In an exclusive interview with Pirie Jones Grossman, she spoke about the beauty of reinventing oneself and shared inspiring stories and incredible transformations from those she interviewed in her newest book, Conversations with Pirie: 30 Stories of People Who Reinvented Themselves.
You’re known for helping people reinvent their lives ,no matter their age. Can you explain reinvention?
It all starts with our unrealized or unresolved hopes, dreams, and goals. When we don’t work on them, they rarely materialize, and for various reasons. Typically, it’s because our egos make excuses such as it’s too late, there’s financial risk, or it can be lack of confidence, or perhaps the dream or goal involves relocating or more education. Reinvention is the act of changing gears in your life; whether it’s a job, partner, or city, the bottom line is the time has come to try something new.
The most common question I receive is how do you know when it’s the right time. Clients tell me they sense the urgency and dream about changing, but that often, they’ve forgotten those dreams, yet they know there’s something there that’s never left the back of their minds. So, I always remind them that the time to change is when you’re more uncomfortable not doing what you want to do than staying stuck or trapped in a situation you’ve outgrown. It’s about how much regret you want to have later on in your life. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but when you approach the end of your life, let’s say you’re 70, and you’ve been retired for a while, and you’re always wondering ‘Gosh, what would have happened if I’d just done this or that?’ That’s what I’m talking about. My job is to help people figure out what they want to do, change their mindset to believe that they can, and then come up with a plan to achieve that reinvention because that’s the critical part.
Why would someone want to reinvent themselves? You mentioned when a person feels more uncomfortable not doing what they’ve dreamt of; that’s when reinvention is at its prime. But why would someone want to do that?
Again, maybe there has been a time in their lives where they wondered why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I make a move? Perhaps they’re staying in a relationship that’s not great for them, but they’re afraid to move out of it. Often, especially for women, it is because they’re people-pleasers. They’re scared to speak up, afraid to admit, ‘Hey, I want to do this, and I’m capable of it,’ because it sounds too much like a dream. But, in reality, it’s a lack of self-confidence, which makes them unhappy.
I did an interview series with Thrive Global and Authority Magazine; it was about second chapters. People of all ages and races worldwide submitted their stories, and they all said the same thing; they were unhappy with what they were doing. Many mentioned depression and even premature aging. Those are the factors you have to address within. When I asked them, are you happy with who you are and what’s next in your life? The answer came quickly, and it was usually no.
It’s difficult to imagine, but many people rarely associate that the body absorbs negativity and insecurity, which leads to sickness and disease. Everything starts with the mindset, and that begins in the brain with thoughts, followed by words and the words you say to yourself. So, when we’re feeling negative, and we’re challenging our beliefs, and they’re negative, we start talking that way. That’s dangerous because we put toxic words into the universe, and when that happens, our actions begin following those thoughts and words. Have you met people for whom nothing seems to make them happy? Or it’s never enough? If so, remind yourself, it’s not you. These people get themselves stuck and believe they’re incapable of change, but we’re very resilient human beings, and it’s never too late to start something new.
I’ll share a quick story. I met a woman who goes by the moniker of Sassy Gran; her name is Doris. She was 94 years old, living in Texas with her family. She told me she was basically in a rocking chair, not doing anything fulfilling and feeling like she was waiting to die. Well, she had a grandson, Giovanni, who lived in L.A., and she called him because they were very close and said, ‘Gio, you’ve got to come to get me. I’m not ready to die, I’m unhappy, and I know there’s more to my life.’ His reply? ‘I’m on my way.’ So off he went to Texas to bring her back to L.A. during COVID. As they settled into a life together, they started entertaining themselves. She is hilarious, sassy with an incredible sense of humor, plus she dances and is so put together. Every morning, she puts on her makeup (including false eyelashes) and dresses in designer clothes. She’s gorgeous! The result of doing those simple self-care and self-love acts was fairly immediate because she felt better!
Then Gio started asking her questions about her life, and she answered them with wisdom, adding that her number one goal was to be a grandmother to everybody in the world who needed one. She was that full of love. With her permission, he decided to record her on his phone and began posting their conversations. She went viral! Currently, she has over 800,000 TikTok followers, 80,000 Instagram followers, and 100,000 YouTube subscribers. Millions have viewed her TikTok videos. And by the way, she answers comments! Today at 96, she says, ‘Pirie, I feel like I’m just starting. I am so happy. I’m so full of joy.’
