The greatest lessons and transformations come out from weathering storms in life. In one way or another, we become better, stronger, and wiser. This episode’s guest is a perfect example of someone who has come out from the other side as a resilient leader. Business growth architect, executive coach, and transformation expert, Christine Perakis, talks with host, John Livesay, about her experience and the lessons she learned from surviving two Category 5 hurricanes in two weeks. Through her upcoming book, The Resilient Leader, she shares about the resilience and leadership strategies that helped her weather the storm, literally and figuratively, in life and business. Get inside this great conversation to learn how to harness the power of the storm, develop your resilience muscle, and become invincible.
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The Resilient Leader With Christine Perakis
Our guest is Christine Perakis who is a business growth architect who guides small business owners to get from 0 to 8 figures in record time. Join her experiences as an attorney, strategic advisor, a serial entrepreneur and a C-suite executive in ten businesses. She’s also a professional licensed boat captain, and also has helped hundreds of clients on five continents do the same. Having survived not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes in two weeks, trapped alone in a wind coffin for almost 24 hours and surviving in the aftermath for months without electricity, running water and telecoms. Christine began sharing the resilience and leadership strategies that helped her weather any storm in life and business. Her book, The Resilient Leader, introduces strategies such as The Seven Barometers of Resilience that anyone can use. Christine, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much, John. Thanks for the kind words. It sounds like I have it all together. It’s fun and games until you get trapped in a hurricane and the roof blows off your life.
I’m moving and I’m thinking, “I’m not going to have all my creature comforts. There will be a roof over your head, John. You can sleep on the floor until the mattress arrives.” You’ve certainly done that.Don't go at it alone, get a tribe. Click To Tweet
That can feel like a Category 5 situation too, a big move like that is nature.
I always like to ask my guests to take us back to their own story of origin. You can go back as your childhood, college, high school wherever you want, where you started to learn these resilience skills.
We could go back to the beginning. Abandoned at birth, but I think of it as having a vision that started when I was a child. I had read this book about a sailor, Robin Graham who had sailed around the world alone at the age of sixteen. While I never had that dream, I felt something got ignited in me. That desire to explore the world that way. I’ve been a sailor all my life and ultimately a boat captain. I’ve worked at it and earned money as a boat captain because it’s a passion, but it was the mastery of that passion that inspired every stage of my life. Things that I loved to do, I always wanted to master and be good at them.
Oftentimes they say, “If you want to get good at something, learn how to teach it.” I’ve taught skiing, sailing, business growth, strategic planning and organizational management. I’ve looked to the things that have been passionate about, and growing businesses has what’s propelled me through my career. As a serial entrepreneur, like I’ve been for over twenty years, there are no straight lines to success. Brian Tracy says, “If you want to succeed, fail faster.” You have to develop. The same with sailing, I used a lot of nautical references in my work in my book. There’s Mother Nature, the ocean, has far more control than we ever will and life is like that. We don’t control anything that happens to us from the outside. We can do our best and we can lie to ourselves that we have control, but the end of the day, there’s going to be something, oftentimes many things that could knock us down. It’s surrendering to that. Sometimes you do it the hard way.
I was looking at this in the past, the bookends of when I was 25, getting into a serious car accident where I couldn’t work for a few months. Waking up to my life going, “Is this going to be the rest of it?” Working day and night as a lawyer for big New York law firm to make partner and always have to be generating and never make more than my hourly rate, or whatever I can generate with my own time. The hurricane is the ultimate challenge, I don’t have anything. The survival became the mission. Those are the kinds of formative experiences peppered throughout that help us build that muscle.
A lot of people say that law school is challenging. Did you find it challenging? Did you learn anything about resilience in law school?There are no straight lines to success. Click To Tweet
I guess I did. I wasn’t aware at those times. I went straight through school, got my law degree, and my MBA. I did it all in a hurry, because I wanted to get out into life, and I didn’t want to stay in academia. I always wanted to power through things. The things that were most formative to me are what I call the Category 5 events. Take that from my storm experiences which were in excess of the Category 5 Saffir–Simpson scale for hurricane wind force. We all have Category 5 experiences. It could be moving. Starting a business. Having a child. Death in the family. The roof blowing off a business or a relationship. Law school, looking back, it was a ton of fun. Being in school is a safe environment for experimenting, making mistakes, doing great, and doing poorly. Those were not the most challenging times.
You survive a Category 5 hurricane and then you think, “The odds of that happening again are small. I’m going to continue to go sailing.” Is that the mindset?
