UnYielded: Thriving No Matter What

9-11 Hero from Calamity to Reinvention – John Cerqueira

July 03, 2020 Bobbi Kahler Season 1 Episode 1
UnYielded: Thriving No Matter What
9-11 Hero from Calamity to Reinvention – John Cerqueira
Chapters
00:00:00
Intro to UnYielded Podcast
00:01:37
Intro to Episode and John Cerqueira
00:02:04
Bobbi Kahler Interviews John Cerqueira
00:43:40
Bobbi Kahler's Takeaways from John Cerqueira Episode
UnYielded: Thriving No Matter What
9-11 Hero from Calamity to Reinvention – John Cerqueira
Jul 03, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Bobbi Kahler

John Cerquiera was one of the heroes of 9-11, carrying a disabled woman from the 68th floor of Tower One just minutes before it collapsed. Through this experience and his career as a strategic sales professional, he has helped people learn to work through adversity, grief, and to build more meaningful, satisfying lives.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

John Cerquiera was one of the heroes of 9-11, carrying a disabled woman from the 68th floor of Tower One just minutes before it collapsed. Through this experience and his career as a strategic sales professional, he has helped people learn to work through adversity, grief, and to build more meaningful, satisfying lives.

Show Notes

Contact

johnc@aslantraining.com

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/john-cerqueira-5a22963

 

Bobbi’s Takeaways

I hope you loved that interview as much as I loved conducting it. I hope that you found a lot of great takeaways and also inspiration and John's story. I took so much from the interview in an attempt to keep my takeaway shorter than the actual interview. I've narrowed it down to the following. 

1.       When you're navigating adversity, you have to have faith. You have to have faith that you won't be in the stairwell forever. It's temporary. Find a way to move forward. 

 

2.       When facing a crisis, find frameworks that work for you, and that will help you move forward. Frameworks help us to make sense out of the chaos. 

 

3.       When facing grief, it is okay and even healthy to feel the unpleasantness without judging it. It simply exists. And here I take a broad view on grief. Grief can happen when we lose a loved one. When a major change throws us off the course that we thought we wanted to be on when we lose a job or just when times feel dark and scary.

 

We have this tendency to want to skip past that unpleasant emotions. But two problems with that. Number one, it simply doesn't work that way, whatever emotion we resist will persist. And number two, there are no good or bad emotions. They simply are. Emotions are simply data points and it comes down to how we manifest them in our behavior related to this point.

 

And something that I just have to address is something that I hear all the time. People will say something like, and you've probably said this yourself, but people say something like, you know, my situation, you know? Yeah. It's bad, but it isn't as bad as someone else's. And that may very well be true, but it doesn't mean that it is any less trying or difficult for you.

 

A couple of years ago, I was on the road for work. And I woke up in the hotel in the middle of the night and I walked straight into the edge of the bed post and I broke my toe. I heard it snap. I will never, ever, ever forget that noise. It was terrible. After, after curbing my inner, initial urge to scream at the top of my lungs because the pain and I thought I shouldn't do that because probably the other guests wouldn't like that very much.

 

And I'd probably end up with security called on me. My first thought was, well, Hey, at least you didn't break your leg. Okay. True. I, it could have been worse. Right? I could have broken my leg. I could have fallen down and hit my head. It could have been worse, but that didn't mean that it didn't hurt. It hurt.

 

It hurt a lot. It also didn't mean that it didn't swell up so bad that I couldn't get a shoe on when we seek the angle of it could be worse because they're trying to put things in perspective or find some gratitude for what we do have. That's healthy. However, when we take it to the point where we judge ourselves for feeling bad about the way we're feeling, that's counterproductive, we can feel good that we didn't break our leg and we still need to take care of the broken toe back to my takeaways.

 

4.       We cannot pour from an empty cup. We have to have the courage to take care of ourselves, especially in times of challenge. 

 

5.       When things shift, we need to look at how do I operate within this new structure? Where can I serve? These are just my takeaways. I'd love to hear from you what you found most beneficial by leaving a comment below.

 

Mentioned in this Episode

History Channel Documentary: 911 Escape from the Towershttps://watch.historyvault.com/specials/911-escape-from-the-towers/full-special (paywall)

Scott Galloway - https://www.stern.nyu.edu/faculty/bio/scott-galloway 

Stages of Grief - https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/ 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - https://www.learning-theories.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs.html 

ASLAN Training & Development - https://www.aslantraining.com/

The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better after 50 by Jonathan Rauch



Podcast Introduction

Bobbi Kahler: Welcome to UnYielded: Thriving, No Matter What. This podcast is for those who are committed to thriving, no matter where they are in that journey. And I say journey because thriving is not about achievement. It is not a destination. It is about engagement. When we feel energized by our life. And we feel at our very best.

My name is Bobbi Kahler and I'm your host. And I'm so excited to be on this journey with you. I mentioned that it's a journey and you might find yourself anywhere along that path, you may be starting out. You may be moving up within an organization. You might be an entrepreneur, a business owner, a salesperson, or self employed, or you just might be that person who feels like there's something calling to you, and it's time for a change. 

My mission is to provide stories that inspire us so that when the specter of doubt dark in our doorway, and it always shows up at the absolute worst time we will choose to persist. I will also provide practical skills, perspectives, and ideas that will help us create the habits of thriving and flourishing.

This is about providing hope, knowledge, and assurance that we can all be more fulfilled and successful. If we choose. Let's get right to today's episode.

