eWomenNetwork member and Managing Director of the eWomenNetwork North Dallas Chapter, Gens Johnson, shares her 3 tips on how to overcome the beat-downs that life throws at you and turn them into success. Gens is the re-imagine specialist who takes you through her own re-imagined story of being a broke, single mother of 3 and what she did to become successful in her own life.
Watch the interview with Gens from my podcast, "eWomenNetwork Member Spotlight," or tune-in/download the audio podcast at the eWN Podcast Network.
PHYLLIS SMITH: Hello and welcome to Spotlight on eWomenNetwork, I’m Phyllis Smith. This Member Spotlight focuses on people who have achieved success despite their past, despite challenges they might have faced and then they turn around and then offer their wisdom with others and share it and help other people achieve their own success.
Today’s member spotlight is Gens Johnson and I love this woman. This woman, she is like motivation on steroids. Okay, she is so great to be around. She comes into our office - She lives here in Dallas and when we see her there is a bright smile she literally lights up a room. I mean I think that the electricity just maxes out when she walks into a room. So, I want you to meet her, and Gens is gonna share some of that energy and some of that motivation and inspiration with us today. So, Gens thank you so much for being here.
GENS JOHNSON: Thank you so much Phyllis and I feel the exact same way about you and all of the people at headquarters and the women at eWomenNetwork community. Which is one of the reasons why I am so excited to be a part of the eWomenNetwork community, because I really do feel like it’s family helping family and that’s really what I’m all about. At the end of the day I wanna help others succeed and achieve their greatness.
PHYLLIS SMITH: That’s right, but we thank you. You’ve taken over the North Dallas chapter. So, we just love having you there. Man, that place is gonna light up. You say you have a passion for helping people rebuild their lives from the quote “beat down”.
GENS JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
PHYLLIS SMITH: So, my question to you is have you experienced the “beat down,” and if so, what helped you personally? What was it and what helped you get out of that?
GENS JOHNSON: Oh yeah, absolutely. You know, I think that people go through life, you know, I tell people, think about when you were younger. When you were younger you believed that there was nothing that you can’t, couldn’t do. A lot of people thought, you know, gosh, I’m going to be the President of the United States, I’m gonna be a movie star, I’m gonna be a rock star. You had no limitations on yourself, and that’s how we start our lives because truly we don’t have any limitations on ourselves.
The only limitations we have on ourselves are the ones that are self-imposed, but what happens in life is we get beat down. I mean that unintentionally whether our parents beat us down, whether our siblings, our school teachers, our friends, our significant others - we just go through life and unintentionally for the most part - now obviously there are some people that intentionally beat others down - but for the most part it’s unintentional beat down where before you know it we’re starting to beat ourselves down. We start to put those self-imposed limitations. So, the greatness that we have within us we start to pale in comparison to what we’re really supposed to do in this life.
The only limitations we have on ourselves are the ones that are self-imposed
My Defining Moment
For myself personally I’ve got an incredible family. I’ve got a mother that’s wonderful, a father that’s wonderful, I’ve got 5 siblings (so there’s 6 of us), but my mother has suffered with mental health issues and now she’s in her 80’s and she’s just a beautiful woman but she has Alzheimer’s (she has dementia), but prior to that she really went untreated with some mental health issues. When you’re in a home with someone that has mental health issues they do tend to beat you down. I had my father’s influence that was building us up and I had my mother’s influence who was unintentionally beating us down to the point where I actually got married to my first husband because my mother said, “This is who you should marry. This is the person you should marry. This is the right one for you.” Not that he wasn’t a wonderful person, because he was, not that he didn’t come from a wonderful family, because he did, but that wasn’t the person that really, I should’ve married.
I followed my mother’s advice and got married and I lived a life, and I think a lot people can relate to this Phyllis, where you’re looking around at your life and you’re like, “Hold on a second this isn’t the life that I had in my mind, the picture in my mind, that I was going to be living and I dealt with that for years. Even my husband at the time would say, “You know, Gens, something’s not right, something’s not right.” He could sense it because you can’t fake your energy, you can’t fake your feelings, you can’t fake your thoughts. [laughter] They go out of that brain and people feel it. It was a defining moment that I had to have within myself where I just said, “I have to stop living the life that I’m living because it’s not the life that I want to live.” And I had to be okay with that, and I had to step out and be very vulnerable and go on my own 2 feet as a single mom with 3 kids - literally at times having 12 dollars or less in my bank account.
