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Today Meridith Alexander is a best-selling author and top female motivational speaker. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, she was terrified of public speaking. But one terrible event changed everything.
In this episode, Meridith shares her story and some of the resources that helped her along the way:
- Are you dodging boulders or using them to take charge and become bolder?
- It’s possible to find your greatest calling in your darkest moment.
- Create a personal empowerment system and write your life masterpiece.
- Discover resources you can use to build your brand, gain media coverage and raise your Social Selling Index.
- What does it mean to mimic the best?
- ONE technique you can use to influence influencers.
- The BIGGEST MISTAKE you can make when trying to find your audience.
Her story is inspirational. It also serves as a useful blueprint for anyone with a message or knowledge who wants to share it but doesn’t know where to start.
Meridith Alexander built her platform from scratch with persistence not money. In other words, she built her public platform organically. And so you can you. All it takes is a deliberate mindset.
Michael Levin is a versatile and talented columnist, author, distance runner, and musical performer who has ghostwritten more than 700 books ranging from finance and entrepreneurship to health care and technology.
Note: This Advisorist Podcast transcript was created in part by computers – Please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors…or sentences that just downright don’t seem to make sense! Please compare to corresponding audio if clarity is needed.
Jeremiah: Hi, this is Jeremy Desmarais, Founder of Advisorist and it gives me great pleasure and really it’s an incredible honor to introduce to you one of the hosts of the Advisorist podcast, Michael Levin. Michael is not only a personal friend, but he’s one of the most established ghostwriters in the nation and a New York Times best-selling author who’s written, co-written, or ghostwriter over 550 books. Hundreds of them in the financial services arena of which 18 are national bestsellers. You would be hard pressed to find somebody that hasn’t been in more outlets than Michael. He’s been on Shark Tank, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, the LA Times, The Boston Globe, Writer’s Digest, CBS News. I mean, the guy has even had his work optioned and made for film by Steven Soderbergh of paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, Frank Perry, and so many more. He ghostwrote for some of the biggest names in sports and business including Dave Winfield, Pat Summerall, Howard Bragman, former Schwab CEO David Pottruck, Marketing legend Jay Abraham, NBA star Doug Christie, and the list goes on and on and on. As the host of All Eyes on You, Michael will bring his unique blend of insights and wisdom as it relates to using books to get to the level of your dreams that you’ve always desired. They are one of the most powerful introduction tools that financial advisors and insurance agents can use today. I know when I got my book written, oh my, did the doors open up that’s why I’m so excited to have Michael hosting All Eyes on You as part of the Advisorist Network. Michael, take it away my friend.
Michael: Hey, everybody, it’s Michael, and welcome to All Eyes on You. Our guest today, very excited to introduce Meredith Alexander to you. I’m going to tell you a little bit about her story and then she’ll tell you the rest. She has a speaking career that was launched by a boulder that came falling off the side of a mountain and crushed her daughter who did survive. This is Schuyler, her daughter. She ended up writing a best-selling motivational book, ‘The Sky is the Limit’. She’s all about a deliberate mindset. She’s going to talk about that. She’s been on ABC, NBC, FOX, Prevention Magazine, everywhere. Then at the same time, she’s extremely successful as a trainer. She’s worked with all sorts of top organizations, associations, high performance individuals. She has a personal empowerment. I mean, as soon as you meet her, you’re going to get the sense that this person has incredible energy, and you just want to be like her. So Meredith, welcome.