 
John Cerqueira Episode Intro

Bobbi Kahler: I am so excited to have this guest on my show. He was in Tower One on the 81st floor on the morning of 911. His actions that day led him to be in People Magazine and on Good Morning America and the Oprah Winfrey Show. There was also an amazing documentary on the History Channel detailing his story.

He is also a colleague of mine and a very dear friend. His name is John Cerqueira and I can't wait for you to meet him.


Bobbi Kahler Interviews John Cerqueira

Bobbi Kahler: John, welcome to the show.

[00:02:06] John Cerqueira: Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

[00:02:08] Bobbi Kahler: Absolutely. I was thinking about this. Cause when I was launching the podcast, I thought, okay. Who do I want as a guest? And your name came up pretty quickly on my list. And then I was thinking about how long has it been since we first met, which I think was 2010 in Ogden, Utah.

[00:02:24] John Cerqueira: Wow. Wow. Yeah,  that's a long time ago. That was for a, I don't know if we're allowed to say the company. We'll see what we say about the project. You can hit the edit button, but, yeah, it was a, it was a food manufacturer distribution company. And so, A lot of household names and yes, you were running a workshop for manager development that I had sold.

[00:02:47] And that was the first time we met and in Ogden. Yeah. Gosh, that's crazy. 

[00:02:52] Bobbi Kahler: One of the things I remember about it, and I don't know if you will, we got there at different times. You were getting there late. I got there early in the day. So our travel agent, she said, well, Bobbi, since John's getting there late, I'm going to let him get the car.

[00:03:05] And she told you the opposite. So the next day we're walking out in the parking lot, ready to go to the client and we're walking through the parking lot and you're like, where's the car? And I'm like, what do you mean I didn't get a car? So we were hitchhiking to the client. It was impressive.

[00:03:20] John Cerqueira: Well, you may have a greater kind of sense of control or planning associated with your trips, which makes that much more kind of crystallized in your mind. Most of my trips are kind of like, I'll figure it out when I get there. So that did, that does not even register. I don't even remember that. Melissa, my wife gets frustrated with me cause she'll ask when I go on trips.

[00:03:40] Well, where are you going? Where are you staying? When will you get there? And I'm like, look, I'm going to Austin, Texas. She's like, great, where are you staying? Like, I don't know. I'll look that up on the phone when I get there. How are you getting there? I don't know, but I don't know. There's gotta be a way to do it.

[00:03:54] So I don't remember that. What I, what I do remember is, I do remember that as the first time you made me cry in a workshop. That's what I remember. So what the emotional connection, right? You forget what people. But what is it? You forget, what people do you remember, how they make you feel?

[00:04:11] And, and yeah, I remember that you were telling a story and a, you have a couple of stories that you include in development about being an other centered leader. And , one story was about your mom and like, Persevering with your speech, impediment early on in youth.

[00:04:28] And then the other one I remember was about your boss when you were running a fast food, restaurant. And you didn't have a phone and, and he knew you were a daddy's girl and you had done such a tremendous job with some influx. There were some event in the small town, in which this restaurant was located, and you did such a good job that your boss brought you in the office and said, Hey, I want you to talk to your dad or pick up the phone and called your dad and said, Hey, Your daughter's just done a tremendous job.

[00:04:58] And I just want to give you some time to talk to her. And like both of those stories, I'm just blubbering. We're trying to train people how to sell more and coach more. And I'm over here just like, I want to call my parents and just cry over it. 

[00:05:12] Bobbi Kahler: Oh my goodness. You remember those stories well. 

[00:05:15]John Cerqueira: They're just so they're so powerful and your story is so incredible and, and I love it.

[00:05:22] It's just, it's inspiring. It inspires me to look at it. Stories from my background that help people emote in that same way and not just, you know, driving emotion for the sake of emotion, but getting an emotional engagement. that, that leaves the door open for practical application, practical help, that's scenario based.

[00:05:42] And you just do a phenomenal job with that. So that's what I remember, but yeah, fine. We didn't know a rental car every other day. I don't know how I'm going, where I'm going. Yeah. 

[00:05:51] Bobbi Kahler: Well, you know, and you're talking about my story, which thank you very much. you have, you have a truly amazing story and this is always something that I didn't didn't understand.

[00:06:00] Cause I always thought we were friends, but it was two years later when I finally learned about your story and that came out because we were in Dayton, Ohio different client.

[00:06:12] Doing, 

[00:06:12] I was facilitating the workshop, we're doing introductions. And I'd said, Oh yeah, an intern in your introduction, you know, tell us something that we don't know about you.

[00:06:20] And you said, well, if you really knew me, you know, that Oprah Winfrey once, touched my knee. And I was like, oh, there's a story there. And that's when I learned your story. So do you want to share about your story? 

[00:06:34] John Cerqueira: Sure, of course. so, so. the way I was on Oprah, how I got to Oprah was, I was part of I was involved, I was present during the September 11th terrorist attacks in, in New York.

[00:06:51] So, I graduated from undergrad in, in May of 2001 from NC State University. moved up to New York in June, 2001. And my office was on the 81st floor of Tower. One of the World Trade Center. And so, on the morning of September 11th, I was there with thousands of other people. And when the plane hit the building, my boss and I, headed to the stairwells to evacuate.

[00:07:19] And on the way down, we happened upon a, a woman who was a wheelchair user on the 68th floor. And, we helped her escape and the three of us, you know, got out of the building. About five minutes before our building collapsed. and because of the fact that this woman was not known to us earlier on, she worked for another company.

