Let me introduce you to Lisa Cherry. She is a woman of many parts, as you will have discovered if you heard her searingly honest interview about her childhood on BBC Radio 4 recently. We share a professional background, which is how we first connected, but also an interest in helping women achieve to the maximum. I know you’ll find her story inspiring.
Jane: Lisa, I know this is always a tricky question, particularly for you as you have so many strings to your bow – how would you currently describe your business? What is it that you do?
Lisa: A very good question indeed and never one to be put in a box, I will attempt to be succinct. It would probably be easier to say that I work on projects for my business. I recently wrote a book called Soul Journey which was a culmination of work I’ve have done personally but also on the personal development work that I have seen others do which shares stories of recovery over adversity, mapping out the similarities that people living a fulfilled life have after dealing with the harsher aspects of this thing called life.
I am currently writing my second book on adult voices of those who have been in care and have also just set up Whatever!™ Youth Coaching which is a programme that works with 16-24 year olds who are ‘looked after’. The focus is on self-awareness, personal development, confidence and personal responsibility. It’s adaptable to working with many groups such as NEET (Not in Education Employment or Training) young people, young carers or young people in vulnerable housing. It excites me!
Having worked in a tick box, paper work system and watched direct work almost disappear, it’s wonderful to be back in front of young people again making a difference.
Jane: You were recently on BBC radio 4 sharing some of the details of your early life. For the benefit of anyone who didn’t hear that could you précis some of your story, please?
Lisa: I was asked to go on Radio 4 to talk candidly about my experiences as a teenager who had experienced being in care, being homeless and as someone who found her way into the rooms of AA (Alcholics Anonymous)at the age of 20. It’s very much part of who I am yet I didn’t talk about it very much at all for many years. I was working in Social Services with Children and Families and it felt inappropriate – I was in a system from the other side except this time I was purporting to be an ‘us’ as opposed to a ‘them’.
Words like alcoholism, homelessness and talk of ‘being in care’, evoke a judgement or a reaction of varying degrees from almost everyone. They carry great stigmas and views about ‘fault’ that cut deep in our society.
I have though come to learn that the way we feel about how others view us is directly linked to how much love we have for ourselves. I have spent many years in recovery working on self-love and the fact that the lack of understanding and judgement of others is of no consequence to me is probably reflected in this.
Jane: From that difficult early start what have you carried forward with you into today’s Lisa? What was the most positive thing to come out of those early years?
Lisa: It’s so refreshing to be asked about the positives so thanks for that question Jane. My early experiences have given me a dangerous amount of independence and a tremendous dollop of resilience. I also have an enormous amount of gratitude for all that I have in my life. I fully comprehend that I am dying in a deep and fulfilling way which enables me to live with a thirst for life that often feels like it might never be quenched.
Jane: You recently wrote your first book, Soul Journey which has had some fabulous reviews, congratulations! How easy was it to write given that you share much of your own experiences with the reader? Was it ultimately a cathartic experience for you?
Lisa: It had a lot of autobiographical content in it but in quite a superficial way. What I mean is, that I didn’t really need to explore anything new in there about myself and my experiences. Now my next book deals with more of the minutiae of those experiences and that has been much harder to write and yes, been quite cathartic in that sense.
In all my writing I seek to bring to the reader an entrance into an experience that they can come to understand without having been through it – enhancing empathy and compassion within people through them having safe opportunities to learn about that which is so often not spoken about, is core to my values. We live in a statistical environment; I want to put the faces, the stories and ultimately the meaning to the forefront and put the statistics to the background.
Jane: Who has most inspired you in your life?
Lisa: I am inspired by the strength of the human condition and I am inspired by those who fight for social change. When I think of strength and courage, I think of someone like Maya Angelou. But I have come across all sorts of people that will never have their name up in lights who inspire me by their sheer determination to keep going in some of the most adverse situations and I guess that’s part of the ethos of Soul Journey; putting the extraordinary into the ordinary.
Jane: What’s the best ‘mistake’ you have ever made?
Lisa: I’m not sure I would describe my life as filled with mistakes. I just learn. I do and I learn. If it hurts really badly and I keep doing the same thing over and over again then I’m either not learning fast enough or I just won’t listen! Life’s lessons; I’ve had a few ;0)
Jane: What’s your best piece of career advice for a young woman today?
Lisa: Know yourself! Being a parent of teenagers, I am so aware that this crucial part of self-discovery is not present anywhere in our education system as an integral part of discovering what route to take to do the things that might light your fire in life. There’s minimal advice around careers and everyone involved appears to have an agenda around funding. Where is the conversation about finding your passion??
Know yourself! In doing so, you can find our your passion and how to make a living from it way before you burn out, get bored or feel dead inside. As a woman, we have different needs, desires and responsibilities. We need different things out of our working lives. Take the time to work out who you are and prioritise undertaking personal development – it will serve you well and give you the tools to understand that if you don’t look after and care for yourself, then no-one else will. Know yourself!
Jane: What has most surprised you about running your own business?
Lisa: If I’m honest, it’s been that I seem to be rather good at marketing! Having no knowledge or experience in that aspect of running a business, I have just learnt on the job and much of it accidentally. I seem to be quite good at it and I really really enjoy it too. It’s all about relationships and that is something I am passionate about so that’s rather handy….
Jane: How do you best relax and unwind?
Lisa: I love talking nonsense with my kids although for those of you with teenagers, you’ll know that the relationships change so much around this time and they need space to separate. I escape into films as I rarely watch TV. Creating also features highly on my list of relaxing things to do; cooking, photography, writing (of course), art journaling.
I also love walking, swimming and I like yoga in the summer as I like to do sun salutation outdoors; it’s an amazing feeling. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be without my women! Nothing beats hanging out with girlfriends sipping cappuccinos and putting the world to rights!
Jane: If you could give your younger self some advice what would it be?
Lisa: I was lucky enough to be asked to feature in a book which was a beautiful collection letters that women had written to themselves. It could be to their older, younger or current self. I wrote to myself as a 12 year old girl, telling myself to be brave, to hold on tightly as this intensive training period would all be over soon. It’s all in here….
Lisa, thank you so much for sharing a little of your amazing life with us. Thank you!
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If you’d like to read Lisa’s book and keep up to date with all her other work this link will take you through to her website where you can also listen to her BBC interview.
Posted on November 30th, 2012 by Jane