Meredith: Wow. Well, thank you. What an intro. I think I’m going to box you up and take you with me wherever I go. You know, it’s interesting, right? I’m sure in your moments, and when you’ve had your boulders drop into your life, it’s very sneaky because I woke up that particular Friday, and we’re actually recording this literally a week and one hour from when I got the call three years ago at 3:15 on Friday afternoon. It was February the 19th, 2016 and yet when I woke up, I mean the morning, the skies were still blue. I mean, they were baby ducks and all kinds of wonderful things. It began getting a little strange for me around noon because I’m typically not a nap person, you might deduce that, and it was in the middle of the day. So I’ve tried. It was the middle of a Friday in my busy season for my other business booking artists into performing art stages all around the country and so it was supposed to be all go, go go and yet for no clear reason, I began to feel really exhausted. By 12:30, I really couldn’t fight it. I went in and I splashed water on my face and even my eyes were puffy. Then I thought, “Well, this is odd”, but I’ve heard that a power nap can do wonders so I went and I lay down and I talked to my wonderful Australian version of Siri and told him without a doubt to wake me up in 20 minutes. Lo and behold, three hours later, my eyes popped open, horrified, I realized it was three o’clock. I ran downstairs, grabbed a cup of water, put the leashes on the dogs, and the phone rang. Normally I would have let that go to voicemail but in this case, something just drew me back. I picked up the phone and it was an international number and the voice at the other end of the phone, very sweetly but even the way she breathe, she said, “Is this Schuyler’s mom?” In that instant, I knew. She went on to describe how she and Schuyler had been whitewater rafting. Now mind you I had spoken with Schuyler the night before she had finished rappelling down waterfalls in Colombia. This was the second to the last day of their adventure and they had been whitewater rafting, they had finished the dangerous part, pulled into a grotto with the whole group and the group again jumping off this wonderful ledge and was finishing up getting ready to do the next leg of the adventure and one of the guides went up on the ledge to take a picture. Somehow as he climbed up that ledge, it’s like surrealistically this huge boulder just pulled away from the ledge and came crashing down directly on top of my daughter Schuyler. It did immeasurable damage. It cracked open her skull and it crushed her lungs and it broke her shoulder blades and fractured her back and snapped her one right thigh in half and then pulverized her left ankle. They originally thought she was dead and heroically, this group, the combination of the guides and some of the guides who are part of the tourists they managed to lift her little body out of the water, put it in the raft, get the raft to the beach, then get her up the side of a Colombian mountain which I can tell you is ridiculous incline, get her up to the dirt road where their van was parked, load her into the back, drive 40 minutes over a dirt road, a bumpy dirt road, to a road where finally an ambulance can pick her up and then zoom her the 20 minutes to this tiny little Regional Hospital in Sokoto, Colombia that happened to have an ICU because most of them don’t. Not only was there an ICU at this little hospital, that hospital was the place where the leading neurology professor, lead neurosurgeon at the University of Bogota had chosen to retire. What I was getting was a call saying that they were fighting desperately to keep her alive long enough so that I could come and say my final goodbyes because she had multiple injuries that typically kill someone instantly. They never even make it to the hospital much less endure an hour long journey to get there. So it was it was quite formidable.
Michael: Well, the good news is that she survived.
Meredith: Yes. That was really life changing for me because initially, of course, we’re not trained for these kind of moments in our life. The closest training we have is looking at people who seem to be in one of those moments and saying, “Oh my gosh. I don’t know how they do it, I hope I never know and I hope I never find out.” We try to blissfully or not so blissfully go through our lives dodging these boulders because I think that we have the belief that if we chase and collect wonderful things, and wonderful experiences, then by default, we’re going to naturally feel wonderful and live wonderfully. For me, the experience actually was that only when I encountered an event in my life that was what most people would say not so wonderful did I discover the genuine, true wonder within my own life, within all the challenges that I had lived previously, and not been able to feel gratitude for, and the genuine wonder within myself. For me, once I was able to discover that, it was incredibly freeing. It was amazing to no longer feel like I had to depend on the world and the people around me and the events and places and things around me to make me happy. I discovered that I had a choice. I could choose to live my life reactively that could be my system per se or I can begin creating my own what I like to call personal empowerment system. And then, I get to choose, I get to write my own masterpiece. I get to write my own hero’s story. So how I really came to that and how that all kind of came together is, again, just the magnificent kind of profoundness in a situation like this is it didn’t happen. It wasn’t a car crash here in Tampa where we live, in which case I would have felt the overwhelming sadness and pretty much it’s like a perfect storm of every negative emotion that I could possibly have felt. I would have dashed in the car and run down there and probably been the second victim, the grieving mom. But as life had it, I had to get to this crazy little town in Colombia. So my other daughter and I began that journey. We actually had to drive to Miami because as crazy as it sounds American Airlines turned us down in Tampa because we were getting there with no check luggage. We threw like three different pair of clothing in a tiny little bag and headed out the door and yet we were too close to the departure.