It’s like threading the needle. At the time I was living in my island nation that I had moved to, after delivering boats off the eastern seaboard. Previous to that, selling my last business so I was living a dream. I had sold my last business which was a huge success for me. The peak of my success, and then took the time to indulge in this old passion that I always wanted to do, which was get my boat captain’s license and then develop more mastery in that front. We’re a tiny little island nation in this big open sea and the odds of getting a direct hit as we had, directly over my home, was exponential. To have a second one come two weeks later, that was only 60 miles away from the eye was beyond.
Let’s talk about how your experiences in that, as well as business, have allowed you to create these Seven Barometers of Resilience. Let’s try to go through a few of them so people can start to have some great takeaways from this episode. What would you say out of the seven is the most important one?
I talk about harnessing the power of the storm, and these days I’m focused on helping people figure out how to become professionally or in life invincible, which is what having a well-developed resilience muscle gives you. It starts by usually getting knocked to your knees. This story started for me in that moment that I realized I was trapped. I wasn’t going to get out. I had no plan, no idea who had survived around me or what was going to happen to me and I was alone. The most important decision I made, stupid mistake I would say now, but is to go home alone that night. There I was, and it was that moment that the book was born. I had to start taking a look at my behaviors.
When we’re in those moments of where the panic rises, and we’re deep in this Category 5 situation, what can we do? Imagine if you had no telephone, no telecoms, no internet, no community, no people, nothing. What is the one thing that you can do? That’s get a piece of paper and a pencil or a pen and start writing. In that moment, I said to myself, “I’m going to write down and everything that I can remember about this experience today. What I did right, what I did wrong, what I can learn from. Just record it for something.” When we do that it activates the prefrontal cortex and problem-solving section of the brain and quiets down the emotional, panic portion which is the amygdala. It’s what I call Harnessing the Power of the Storm. That’s one of the Seven Barometers.Become your own storm warrior. Click To Tweet
I talk about self-awareness in the book and sometimes we go through life as they’re successful at things, we think that we don’t have to go deeper. When this Category 5 hits the fan, we’re forced to take a look at the decisions I made that got me here. What did I have control over? What can I do next? How can I get a successful outcome? That’s where I started, by writing, learning from the experience, getting the most that I could out of it. Ultimately, making a big contribution to my community over the course of learning how to survive through that, and thriving. That’s what I’m hoping everybody gets the opportunity to do.
We know that being invincible comes from being resilient. What are some of the other seven things that you can share?
I talked about it in terms of nautical. There are a few cornerstone things that are easy to take action on. The first one is understanding what is, and creating your float plan. It’s not a business plan, it’s a mission. When we leave the dock with a boat, we have to file a float plan. That’s the protocol. We let people know where we’re going, when we expect to get there, who’s with us, how we’re provisioned and what’s going to propel us to get where we want to go. What should they expect when we do arrive? What are the obstacles along the way and how well-equipped are we to get there?
This is a great metaphor for life and it forces us to have a level of competence. In to affect the outside marketplace in business or to have people come on board with you, you have to exhibit a level of skill and competence and that starts with within. Having a flow plan for your life and your business and it’s a simple thing. I give out a form from the Coast Guard that’s cool, because it includes not only these factors that I’ve been talking about, but it forces you to think about, “Who’s on my team and what skills do they bring with them? What sensitivities do they have? Where do I have to look after and who gets assigned to what?”
Also, what the emergency plan is. We’ve always got people on the other side or something. Stakeholders, investors, partners, customers, people that are hoping we’re going to get there safely and that they will be looking out for performance indicators. Did we arrive? Did we meet our different stops as we were going along? If we don’t, are we in communication? When people are following your track and then they can take action. Having that, what I call shore support, people who can support the enterprise or the mission and be able to take action as things either go along swimmingly or run into hiccups, which is more likely in life.
Your expertise is also helping people grow their business fast, and I’m sure people would love to hear some tips on what you recommend around that. I know you’re big on defining the target market.We don't control anything that happens to us from the outside. Click To Tweet
Like they say, we’re meant to serve who we are. We have to create an avatar in being able to understand who is our target market. We can start from within, that’s how I came to do what I do now. Because we started a business that went from 100% equity funding to a $10 million a year company in four years and employed 160 people. If I knew then what I know now I was so ill equipped to run a company of 160 on an ongoing way, which wasn’t my goal, ultimately, but in the throes of it, the growth of that level can be a Category 5 situation. I’m trying to keep the balls in the air. People have needs. Things have to happen. I felt as though I didn’t have somebody that I had known that path that I was on. Someone who had run a successful multimillion-dollar business, and could be in my corner to support me. Help me see through objective lens what I couldn’t see because I was in it.