3 Ways to Overcome Your Beat-Downs
1. Intentional Planning
PHYLLIS SMITH: So, then what was the pivotal point for you when you went from checking your bank account to saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” What was that pivotal moment? Was it that moment or another moment and what exactly did you do? What steps did you take to change that?
GENS JOHNSON: Well, you know, when I made the decision to live my life the way I wanted to live my life - I obviously had to get out of my first marriage, and I started very intentionally planning. Now what was it I wanted to do? I’ll be honest with you - my name Gens is French for “people.” I’ve always been a people person. I’ve always loved people. I’ve always been a leader in every roll that I’ve ever been in. Whether it’s in corporate American or whether it’s been in philanthropic volunteer agencies. I knew I had it within me. I had my master’s degree.
I knew I could do it, but I knew for me to get here, and I was here, I was gonna have to go from here to here to here to here. I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to jump out of the nest and do exactly what I wanted to do up here. It was gonna take time. It was gonna take steps. So, I made an intentional plan where I was gonna get a job, I was gonna start saving money, I was gonna network in the right group of people, because I do believe that you have to learn to do the right things with the right people. You know, my philosophy of success is like a paradigm, like a triangle, and 75% of that is you. You have to prepare yourself, you have to become more developed, you have to build your confidence and I knew where I was.
I had the potential. I never believed in my life that our past dictates our future. Our past explains to ourselves and to others where we were when we made those decisions, and I knew and I’m really big about this, I always self-evaluate. I self-evaluate myself on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis, on an annual basis, and I say to myself, “What am I doing or not doing that is helping me succeed or taking me away from that.” So, I’ve coined my phrase, “you need to do the right things right with the right people” and I would assess where I was and I would say listen if I want success in a certain area and I’ve gotta go find the truly successful people in those areas.
Obviously, when I got divorced the first thing that I needed to do was make money. I couldn’t think about all the different people I needed to go meet first. I needed to stabilize myself financially, which I think is extremely important. Understanding that step in becoming financially stable for myself and for my children was something that was a necessity in order for me to go to the next step.
I think a lot of people want to skip steps, and although that would be great, there’s learning in every step and you have to go through that process. It was very intentional planning and I would plan, do, and review. That’s one of my favorite things and that’s one of the things I love so much about Sandra Yancey and how I resonated with her is she said that you always have to do the plan, do, and review. It’s simple, but it’s difficult because it requires discipline. But I knew that my ultimate goal was to be in a place where I could empower people, specifically women, that I wanted to help people step into their greatness and out of the beat down. I wanted to love on people. I wanted to help breathe belief into people, and I knew it was gonna take time. Believe me this is 15 years in the making and I won’t quit. I’ll just keep on going.
My First Step to Success - Financial Independence
PHYLLIS SMITH: What was it that actually helped you start becoming more financially stable? What was that step that you took?
GENS JOHNSON: I’ll tell you, one of the things that my mother always taught me and my father as well, was education was important. So, prior to having my children, I got my master’s degree. I knew that as soon as I left my marriage that getting a financial sound position was the first step, and with my master’s degree, with the preparation that I did prior to having children, those decisions that we make, which I think is really important that people realize you have to decide that you’re gonna succeed before you succeed. Even though I wasn’t on the exact pathway to my success I knew that there was part of me that wanted success. So, prior to having children I made that decision to get my master’s degree.
You have to decide that you’re gonna succeed before you succeed
Networking Is Key to Success
So, when I got divorced, I literally was able to secure a job in corporate America with a hospital system and relatively quickly. You know, I hate to say how quickly because, I don’t even want to ever discourage someone, but it was relatively quickly. Another thing that I attribute that to as well is I’ve always networked. I have always been a genuine networker. I’m a very real sincere person. I always add value to people’s lives. So, my entire life, regardless if I was a stay-at-home mom, which I was for many years, or if I was working in philanthropic initiatives, I always added value. So, when it was the time for me to get a position in corporate America with that hospital system, I went to my network that I added value to for many, many years, and people gladly assisted me. I think that when you invest in other people it’s gonna come back to you - whether it’s from them directly or whether it’s from someone else. I truly believe that no good deed that we do goes unrecognized and it will come back to us. My sister says, “You know, Gens, you’ve done so many good deeds, and now you’re reaping the benefits.” And I truly believe that.
Live Life By Choice Not by Chance
PHYLLIS SMITH: You know, sometimes we don’t necessarily choose which parent that we’re gonna go after or emulate, and it sounds like somehow subconsciously you managed to do that. You say you’ve always been a leader, so you’ve accessed the goodness that came out of your home and your dad.