Michael: That’s nutty.
Meredith: Yeah, it was nutty. It was it was very nutty. But fortunately, my son, who was going to stay stateside and try and handle things that needed to be taken care of here, he drove us all the way down to Miami.
Meredith: Yeah, yeah. So we had all that drive time to really think and process. And then, we had to get on a plane at 3AM to take us to Bogota and then we had to change to another plane that took us to some town in Colombia that I still cannot pronounce its name. Something like Bahia Cupica or something like that.
Michael: I love that place.
Meredith: I know. I know, right? We all should go there just so we can say that we have been to take a breath.
Michael: Yes, on TripAdvisor. I’m going to jump in for a second. As amazing as your story is because I’m just going to say to the listeners that you can read it all in ‘The Sky’s the Limit’, but what I want to get into and forgive me, just to leave things on a kind of a cliffhanger moment. What I want to do is ask you this. This was obviously a life changing experience for your daughter. It was also a life changing experience for you as a parent and I went through something not dissimilar with one of my sons and I don’t want to go deeply into that but a podium crashed on him the day before his fourth birthday and severed an artery in his chest and he survived. It was just touch and go and the surgeon who saved his life keeps his photo on his desk. When an emergency surgeon keeps your son’s photo on his desk that tells you that he was proud of some exceptionally work he did that day. So in that sense, you and I belong to a very strange club of people who have had things fall on their kids, and then live to tell the tale. But where I’d like to go, and I think this would be just fascinating to the listeners is you found a calling in that experience to express to people how they can live their lives better. So rather than talking about the message that you share with people, what I want to understand is how did you build a business around that message? How did you get the opportunities to do trainings for corporate clients, for associations? How did you get to speaking? How did that all come to you? Because we’ve got folks listening who are great at what they do. They have a great message, but they haven’t the slightest idea about how to get that message out. With no disrespect to the listeners, if they knew how they wouldn’t listen, maybe they are out there doing their stuff already. The question is, how did you build that brand and how did you get the speaking? How did you get the corporate gigs? How did you put all that together?
Meredith: Sure. Sure. Great question. So at first, believe it or not, and this is for the listener out there who believes right in this moment that they have stage fright, or that they’re terrified of speaking. That was definitely me. When I started, we were talking earlier and I was saying that I really to a certain extent stumbled upon it initially because I started getting so much really powerful feedback from the book that said that at the time, it was Facebook posts. It was changing people’s lives and it was helping them chase their dreams or reconnect with relationships and people started saying initially, first, you should write a book. You should put those posts in a book because they’re just so ridiculous, so amazing that you were writing those things when your daughter they didn’t know whether she was going to survive or not. So literally, I began doing a little bit of research. When put your mind to it, it is very quickly doable. So for me, I went the self-published route with that, and I went to www.fiverr.com and literally I crafted the type of cover I would like for my book and within, I want to say 48 hours and something crazy like 30 some dollars, I had my book cover. I read the requirements on Amazon of how I needed to put it. I decided I wanted larger print because my daughter now has some challenges with reading. I wanted everybody to be able to read it. Literally, now we had thousands of people following on Facebook. So I literally put the word out to my, what I call global family, and said this is coming. This is coming. The very day that it was released, so many people purchased it, and it was in one of the motivational categories. I sense there that there’s a little bit of a smarts there, some people recommend picking something that’s appropriate, but maybe a smaller category. But whatever it took, that book hit one of the Amazon’s top new releases in one of the motivational categories. So that started getting attention for me. Then in order to learn to speak, ironically enough for my other business had gone through actually this wonderful group called Success Resources America that had a lot of really great business development and mindset courses for the entrepreneurs specifically. I had purchased that whole package with one session, one topic that I said, “Not in a million years I will ever go to that one” but I wanted the package. Well, the boulder falls, I can’t make it to any of the one that I had originally made. The one that was available to me was called ‘Train the Trainer’. It was all about speaking in front of people. By that time, I had lots of my global family, my readers saying you’ve got to share the story, you’ve got to learn to speak. So it was about six or seven months after the boulder and it would be the first time that I left Schuyler overnight or for a couple days. So I’m sitting in the audience thinking, did I do the right thing? Could I ever get up on stage in front of people without passing out? The trainer on the stage literally, I kid you not, like he goes, “If you’re happy to make a small amount of change in the world, then just toss a pebble across the water. But if you want to make a tsunami of change, embrace your boulder.”
