Resilience is not about being fearless. It’s about overcoming the fear. Joining us for another episode is entrepreneur, speaker, and author Sirena Moore-Thomas. After our first conversation, we decided there was too much to unpack and have her back for another fantastic conversation. In this episode, she goes more into her recent endeavors as an entrepreneur, including how she became the COO of a 100-million-dollar company. Sirena also shares her 4-step The W.A.L.K. Method™ on how to overcome fear, setbacks, and self-doubt from her book, Water Walker: How To Embrace Uncertainty And Do What Seems Impossible. There’s a lot to learn and gain from this episode so make sure to tune in.
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Revisiting Resilience With Sirena Moore-Thomas
I’m doing a second interview with Sirena Moore-Thomas. If you have not checked out the first episode, you should do that. Sirena is a successful author and entrepreneur with an amazing story to tell and is a single mother of twins raised in public housing with no college degree. She is the epitome of an unlikely entrepreneur. She’s also one of the featured entrepreneurs in the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program.
Her accomplishments include co-founding a $1 million business with a few $100 in her spare time to becoming the CEO of a $100 million business. In this episode, we not only discuss the tactics and strategies that enabled her to succeed but she also reveals a four-step method that enabled her to overcome fear, setbacks, and self-doubt. Without any further ado, I hope you enjoy my conversation with Sirena Moore-Thomas.
Welcome back to the show.
Thanks for having me again.
You and I get to talk, and it gets rolling. There’s so much in your story that I want to share with the world. This is part two of a longer conversation. For the people who haven’t, please go back and check out part one of this conversation so you can wrap your mind around where Sirena came from. It will make this episode much more potent.
In our last conversation, we talked about where you came from and the people that influenced you in your life. The thing we also talked about that stuck with me is you always looked at a job as a way to get paid to learn. As a seventeen-year-old high school senior, you had twins. You were a single mom living in public housing on your own.
You were looking out the window, you have got these two little babies, and you were thinking, “How does this story change?” Your dad and brother created this cleaning company that got over $1 million in sales but you broke out of there. You were in Philly. Now, you are in Florida. Tell us where your entrepreneurial journey is taking you.
The thing is, I have always been entrepreneurial. I did not always understand that’s what I was but I have always been one to look for a way to solve a problem. I have always been that way. Getting these jobs and having these opportunities, I’m developing a boatload of transferable skills. I’m not committed to an industry. I am open to any opportunity that comes my way.
I ended up resigning from the family company but not before I taught myself how to win Federal contracts. There was so much that I learned running that company with my father and brother, and they still run the company. I taught myself how to win Federal contracts and all about certifications. I went on to do some consulting work. I did consulting work for a company that I later started running, and that company was closer to $100 billion in sales, which is nuts.
I ran that company as the Chief Operating Officer. We opened up a second location supplying Boeing aircraft parts to the Federal government. Here’s what’s funny. If you put an aircraft part in front of me now, I could not recognize it but yet, I have won hundreds of Federal contracts supplying parts. How do you do that?
It takes me back to part one, where you were nineteen years old and applying for vice president of human resources. You were not afraid to put yourself in situations. That’s something.
I fully believe that people can only tell you yes or no. We give so much of our power away. There’s so much that we don’t do. I believe that some doors don’t open until you walk up to them. It’s not that I have to wait for someone to come let me in. For some doors, you have to walk up to them. I talk about this a lot when I get to speak to entrepreneurs and groups of women mostly. I don’t think I mentioned this in the last episode. I talk about the library near my house.
There’s a library near my old house. It always looked close. The windows and doors are tinted. There are a few cars in the parking lot, so it looks closed all the time but when you get out of the car and get to that sensor point and the door opens, now you know that the library is open. What does that mean? There are so many people that are sitting in the parking lot of life looking at what appears to be closed and they never get out of the car and start walking towards the door. I’m the one that’s going to walk toward the door and see if it opens.
I’m operating on an assumption that you don’t know what you know. You are operating on beliefs that are so deeply ingrained in your mind that you don’t even know they are there. I’m interested in what you said about the way people won’t get out of the car. Your brain tells you no before anybody else ever tells you no. There’s so much power in that little nanosecond where your brain decides, “I’m not even going to try,” that we don’t realize how we are walling ourselves off the opportunity. I don’t know if I’m articulating that well enough but it’s all happening in our brains, probably subconsciously.
We talk about having a compelling goal, and for me, I have a deep belief that I have something, be it a business, a word of encouragement, a speech or a book. Something in me lies that someone else needs. I’m always operating from the standpoint that I have to show up for the people that are waiting for what I have. I don’t allow obstacles to get in my way.