[00:07:41] It was actually the Port Authority of New York. We actually, in all the chaos, never got her name. And so when we put her in an ambulance and the, and the ambulance sped away, and then, you know, a few minutes afterwards, Our building collapsed, virtually on top of us, we didn't know how to determine whether the woman who we had helped, was able to escape alive.

[00:08:05] And so when reporters were asking us all these questions and what, you know, what had happened, and they could tell the, obviously we were part of the event, cause we were, we were covered in dust and debris and, and really our goal of talking to them was to see if they could help us. You know, find out who this woman was and if she had made it out alive.

[00:08:24] And so that began this kind of media, wildfire, effort. And so we were in USA Today. The next morning we were on People Magazine the next week we were on Good Morning, America, a couple of weeks after that. And then, and then on Oprah. And so that's usually the, instead of giving the full on background, the, Hey, tell me what, there is to know about you that most because people don't know or most people might not know. And the Oprah thing is just the most succinct way to, to get people to, I don't know, pay attention. It's definitely one that spurred some conversation in some of those ice breaker type environments.

[00:09:00] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah, well, it got everyone's attention and anyone who hears your story , they always remember it. I remember too you were on the History Channel. They did a profile and didn't you stop at some point and didn't you call your dad as you guys were descending?

[00:09:16] John Cerqueira: Yeah, sure did. So I tried to call him a couple times one. When the plane first hit the building, this is before anyone knew it was a terrorist attack. It was, it was an, I, it seemed to be an isolated incident and I was trying to call him and an office that was set up as the fire marshall designated area for people to gather.

[00:09:39] And so I tried to call him, there was not able to get through, but then I would say halfway down, our descent, probably in the. In somewhere in the forties or fifties of the, of the building, there was an area that was kind of set up as a triage area for people who were injured or are needed just otherwise medical attention.

[00:09:59] And so I, I got off and called him there and, and it was, it was a, it was an interesting conversation. you know, where we're now looking back at it. He knew what was going on because he was watching the news from, from, you know, at home in North Carolina. And so he knew how, how grave the situation was.

[00:10:18] I didn't, and he ignored it. He tell me, he just told me to get out. He asked me where I was. I told him I was a little lower in the building than I, than I actually was, so that he wouldn't worry. And then to not make me worry, he said, okay, great. yep. It's dangerous. We see the news. Get out, get off the phone right now.

[00:10:35] Stop talking to me and just leave the building. And so, yeah, that was, it was, it was wild when I look back at where I was and what the, what the world was seeing at the time when I was, when I was speaking to him. 

[00:10:48] Yeah. Had to be hard for him. And, you know, at that point to know that you were in such a danger.

[00:10:53] I cannot imagine as now as a parent, to, to feel so helpless and to be so informed about what was going on generally, but so uninformed, you know, as to my whereabouts and my safety. I, I just, I cannot imagine. And it's been, it's been hard. I mean, it's been, it's something that both of my, both my parents, my, my mom in particular, you know, still struggles with today.

[00:11:22] Really? Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:11:25] Bobbi Kahler: Cause, I mean, and there was nothing they could have done to help. Now. I remember when, when we were first talking about this years ago and I asked you, cause you're there, you were, you were what? 22, right out of college on the 68th floor. You see this woman, who's a stranger. You don't know her.

[00:11:40] And I remember asking you at the time, what made you stop to help? 

[00:11:46] John Cerqueira: Yeah. What made us stop to help, you know, the way we happened upon her was that my boss is his name. His name is Mike. We had moved from the 81st floor to the 67th floor pretty rapidly. And we only w we, we only knew that our stairwell was available because a fire marshall  told us that it was, but as we started getting further down the stairs, we realized that not everybody in the floors below us, as we were passing them, knew how to get out. And so on the 67 four, we heard people, you know, in the hallways above us, trying to figure out how to get out. And so we thought, well, you know, we've we have time or we, you know, we, we, we know the answer.

[00:12:34] And there are people who need this answer. So we went back up to go guide them. And so it just became this, this effort of. We're trying to accomplish this goal of making sure people in these hallways know how to get out. And, you know, at first we started guiding people who were closest to the door to the stairwell.

[00:12:55] Then, then they would tell us whether there's people, people in the hallway, you know, halfway down, you know, on the other side of the building. So we went there and then we happened upon the, an office, which is where, this woman, was working and she was there with. All of her other coworkers. And we were just so shocked at the fact that we would see a group of people who at the time were just standing there and unbeknownst to us, they were just standing around because they were, they were kind of blocking the view of, of this woman. So we didn't know what they were doing. And then when we started yelling at them to get out, we realized, we realized why they were delay, why they were, why they were stopping, because they were trying to figure it out. And so, what made us help? I think it was just really the, the momentum of we had a goal to get people towards the stairwell. And then when we found out that there was someone, you know, for whom getting there and getting down would be a barrier, it just became kind of a natural progression of, you know, Hey, do you mind if we help? 

[00:14:00] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah. That's amazing. It's amazing. You went back up. I think a lot of people would have just been concerned about how do I get out.

[00:14:10] John Cerqueira: Yeah, there was some of that. And, you know, similar to some of these pieces, this is, this does not make for good podcasting or television or, or radio. But, you know, I know that there's this, there's this effort to. Paint this picture of, you know, this, this divine intervention. And we were just so, you know, we were so inspired that we just decided to help everybody against all odds, but to be, to be real and to be very human about it, we didn't know the gravity of the scenario.