Michael: Oh my gosh.
Meredith: Yes. I literally started crying in the audience. I look up once again to what I call God Universe and I was like, “Of course, he said that. Of course.” So at that point, I decided that I would dabble in learning how to speak and so I started experimenting that. I started working on that. Then I decided that it was important and I realized that I couldn’t worry about the haters because if one person out there heard my message, or saw this message with what I call their ‘real eyes’, they genuinely saw it and heard it and ‘real eyes’, thank you, their own significance and their own and gain their voice, who was I not to be brave enough to share it? Not to be bold enough to share it? Here comes another one of those goofy things. So I’m sitting there and I’m talking to that trainer afterwards and I was telling him how much he inspired me. And I said, “You know, as and as I sat there, I realized that even the word boulder is a clue, right? Because when you take the ‘U’ out of the word Boulder, in other words, you get out of your own way, only then are you free enough to live a really boulder life. Right?”
Michael: Meredith, it’s great. I admire your commitment to your message. I just want to ask, how did you go from one speaking commitment to the next? How did that come to?
Meredith: So I listened to mentors. I made sure I had mentors. There’s another podcast that I absolutely love, that is Ken Courtright. As in Barbie and Ken playing in the right court. He is a genius of tips for the entrepreneur. Through him, I learned that there’s a wonderful website called HARO, Help A Reporter Out. Immediately I dove into HARO. That’s how I got the media coverage that I have, basically. As I got the media coverage, then I’m very much a doer. When I make a commitment, I tried to learn from the best. I participated in Bill Walsh is The Rainmaker for the entrepreneur. I learned from all of these really great mentors. There was also Jayne Atkinson that teaches the business aspect. Plus, get this Michael, I had been my other business before this was that I was a booking agent for the Performing Arts. So it’s almost like a mirror image of what I needed to do in order to get booking engagements. So I learned how to become kind of top of LinkedIn, get myself out there that way. It was all of these things that are available to us. There are people who are out there doing it, mimic them, find the ones that you resonate with, find the ones that you like, and then chunk it, little tiny chunks. Every single day, we should be doing something that in my opinion that rewards us and yet that also gets us closer toward our vision. Because when we do these little things, even if there’s… Everybody has five minutes. If five minutes can go a long way, five minutes can answer a call out on HARO, Help A Reporter Out. For example, someone is looking for someone in your area of expertise with your story and five minutes, you can get that out there. With enough of those and with consistency, you will surprise yourself how far you will go and how quickly you will go. Yet at the same time, I think it’s important to realize that it’s not all about speed, either, that there are so many people who have been an overnight success 10 years in the making, right?
Michael: Well, you got through real fast. I want to address two things. The first is, I just want to say a word about HARO. So everybody knows what it is, it stands for ‘Help A Reporter Out’. You may check this at www.helpareporter.com. What happens is that they aggregate requests from reporters, whether they’re print journalists, TV, radio, internet, magazine, whatever and they are looking for experts in various fields whom they can quote. So a smart person subscribes to HARO, it’s free and then you get an email three times a day, and you search through it to see if there’s anything in your field that are organized by topic, business, finance, lifestyle, whatever and it’s a hugely useful tool. I’ve used it. What happens is that even if the reporter doesn’t use you for that story, you’ve made a new friend, and the reporter is going to want to use you down the road. So it sounds as though you’ve had a lot of success with HARO, is that correct?