They get in my way, and I get frustrated and cry. I back up sometimes but I don’t quit. The key is I keep going. I get up, dust myself off, and I will try it again because I do believe somebody needs to read the book that only I can write or somebody needs to experience the business that only I can create. That’s a big driver.
An example would be the aircraft parts. I did not even understand what they were doing, yet it was the transferable skills that opened up the door. It was my ability to communicate, to see opportunities where others see obstacles, and to quickly be able to identify the strategic process that we should create to get more of what we want. It’s all the transferable stuff that provides the opportunity, and once that opportunity is provided, it’s time to go.
There are a couple of things I want to unpack there but not the least of which is your willingness to learn and go at things that you are unfamiliar with. You are willing to roll up your sleeves and try to figure it out where a lot of people stop because it’s too intimidating or overwhelming. The more important point I want to draw to your comment is you are showing up with the idea that you have something to give and not something to get. That’s big. I don’t want that to slip. You are showing up and thinking, “I’ve got something to contribute here.” You are not thinking, “I’m trying to get from somebody.” It’s a giver mentality. It’s not a get mentality.
That’s so important. I said this in the last episode. You have a way of explaining the craziness that happens in my brain, and I love the way that you do it.
It’s so interesting to me. This is the journey that I have been on. I try to decode what are the common beliefs. Some of the ideas are completely unique to Sirena but not many of them. I’m trying to say like, “What’s common and controllable among people that start with nothing and create something?” If Sirena has some magical DNA, then we should not even be talking. If it was all luck or genius, there’s no point in having this conversation. I want to know what’s controllable and transferable.
The giving part is so key. That alone is another deep belief. I believe that in the scripture, “Give and it shall be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” I live by those principles. It has evidence. The proof is things start to happen, doors start to open, opportunities start presenting themselves, and people start calling. It happens because I’m doing those things.
You are right. There are so many people that get into business. It’s about, “What can you do for me? How much money can I get from you?” My business is about giving, and that’s serving. I wake up, and I serve, and I serve so much that people start calling me and asking if they can pay me to serve them more. That’s my model.
I met a guy in South Africa named Frank Magwegwe. This guy was homeless and had been living in a train station for nine months. He was taking food off a sidewalk cafe. He would wait for the people to get up and leave, and he would walk over and take the food off their plates. That’s how he was surviving. He became a very successful banker. I asked him about his self-talk, and what he said to me was exactly what you said. He was telling himself, “I’m good at something.” That’s a big part of the story there. You are telling yourself that specifically when stuff is going wrong or it’s hard. You talk about it like you are ice skating through the whole thing but I don’t think you are.
I am not ice-skating through any of it. It’s a journey. There are hills and valleys. This is why my success is not tied to a person or a dollar. It’s internal. It’s happening inside. It’s a renewed mind and a changed heart. It’s a heart to serve you. We are all going to have difficult circumstances. My difficult circumstances started very early with being a teenage mother of twins. I went from being a kid to a mom with two babies overnight, and I needed to figure things out.
Being thrown into that developed a level of like, “I can’t stop. I won’t stop.” That has been developed over time. The business did not start at $1 million with my dad and brother. I worked a job and took calls in the bathroom and the car. I was willing to do the hard stuff and not quit when it was hard. The success came later. We saw the fruits of that labor later when I exited the business, which was not a popular decision.
It was a hard decision I felt like I needed to make at that time for myself and my family but that birthed the method that I teach in my book, the WALK Method. They are principles that I tried to articulate the best way that I could. These are the things that have allowed me to succeed in seemingly impossible situations over and over.
We started a new business at the beginning of a pandemic and grew it to 6 figures in 9 months of the pandemic from nothing. That’s because I have been doing this for a while now, and it’s like a muscle developed. Maybe I can share those four principles because those are the things that are consistent. I can look back and say, “I consistently do this.”
Let’s do it. What are those four things?
The name of my book is Water Walker. The first principle of what’s called the WALK Method is W. It’s the willingness to stand alone, and this does not mean that you have to join the do-it-yourself community because it’s not about doing it yourself. It’s the willingness to stand and believe even when other people walk away and don’t believe. It’s the willingness to keep going when everyone else quits. It’s the willingness to stand up when everyone else sits down. I’m committed to what he has placed in my heart, so I’m willing to stand even if I have to stand all by myself. I don’t need applause from everybody. I’m willing to stand alone.
