APU Business Leading Forward Podcast

Podcast: Empowering Women to Overcome Mediocrity

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Podcast featuring Dr. Kandis Boyd WyattFaculty Member, Wallace E. Boston School of Business and
Christie Ruffino, author and business coach

Women often underestimate their value and contributions. In this episode, APU Business professor Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt talks to author and business coach Christie Ruffino about her work to empower women to recognize their passions and strengths and pursue their dreams. Learn about finding purpose, overcoming the fear of leaving your comfort zone, and taking steps towards overcoming mediocrity and achieving great things.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Kandis Boyd Wyatt. The goal of this podcast is to highlight our local heroes in our community, who are champions of important issues affecting us on a national and international scale.

So today, we’re going to add to that very important discussion, regarding the importance of creating, executing, and leading a clear vision, as you pursue your dreams. So today our guest is Christie Ruffino. She’s a global speaker, she’s renowned and known for specializing in providing platforms for women to share their stories of encouragement of inspiration and of prosperity.

So Christie provides a holistic, forward-thinking and proactive approach by sharing stories of unstoppable women who have overcome great odds, to create their own lives of significance. She has published 10 books on overcoming mediocrity, which includes stories to inspire and encourage not only women, but women and men of all ages, to help them realize their true potential. So Christie, welcome to the podcast and thank you for joining me.

Christie Ruffino: Oh, Kandis. I am so glad to be here and wow, every time I hear somebody introduce me, I’m like, “Who is that?” But yes, it’s been a joy to be able to help women overcome their mediocre thoughts and just stand up bigger in the world, so I’m happy to be here today.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Well, the pleasure is all mine. So let’s start the conversation. There are so many critical conversations happening today that address these issues like you said, of just overcoming mediocrity. So could you start by telling our listening audience a little bit about yourself and why this topic is so dear to your heart?

Christie Ruffino: I was actually asked to share my story many, many years ago, and it was really a part of my journey because it was a growth experience for me and my business, as well as personally. I think I was at a place in my life where, I was kind of struggling. I had just gotten through a divorce and I was kind of spinning my wheels and pedaling really hard to really make it in that business I started, but I didn’t really recognize the importance of my story and how that showed up in what I was doing.

As I speak to women, whether I work with them or not, I just see it over and over again, how women discount the value that their story brings to others. They just kind of put their heads down and do what they have to do, but they don’t realize that they accomplished something great.

And when they own that and they step into that and they share their journey with other people, it not only empowers the listener, whether it’s in a book or on stage and on a speaking format, but it also empowers themselves, and it allows them to really go on and write the next story for the next chapter of their life.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I think you said a great nugget of wisdom and I want to repeat it, that sharing your story is empowering. So can you start by talking about maybe some of the challenges you encountered, when you were speaking to people about your story or about overcoming mediocrity?

Christie Ruffino: Well, it’s very easy to coast through life. It’s very easy to just be kind of satisfied where you are and we all want to do that. We don’t want to ever feel like we’re less than. But we also have to believe that we were made to do great things and doing great things sometimes is scary. It involves getting out of our comfort zone and doing things that you may not have done, unless you were pushed to do that.

For me, I was kind of forced to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been an introvert, behind the scenes, wallflower, just blending in. I had my own opinions about things, but I didn’t really get out in the world and share those opinions. But I was put in a situation where I was a single mom, I had to get out and bring money to pay the bills, and so I had to get out of my comfort zone and just live bigger in the world and I couldn’t coast.

When I was married, it was very easy just to be comfortable and coast, but the story for my life changed and I had to get out and do something that was just uncomfortable for me. And it was great because it did create that opportunity for growth, but I think sometimes we’re faced with a challenge and we have the potential to make that change before that challenge comes into our world.

So don’t wait. I feel like that’s the big thing is I want people to realize that they don’t have to wait for the world to be turned upside down, to go out and do something scary. Just do it anyways. If you have a big dream, if you have big goals, don’t wait to be forced to make that change.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: This topic really resonates and can apply to anybody. How would you help someone individualize their personal story?

Christie Ruffino: Well, not everybody is in a position where they want to write a book or speak on stages. But yet our stories are what make us unique. When you have a business, you want to make sure that you’ve got that unique positioning, where you’re different than your competitos, so it’s really important to bring your personalization into that business and that shows up with your story. So you share your story and marketing and branding and all those pieces.