[00:14:41] And so nor did we, you know, like, like, anybody else have any idea of the timeline when we were, where we were working. Right. We didn't know that it was at that time, probably 45 minutes before the, the floor we were standing on would, would not be there anymore. And so, you know, it's interesting. I like to put that into context you know, because some of these stories will have, you know, the, the heroes from nine 11 and put us in that category. And it's a little embarrassing, you know, if I'm not able to give some context of, Hey, there was an explosion, there was a fire, we didn't know the building was collapsing. And we were just, we were just trying to do, do what was, what was human in nature. And then, and then when I tell that story, other people say, well, even that's great. And so who knows, 

[00:15:30] Bobbi Kahler: You can't get away from people saying it was great, 

[00:15:32] John Cerqueira: I guess. I mean, I think it's just that I was, I was, you know, a 22 year old dummy who likes to do a lot of things that other 22 year olds like to do and go out and go to bars and talk to girls and hanging out with my friends and, And it just the, the juxtaposition between what I thought my life was, and then being thrown into this, this global, event is just still, you know, almost 20 years later, mind boggling to me.

[00:16:00] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah. I can't even imagine John, you said it, you were 22 . Just how did it change you? 

[00:16:07] John Cerqueira: Yeah. I mean it changed me a ton. So, so initially the, the goal alignment or my priority alignment just, just shifted immediately. So the day before, you know, September 10th, my greatest concern was moving into a cool apartment with a few coworkers so that we could be as close to the bars that we like to like to go to as possible. And I had purchased a leather jacket in Soho, that when I got home, I couldn't determine if it was black, like I intended or a very, very dark brown. And, and I was, I was racking my brain on whether it was black or brown.

[00:16:53] That's that that's the, the most complete picture of where my priorities were on September 10th.

[00:16:59]Bobbi Kahler:  That was your big problem. 

[00:17:01] John Cerqueira: The biggest problem I had at my desk in my purview on my windshield was, do I have to go back and try to return this jacket? Because I want it to be black and not just very, very dark brown.

[00:17:12] And so that was my, those are my priorities on September 10th, September 11th. All I wanted to do was see my family, my loved ones, you know, just, just really step back and, and live life with intention. born out of the, the, the reality that, that, you know, life is not infinite. Our life on this earth is not infinite.

[00:17:35] And so, my priorities shifted as far as relationships. Became a much bigger part of, of what drove me. so that was a big deal. that was initially, you know, beyond that, when I look back at the event and what happened and how we were used, my boss and I were used to actually do something good for somebody else you know, and then, and then how that story became helpful to other people who were trying to just, they were just grappling with what. What the world meant for them and, and how to make sense of this senseless act and this new environment that was super unfamiliar to everybody. I really started gravitating towards this idea that, that Aslan where we know each other from, really hits home is that we are most fulfilled when we serve others.

[00:18:37] And, and that, that really became a guiding principle then. And, and it's my guiding principle now it's, you know, when I look at what my priorities were, leather jackets, apartments career in Manhattan, and those were methods of trying to find what I thought would bring fulfillment.

[00:18:55] What would make me happy? What would make me feel, productive. And, and then the shift that to looking at how the impact of doing something that was not in my best interest, it was actually counterproductive to my best interests and how that. Has enriched my life and even the lives of others, that's really, what's changed for me, is that becoming kind of my guiding principle of how I conduct my life in general and, and the guiding principle of, of what I like to do on a day to day basis.

[00:19:29] Bobbi Kahler: Yep. 

[00:19:30] And there's something really powerful about that too, you know? What did you learn about, about moving through adversity through this experience? 

[00:19:38] John Cerqueira: Yeah, a few things and gosh, it's, it's particularly poignant. Now the environment in which we live, where we have COVID-19 and, and not just the safety concerns of that, but the economic impact, you know, we have racial injustice, that's just making everybody reevaluate how we go about our day to day and it's just, it can be super overwhelming. And so there's, there are some pretty stark parallels to 911. and, and what's going on today in at least just in terms of, Hey, the world you thought you were living in and your playbook for how to operate within that world doesn't work anymore. And so we've got to start reevaluating and coming up with some ways , to move forward. And so, you know, I look back at how I adjusted then and what I'm using now for kind of the, the adjustment we all have to go through. And it, it really, it lives in a few different areas. Number one, it's definitely helpful to have some belief, some faith in a higher power.

[00:20:51] So we've got the higher power piece, then it's helpful to look at practically speaking using some frameworks that I know you and I have both been familiar with things like Maslow's hierarchy, seven stages of grief. And then going into the, the, you know, the, we're most fulfilled when we serve others, those really four key elements helped me then, and it helps me now. And so, when I looked back at the first piece, the faith principle my faith is rooted in probably a more conventional Judeo Christian set of ethics. Right. I believe in a God, I believe in a conventional form of heaven, but man, even people who don't believe in that and just believe in things like the universe wanting balance and an equilibrium, or just principles that, there's a professor. Scott Galloway. He's at NYU and he's, he's a marketing professor. He's just super insightful, but he maintains that, nothing in life is as good as you think it is. And therefore nothing is as bad as you think it is.

[00:21:51] There's always kind of this, the central theme of, there's going to be balanced. And so whether you believe in your Judeo Christian type ethics and religion, or you just believe in, more, agnostic or even, kind of worldly principles, just a faith that everything's going to be generally okay is helpful. Right. It just helps you build context that here and now is not all it all there is. And so that just helps build the context and you know, I'm not going to be in a stairwell forever. But if I am that there's some greater purpose associated with it, same thing to today, Hey, we're not going to have this global pandemic forever.