That’s not a small task. We are social creatures. Part of what you are talking about is the willingness to leave the group or to leave the tribe. It’s not necessarily your family. We find ourselves surrounded by people that think and act as we do, and sometimes, to become all that, we have got to step out of that.
That’s key, and it’s illustrated in different places. I use a biblical illustration because it is so clear. For example, Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water. He’s not the only disciple in the boat but he’s the only one that said, “I want to get out of the boat.” He breaks away from the crowd and stands alone. Sirena also stands alone. I will break away from the crowd in a moment. I have come away from this reliance on the applause and the approval of other people.
Many people are living for the applause and the approval of other people, and I’m not. Part of that willingness to stand alone allows me to make some of those decisions that other people look at and say, “I’m not doing that.” The willingness to stand alone is key. That’s the first one. The second one is A, and that one is always Taking Action. It’s one thing to say you are going to do something, but then the take action part, that’s where a lot of people miss it. You can be provided with all of the opportunities. You can have 3,000 business cards collected and all these meetings and conferences you have been to but if you don’t take action, then it does not matter.
The L in WALK is Let It Go, and that is a letting go of should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve, which I called the regret family. It’s the, “I should’ve done this. If only I would’ve. If mama would’ve. If father would’ve. If I had enough money, I could’ve.” That should’ve, could’ve, would’ve will have you always living in the past, and it will keep you from moving forward. You can’t fully embrace what’s to come if you are holding onto what was, so you have to be willing to let that go. Whatever it is, let it go. For some, it’s Impostor syndrome, which is something else I have dealt with.
Before we get to number four, we’ve got to three. Number one is the willingness to step out or step outside. Number two is action. You have got a willingness to act, and then number three is letting go. The action thing is what I want to talk about for a second because there’s more there than meets the eye. It’s the action orientation of where you are doing things. You are learning by doing these small actions.
A lot of times, the people that coach businesses are telling them, “Let’s write a business plan,” and that’s harmful because it’s the action orientation or what I call micro experimentation that enables you to discover that are otherwise undiscoverable. They are present but not visible. We are probably living in the most opportunity-rich time in human history but these opportunities are unarticulated unmet needs. They are not like fruit that you can walk up and pick it up off a tree. They are invisible, so you’ve got to try lots of things.
I’m no biologist but that’s how organisms orient themselves in unfamiliar terrain through micro experimentation. That’s a natural organismic tendency. That’s what I want to say about that. There’s so much power behind that action, and not only do you discover opportunities for that experimentation but you discover yourself. You discover who you are.
Let’s go to number three, letting it go. I read this paper, and I’m sorry to geek out on you like this. This paper was written by a psychologist named Martin Seligman. He was a very famous psychologist and one of the founders of the Positive Psychology Movement. He wrote a paper called Navigating Into the Future or Driven by the Past, and he’s talking about exactly what you said. If you get caught up in the past, you are going to blind yourself to what’s coming ahead. You get stuck there. It’s such a powerful idea.
You can’t hold on back here and fully embrace what’s up here. You can’t possibly do it, so the only way to move forward is to let it go. For many, it’s regret. That’s why I talk so much about should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve because regret is such a powerful force. Regret will have you second-guessing everything. Regret is a deep issue, and it’s something that a lot of folks deal with and never address.
Should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve is the mom, the dad, and the kid, and then they have a cousin called if only. It’s like, “If only I had more money. If only I had some help. If only my parents would have taught me.” You cannot change any of those things. The best thing for you to do is let that go and start from where you are. Do what you can, where you are with what you have. Move forward.
What’s the fourth thing?
The fourth one is K, Keep It Moving. You can cry but don’t you dare quit. Cry all you want because that’s okay and healthy but don’t you dare quit. When I do my presentations, I show a picture of me at 17 holding the 2 babies, and the quote underneath is, “You can cry but don’t you dare quit.” I promise you. I have fallen by that for years. Everything does not always work according to plan.
I don’t have a story of highlights. I have plenty of low lights. I have plenty of opportunities that did not work. I had people steal from me. I had someone working in my home stealing from me. I have invested with no return. Things have happened. I have also been scammed. It’s not all great stuff but I’m willing to keep going. That K in Keep It Moving is critical to the WALK Method. This is something that can be applied in your business or personal life. I outline them a little bit more in the book but they are really simple principles. You have to be willing to stand alone, always take action, let it go, and keep it moving.
We talk a lot about persistence and keeping it going. That’s part of the Ice House story but there’s a nuance in there that’s easy to overlook. It’s not just blind persistence. You are learning from the failure. You are not blaming. You are not seeing yourself as a victim. You are saying, “This did not work because of whatever.” There’s some learning from it. It’s intelligent persistence. It’s not putting your car up against a brick wall and mashing on the accelerator.
