I screamed the entire way down the river. But when we finished I was elated. I starting screaming “This is why you go on adventures! For THIS feeling”. I remember feeling like I could handle anything that may come my way in my personal life because I had pushed past my fears and doubts in this.
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?
There are so many who have been positive inspirations along the way and encouraged me to keep going in the face of doubts. My family, friends, and fiancé, are all so incredible in their support. This may sound odd but the person who has helped me get here more than any other is my ex-husband. It was a really tough marriage and it taught me how to push through adversity and build resilience in myself. I learned my true passions in business and how much I wanted to achieve success. When things ended, I felt like I was given a second chance to live a life I REALLY wanted and dove in. Without that experience I don’t think that I would be where I am today.
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 would define resilience as adaptability and the courage to pivot from a place of strength. There’s resilience in people that just continue to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other and that’s something to be proud of. But in terms of resilient characteristics, I think that comes with a mental toughness and confidence of knowing that whatever happens next, you can handle it. It’s being able to navigate changes from a place of strength.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is absolutely a characteristic of resilient people. It’s choosing to keep going amongst adversity. But while it’s part of becoming resilient, it’s more of a muscle that can be strengthened as you continue to move forward. You can be afraid of change but that won’t stop it from happening. Having the courage to keep going is what eventually makes a person resilient.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Hmm…two of the first people that come to mind are Malala Yousafzai and Oprah Winfrey. Both endured incredible pain and adversity and when most people would give up, they chose to use their circumstances to become stronger. Not only did they just get through the difficulties that were thrown at them, it became their fuel to inspire and educate others.
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?
Other than the speakers at the rodeo arena? I’m fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people who often believed in me before I did. I think a lot of the feelings of “Impossible” I actually put on myself and then made it a mission to prove myself wrong. The biggest has probably been keeping my travel show going for seven years. The number of times the money ran out or the emails stopped coming in and I thought, I guess it’s done, I had to build myself up, get back out, and keep going.
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?
Yes, definitely my divorce. I grew up trying to check all of the boxes; college, husband, kids, etc. I felt pressured to live a “normal” life and I was miserable in it. When the marriage finally ended, it was the first time in my life I stepped back and asked myself what I ACTUALLY wanted. From there, I went all in on myself. Not only did I start loving every single day and adventure I went on, but this so-called setback also turned into a book, coaching, speaking, and so much more than I ever could have imagined. I wouldn’t change a thing.
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?
When I went off to college I became extremely depressed. I hated everything about where I was and what I was doing but I felt like it was too late and I was stuck. Finally, I made the choice to move home and transfer schools. A few years later when I was moving to Nashville, I was terrified the same thing would happen and I asked my dad “What if I hate it and it’s Chicago all over again?” And he said “Then you leave.” It was that simple. If I didn’t like something, I could change. This was a huge turning point for me to realize that nothing had to be permanent if I didn’t want it to be.
I’m also super Type A so I started building out these strategies for myself to navigate wanted, and unwanted changes in my life. Having a so-called plan for the unpredictable helped me to build the confidence of knowing I could handle whatever came next.
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.
I love that you said that! I think people think that they’re either resilient or not, but it IS something you can get better at! Here are a couple of my strategies:
- Create a list of all of the adversities you’ve faced in the past and remind yourself how you’ve gotten through them. This can start to build those confidence muscles and help you start to trust yourself. For me, when I’m scared on an adventure, I remember how I’ve been scared before, survived every single adventure, and loved the feeling afterward.
- Write a letter to yourself as if you’re your best friend. We would never talk to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves in our minds. So, taking the time to remember your inner badass can be that push you need to get through whatever you’re going through.
- Be proactive about your mental health. Even if you’ve never felt depressed or anxious, I always say to treat it like a bear attack; even if it never happens, you want to know what to do in case it ever does. I build out a list of things that help alleviate my depression or anxiety (do this when you’re in a happy place). Then when I start feeling depressed or anxious, I pull out the list and start doing trial and error down the list until I can stop the spiral. These may include getting active, going into nature, calling a friend, etc. Find what works for you and keep going.
- Start visualizing what you want your life to look like from here. When we deal with adversity or change, it’s hard to get excited about what’s to come when we’re mourning the things we’ve lost. If I lose my job, or go through a divorce, or plans get canceled, it’s hard to embrace this new future. Start meditating and journaling about the things you have to look forward to now. Maybe you can apply for that job you really want, you can travel more, or you can spend more time on your favorite hobbies. Start creating a positive future from here.
- Plan it out. It’s one thing to create the vision board and do the meditations, but it’s another to create a plan of action. Once you know how you want this change to affect you positively, go out and make it happen! Sign up for that course, apply for that job, join that dating app. Whatever steps you can to get you to a place of strength and excitement.
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 create a movement with my Pivot with Purpose retreats. Showing people how they can face adversity in something simple like an adventure and then equating it to the things they want to get out of life, can truly be amazing. When you learn to embrace your fears and realize they’re not go to stop you, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
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 :-)
So hard to choose! Gary Vaynerchuk is someone I’d love to meet and learn from . He not only educates people on business, but he also talks a lot about the mindset work needed to succeed as well.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My main website is www.monicajortega.com and you can find my on social media at:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you so much for having me!