[00:22:28] This is a point in time. It seems intense , but things will move on. We'll, we'll figure out how to, how to create some level of balance. And so that's, that's helped me just from context , beyond that some, some helpful frameworks too, that I use when things shift are, I really rely on things that I learned in, gosh, I think this was my psychology class in high school, and I'm still friends with my teacher who is still teaching. 

[00:22:54] His name is Dr. Steve Jones. He's amazing, but he taught me these frameworks. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. and the stages of grief at the time, there were seven, I think it's evolved from then , but it was a 

[00:23:05] Bobbi Kahler: long time ago, John, come on. 

[00:23:07] John Cerqueira: Oh man. We didn't even know all the stages of grief you could have back then in the nineties.

[00:23:14] Maslow's hierarchy. Just the idea that. at a base level, we need our basic fundamental needs, met your food, your shelter, so on and so forth. Then the next level starts moving into respect and comfort and a sustained level of comfort. And at the pinnacle is what's known as self actualization, right?

[00:23:30] That's the idea that, Hey, once everything's pretty satisfied, how do we grow as human beings? And so when, when these events happen, when there's crises that emerge like this. I, I see it as an opportunity to just feel okay with moving further down that Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And so I think a lot of us, like you, and probably a lot of listeners to this podcast consider ourselves to be high performing professionals, high performing kind of, you know, I don't know human beings that would probably put us closer to that self-actualization level.

[00:24:04] But when we all face a crisis, it's okay to say, Oh gosh are the levels that are lower, that are more fundamental in that hierarchy of needs? Are they even being met? Right. Am I safe? Can I consider, can I rely upon some level of safety for a prolonged period or gosh, is, you know, what's my job look like.

[00:24:26] Am I, am I financially secure? So it's okay to know that when things shift you can go backwards and say, Hey, are my fundamental needs met. And I hear a lot of people getting frustrated with, you know, gosh, I thought my sales number was going to be better this year. I thought revenue is going, to be better.

[00:24:43] I thought my career was going to be at a greater trajectory and I'm feeling stuck. And I don't know how to navigate that. And I think if people just recognize that, Hey, when things shift, it's okay to go back and figure out. If fundamentals on which you relied upon, if they're taken care of first and then you can build yourself back up, the other piece around the, the stages of grief starts with the denial ends up with, with acceptance.

[00:25:11] That's a really good trajectory to follow when you're faced with a crisis that drives grief. I don't think a lot of people recognize that this COVID and gosh, of course policing debates and protests associated with it, like we're facing grief some greater than others. and it's okay to realize that everybody, the human range of emotion starts in this denial. And then multiple steps before you have acceptance and before things are better. And one of the steps that I think is particularly important to reconcile with, or get comfortable with is there's a stage in those seven stages of grief that speaks to depression, right?

[00:25:53] There was a time where, when you're going through grief, once you go through denial and your anger and your bargaining and , the crisis really starts hitting home, there's a stage of depression and I think it's important for people to recognize that that is a step in the process. It's not something that's wrong with you, right?

[00:26:11] That, psychological, conditions and mental health is starting to kind of relieve the the weight of a stigma associated with it, but there are still people who kind of beat themselves up about not being able to buck up and being too depressed, not being able to snap out of it. And, and I think it's important for people to recognize that when there's a crisis, it's okay for some self care to recognize that, you know, yeah, this sucks.

[00:26:38] And if you're going to be down about it, there's nothing wrong with you. It is a step in the process, right? You know, that's the step in the process that then ultimately lands on, well, what are you going to do about this? And I think that's where the, the tenet of we're most fulfilled when we serve others really comes into play.

[00:27:00] Because if you're going to get to that acceptance, the hope is that you're not getting that acceptance without changing your behavior without figuring out how you're going to operate , within kind of the new structure. And so the best way that I found. To feel empowered to be fulfilled and ultimately to help drive change is to figure out, well, where can I serve?

[00:27:24] Where is where's the way that once, once my level of Maslow's hierarchy, once those levels are at a point where I can rely upon my safety, then where else can I help? And whether that's helping other people through those seven stages, whether it's helping somebody who is stuck at kind of a lower rung of a Maslow's hierarchy, right.

[00:27:46] Where they're not as safe, they're not as financially secure, they're not as comfortable with their career, as the policing debate rages on how we as white allies can help our colleagues and our friends of color.

[00:28:01] It's just, what are we going to do once we realized that this is the new state of the world or state of the world that we've just become exposed to. And so that driving towards a level of fulfillment by serving others, becomes the mechanism that kind of propels me forward. And I would argue would help propel other people forward as we're dealing with adversity or any type of crisis.

[00:28:23] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah, what's the one thing that I can do to serve. And, John there's so much good stuff in there. When you were talking about the seven stages of grief. I remember this was, I think I was in college and I had a psychology professor and we're talking about it.

[00:28:35] And she said that most people, they have a tendency. They want to skip past the unpleasant. Emotions, you know, the anger, the depression, that type of thing. I read a book years ago. I have it somewhere on my bookshelf. It's called the Dance of Anger. And we're always taught where we should ever feel anger.

[00:28:52] And what this person is saying is anger is an emotion. And it's a, it's a fine emotion. It's telling us that something's not right. Perhaps what's not okay. Is to lose your temper all over the place. That's how we express it. 