I shared this quote in the last episode. If you guys did not check it out, you need to check that out. It was the Nelson Mandela quote. It’s, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Those are the options. I win or I learn, and the moment you learn how to reframe perceived failure, the world will open up for you. I have gone through this exercise, and I have taken coaching clients through this exercise of reframing perceived failures. I have dealt with feeling like a failure. I’m talking about overcoming having twins, being a single mom, and getting married. I have a beautiful marriage. I have a beautiful family now with four kids. Things are well.
After being on the cover of Black Enterprise and the New York Times, there was a season where I felt like a complete failure. You might be saying, “How?” You could look at 40 Under 40 and Madam CJ Walker. I have a line of awards following me but I felt like a failure. I felt like I did all of that but I don’t have anything to show for it or I did that but it did not last, so I failed. The kids are not listening. They are teenagers, and I can’t find them. I’m a big failure. This is so important because you are a part of this story.
When I was writing the book and talking about letting it go, keeping it moving, and that failure piece, you called me or I called you, or we connected in some way. I forgot how it happened but we spoke on the phone. It was such a monumental moment that I can tell you that I was driving and I was entering into the parking lot of Target. You know it was monumental when you remember where you were.
I was at Target looking for a parking spot, and you called me so excited about what the Ice House was doing. You may have gotten back from Africa or you were somewhere. It was a world conference somewhere. You were like, “I have been taking this story. You are part of the highlight reel, and people love your story all over the world.” At that time, I was feeling like the biggest failure ever. You had no idea, and then you came with this.
All I knew was that I had done some interviews years ago with you, and it turned into a curriculum. I had no idea what was going on. I have no idea that for all these years, there are people all over the world learning from my story. There are 300 plus colleges and universities where my story is being told, and they are enjoying and gleaning from it but here I am in the parking lot of Target about to be in tears. It clicked. It was like, “You are making an impact that you know nothing about. You are not a failure. What are you saying to yourself?”
I started to reframe. I was like, “That business did not work out but what did you learn about yourself?” You don’t know how strong you are until it’s time to be strong. You don’t know how much you know until that knowledge becomes necessary, so what did you learn? What do you know that’s going to help you go forward? It’s amazing when you learn to reframe.
I had these same moments myself. This is such a necessary conversation with people to have. You think that once you get past some certain point, you are going to be skating along but the challenges just get bigger. They are always there. I like what you were saying about the Target parking lot. I had the same moments where you don’t realize that you are in a doom loop and there’s a moment where you go, “Wait a minute. I’m telling myself a story here.”
It’s not good. Forgive me if we said this in the previous issue but there’s this Buddhist idea. Your thoughts unguarded will harm you more than your worst enemy but once mastered, they will help you even more than your mother or your father. There’s so much to that. People don’t get it. What’s the story you are telling yourself.
To cobble this together, and stop me if I’m going off here but you were a teenage mom of twins living in public housing on your own and trying to make a go of it. Statistically, you were toast. You, your dad, and your brother started a business with a couple of hundred dollars. You pulled the furniture out of the garbage. I remember you saying that your dad was like Fred Sanford, picking stuff up off the garbage.
You helped build that business over a million in sales. Something happened in your brain through that experience. You have always been optimistic. You have always been side hustling. I’m sorry to keep using these geeky terms but it’s self-efficacy beliefs. Your belief in what you are capable of kept growing as a result. It seems like you are using that experience not just to enrich yourself but you are trying to share this with other people. Can you talk a little bit more about the direction you are going in now?
Exposure leads to expansion. I have been exposed to so much that my thoughts are different. It’s like when you get your first apartment, you get the furniture from your favorite TV show. You want that furniture because that’s all you see. You then go to a few hotels, and you are like, “I could do that or that.” Exposure leads to expansion. That business exposed me to some things.
I started to talk about the Federal contracting piece and then went on to run this other company providing these aircraft parts to the Federal Government. That exposed me to a whole different side of the business and then how Federal contracting could be used to scale a small business in a very short time. I saw that, so now, I’m like, “This is something that I really love.”
Doing business with the Federal Government, people talk about it all the time. A lot of people are intimidated but you already know that I’m like David and Goliath. I run towards what everybody is running away from. I swim upstream like the salmon. I found this love and passion for Federal contracting, and I started teaching and doing that kind of thing. I ended up starting The Highmark Group, which is we do management consulting, leadership training, and development coaching. I teach entrepreneurial mindset now. I do facilitate those courses but we are on a mission to teach 500,000 small businesses how to succeed in the Federal marketplace.