Meredith: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s been a great thing for me. Then Google Alerts have been terrific for me on my kind of my topics. The things that I’m interested in, and I look and what’s a great way that some people don’t necessarily take full advantage of Google Alerts is you can set them up really, really easily and what they’ll do is they’ll send you the most recent and relevant things that have been published online, pretty much all over the world on this topic. Let’s say you have ‘greatness’, so the most newsworthy will come and then you can really kind of reach out to the creators of those articles, the writers, that’s a big way also to make new friends in your same space. I’ve done that as well. In fact, that might even be how I discovered one of your articles, Michael, is I got that on my Google Alert and I was like, “Wow, this is a really powerful article that you wrote about your mom.”
Michael: That’s so nice of you. Thank you.
Meredith: Yeah, it was an incredible article and I thought, “Wow, this is so parallel to my own feeling about life and living in the moment and all that kind of stuff.” BuzzSumo is another really great… Michael: Hang on, before you get to that, so we never knew each other, until you saw a Fox News piece I did about my mother that came up because it matched something on one of your Google Alerts, is that correct?
Meredith: That’s a 100% correct.
Michael: Then you reached out to me, and this is what you do all day long and I was so taken with your story and everything about you that I said, “I want her on my podcast”. So I’m starting to kind of see how your magic works.
Meredith: Yes. Yes, yes. The cool thing is, it’s great if it does something wonderful for your business but to me, it’s even greater to, I call it my circle of joy rears not warriors, but joy rears. It’s just wonderful to know, people like yourself and to keep expanding that circle because one of the most important things that I think that you’re doing and that I’m doing in my work that I do is to really offset the perception because perception is how we really define our lives. So to offset the perception that really things are getting worse and worse in the world. There’s some things out there that I really wish were different and yet those things that I wish were different motivate me to be brave enough and bold enough to share my positivity and, and there are many, many, many, many people like you and I who love this crazy little planet that we live on and love our lives and love sharing our love with other people so that they too can wake up in the morning loving their lives.
Michael: Okay, I cannot disagree with that. Of course we’re on the same page with that. I cut you off just before you mentioned another aggregator of information, was it Gizmodo?
Meredith: BuzzSumo, actually.
Meredith: Yes, that actually it can be a cool sort of little way to see like in your topic, what the most popular shares have been, what the titles have been, and most importantly, who’s been sharing them, who are the influencers? So for example, let’s say there was a big article on resilience. By the way, going back to Ken Courtright, a lot of these I learned from him free of charge on his podcast.
Michael: Give me the name again for the people, go ahead.
Meredith: Yes, his name is Ken Courtright. He has two different podcasts actually now because he’s done so many. I think the really foundation ones, which everyone’s should listen to first are called Today’s Growth Classics. But he is so interactive that literally, Schuyler and I emailed him a question and he dedicated an entire podcast to answering those questions because he thought they would help other people. What BuzzSumo does is allows you, for example, to reach out to those influencers and say something like, let’s suppose ‘greatness’ is your topic, and you said, “You know, I loved your article on greatness and I’ve had an experience similar. I’ve written something similar. I’d love for you to take a look at it. Or here’s, a little chapter from my book, if it resonates with you, I’d love for you to share it with your readers.” Sometimes they will, they’ll do that because they’re also looking for material all the time that’s right down an alley that they’re interested in and that their community is interested in. There are tons of people, entities that you may not even know them in person that can mentor you. Learning growth is so important and being at peace with the fact that you don’t know everything, and there’s something new coming up every day. So be alert, be aware of what you can do.