But if you’re not in business, it’s still important to just value your story and recognize the journey you are on and realize that nothing that you did or said, or decisions you made, or decisions that were forced upon you, were wrong, they were just created for growth. And they were created to get you where you are now. You want to look back to learn, but you don’t want to look back to stay there. You always want to keep looking forward.

Honestly, I think I kind of have the statement in my podcast is, our stories can either hold us back or propel us forward. So just don’t let your story hold you back. It doesn’t need to, it could propel you to great heights if we just recognize that and leverage that.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Yeah. I like what you said, that growth means moving forward and trying to do more with what you have been given. Let’s take that and kind of apply that to our listeners, the majority of whom are in the School of Business at American Public University. So how can they use what they’re learning in the classroom like basic academic practices and theories to try and bridge this gap and learn about how to overcome mediocrity?

Christie Ruffino: I can remember when I was in school, I really didn’t have a clue about where I was going to be 10 years in the future. I knew that things that I liked, but what happened was, is I made decisions to make other people happy and I didn’t necessarily value making myself happy.

Now yes, we don’t want to live our lives for ourselves, but I believe we were created for a purpose and if we can really tap into learning what that is and what our skills are, what our passions are, what our strengths are and be true to that, and don’t feel that we have to make other people happy. We just really need to recognize who we are, why we were created a certain way, and own that and live into that. I’ve heard the statement so many times is “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Well, I love riding motorcycles, but I’m not going to make money riding motorcycles.

So I almost feel, for me, my focus now is do what you were created for, what is your purpose, and if you can determine what your purpose is. And just take a baby step every day to pursue that purpose and keep dreaming. I think as kids, we stop dreaming and it’s okay to dream and it’s okay to believe that you can do something that maybe other people think you shouldn’t, but if it’s your purpose, if it’s what you were created for, you’ll never be mediocre. You’ll always show up big in the world and you’ll be happy because of it.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: That is an awesome way to think about it, is that just follow your purpose. In a perfect world, when you’re talking about purpose and overcoming mediocrity, what type of training do you think would be needed to make the public just more aware of this topic and its importance?

Christie Ruffino: Honestly, I think this is kind of personal to everybody. For me, it’s become my mission to be able to empower women to step into their brilliance. I think one of my icons is, like a visual essence of who I am, I love the diamond because the diamond really is just a bunch of dirty black coal that’s been pressed over time, years and years and years and years, and it becomes this brilliant stone.

And I’m doing what I can to make the public more aware of the importance of mediocrity but it’s also a personal decision for people because not everybody’s in the right place, to get out of their comfort zone and do something scary or live into their purpose. I know for me, I spent many years, honestly raising my children and that was perfect for me at the time, but the season of my life has changed. So I think everybody has to just realize that it’s a personal journey.

Everybody’s got their own personal journey and wherever you’re at, just be okay with that. Just realize that you have the decision, you have choices. And whatever choices you make, you just have to own them and be okay with them and not blame other people. If you decide you want to follow the career your parents want you to follow, and you made the decision to do that, just can’t blame them for that decision. Ultimately, it is your decision.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: So I want to touch on that. If everyone can make the choice, then does every person possess the skills to overcome mediocrity?

Christie Ruffino: Wow. Yeah, these are great questions, Kandis. I love how they all kind of fit together, one after another and they all kind of just flow, it’s perfect. Because yes, I believe everybody does have the decision to overcome mediocrity.

And even if you’re faced with a devastating situation in your life or a life-threatening disease or whatever you’re facing, you can face it with grace and you can face it, thinking positive every step of the way. You may be in the middle of something terrible right now, but that darkness, there’s still light. And if you realize how you can help other people during that darkness, it really is a blessing to others.

Everybody has the skills, we just have to make sure our mindset is wrapped around that and we believe it and think how we can help others in that process. Because for me, when I’m in a bad place, the minute I shift my thinking about helping other people, it honestly makes me feel more stronger about what I’m doing, because I’m not focusing on the negative energy, I’m focusing on positive growth.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Absolutely. So it’s a mental game. It’s how you think, how you show up in the world, and the decisions that you’re making. I know that sounds easy, but I think that’s probably a light bulb moment for some of our listeners.

So I want to go back to something you said before Christie, and you said, well, there was different periods in your life and there was different things that you were focusing on. Based on that, how do you ensure this concept of overcoming mediocrity becomes not just a short-term goal, but a long-term goal for people as well?

Christie Ruffino: Personally, it starts with myself. And so I’m constantly setting goals, that I’m bringing people into my life to hold me accountable for the actions surrounding those goals. For others, for my clients, whether it’s you’re working with me, or you don’t even have to be working with a coach, but you need to bring other people into your life that will, kind of keep you moving in that direction.