What’s incredible about this one is it’s like a God-sized goal. That’s what I call it. This is something I know I cannot accomplish with my own efforts but if I said 5,000, it would seem too achievable, and 50,000 is even more achievable. With 500,000, I would be like, “Let’s get started. Where do we start?” We have positioned ourselves to serve small businesses at a high level. I have created courses. I teach out of a heart to see small businesses succeed, so my approach is always the mindset first. I do believe that 80% of success is the mindset, and 20% is the strategy and skill. I spend my time on the 80%. I’m only awakened by what’s already there.
I’m like a little dynamite stick. I’m very tall. If you guys ever meet me, I’m 5’0”. However, I have a 6’4” presence. I have this opportunity to serve small businesses and organizations that support and serve small businesses. That’s what we have been spending a lot of our time doing. That’s one thing, and then the other thing is we opened up a co-working space. That’s where I am now.
I’m in one of the offices of the co-working space that I established this year. We rent out space to new businesses. We incubate them and set them on the right path, and then they go and flourish and change the world. I manage a 100,000-square-foot facility here in Florida. We have a training center, a bowling alley, a gym, and a restaurant, all in this space called Kingdom Plaza. I am busy being Sirena.
I want to come back to this idea you are talking about the God-sized goal. I forgot who it was. Maybe it was Goethe or Nietzsche but he said, “You should set for yourself an impossible goal and die trying to get there.” We might have talked about this in a previous episode but it’s the compelling goal that enables you to access it. It enables you to cut from the past. The goal is acting on you. That’s what people don’t get. It’s inertia. The goal is pulling something out of you that you don’t even know you are capable of. That’s unprecedented. That has never happened in the past. That’s an important part of the entrepreneurial story.
I would add that it’s coupled with a true mission, and that mission can’t just be about you or your vision statement can’t be about you. That’s my issue with vision boards. Vision boards are cute but it’s about you. It’s about the car you want or the house you want but when your vision is not about you and your vision is about serving and serving at a high level, there’s a different type of energy.
There’s different support that comes with that vision. My vision is to teach 500,000 small businesses how to succeed. That has nothing to do with me. I’m teaching what I know because I wish somebody would have told me some of the stuff that I can now teach you. I’m serving everywhere, and I’m serving at a high level.
Let’s unpack that for a second because that’s the Holy Grail. Let me talk about this backward. I have worked with a lot of entrepreneurs over years. The formula for failure is it’s all about me. It’s about what I want to do. It’s what I want and needs. I’m like, “I hate my job. I don’t want to work too much. I want to escape the rat race. I want to have a cushy lifestyle job. I want passive income.” That’s the perspective that blinds us to the opportunity.
That’s what this book is about. You start thinking about what other people need, and all of a sudden, the opportunities start coming into view. To me, that’s the core of the issue right there. My definition of entrepreneurship is the self-directed pursuit of an opportunity to create value for others, and by creating value for others, we empower ourselves.
That’s what so many people are missing. Many people are tripping over opportunities every minute of every day. Another question I wanted to come back to you is you were fortunate enough. You were raised in public housing in New York City but you were fortunate to have parents that had a strong work ethic. What would you say to somebody who does not have that? That was pure luck for you. You did not choose your parents.
There’s a lot that I would say. One is that community, whether that comes from your family, who you seek out, what you seek out or groups you seek out, the community is going to be one of the many keys to your success. Maybe it’s not a parent, maybe it is a coach. We don’t live in the world by ourselves unless you do. You don’t live in a cave. You have access. We have access to the whole World Wide Web. We have access to groups. We have access all over the place.
Many of the students that I have mentored were inner-city kids. I do all kinds of youth conferences and things in the city, and a lot of times, I tell them things like, “I want you to look up the Urban League Young Professionals, and I want you to connect with that group. I want you to start surrounding yourself with people that are going in the right direction. It’s not necessarily people that are like-minded but people that are right-minded. This is who I want you to surround yourself with because you may not see it in your home.” It’s a beautiful thing to be alive and in a community because you can seek out what you need, and that’s through mentors or whomever. That’s what I would say but you have to do that.
That’s where I was thinking you were going to go with that. Clifton and I gave a talk at Appalachian State University. You know where Clifton came from. He came from the cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta and was born to a teenage mom. One of the things I was talking about is so many entrepreneurs that I interviewed, their life trajectory was profoundly impacted by a random exchange or exposure to an entrepreneurial mentor. Your dad was entrepreneurial. He was side hustling all the time, so you had it baked into the family. Clifton and I were talking about it at Appalachian State to take the randomness out of the equation. Go find yourself an uncle Cleve, an aunt Cleve or a Sirena.