GENS JOHNSON: Oh 100%. You know my dad was a tennis pro and he played professional tennis. He toured all over, he played in Wimbledon, he played in the US Open, he was a coach at the University of Oklahoma, “go Sooners!”, and he taught all of 6 of us valuable lessons. But you know, this is what’s so interesting to me is he taught this to all of us but each one of us absorbed things differently. One of the things he would say to us is, “You know, 95% of the people will just exist. They will just drift through life. They live a life by chance not by choice. And only 5% of the people will try, only 5% will attempt to live a life with intentionality and run after their dreams and 50% of that 5% will quit and give up and not have success.” So, the odds are always in our favor to win. We are truly only competing with 2.5% percent of the people and the neat thing Phyllis, as you know, which is another reason why I love eWomenNetwork and the community in which we have, is that successful people sincerely want to help other people succeed. When you start to associate with someone who claims success and they’re not willing to help you succeed, that is a red flag.
You’ve gotta hitch your wagon to successful people, and the way people treat you is how you can tell if they’re truly successful. Because there’s a lot of posers out in the world, let me tell you. That’s why I think it’s so important, is just sharing how my dad truly did believe and taught us through his example that all people are equal and all people have the potential to achieve. My dad would talk to someone who could be a janitor or someone who could be a president of a bank exactly the same, with the same love, and I always remember that. To me that was a gift because people would always smile, and I really didn’t understand the difference because my dad wouldn’t introduce differently. He would introduce us to each person exactly the same, because a human being is a human being and that love and that admiration truly is the same. I am just blessed to say that was a lesson that really just impressed upon me at a young age and something that I carry on to this day.
Count Your Blessings
PHYLLIS SMITH: So, given that we’re in a holiday season and any holiday season, but even beyond a holiday season, how important gratitude is the good, bad and the ugly. So, tell me about your experience in that, you know, you’re grateful for your dad, but you’re also grateful for your mom even with her mental illness.
GENS JOHNSON: You know, I think that there is a lesson to be learned in every situation that we encounter, and I think sometimes it’s the most difficult, the most challenging, the most hurtful situations that we learn the most because we really learn who we are. What our character is and who we value, and I will tell you that although my mother suffered with mental illness and still does, she is a brilliant person. There were a lot of things that I learned from her, and I think that it’s so important for us as individuals on a daily basis, and I’m serious, on a daily basis to truly count our blessings.
One of the things that my current husband, I’m remarried, and when we first got married he would get frustrated with me sometimes because we would have disagreements like every married couple does, and like every relationship does. We’re not perfect so there’s not gonna be a perfect relationship. He would get frustrated with me sometimes, because I wouldn’t get as upset as he thought I could get upset and what I would always say is, “how in good faith can I get upset when I’m alive, I have good health, I have a wonderful family, I have so many gifts and blessings, I just, I have to always be grateful.”
Be Grateful for All of it - The Good and Bad
I’m grateful when I have a person that I’m going back and forth with and I learn who they truly are. It may be not the person that I want to associate with. I’m very, very particular on who I have in my inner-circle, because I know how important that is. But when somebody in my inner-circle that I’ve allowed in shows me their true colors, and their true colors potentially may not be who I prefer to associate with, I don’t get upset. I think of that as a gift. It’s a gift. We receive gifts every day. It’s a gift to know how somebody truly is.
It’s a gift if you have money in your bank account and you learn how to get $15, $20, a $100 the next day. That is a gift, because you’re learning a skill that if you’re able to go from no money to a $100 in one day. That’s a gift. I tell people all the time that if every dollar was taken away from me today I don’t worry about that, because I have mastered the skill to go out and hustle, and that’s what you have to do. You have to hustle. I don’t mind hustling. I don’t mind the grind. There is nothing that I can’t achieve but the only reason I know that assuredly is because I’ve learned and mastered those skills.
So, I’m grateful. I’m extremely grateful for all those experiences, and I think sometimes people don’t realize the gifts that we are given in those times of adversity. So, here we are in the holiday season and I think that my challenge would be is not only write down the people that you’re grateful for, but write down those hardships that you’ve had in your life and figure out the lessons if you haven’t already and be grateful for those lessons and be aware. Like you mentioned earlier, that self-awareness, be aware of the lessons that you learned through those times of adversity and give thanks for that.