Her story is quite remarkable. She endured abuse from her former husband, raised three children as a single mother, and held down five jobs in her younger life. Her life was not easy. But, because of her positive (and resilient) mindset, she decided and believed there was something more to her life and that she would go for it. And because she did, and she’s created this amazing, beautiful life. A big plus is that her support system came from her grandson.
There’s another story of a woman, a former CEO of Price Waterhouse. Well-educated and intelligent, she was an attorney in addition to a CPA. However, she became miserable in her executive positions. Now she’s made a 180-degree pivot and has created a chemical-free home product line. She altered her force and is proud to have created sustainable products for the world. She wanted to make a difference and has. I asked, ‘How did you transition from corporate to creative?’ She confirmed she had to learn a new business but wasn’t afraid to because she had that vision in front of her. That’s the power of a positive mindset.
It’s vital that once people identify their reinvention that they move forward with it, but what happens when they encounter a setback? And what are the most common setbacks?
It’s a simple word that shows up in different places; fear. It’s fear of failing, not being good enough, smart enough, not having enough money, or time, even fear of being laughed at; all of those are fear-based emotions based on the ego, and the ego only has the information from our past experiences; it stores information, so the ego acts as a protector.
For example, let’s say you tried to do something earlier, and it failed, which is not a bad thing, but your ego is saying, ‘No, you don’t want to do this new thing because you’ll fail. Remember when we did that? We tried to do it 30 years ago and failed miserably? So, I’m going to protect you from doing that again.’ That’s the ego’s job. It’s how do I look? How do I come across to people? I don’t want to be a failure, so I’m going to stay in my comfort zone and be unhappy or any of those things that create negative expressions. So, you and your ego have decided that you will continue to live life in your comfort zone.
So, what’s necessary to push people out of their comfort zone is what we call a trigger. A trigger might look like you’re at work and no longer into your job, yet you’re making money, but you’ve lost your joy. So, you feel yourself getting sick, angry, or depressed, and then you slip into self-medicating with pills or alcohol. Often what causes a trigger is the lack of joy in our lives. For example, many people left or lost their employment during COVID-19, resulting in fear and panic. Those who possessed a resilient mindset might have thought, ‘Wow, maybe this is an excellent time to start something new.’ Those who didn’t are likely still working through their fear of change.
You know I have a phrase that I tell my coaching clients, ‘Lives fall apart because they need to be rebuilt.’ So, when an area in your life is falling apart, celebrate it. I know it’s counterintuitive to what most people think because it’s easier to give up or lie on the sofa watching T.V. eating bonbons. But, I encourage them to reset with the mindset that when lives fall apart, it means it’s time to create something new and bring back the joy.
Here’s another scenario. Let’s say you’re an accountant, and you love baking; your family knows you make a mean brownie! Baking is your hobby, side-gig, obsession because it brings you happiness. Well, why not take that happiness and package it into a goal? How to start? Make brownies for friends. When friends and colleagues rave about those brownies and comment that you should do something, that’s your first move. OK, so you confess you don’t know about baking on a large scale, but will that stop you? Only if you let it. It’s just a new way of learning something new. There’s a woman I know that made this exact transition. She found a list of manufacturers, met them, dialed in the ingredients and recipe, and made it happen. And now, she’s created a business and ships her bakery items worldwide. And guess what? She’s the happiest she’s been in her life, and she started her adventure in her late 60s.
Let’s talk about recognizable names. Do you know Ray Kroc? He sold milkshake devices before he purchased McDonald’s at 54. How about Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, who sold fax machines for seven years before solving her problem by cutting the feet off her pantyhose. She wanted a form-fitting undergarment to make women feel confident and became a billionaire with that vision. Her business adventure started in her 40s, as did Martha Stewart’s. But at 62, Louise Hay of Hay House Publishing, one of the first wellness experts, started her company even later. And without knowing the first thing about how to do it, it did not deter her.
When you have the mindset of ‘I can do this! And if I don’t do it, I’m going to continue to be in this space of not loving my life’; it’s the perfect stage for change. So, ignore the ego and its little word fear because the power of yes is much more powerful than saying no.
We tend to go for the word no first because it’s the easiest; we get to be the laziest; we get to say ‘Hey, something’s not going to work’ instead of saying, ‘You know what? Yes! I will do this.’ Of course, sometimes you fail along the way, but that’s OK; those are learning lessons; they’re not failures. It’s all in the mindset. Ask yourself how you define failure? Do you see it as ‘Oh my gosh! I’m going to go back and hide under the covers and not go out in the world again and forget it,’ or do you accept it as a life lesson and learn from it? Again, I encourage my clients to think about trying again, have learned a valuable lesson, and implement that to become successful.
