I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Hertz and Donna Lipman, life strategists, activists and co-authors of the new book, Beyond Resistance: Coping with the Stress of the Trump Era. Volunteerism and activism have been consistent themes running through both of their lives.
Kathy is the recipient of the George H.W. Bush Points of Light award which “celebrates the power of the individual to spark change and improve the world.”
Donna is on the board of directors of the anti-bullying organization Challenge Day, and — fun fact — she used to sing with John Denver!
What is your “backstory”?
Kathy: Actually, I was originally trained to be a life coach by Donna! We became good friends over the course of the training program. Following the election of Donald Trump, we and most of our friends, family members, clients, and colleagues — basically anyone who didn’t vote for Trump — were feeling swallowed up, living with an underlying anxiety, and noticing that it was beginning to affect us negatively. We had shorter fuses and less joy. We had trouble sleeping. Many of us had a constant knot in our stomachs. We both believed that if we didn’t get a collective grip, there would be a public health crisis in this country. We needed to figure out how to lift ourselves up out of victimhood and powerlessness into empowered action and strength. Through the process of trying to deal with our own emotional overwhelm, we realized that we could help others as well.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Kathy: In a previous life I worked on the management team of David Bowie. I had been a huge fan for years and it was a dream come true. We were based in New York and he lived in Switzerland so he wasn’t around very much. One day, when I had just started, the phone rang and I picked up; the voice on the other end asked to speak to someone in particular and I asked who was calling. He replied “David.” I freaked out and hung up on him! Needless to say, it was not the best performance of my career!
Donna: My husband of 20 years passed away in 2009. I had a very big life with lots of friends and work that I loved but everything changed on the day he died. I was lost and didn’t know what I would do with my life. My world shrank considerably and I stayed at home on my own much of the time. After approximately one year of this, a friend said to me that I needed to get out and create a new life. At the time, I was resistant but decided to create a “vision board” to inspire my new life. In the middle of the board, I put the words, “Travel while getting paid.” About 3 weeks later, I received a phone call asking me if I would be willing to travel to Korea, through the University of Texas, to teach presentation skills. I jumped at the chance and am now traveling the world, once again, doing the work I love!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Kathy: We are both committed to the Resistance and are excited and inspired every day by the dedication of its members and what we have collectively been able to accomplish — including holding Trump and the GOP accountable at every turn. We have been a part of an awakening in this country — a reinvigoration of political engagement.
Donna: It is incredibly exciting to be a part of a grass-roots movement that has empowered and engaged individuals politically in a way that this country has not seen since at least Vietnam. We are watching people recognize parts of themselves that they may not have even known existed. We hear about people becoming advocates, speakers, grassroots organizers, and candidates for office — in other words, growing and evolving in new and empowering ways. As life coaches, this fills us with joy!
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Kathy: We are both inspired by anyone, particularly women, who own their power. Those who stand up for their beliefs, are not afraid of their greatness, and are willing to put it out into the world, even when there may be powerful forces pushing back. In current times, Malala comes to mind.
Donna: Josephine Baker was an incredibly inspiring woman. She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and was a integral member of the Civil Rights Movement. She was even offered an unofficial leadership role in the movement by Coretta Scott King following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. She was also known for aiding the French Resistance during World War II. This was a woman who lived in integrity with her beliefs!
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Kathy: We are trained in the work of personal transformation leader Debbie Ford. She authored 10 books and several NYT best-sellers. It is her body of work that probably most inspires us.
Donna: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. One quote can sum up why we draw inspiration from this book: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” People can survive anything as long as they have hope. We are living in times similar to Frankl — we can choose to give up or we can choose to see beyond the horizon that looks so bleak at the moment and stand in the possibility of the future.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
Kathy: Our goal is to help people understand themselves more deeply and move beyond what holds them back from achieving their greatness and sharing their unique talents with the world. Right now, the anxiety, anger, fear, and contempt that so many feel are holding us back. Our book will help diminish the collective stress permeating our society at the moment. Our commitment is to promote understanding and compassion and at the same time help people.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Donna: As life coaches, we don’t like to give advice — we prefer to lead people to their own answers! That being said, if your truth is that you want to write, go for it. If you have something to say, simply sit down and begin. There is no right time; you don’t have to have it all figured out. There will always be a million reasons and excuses as to why you shouldn’t try to write, but don’t listen to the negativity. Don’t compare yourself to others; if you feel compelled to write, then write. Don’t let anyone stomp on your dreams, not even you.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Kathy: We both are big believers of the phrase “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We want to see justice, love, compassion, and understanding for all and hope that on the whole, we are bringing those qualities to the world through our words and actions. Of course we are human and not perfect, but we hope the scales tilt heavily in our favor.
Donna: Kathy is a dedicated refugee activist and works tirelessly to support refugees and raise awareness of their plight. She picked up and went to Greece during the height of the influx to help Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees arriving on Lesvos. I am a board member of Challenge Day, a non-profit that seeks to end bullying and promote understanding in high schools across the country.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection kills dreams. There are so many stories we both could share of times we didn’t go for our dreams because we were afraid of not being perfect. Perfection is an illusion that no one can reach — we really need to take it off the table, especially when it comes to starting to follow our dreams. If we wait for circumstances to be perfect before taking that crucial step, they will never become reality. If we wait, that perfect moment rarely arrives. The moment is now.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. Being afraid of being seen — or not seen — a certain way had stopped us both in our tracks time and time again before we learned about “Shadow,” the core concept of our coaching practices. What are you afraid of? Being seen as a failure, stupid, ridiculous, or even too full of yourself? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you are? Is it worth not living your life to the fullest?
- The things I tell myself about myself are usually not true. We all have a tape running in our heads — we call it monkey chatter in the book — telling us about ourselves and the world around us. This tape gets recorded and lodged in our internal operating systems at a young age based on our experiences. Our monkey chatter usually limits us, telling us we are not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, etc. Its goal is to keep us small and safe, but our monkeys are liars — they are not to be trusted.
- If I look for approval outside of myself, I will forever seek approval. If we need to feel loved, funny, or any other quality by or from others, we lose the ability to live authentically because we are always chasing that feeling. When we learn to give ourselves what we need — mostly love, approval, and understanding — we are never required to “be” something in order to receive it from others. That is true freedom.
- If I am happy with what I have, I will always be happy. If I always believe I just need one more thing to be happy, I will never achieve happiness. If only I was ten pounds thinner I’d be happy; if only I had more money I’d be happy; if only I had a better job, a nicer home, more friends, finished school, didn’t break up with my boyfriend — the list can go on forever. It is all an illusion. If you think something “out there” is going to bring you that elusive happiness, it’s time to turn it back inside and realize there is no “there” there. It’s all inside you at this very moment.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Kathy: I’d love to have lunch with the Dalai Lama. I, like millions of others, so admire and aspire to emulate his powerful yet compassionate spirit.
Donna: Lin Manuel Miranda. Number one reason: he defended Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents Dinner monologue! Secondly, he is wickedly talented and, being a singer who wants very much to write music myself, I would love to pick his brain as to his process! Additionally, he seems like a lovely, humble, fun guy!