Michael: You know, I would love to just discuss these issues with you and maybe we will offline but I just have to keep coming back to the question of getting attention for what you do because that’s what folks want to know. So I just want to bring it back. You said that you do a lot on LinkedIn, how do you use LinkedIn? What do you do with it that’s been really the most successful thing you’ve done with it?
Meredith: Consistency. Absolutely any of my avenues, the trick is consistency. Not just doing it for a week, and then not doing it. So for me, it’s a combination. A year ago, today, I did nothing on LinkedIn. I listened to another podcast, Jayne Atkinson’s podcast, she had someone on there talking about how valuable LinkedIn can be and she told me about there’s this really cool thing, let me see if I can get it so I get it exactly right for your listeners but it’s called Best Social Selling Index on LinkedIn. Basically, what it does is it gives you a ranking on LinkedIn. It shows you in your market, or in your circle and your network. It’s out of 100, 1 to 100. It shows basically how well you’re doing, the smaller the number, the better you’re doing, that means you’re in the top like three percentile. So when I first looked at it, I actually was total bottom. Total bottom. I think I had a score of like 82. So it was really, really bad. So what I did was I went in and I started reaching out and researching people that would be of interest to me. I would do a combination. I would reach out and connect with people. Other speakers who were in my space, and then I would see who seemed to be really interacting with them, I would reach out and connect with them. Then I would also I would look at relevant posts. Posts that I would have something meaningful to contribute and to comment on and I would consistently comment on those. I would then do my own little post. Sometimes I would do articles. I did an article that had gosh, 1,000 interaction at one point, lots of comments. But I would consistently and if I really, even if I didn’t have time, it goes back to that five minute role. I had five minutes to go on a site like Canva (www.canva.com) and pick a free background and put my own little saying there, my own little motivational statement and post it on Twitter and on Facebook and on LinkedIn and just have it there to have a presence. The more I did that, the more consistently I did that with some posts a little longer than others, with the occasional article, it took me three or four months to get in the top 10 percentile. Then from there, it’s been getting even smaller and smaller. But it’s consistency and it’s not talking ourselves out of something by saying, “Oh, I don’t have time. No one’s reading. I’m not getting enough likes.” Just do it. Just do it.
Michael: It’s fantastic guidance. The last question I’ve got for you is this. You’ve been a booking agent for talent for the entertainment world and now you’re on the other side. You are the talent and you’re getting bookings. The question is, what advice can you give the listener from your unique position being on both sides now, as Judy Collins was saying of that, what did you learn? And what would you advise in terms of making yourself extremely desirable to people who are booking talent for events, speakers or whatever?
Meredith: Be true to who you are. Be true to who you are and then make sure you’re clear about who you are. I think one of the biggest mistakes is trying to be something for everyone. Know who you are. As Jayne Atkinson would say, “Pick your lane and then be very clear about it.” Do whatever it takes to get if you’re interested in speaking or something like that, if you have a story to get that video footage keep getting better and better and get it out there. And also, don’t take it personally. B74e pleasantly persistent, don’t become a pain. But be pleasantly persistent and be deliberately consistent. Just keep going and any moment, be so kind of organized and have such a vision that you have things that you can plug into those five minute low energy moments that you may have, or 15 minute low energy moments, as well as those moments when you may have more time to dedicate. There’s always something that you can be doing that can help you get that message to the right person.
Michael: That’s beautiful. I just want to say thank you to our guest Meredith Hankenson. Her website is, there’s several I’m going to share with you. One is www.gritmindsetacademy.com and you can find her best-selling book, ‘The Sky is the Limit’ on Amazon or at www.ilovemypossible.com/skypaperback. We’ll put all this up in the place where we usually put these things up. Meredith, I just want to say thank you so much. You are a wonderful human being and I’m sorry to what happened to your daughter. I’m glad that she’s okay and you’re okay. And I’m glad that you’ve been able to transform that into such a wonderful gift to the world. So thank you for taking the time and being on the show today.
Meredith: Thank you so much for having me, Michael. Thank you so much to all of your listeners. Go out there, be determined and let your story be heard.
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