I’ll share a personal story. I had a very successful career in television; I lived in L.A. and worked in the business for years. I had some money saved, and when I moved to Sun Valley, ID, I was looking for new things because I wasn’t a television personality anymore. In the interim, I met my husband and had two beautiful kids. When the kids went off to school, I chose to become involved in my community, becoming a philanthropist and member of a few non-profits. I thoroughly enjoyed it, actually loved it, but I wasn’t earning any money, and there was a part of me that wanted to make my own money again. I’d gone through a significant challenge in my life and had to heal and recreate myself again. So, at 55-years-old, I went back to school to get my master’s in Spiritual Psychology. Now, most 55-year-old women are preparing for retirement; they don’t want to work anymore; they want to have a good life, or they’re still struggling. So, I thought, so what if I’m the oldest person in the class? It doesn’t matter to me; I went there because I wanted to get healed through the relationship with my mom, and I needed to learn forgiveness. So, does it matter whether I went to school at 20 or 55? No! Because my belief is it’s never too late!
I learned how to heal; I also learned valuable tools and techniques to become a life coach. When I returned home, I began helping friends by giving them advice but not charging them. I was giving it away, and then someone said, ‘Pirie, why are you giving it away? Don’t you know you have the right to charge?’ And I thought, really? I don’t know if I’m a good enough coach. Gosh, what if I charge somebody, and they look at me and go, ‘Hey, that was the worst session I’ve ever had in my life.’ These are all my fears talking, and who am I at 58 years old to start a new job, and love it.
My fear then was I didn’t want to ask people to pay me. It was so hard for me to say, ‘Sure, I’ll help you with that problem, but this is my price.’ That was fearful for me, so when I got my first client and charged, I was practically trembling as I told him my fee, which was hardly anything, and when he replied, ‘Oh, that’s great!’ I felt relieved.
As each year passed, I learned my value more and started understanding my craft, so much so that when people came up to me, and I said, ‘Yes, I can help you achieve this, and by the way, my price is this,’ I felt confident. I’ve never had anyone say, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s too much!’ And my rates are relatively high, but it’s because I know my self-worth. I know what I know can help people, and that’s my desire, to help people change and shift and start living the life of their dreams.
So how did you overcome that fear? What did you tell yourself? What did you do, and how can others take those same steps?
That’s an excellent question. There are a few things I suggest to my clients. Start with a piece of paper, put a line in the middle of it, and write your goals and what you want on one side. Make it big. Don’t play small; this is for you. Let’s say my goal right now is to be a New York Times bestselling author. My second goal is to speak about mental illness worldwide, specifically how to overcome and heal. Now, I couldn’t say that seven years ago! On the other half of the paper, write down the obstacles, as in ‘why can’t I have that?’ I wrote down every possibility that would be an obstacle. Then I looked at each obstacle afterward and said, ‘Yeah, but is that true?’ It’s a belief; there’s a belief underneath that reason why I don’t think it would work.
For instance, take the topic of not feeling good enough. I’d look at it and ask myself, ‘Is that true?’ Well, I don’t know, you tell me. Then I’d start writing, ‘I went to school and earned my master’s in Spiritual Psychology. I know people I’ve helped, and I’ve changed their lives. I love what I do. Yes, I am good enough; this was just a false belief.’ In essence, I attacked every single obstacle and got rid of them.
Then I focused my mindset. It is based primarily on what you listen to and what you put into your brain and body; like healthy food, healthy nutrition makes your body work better; the same is true with your brain. Eat healthy foods, listen to podcasts about growth and mindset, and learn things; learning creates new brain cells. I read books, particularly autobiographies. Inspirational stories changed my thinking about myself and others. I chose never to watch or listen to anything with negative language; I wouldn’t allow it in me.
And then, I did a free-form writing technique every time I was triggered, angry, scared, or frustrated. I put my pen to paper, and I started writing. I didn’t worry about sentence structure, grammar, or spelling. My goal was only to get it out, and there were times I wrote so quickly that I didn’t realize an hour had passed. After putting all my emotions on paper, I did not re-read them but instead burned them. I burned them because I was letting those things go, those old beliefs that are essentially toxic. I released them from my body. Suppose you don’t have a fireplace, no worries. Burn them in a sink. I call it ‘write and burn,’ you can tear it up, but do not re-read because those were thoughts you needed to get out of your body, and that’s important to your brain too. It’s also crucial who you surround yourself with. There’s an adage that says you are the whole of five people closest to you.