[00:29:06] John Cerqueira: Right. Yeah, I think, I mean, there's this idea that there are no wrong emotions.

[00:29:12] All emotions are valid. it's how they, manifest themselves in your behavior is what, you know, what, what, what drives a level of self control and ultimately is seen by others. And so that's where I just kind of look at those, you know, Three big buckets. It's faith that, that there's something bigger than us.

[00:29:33] There's there's context that what we're going through is a point in time, then some practical frameworks about, Hey, are my, are my needs being met? Or my basic needs be met. Am I at a place where I can help others? Right? You can't, you can't pour from an empty cup. So if we're filled, then we can serve others.

[00:29:52] And then the seven stages of grief, I think really is you, you hit it home . That all these emotions are valid. there is value in recognizing and valuing the unpleasantness that requires us to go through for growth. And then as far as what are we going to do going forward? How are we going to let that manifest itself in our behavior?

[00:30:14] The best methods are just looking at where I can serve and there's multiple ways to do that, but I think that's how I've made sense of what happened in 2001. And gosh, even in the the 2008 recession, 2008, 2009, 2010, that was tough times. And now we're going through a series of crises now.

[00:30:34] And, and those are the tools in my toolbox that are at least helping me navigate. 

[00:30:39] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah. And there's a couple more, I want to explore there because I want to make sure that we, that we come back to one, too. 

[00:30:46] John Cerqueira: Please. 

[00:30:47] Bobbi Kahler: Before getting to that one, though, on the seven stages, we don't have to judge whatever emotion we're feeling, right.

[00:30:53] It is what it is. So don't judge it. Right? The other thing, and this is from someone else I learned, I think it was a coach years ago, but she said, whatever emotion that you resist will persist, . You know what I mean? 

[00:31:04] John Cerqueira: Yeah. Yeah. Don't, don't keep it at bay. You know, live in it, live in the present, I love that.

[00:31:10] I mean there's so many great experts in the field of mindfulness and one of the big t enets of mindfulness is being present there's all these different kind of competing beliefs about what meditation means.

[00:31:22] Meditation can mean put all your thoughts out of your mind, but then there's some people who say, well, I can't, so now it's actually creating, that's actually making me more stressed out. 

[00:31:30] Bobbi Kahler: I get really stressed. I can't do this. Right. 

[00:31:32] John Cerqueira: Yeah. My meditation is stressing me out because I can't do it. And the balance that the experts or the philosophies that I, that I find most comfort in or most practically appealing is.

[00:31:45] Mindfulness can just be an awareness of what's going on. You don't have to ignore what's going on. In fact, ignoring it might make it worse, but just feeling, Hey, if I'm having a great day, I'm having a wonderful walk and the weather's phenomenal and the sun's out and I'm with my family, you know it's good to stop and appreciate that as a feeling like appreciate the, the, the good parts, but conversely.

[00:32:08] When I'm going through trying times, and when you're down in the dumps or when you're frustrated or stressed, it's equally as valuable to stop and say, you know, I recognize what I'm feeling here, and these feelings are valid and helpful and productive for me to feel. And so just the more you start leaning into, recognizing and be mindful of what you're feeling, then no feelings are wildly bad.

[00:32:37] Right. It's just a way to recognize and operate. 

[00:32:42] Bobbi Kahler: They're just data points. 

[00:32:43] John Cerqueira: They are. 

[00:32:44] Bobbi Kahler: Yup. You know, the other thing I wanted to talk about too, cause I thought John, I don't know if I've ever heard anybody talk about it this way. Maybe I wasn't paying attention in class. It's entirely possible. yeah. When you were talking about the hierarchy of needs and you said it's okay.

[00:33:01] I think there's always this pressure. We're always supposed to be moving up into that, you know? And, and you said it's okay to let yourself maybe go back down a little bit to make sure you're covered. And it was just something that I don't know if I've ever heard anybody talk about it quite that way. 

[00:33:15] But where does that come from for you?

[00:33:19] John Cerqueira: Yeah. Great, great point. And to be clear, I am not an academic in this field at all, which, by the way. I mean, that's, that's OK. I'm, I'm very comfortable making claims that are not backed up by science at all, but, but no, I think it was, it was the recognition Bobbi that, that, yeah, the Maslow's hierarchy, it was taught to me, accurately or not it always seemed like, hey, it is just this progression. I move from the bottom up and there's always one way, but then. When I start looking at the trends in our lives, it's really interesting.

[00:33:53] There's a wonderful book it's called The Happiness Curve. and it claims that our happiness dips as not just human beings, not just Americans, but across the world and in even the animal kingdom, your lifespan, your relative lifespan, you dip in kind of a level of happiness.

[00:34:11] And what is now in our late in, in forties, and you start getting out of it in your early fifties. That's a claim that this person's making, and there are multiple claims on the fact that kind of your happiness or your feeling of productivity or success undulates in life. And so when I map the undulations in your perception of your progress and your success and your fulfillment. and I look at the downswing in those undulations that makes me look at Maslow's hierarchy and says, you know what? We're not just always moving up. When things change. When the ground shifts underneath us by a financial crises, social unrest, political unrest, you know, a pandemic, we start moving downwards in our fulfillment, our success.

[00:34:59] And if we're going to move downwards in our feelings of fulfillment, it stands to reason in my mind that as we're moving up in Maslow's hierarchy, it's okay to say, Hey, when the ground's shifting, is it okay for me to look and make sure that some of these fundamental elements that I thought were in place and on which I relied, you know, are they still there?