It’s easy for you and me to say like, “Go ask somebody to be your mentor,” but there’s a fear thing there. How do you get over that? I remember I was giving a lecture at Kent State University some years ago to an upward bound group, and there was this young boy in the front. He was a beautiful kid, and his name was John. I was telling him, “Go find yourself a mentor,” and he said, “They are not going to talk to me because I’m nobody.” It broke my heart but I was so grateful he was honest because that’s what everybody is thinking. How do you get over that?
There are a couple of things that I would say. I talked to a group of students at Concordia, and when I was talking to them, I had to help them shift their perspectives. They were coming up with these brilliant businesses and using the opportunity discovery canvas. I was like, “You have such an awesome advantage because you have this brilliant idea. One, you are a student. I need you to understand what that means. You are the most non-threatening person on Earth. You can call a huge corporation and say, ‘My name is so-and-so. I am a student at XYZ. I’m learning all about X. Would you be willing to talk to me for twenty minutes and help me with this project?’”
I can’t do that. I would have to start a non-disclosure. I would have to go find my attorney. I would have to book or pay. Most of us don’t have that access. I’m like, “I need you to see yourself as a nobody student. That’s an advantage for you because you are perceived as non-threatening. Please use that to your advantage.” That’s one.
That fear part and this would help a lot of people that are reading because everyone struggles with fear in some area or another. Believe it or not, Sirena had to get over fear as well. I’m not fearless but here’s what I did to overcome fear. I gave fear of voice. Here’s what I mean by that. I sat down and had a conversation with fear. I allowed fear to speak for a moment. I do this in coaching. I allowed fear to say what fear wanted to say, and I had an opportunity to respond to fear.
Fear sounds like this, “My name is fear, because of me, you have missed opportunity after opportunity, you are the same place that you always are, and you have decided not to start the business.” Fear can go on for days. My response to fear is, “Up until now, I was unaware of the impact that you have had on my life but now that I know it’s you that’s causing me to miss out on what I believe I should be doing, I want to tell you this.”
I have my clients start talking back. I’m like, “What do you want to tell fear now?” I tell fear, “You can no longer steal my future. You can no longer dictate my behaviors.” I close that door and seal it, and now, I put away fear and pick up power love, and a sound mind, and go forward. Make sure that you personify the thing that’s getting in your way because as long as it stays as this thought like, “I don’t know what this feeling is.” Once you personify it, have a conversation, and get intentional about seeing that fear, doubt, low self-esteem or whatever it is, you start to see what it’s taking from you. It would be your choice to continue to allow that to be the case.
That sit-down exercise and facing it is so powerful. There’s so much in that. I also love what you said that you are not fearless. That’s something people need to wrap their heads around. Stephen Covey talked about this in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s not that you don’t have fear. It’s that you have this compelling goal, and the compelling goal gives you the ability to subordinate that fear to a higher value. It’s harder to go out and do these things if there’s no goal on the other end of it.
For those that are reading, for some, I have to keep reminding them that somebody is waiting for them. Even when I’m coaching, I tell my coaching clients, “I don’t work for you. I’m working for the people that are waiting for you to show up because they need what you have, and if you stay here, they will never get it, so how do you feel about that? Are you cool with that? Are you okay with keeping them waiting? You have it, so what do you want to do?” I’m that kind of a coach.
Some don’t have a goal or they can’t articulate the goal yet. They don’t have the pressure of being a single parent. They don’t have the pressure of not having enough. They don’t have a goal. That’s why I help them to shift a little bit. I’m like, “Let’s talk about the fact that you have something super special, and there are people that need it. We are going to keep that in your face, and we will deal with that.”
I see this as a Venn diagram. When someone is able to find the intersection of their virtues and other people’s needs, we become optimally engaged. We tap into the most potent form of human motivation. You talked about that. If it’s just about you, you are not going to be able to tap into the same level of motivation. This is not my opinion. This is supported in the literature. It’s almost freaky to me when you think about it. We are all here with interests and abilities. Our job is to figure out what those interests and abilities are so that we can serve others.
You brought up a good point. The lack of motivation is a real thing. You can feel like, “I’m not motivated.” I have those days. I’m sure you have those days too. I get questions all the time like, “What do you do when you are not motivated?” There are a lot of things but I’m pretty self-motivated. I don’t think I have shared this ever before. What I do is I look at videos or listen to podcasts sometimes of different people that are doing it wrong.