So, look at the people who surround you; how do they think? Are they naysayers? Are they trying to dim your light, your energy? Sometimes it’s not conscious, but if they believe they only deserve a certain amount, that’s going to rub off on you. If you say, ‘Look, I want to be this famous author, and I want to speak on stages worldwide,’ if you have friends that laugh at that, those are not the people you want to surround you. This applies to business as well; you want to be around people who will be your cheerleaders and who will expect great things from themselves too. You want to hear them talk nicely about themselves and their friends because if there’s a friend who always puts others down, you can guarantee they’re doing the same to you.
I have no room for those people in my life, and I don’t want those five people to represent who I am as a person. Recently, I’ve ended some friendships because those friends affected my mind and how I lived my values. They weren’t a match anymore, and that’s OK because I made five new friends. We’re like magnets; whoever we are, the energy that we put out in the world, we’re going to attract like-minded people. So if you don’t feel so great about yourself or don’t believe in other people, and you want to stay small, you’re going to attract people like that. But if you’re like, ‘I’m going to do something great; I have the capability, the voice; I want my light to shine big and make the world a better place,’ then be sure to surround yourself with people who believe in themselves and you.
And pick a skill! I have a friend, again a baker. She knew the basics but set her mind on creating new recipes, and when she started cooking school, everything changed. Her decision to invest in herself and education has made a tremendous difference in her attitude and goals.
It sounds like you’ve been doing this for a while, and it has given you the confidence aside from your qualifications to help others make life-changing decisions. Regarding negativity, what are three pieces of advice to eliminate negativity? Because sometimes, as much as we want to be positive, we’re forced into adverse circumstances through the environment. How can we channel that negativity and turn it into positive energy?
When we encounter negativity, our first reaction is to avoid it. And when it comes from within, it’s often harder to accept. So let’s take that scenario first. I will tell you the first step will surprise you; however, let me put it this way. You realize that wherever you look is where you go, right? Think about it this way; you’re leaning towards your destination. I learned that when a negative thought or emotion arises, I will sit with it. I would be so aware of it that I would almost befriend it. Why? Because whatever you resist persists. So if you’re constantly resisting thoughts in your head, you freak out. Well, I’ve learned that when negative thinking comes into me, I’ll watch it almost like it’s just passing through. I’ll say to myself, ‘Wow! It’s interesting that I’m thinking that.’ And then I’ll say, ‘Why is this thought entering my mind?’ And then, I’ll proceed to write out these thoughts and emotions. These thoughts vary. It could be that I’m scared of a new situation or that a person has triggered me. So, I question it and ask myself the obvious, ‘Why is it there?’ I don’t panic, push it down or act like it doesn’t exist. Instead, I think of the message that’s trying to come through because I’m not resisting, so it’s not going to persist. So once an emotion or trigger presents itself, be curious! I’ll hear myself say, ‘OK, I got it!’ I even sometimes say thank you and appreciate the fact that I brought awareness to it. I’ll ask myself, ‘Does this serve me?’ And then I have a decision to make; am I going to let it in, or am I going to ask it to move along?
When you realize something is not true and is just a fear, I will say, ‘Because the truth is… ‘ then you say the positive thing, ‘Because the truth is I’m competent, smart, and have the willpower, and the connections to turn this around.’ So, you take baby steps; you don’t look at the whole pie because that can be very daunting. But if you slice it into a few pieces, you’ll succeed.
Now, if you’re dealing with negativity from people around you, you remove yourself. For example, if you hear someone trashing someone, a job, or a business, don’t stay by the water cooler and keep listening to it; walk away. Remove yourself physically.
If you want to start working on your mindset, then start doing that, start talking about the positive things; maybe you have a favorite book that enlightens and educates you, then go and read it. You have a choice. That’s the point.