Be Your Best Self
PHYLLIS SMITH: There are people, you know, one of the things that you talk about is your love and passion for exercise. There’s people who are … I mean your dad was a tennis coach and you said he played professional tennis and you told us earlier that he was at Wimbledon and he was like one of the best in the world to get there. So, that’s a drive. Right? You’ve gotta drive to get there. Have you always liked to exercise or is that just something you kind of grew up with in a home of an athlete?
GENS JOHNSON: Obviously, in our home it wasn’t option if you were going to do something athletic, it was expected. So, we did do that. So, I also thank my parents for instilling that at a young age, but I can tell you that when I was in college. I gave that freshman 15 just like I think everybody did and if you didn’t that you weren’t having enough fun. So, when I was in college and away from home that’s when I really had to learn to love to exercise, and I can tell you I went in to my very first aerobics class. That’s what they called it back in the day. It was hysterical. I had no rhythm, I couldn’t follow, I was in the back literally laughing so hard I could barely breathe and because I am just so competitive I am going to learn how to do this and I kept doing it and then of course, I learned to love it.
Well, when I left college I was in a position where I couldn’t go to classes. I had to start running and I was in track and field when I was younger, but I ran short distances not long distances and I can remember for 3 months going out 5 days a week running and in my mind, I would say, “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.” And then before long I was like I guess I kind of like this and then I do like, then I do love it and ever since that date Phyllis, I was probably 21 at the time, I have always loved exercise. I’ve done it. It’s been a huge part of my life.
My undergraduate degree is actually in health and wellness and it’s something that I do 6 days a week and I understand that in order to be the best version of ourselves we really have to be in our best physical condition. It helps our mind. It helps our body. It helps our spirit. That is something that I say that if somebody starts to get involved with me before you leave my circle I will get you into exercising, but I’m patient with people. I’m very, very patient because I understand that sometimes that people have a resistance to it. I don’t want people to be resistant to that. So, I love on people until they feel comfortable with me and that is going to be a part of your influence with me, your time with me.
Put Yourself First
PHYLLIS SMITH: Yeah, and you know some people might be looking, watching and listening to this and going, “yeah.” If you can’t see her, she’s gorgeous, right? So, you’re gorgeous on the outside and the inside. But I believe you can work as much as you want and have a beautiful exterior, but on the inside, you feel like crap. So, you know, they go hand in hand. People who don’t feel like exercising or they don’t care about their own wellness. The struggle is not from that they don’t like to exercise. It’s much deeper and they need to know that their worth it.
GENS JOHNSON: Absolutely, 100% you know, people and this is something that a lot people don’t want to hear but people, the more you value yourself, the more self-worth that you have in yourself, and believe me there are people that are extremely successful that are not at the physical condition that they really need to be. It’s an issue of self-worth and putting yourself first and finding not just the time but finding the self-worth within you to put yourself and your physical condition. Like I said, I’m not the … it doesn’t matter to me what somebody looks like. I want people to be in the best physical condition that they can be in for themselves, for their health.
Because I understand, you know, I was in health care for over a decade and I understand the importance of prevention. I mean, I’ll get a soap box. Listen you can prevent diseases. You’ll have disease growing inside you for years before you have a symptom and once you get that symptom then you do have to treat it medically and it’s a lot easier to prevent a disease from growing in your body then it is to treat afterward. I want to help save people that experience because it can be prevented.
So, for me it’s a lot bigger than hey I want you to get in a size 8 dress. I want you to prevent diseases, so you can save your greatness and give it to the world in a much better way and for longer, for years and years to come. I wanna help prevent somebody from having to go through that if they can prevent that.
Make a Plan
PHYLLIS SMITH: We are running out of time. We’ve actually run out of time. So, if you could just give us one quick tip for people who maybe they might have a weight issues or they are looking to reimagine their life in one way or another. What’s the one step that people can take right now today to start moving toward their goal?
GENS JOHNSON: The first thing is stop what you’re doing and sit down and make a plan. That is the most important thing is to stop what you’re doing. Make a plan with a timeline. This is the goal that I want and this the things I need to do to complete and then who are the people that you are going to connect with that is going to help you reach those goals. If you don’t stop and write it down and get those people involved with the timeline so you can start executing and I want people to bring about what their thinking about. Because that’s what really brings us success and happiness.
PHYLLIS SMITH: Beautiful, just beautiful. Bring about what you’re thinking about. Okay, Gens, thank you so much and if people want to reach out to you for you to help them make that plan they can do that. How do they find you?
GENS JOHNSON: Go to my website gensjohnson.com that’s G as in George, E-N-S as in Sally, johnson.com and they can access me there as well as they can even email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I just love people and would love to help in any way that I can.
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