They are doing what I know I’m doing but I know that I’m doing it right, and they are doing it wrong. This is my thing. I will watch it, and I’m like, “That is so wrong.” Something inside of me is like, “I’ve got to show up.” I turn into this superhero like, “This is wrong. They are lying.” I have to get my energy up to the point of frustration. Frustration is better than what is it?
Frustration is the next on the energy cycle. Even if you have to get angry, that’s better.
That’s the purpose of anger. The purpose of anger is to motivate you to take action. It’s not to fester.
Sometimes, that’s what I have to do, especially if it’s something around Federal contracting. There are so many people out here these days teaching these people the wrong thing about government contracting. They are all over the place. I have been talking about this stuff for years. It’s documented. In the Black Enterprise article from 2009, I was talking about Federal contracting.
You have these experts that grew up overnight, and then, they became an expert. I’m listening in, and I’m like, “This is so wrong.” I’m not comparing myself but I do use this method. When I’m having a hard time getting either my course outline out or getting out some content that I know is there but I’m not feeling it, I will use it.
Motivation is a big topic that most people don’t understand. There are levels of motivation. There’s low and high motivation. The real understanding is in the type of motivation. Are you intrinsically motivated or are you extrinsically motivated? Extrinsic motivation is you are doing something for some separable reward. You are doing it for money, prestige, accolades, power, letter grades or gold stars. Intrinsic motivation is you are doing it because the task itself is the reward.
There’s a meta-analysis of the psychological literature. Across domains with very few exceptions, people who are intrinsically motivated by passion and purpose outperform people who are extrinsically motivated by money or letter grades. I will take this one step further. I’m starting to question what laziness is. I hear people say, “I don’t want to give any of my tax money to people that don’t want to work,” and my response is, “I don’t want to either but there’s something called learned helplessness.” It looks like laziness but it’s not.
Let’s take a lazy person and say, “I’m going to put $50,000 in a brown paper bag on the top of that telephone pole. You’ve got to figure out how to get up to that telephone pole.” They are going to figure out how to climb a telephone pole. In psychology, they talk about two different things. They call it value and expectancy. To what extent do you value the outcome? The other factor is to what extent do you believe that you are going to hit the outcome? Those are the two variables that determine whether you are going to go after it.
Back to what we were talking about earlier, I don’t consider myself fearless but I do believe I’m unstoppable. My husband says something to me all the time like, “I have never seen anyone that wakes up as you do. You attack the day. You wake up with a purpose. You are driven and ready. You are always on the go. No one is cheering you on. No one gives you any direction. You are self-directed and motivated. You go after it. Most people are not waking up like that,” and I do. I pop up with the sun. I’m solar-powered. I go down with the sun, and I come up with the sun.
I have my regimen but I am very much motivated by the fact that I’m showing up for other people. I have people to serve. There’s someone that needs what I have. There are things that need to be created. I am gifted and talented. I have my I ams that I repeat to myself but I also have to leave that here. I have to create things that leave a legacy. I have to live a life that screams no excuses because this is what I want my children to grow up and see. There’s so much happening. It’s all fuel, and it’s driving this machine called Sirena.
The secret to what you are saying here is you are intrinsically motivated. You are not doing it for the money. There’s a purpose-driven component to it, and the money comes as a result of that.
When you are more intrinsically motivated, as you stated, there are times when there’s no money involved at all initially. You have to understand that. There are projects that I have worked on, and I am committed to and not paying the dollar yet because it does not have anything to do with the dollar. I know that I’m doing something that provides value to others, and I’m driven by that fact. The dollars come and follow but when they follow, they follow in a big way. It’s hard to explain.
There are not many people that are willing to work that way. I work with a spirit of excellence. On my board, I have a saying that says, “Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart, as unto the Lord and not unto others. Colossians 3:23.” I live by that. I work at it with all of my heart. It’s always going to be with a spirit of excellence. The favor, opportunities, contracts, and cash will follow but I’m always going to show up and be consistently Sirena. That’s my brand. This girl goes on.
People don’t get that the purpose of a business is to distribute useful things out into the world. The purpose of the business isn’t to make money. The money is an outcome of that. I love these conversations. I could talk to you all day, every day but I want to get your closing thoughts here. I came across the idea that the greatest obstacle to growth is either the belief that opportunities don’t exist or that one is not capable. It’s 1 of those 2, and one of them has to do with the situation, and the other has to do with the individual.