The first thing to remember is that we are co-creators with the universe to make whatever we want happen in our lives. When I have a client who comes in and tells me what a crappy life they have, I ask them, ‘Who’s sitting at the wheel of their life?’ It’s you! So my question is, ‘Why are you creating that? Why aren’t you creating something that you want?’ Because we have the power. Yes, some things are out of our control, and I always say it’s never the issue; it’s how we handle the issue. So, the buck always stops with us and how we want to manage or solve it. Nobody walks around on our shoulders and tells us to do crappy things, eat crappy food, listen to crappy words, and have conversations that aren’t serving us well. I always ask people, ‘What is in their highest good?’ Because if we all did that, wow, what a different planet we would have. Asking ourselves, ‘Is this in the highest good for me and others?’ Determine what will serve you in your life and follow that because you know deep down what that is.
You have a soon-to-be-released book titled Conversations with Pirie: 30 Stories from People Who Reinvented Themselves. What brought you to create the book, who it is for, and how will it help them?
I met Authority Magazine‘s publisher, and we planned to work together. He suggested I start writing some pieces and that I could pick my topic. So back in February 2021, I had the idea, particularly during COVID-19, that the world was on pause, that we had time to think, ‘Are we happy doing what we’re doing? Are we happy who we are with?’ Are we happy who we are now? Is it time to make changes?’ So, I thought “second chapters” would be a popular topic, specifically how to create a new or second chapter in our lives to move us out of situations that don’t serve us any longer. So, we submitted this topic to his nationwide list of publicists. He mentioned that if it’s a good topic, we might receive about a hundred submissions. I’m a little competitive, and I said, ‘OK, well, I want to get 150!’ So, I came up with the 18 questions for the template, so people who wanted to share their stories would follow it. When we received nearly 700 submissions, I knew we hit a hot topic.
However, I didn’t know how these submissions, these personal stories of second chapters, would change my life until a month later, in March, when I contracted COVID-19.
I was very sick, and my mountaineer boyfriend, hospitalized for ten days, had just returned home. He was fighting for his life, still using a respirator. We were both sick, and let me be very honest, we didn’t have a lot of joy in our lives; we were fighting for our health, and I, in particular, was experiencing a cycle of depression, which is very unusual. COVID-19 played with my head.
One morning I felt incredibly awful. But I found the energy to get my computer out, with the idea of catching up on work. So instead of corresponding to emails, I started reading the stories I had received and read for eight hours straight, almost 150 stories. When I finished, the strength, courage, and resilience from people I’d never even met inspired me! I mean, everything about me changed; I felt lighter yet stronger and ate and slept well that night. It was because—I teach this with my clients, and it’s what I said earlier—whatever we put in our heads, whatever we read and listen to, whatever we input is what becomes our output—story after story had transformed my health. Mind you, part of the template I included was not just what they did but how they did it, what steps they took, what limiting beliefs they had, how they overcame those limiting beliefs, and whether they ever felt comfortable outside their comfort zone. The questions were pretty in-depth.
My boyfriend said to me that night at dinner, ‘Wow, you are in a different mood than you were earlier this morning.’ And I replied, ‘Yes, I know!’ He said, ‘What happened?’ So, I told him the story and asked him, ‘What if we could give this gift to others? How about if I create a book with some of these inspirational stories—share them with others so they can feel as great as I felt? If it empowered me to stop feeling sorry for myself, I feel certain it can do that for others!’ His answer was a resounding yes.
The following day I called the publisher, and I gave him my pitch, and he said, ‘I love it, we’ll do it! But you probably shouldn’t pick more than 30 authors.’ What? That was the hard part! After careful consideration, I chose different ages, genders, and nationalities globally with the hope that readers will find a little bit of themselves in everyone.
Then, I decided to interview each author and do a Zoom interview for 30 minutes so that people could have the book and a link on the back pages of the book to the live interview to hear for themselves what each person did. It was a vulnerable experience, laced with tears and tough challenges the authors faced. But I learned we’re more alike than we are different, which made me even more excited because I know this book can be a tool to help people, giving them inspiration and direction on how to do things.
Last question. How did the CEO of a construction company decide that she wanted to create a wellness brand?
OK, that’s a pretty big stretch! You’ll have to read about her journey. That’s my goal. I want people to read about these second chapters and discover for themselves that ordinary people are doing extraordinary things every day. This book is inspirational in its “why” yet provides the reader with the “how.” You can read it as though each story is a lesson in adversity, adventure, and aspiration—it can be part of your meditation. So grab it in the morning, open it to any page, and indulge in some inspiration.
Find it on Amazon on September 21. And while this topic is quite powerful, you can expect more volumes on other subjects. This book has shown me how much I love sharing the joy of what I do and the joy of my life, and I hope it connects and inspires other people to find that in their lives.