I couldn’t talk to my partner in that because he was out generating the business, brilliant biz dev guy. I couldn’t talk to anyone on my team. Having that support goes back to what I talked about in the book, becoming your storm warrior. We all know what a warrior is. We’re generally protecting our tribes, our communities, and our foe is somebody who’s equally doing the same thing. We have the same mission. When a Category 5 situation happens, its events are beyond our control. We have to start by recognizing where we’re vulnerable.
In my business, I didn’t want people to know that I didn’t have all the answers or that I might not know how to be a great leader at that time. When I went home alone, that night before the hurricane struck, I was thinking, I’m a boat captain, a professional rescuer in my past. I always have it together. People pay me well to have all the answers. I was complacent. The number one rule of seamanship is complacency kills. I didn’t recognize or acknowledge my vulnerabilities and that’s what being a storm warrior requires. Understanding where you’re vulnerable and asking for help where you need it, so that you can be of service to your tribe.
I love that line. Be your own storm warrior. I have two questions around this expertise you have in helping businesses grow. The first one is, what recommendations do you have for people regarding their competition? Should they be aware of what the competition is marketing or stay focused on their progress or somewhere between?
What we want to be doing at all times is innovating where we can. Never sit back complacency. If we’re seeing our competition doing that, and we’re sitting back counting our money because things are going well, then we’re missing that boat and we will become obsolete. I work with tech startups quite often and I mentor at incubators and I tell them, “You’re going to be where you’ll need to go big and fast, but create a plan for a long-term legacy company. Someone’s going to come in six months and do it better, faster, more well-financed than you. If you’re not prepared for that, then you’re going to be sunk.” Understanding that we’re going to have to create something. Continue to create, continue to innovate.
You talk about mistakes that people make when they’re trying to generate leads. Can you share one of the biggest ones you see out there?We're meant to serve who we are. Click To Tweet
It’s forgetting what got us going in the first place. Understanding what was the thing that created what we have. We have a level of success we get our businesses going and then we forget what got us excited, what was innovative about what we did and we’re trying to think, “I’ve got to get more leads.” Trying to keep this engine running without thinking about what got it started in the first place.
Full circle back to the story of origin. We talk about brands who’s forgotten what got them there. I talked about the Gap, for example, they started off selling music and Levi’s and we’re connected to the music industry, and now they’ve lost their way. Another brand that’s in trouble is Victoria’s Secret. They can’t keep marketing to women the same way that they have. Your advice is insightful. My last question for you, Christine is, since you’ve been in this situation not once, but twice and survived and thrived and all that good stuff. What advice do you have for someone who’s never been in this situation? There are many forms that a Category 5 take in our lives. When the roof feels going off, whether it’s a loss of a relationship, a job, a loved one, all so many challenges we all face, how do we stay calm and not panic?
First of all, my biggest advice to anyone is don’t go at it alone. Have your tribe around you. Whoever that is. Have trusted advisors, mentors, a community, accountability. Make sure you’re doing it in a community because there are people out there who are all experiencing the same things in some form or another so we can support each other with that. That’s how we got to know each other. We’re not going at it alone. It’s an opportunity to lift others. Rising tide lifts all boats as they say.
It is true because you realize that you’re not alone in your problem. When you isolate yourself, you think, “I’m the only one that has this problem,” and then you’re like, “Everyone else is struggling with cash flow not being consistent.” Whatever the issue is. It’s such an a-ha moment you realize, “If somebody else has figured this out, maybe I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
That goes back to that secret shame. I’m guilty of it, I raise my hand high. It’s that idea of, “I don’t want anyone to think I don’t have it all together, or that I haven’t had a straight shot to whatever successes I’m at the moment. That it was always easy or I always had all the answers.” I had this bizarre attachment to feeling like I had to be perfect, and nobody is.Continue to create, continue to innovate. Click To Tweet
Nobody can relate to perfect either. That’s the big a-ha. Nobody wants to hear a speaker talking about how easy it all was for them. Once heard, our messes, our story of how we overcame those challenges so people can see themselves in that challenge. The book is called The Resilient Leader. Christine, how can people find you? If people want to follow you on social media, what’s the best way?
ChristinePerakis.com is my website. It’s got all my links to socials. I wish everybody the greatest success to all of their Category 5 situations. You can harness the power of these experiences, and come out thriving and don’t go to it alone.
I’m glad that you and I are friends and we’re not going at it alone. Thanks again for being on the show.
Thank you so much, John. I had a great time. Thanks, everybody, for reading.
- Christine Perakis
- The Resilient Leader
- Better Selling Through Storytelling Method online course
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