People ask me, “You are always learning. You are always listening to audiobooks. You are going to conferences,” and I always look back at them like, “Why aren’t you?” Those beliefs sink into our psyche in ways that are not immediately obvious to us. We settle in, and we are coasting. The good becomes the enemy of the great. I wanted to see where that idea lands with you. The obstacle to growth is the belief that opportunities don’t exist, that we are not capable or some combination of the two.
I wholeheartedly agree. We have a program at The Highmark Group called Address your BS. It does not stand for the BS you think it stands for. It is BS for your Blind Spots, your Belief Systems, your Backstory or your Bank Statement. We go into the things that are in your way, and when you talk about that thought of opportunities that don’t exist or I’m incapable, I can bet we can trace that back to your backstory. It’s something you are telling yourself.
What’s so interesting to me is it’s not a conscious thought. It never rises to the level of conscious awareness but you can see it manifest in your life because you are not learning. You are not striving towards something. You are not trying to figure out how to make yourself more useful to humans. You are phoning it in.
You are going home at the end of the day and seeking out recreation, leisure, and relief rather than growth. That’s the mindset. Take entrepreneurship out of the equation. You and I can talk for four more hours about mindset. These beliefs invade our thinking without our awareness, and they control our lives, and we have no clue.
This has become more apparent over the last couple of years. I underestimated the power of having coaching, having a coach or having someone to help me unpack the backstories, the blind spots, and the things that we’re playing in the background that were preventing me from moving forward. For one, I was turned off by the term coach because I felt like overnight, 200 coaches appeared everywhere. Everybody is a coach.
I’m like, “This is ridiculous. I was doing this a long time ago. I don’t need a coach.” When I met my coach, which happened in a random act where I was out speaking, and somebody connected me with someone, I can tell you without a doubt that since working with my coach, I have been able to trace back and overcome so many different obstacles that I did not know existed.
The thing about coaching is, as it is in a basketball or football game, they come with a different perspective. In the football game, you have the offensive coach, the defensive coach, and you’ve got coaches up in the box because they can see the game from a high. The other coaches can see the game down low. It’s a perspective that you need someone outside that can help you work through those blind spots.
I had a whole addiction to achievement. I thought I was working and I was just self-motivated but I was living for applause. We were able to trace that back, and now, the way that I work is different. I work with a different level of grace, whereas before, I was grinding. I’m working with grace now because I have been able to overcome lots of obstacles to get here. The power of community comes into play here. You have to surround yourself with right-minded folks. Having a coach is important, and you have to address the mindset issue if you want to see more results.
It’s all about the mindset. I love what you are doing. I love talking to you. Thank you so much for being on this show. You are changing lives. Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom that you want to share?
I do. Hopefully, you have been impacted by part two of our interview. I’m extremely honored to be here and to be connected with you. Thank you for the work that you are doing because it’s extremely important. That’s the first thing that I would say. The next thing that I will say is for those that are reading, what we don’t want you to do is come away from this episode with a few bits of information.
We want you not to be more artificially intelligent. That’s a whole keynote. We will have to talk about that another day. The AI that I would introduce to you is we want you to take action. Have actionable insights. We want you to be an activator of this information. We want you to be an accelerator of ideas. Always be intentional. Be impeccable with your words and abandon indecisiveness. These are all key components to all the things that we have talked about. One day, we will have to talk about my artificial intelligence a-ha moments as it relates to mindset.
Where can people find you?
Everything that you need for Sirena Thomas is right on SirenaThomas.com. That’s where you can find me and everything about myself, my team, and the work that we are doing.
No problem. Thanks for having me.
- Sirena Moore-Thomas
- How A Single Teenage Mom Became A Successful Entrepreneur – Previous episode
- Water Walker
- Navigating Into the Future or Driven by the Past
- The Highmark Group
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
About Sirena Moore-Thomas
Sirena Moore-Thomas is an experienced Mompreneur, Author, Strategist, and WATER WALKER™! Despite being a teen mom of twins with no college degree and very little resources she has led several small businesses to multi-million dollar revenues, won hundreds of Federal Contracts and continues to empower leaders around the world. Sirena has an innate ability to help her clients consistently find success in seemingly impossible situations.
Sirena’s entrepreneurial accomplishments coupled with her infectious energy and ambition quickly caught the eye of National media including New York Times, the cover of Black Enterprise Magazine, Essence Magazine, NBC Nightly News, Upscale Magazine, BET-j and many others. Sirena has received a myriad of awards highlighting her business proficiency and next generation leadership. Her ability to deliver deep level transformation to individuals who are trapped by their ideas and paralyzed by their self-imposed limitations is evident in her high demand. This dynamic wife, mom and business ninja is truly a woman on the move!