[00:35:20] And if they're not like I've got to go figure it out. Right. So, so yeah, that might just be my interpretation on how you can use a very valuable framework, not when you're just in a growth mindset, but when you're in a, you know, when you're in a defensive mindset, 

[00:35:36] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah. And I think it also gets to the piece around maybe self care even.

[00:35:41] Right. and that it's okay. And I think a lot of times in our society, we're just pushed to always go, you know, to, to keep going and pushing harder and harder. And sometimes it's okay to say, you know what? I need to make sure that my bases are covered. 

[00:35:54]John Cerqueira:  I mean, how many times, how many stories do we, do we hear about people who are at the pinnacle of what success might be defined in their world, whether it's an actor, some artists, someone who's a captain of industry, someone running a hedge fund and they get to this level and they have a breakdown, right?

[00:36:13] They go to rehab or they burn out or worse, they take their own lives. And so, you've got these people moving upwards and they've identified what they believe are the markers of success. They achieve them, which would, which again, will put you at that higher, that pinnacle area of Maslow's hierarchy, but then meanwhile, their actual health, their fundamental safety, their wellbeing that lets them operate on a day to day basis is at risk.

[00:36:41] And so, you know, when you're facing that. Crisis, whether it's self-created perceived or it's, it's based on your, your external circumstances. you know, it's worthwhile to say, gosh, are my, are those basic elements worthwhile? Because I can't build the third floor if the foundation of my house isn't sound. 

[00:37:01] Bobbi Kahler: That's right. And you can't, I've learned this one the hard way. When I got sick in 2003, you know, I spent however many months in bed. And it occurred to me, you know, it's really hard to serve anyone else when I can barely sit up. Like I can't help people right now. Yeah, and that was painful.

[00:37:17] Wow. Tons of good stuff there. So what are you up to today? Of course, I know the answer, but tell us what you're up to today. 

[00:37:23] John Cerqueira: What am I up to today? So, so my professional life is exclusively with ASLAN Training and Development. So we're a sales training and management coaching firm.

[00:37:33] We work with large organizations that are trying to move their people in a more productive direction. Most often it's related to sales people or customer service, people who, if they change their behavior, they will be more successful themselves. And the company will achieve their financial goals.

[00:37:55] And so, that's what we're doing. You know, our, our path to getting there is. starting with that foundational principle of we are most fulfilled when we serve others, not just because it's the path to, to being a good person, but the more we suppress our self-centered motives and help other people, the more rewarded we'll be, it's this, it's this paradox of the less, I care about what I get out of, out of serving, ultimately the more I get out of it. And so, I'm working with ASLAN, doing that for a handful of clients, in multiple different industries. I'm also, I'm a, I'm a, a dad, I'm a husband and a dad of, my wife of almost 11 years. No, it is actually 11 years and my eight year old daughter.

[00:38:38] And so we're, we're just trying to navigate, we're trying to navigate all the things that are, that are facing us, right. How to deal with, you know what social distancing and running our respective jobs without traveling, you know, candidly educating our daughter, on what's going on, with race relations and systemic racism, and then reaching out to people within our organization and outside of the organization to see where we can help, where we can help on that front.

[00:39:06] And so, that's, that's what I've been doing. And, and then trying to have a little bit of fun. In the meantime, it's getting warmer. It's nice out. And so, seeing where we can salvage whatever summertime, activities, that are, that are still available to us.

[00:39:20] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah, and I know you, you love the water. Right? 

[00:39:23] John Cerqueira: Love the water. I love to be out. Sailing is a, is a passion of mine, and so whenever I can be out, on a boat, harnessing the wind and being out there is a, is a good day for me. 

[00:39:37] Bobbi Kahler: Now, did you ever get the paddleboard? We talked about that at one point.

[00:39:39] John Cerqueira: Heck yeah. Oh yeah. 

[00:39:41] Yeah. 

[00:39:43] Paddleboard all over the place. We're in Raleigh. So that's about two hours from the beach, but we have a few lakes here in town and, so that's really easy to just throw the paddleboard on the car and head out there. And when I feel like having the paddleboard, as we're going, you know, 80 miles an hour down the highway, we'd throw it on and bring it down the beach.

[00:40:05] Bobbi Kahler: And hopefully, and hope it doesn't fly off the back.

[00:40:07] John Cerqueira: That's the goal here. There's been plenty of times where we pull off the highway. Cause I'm not, again, I don't purport to be an academic. Nor do I purport to be someone who knows how to sufficiently secure anything about my car that will stay on 80. So we'll pull off on exits and have to have to fix that every once in a while.

[00:40:25] Bobbi Kahler: Oh my goodness. Remind me. I never want to drive behind you.

[00:40:28] John Cerqueira: You never do, but it's, it might be slightly preferable to driving with me. 

[00:40:32] Bobbi Kahler: I've been in that boat too. So, so John, if someone wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way. 

[00:40:38] John Cerqueira: They can email me, at johnc@aslantraining.com.

[00:40:42] So there's J O H N the letter C at ASLAN A S L A N training.com. or, I'm on LinkedIn. John Cerqueira. Last name is C E R Q U E I R A. And, and so yeah, anybody that has any inquiries on, what business related or life related or otherwise, you know, happy to engage in those conversations, 

[00:41:07] Bobbi Kahler: Cause you, you do some speaking on this, don't you? 

