From Failure to Finisher

In September of 2018, I flew to Texas to give my first ever out-of-my-home-state speech. I had been speaking for almost two years all over Utah, giving some variation of my story. The first time I shared it, I titled it “Failure to Finisher” and summed up how, after a lifetime of miserable mistakes, crossing the finish line of my first marathon set in motion a series of events that would change the trajectory of my life.

I talked about my multiple divorces, raising a son with autism, and being a birth mom at the age of 17. I worried that my audience, a group of relatively conservative real-estate professionals, would be unreceptive to my message. I was wrong. Turns out people loved hearing not just about my rock bottom, but how I made it out. I got invited to speak at more events and empowered audiences from all sorts of backgrounds. I applied for speaking gigs all over the country. That’s how I found myself in front of a group of highly intelligent, successful, accomplished women in Texas.

The conference was an all-female event meant to empower, uplift, and encourage women to support other women. During the opening ceremony, I chatted with a few of the attendees. These women were engineers, accountants, nurses, and lawyers. I wondered how much my story would resonate with them, since I came from such different circumstances.

I always felt nervous before I spoke, which I considered a good thing. Even after I had been running for over ten years, I still got butterflies in the pit of my stomach before every race. Although, in all fairness, it could have been pre-run bubble guts. In any case, I savored those feelings of excitement and anticipation, both in running and in speaking.

I was giving two of the same breakout sessions to two different groups of women. I always checked out the schedule to see who I was up against in the same time slot, worried that no one would come to mine. Once, at a leadership seminar for college students, I was scheduled to do a breakout at the same time as a guy who had climbed Mount Everest. My hubby had rolled his eyes the day before when I lamented about my bad luck. How the hell could I compete with that? My ever-so-supportive hubby said, “So what if he’s climbed Everest? You’ve climbed your own Mount Everests.” Oh, that sweet, silly man.

In Texas, both of my breakout sessions had about 20 women in them. I was happy about this, because it allowed an intimacy that I otherwise couldn’t have gotten in front of a huge crowd. And since I was talking about some heavy topics, it was good to have more of a connection with the women in the room.

The speaker right before me did a fantastic job of talking about overcoming fear, sharing her journey of making a huge career change that shook her family and her marriage. I knew that the other speakers slated for breakouts at the same time as me were talking about finances and other professional topics. I was about to get real and raw, and vulnerable as hell.

That’s because I was speaking my truth, which included an abusive past. I was talking about some things that most people avoid even though so many can relate. When I looked out at the ladies in the room both of those days, I saw tears. I made them laugh; I made them gasp; I made them cheer in triumph; I made them feel. I like to think I created a ripple effect in their lives.

When I shared my story with others, I knew that for many audience members, I was sharing their story, too. I had taken my many hardships and heartbreaks, and years after the fact, shined them up all nice and spiffy. I had learned that by speaking my truth, throwing shame out of the darkness and into the light, I had the ability to help others do the same. I could teach people that through the power of a growth mindset, they could also find purpose in their pain.

After years of silence, I started to speak up. And by having the courage to speak, I inspired others to do the same thing in their own lives. And that’s how See Stacy Speak was born. It’s not just about hearing a random stranger’s story; it’s about connecting through our similarities and even our differences. It’s about finding the courage to talk about the things that are hard. It’s about finding your voice.

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About the Author | Stacy Bernal

Stacy Bernal is a doer and a disruptor who gets really comfortable with being uncomfortable. She believes people are capable of achieving all sorts of greatness, and she feels passionate about helping them find it. Stacy is a speaker, author-in-the-making, ultra-marathoner, and nonprofit founder. Originally an East Coast girl, she now lives happily in Utah with her hubby, kids, and fur babies.

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