I have a great example just recently, I’m a Christian woman and I’ve got a ton of Bibles and I go to church, and I’ve read the whole Bible, in various segments, but I’ve always wanted to read it from beginning to end and I’ve tried, but I’ve never finished. But this last Christmas, my daughter got me a specific daily walk Bible, and it basically takes a little piece every day and goes through it. And I’m like, “Oh yes, I’m going to finally read the whole Bible.”

But I kind of thought back to what I’ve done in the past, and my actions in the past, or my lack of finishing that goal, and so what I did is I created an accountability group. And I have a Facebook group and everybody posts something every day and I’ve got a team of seven women and we’re all engaging in that group. So now I have six other, there’s 30+ people in the group, but I have our moderators, and so now, I’m showing up every day to do that little piece, because yes, I want to, but because they have other people holding me accountable.

Anytime you have a goal or you want to accomplish something, whether it’s a short-term or a long-term goal, you need to not just rely on yourself, and how can you bring other people in to coach you, to guide you, or to hold you accountable. To me, I feel that that’s the key to anything that we want to accomplish.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I agree with you, accountability is huge and trying find an accountability partner, an accountability group, I think those are really, really helpful suggestions. So you mentioned goals, goal setting, going after your goals, what distinguishes personal goals from overcoming mediocrity goals?

Christie Ruffino: You can have mediocre goals, personally or professionally. I think, whether it’s a personal goal or a business goal or a health goal or relationship goal—whatever goal you’re setting, you want to set goals that are a little scary. That are out of your comfort zone, even if it’s a health goal, or even if it’s a relationship goal. We don’t want to ever get to the point where we’re not trying to do better, especially with relationships.

You’ve got to give 110% and you have to do that and everything. And that means taking that extra 10% all the time or more, to keep just getting out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself and just, maybe again, like I said earlier, do things that you may not have done, but you would do if you are forced to, don’t wait to be forced.

Don’t wait for your husband to leave you to be a better woman or whatever that looks like, but I just feel that coasting and being mediocre are really, you end up by coasting down and we don’t want to coast down. We always want to keep moving forward and moving up in the world.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Growth is moving forward and overcoming mediocrity. It means moving forward and trying to do something that maybe like you said, you haven’t done or something that might scare you just a little bit. As we begin to wrap up this podcast, Christie, what are some resources that you have used or provided in the past, to help individuals become more aware of the importance of overcoming mediocrity?

Christie Ruffino: Well, I feel that resources are going to also be individual for the goal that somebody is trying to accomplish, but it is really about continuing to educate ourselves and to feed our brain and bringing the right people around us.

So I’m a big reader. I love being able to listen to audio books with a physical book next to it, where I’m listening and whether I’m walking or driving, or just kind of sitting on my couch, listening and reading, I’m highlighting and writing notes and doing different things to kind of feed my brain.

I think it’s also really important to surround ourselves with people who are kind of where we want to be. I share quite often the story of the chicken and the eagle, where a mama eagle had a bunch of baby eagles in the nest, but yet one of the babies fell out of the nest into a chicken coop. So that eagle ended up by living his whole life believing he was a chicken because he was surrounded by chickens, but yet the whole time, he always looking up into the brilliant blue sky and seeing these eagles soaring and just longed to soar. He could, but he didn’t know he could, because he thought he was a chicken because that’s what he knew.

So I think it’s really important to really surround ourselves with people who are the eagles in life. Let’s just make sure that, yes, we want to honor the relationships we have with our family and our friends and not everybody’s an eagle, right? But you want to build yourself up by being able to associate with people who are in a different place than you are, in a place that you want to be, and I think that’s really important.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Thank you so much, Christie, for sharing your expertise and your perspective on overcoming mediocrity. And also thank you to our listeners for joining us for today’s episode.

Christie Ruffino: Oh, thank you, Kandis. This was so much fun and it was a pleasure to kind of chat with you, and hopefully I provided some nuggets of wisdom for your listeners because, that’s what I feel is important, is we have to keep inspiring each other to do better things in the world and to live bigger lives.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Thank you again, Christie, thank you to our listeners for joining us, and as a reminder, you can learn more about these topics by signing up for American Public University’s bi-monthly newsletter. So until our next podcast, be well and be safe.

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. A Professor and STEM advocate, she is a renown global speaker and holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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