[00:41:10] John Cerqueira: I do. Yeah. I do some speaking on this, you know, really the subject matter, the origins are usually founded in the connection of 911 and landing in the principle of, you know, we are most fulfilled when we serve others, but depending on the audience, I can adjust the messaging.

[00:41:31] And so I've spoken at a, you know, first responders appreciation events, where we're thanking, you know, EMT and police officers and firefighters for their efforts, spoken to. you know, philanthropic organizations who want to hear the story, of 911, but also want to feel some connection to how what they're doing on a daily basis in their community is a value.

[00:41:54] And then in business context, just the idea of how serving others and being fulfilled is really the most productive way to interact with your clients. If you're a salesperson for interacting with your employees, if you're a people manager or even gosh, interacting, cross departmentally.

[00:42:13] You know, sales people having to interact with, accounting or project management and different entities within organizations can oftentimes be at odds. And so just helping people to manage the intricacies of just human interaction and being other centered, are usually applications for our speaking.

[00:42:34] Bobbi Kahler: And I can attest to it. You're you are a great speaker. You're a great facilitator. 

[00:42:39] John Cerqueira: Thank you. That's a huge compliment coming from you because you know what you are, you know how good you are. And so that's quite an honor. Thank you. 

[00:42:49] Bobbi Kahler: No. I mean, it, you you're, you're really great at it.

[00:42:51] You, you know, I've seen you where, you know, you had some, you probably remember the client I'm thinking about, you had some people in the room who seriously didn't want to be there and you got everybody excited and they were on the same page. And I was thinking, I'm so glad I had the other class. 

[00:43:07] John Cerqueira: I remember.

[00:43:10] Bobbi Kahler: So John, this has been absolutely fabulous. Any, any final words of wisdom? 

[00:43:15] John Cerqueira: Be, be good to others. Be good yourself. You have no idea what other people are going through. And so, you know, just practice and remember kindness. This is my parting shot. 

[00:43:28] Bobbi Kahler: Yeah. That's good advice. Right. Nice and simple and powerful.

[00:43:33] So thank you 

[00:43:34] John Cerqueira: again. Absolutely. Thank you.


Bobbi Kahler's Takeaways from John Cerqueira Episode

Bobbi Kahler: I hope you loved that interview as much as I loved conducting it. I hope that you found a lot of great takeaways and also inspiration and John's story. I took so much from the interview in an attempt to keep my takeaway shorter than the actual interview. I've narrowed it down to the following. 

One. When you're navigating adversity, you have to have faith. You have to have faith that you won't be in the stairwell forever. It's temporary. Find a way to move forward. 

Two. When facing a crisis, find frameworks that work for you, and that will help you move forward. Frameworks help us to make sense out of the chaos. 

Three. When facing grief, it is okay and even healthy to feel the unpleasantness without judging it. It simply exists. And here I take a broad view on grief. Grief can happen when we lose a loved one. When a major change throws us off the course that we thought we wanted to be on when we lose a job or just when times feel dark and scary.

We, have this tendency to want to skip past that unpleasant emotions. But two problems with that. Number one, it simply doesn't work that way, whatever emotion we resist will persist. And number two, there are no good or bad emotions. They simply are. Emotions are simply data points and it comes down to how we manifest them in our behavior related to this point.

And something that I just have to address is something that I hear all the time. People will say something like, and you've probably said this yourself, but people say something like, you know, my situation, you know? Yeah. It's bad, but it isn't as bad as someone else's. And that may very well be true, but it doesn't mean that it is any less trying or difficult for you.

A couple of years ago, I was on the road for work. And I woke up in the hotel in the middle of the night and I walked straight into the edge of the bed post and I broke my toe. I heard it snap. I will never, ever, ever forget that noise. It was terrible. After, after curbing my inner, initial urge to scream at the top of my lungs because the pain and I thought I shouldn't do that because probably the other guests wouldn't like that very much.

And I'd probably end up with security called on me. My first thought was, well, Hey, at least you didn't break your leg. Okay. True. I, it could have been worse. Right? I could have broken my leg. I could have fallen down and hit my head. It could have been worse, but that didn't mean that it didn't hurt. It hurt.

It hurt a lot. It also didn't mean that it didn't swell up so bad that I couldn't get a shoe on when we seek the angle of it could be worse because they're trying to put things in perspective or find some gratitude for what we do have. That's healthy. However, when we take it to the point where we judge ourselves for feeling bad about the way we're feeling, that's counterproductive, we can feel good that we didn't break our leg and we still need to take care of the broken toe back to my takeaways.

Number four. We cannot pour from an empty cup. We have to have the courage to take care of ourselves, especially in times of challenge. 

And number five, when things shift, we need to look at how do I operate within this new structure? Where can I serve? These are just my takeaways. I'd love to hear from you what you found most beneficial by leaving a comment below.

If you found this podcast helpful, please consider subscribing as well as leaving us a five star review below. If you know someone who could benefit from the podcast, the message that we are spreading. Please tell them about it. 

Again, this has been the UnYielded podcast, and I believe that thriving isn't a destination. It is a process, an evolution where we are continuing to expand who we are. It's how we grow into who we were meant to be and how we become our very best selves. And I also believe it's how we make the world a better place as well. My life's work is to change the world for the better one life at a time.

I hope that you'll help me do that by sharing the word.

 

 

Intro to UnYielded Podcast
Intro to Episode and John Cerqueira
Bobbi Kahler Interviews John Cerqueira
Bobbi Kahler's Takeaways from John Cerqueira Episode