Taking that conscious pivot requires letting go. It comes with the understanding that you need to move on from certain parts of your life in order to step into a newer and truer path. Nina Sossamon-Pogue is a former TV News Anchor, Tech Exec, and member of the USA gymnastics team. These experiences helped shape her current career as a speaker and author with a fascination for Resilience & Success after Change. In this episode, she joins Adam Markel to share her amazing journey and how the failures that went along with the wins in her life became a resource to inspire others through speaking, podcasting, and book writing. At the heart of it, Nina tells us about the value of resilience, especially in a world that is fast-changing. She dives deep into the courage of taking a step back, of doing something greater. Tune in to this great conversation and gain insights on finding success even after pivoting.
- 06:16 – The Bravery of Taking a Step Back
- 14:35 – What Is Resilience
- 19:55 – Reframing How We Look at Quiet Quitting
- 24:48 – Nina’s THISes
- 36:37 – Stoicism, Change, and Success
- 42:36 – This Is Not the End
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Finding Resilience And Success After Change With Nina Sossamon-Pogue
On this episode, we have Nina Sossamon-Pogue, a speaker and author with a fascination for resilience and success after a change. A former Emmy award-winning TV news anchor, tech exec, and member of the USA Gymnastics team, she shares that failure went along with all of those wins as the backdrop for her speaking, her podcast, and her amazing book, This Is Not ‘The End’. It is a wonderful book title. You’re going to love this conversation. Enjoy.
Nina, we’ve gotten to read your extensive bio and I know we’re going to unpack that bio a lot more during our conversation. I already have a sense of that from what we said in our pregame but here’s my first question to you. What’s one thing that’s not part of your standard bio that you would love for people to know about you?
I recharge all alone. I am one of those people that gets a lot of energy from people. I did a huge event. It was 3,500 people and I loved it. I had so much energy, but it took me two days of being on my own. That’s where I do my best recharging and my best thinking. I don’t share that with many people because they expect me to be so out there.
There’s some bit of a surprise and you and I are simpatico right out of the gate because I will often say that to audiences when we talk about energy. When I’m speaking about that topic in relation to resilience as an example, I will say to people, “How do you recharge?” Our definition of resilience is not about endurance, grit, grind, or any of that stuff that we know at this point doesn’t work. It doesn’t work long term, but it’s recovery and the rituals for a recovery that produces longer-lasting resilience.
I’ll say to them, “How do you recover? Do you recover with other people or do you recover on your own?” You might be surprised me standing on this stage or wherever I am at the moment talking to a whole bunch of people that my method is just as yours is, Nina. I have to be alone. It’s a solitary experience and I consider myself an introvert in that respect. I get energy back, I regain it through my own practice that’s more internal, and other people like my own brother, my own flesh and blood have to be or want to be in crowds of people, loud music, and all that energy, which I get. That’s how he recharges his battery. It’s interesting, isn’t it?
Like a big concert, I love to go in for a bit, but it exhausts me. I need to be on my own. I had such a public life in so many different aspects of my life and have been out in front performing even in my young days as an athlete that people think I would be all out there all the time. However, it’s not. The other thing that came through my head when you asked me that, I was going to say, “I’m working on my handstand right now,” because I have this thing where even if I turn 100, I still have to be able to stand on my hands. I’m in a crunch time between now and Christmas, by the end of the year because I’ve been slacking off a little bit.
Good for you. I was a swimmer in college aspiring to be a much better swimmer than I was. I had a few moments I made my parents proud because it seemed like anytime people would show up to see me swim, I was like shot out of a cannon. When they weren’t there, not quite so much or whatever, and certainly, not in practice, which is a whole other story.
It’s funny because there’s an element of, “I have to still be able to do a flip turn. I still have to be able to swim when I’m in the pool with other swimmers. I’m going to go back and forth using flip turns.” You have to be able to do a handstand and you also were a gymnast in college but not only an ordinary athlete like I would call myself in that arena. You had some other kind of experience. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that, Nina?
I was on the US team before college. I was young in my career. I’m 15 or 16. I was on the US team back in the day with Mary Laurita and then Bart Conner and that group. I went to Japan, Hungary, Germany, and Australia, and all over the world but then I didn’t make the Olympic team. I call that one of my first THIS. It was one of those moments where my whole life went in a new direction.
I was a college athlete and I blew out my knee. I was one of the top recruits in the nation. I went to LSU, an SEC fan. It was a great gymnastics program and I blew out my knee in my freshman year. I like to say I went on to graduate in boys and booze for a while but I blew out my knee and had a difficult time trying to figure out who I was without gymnastics because it’d been my whole life.
Like swimming, these two sports have this in common. If you’re going to be super successful in that arena, more often than not you’re not a late bloomer. I got started in swimming when I was in my sophomore year in high school but these kids that I was swimming against even then had been in AAU Meets and been swimming since they were 5, 4, or 3. I don’t know what, but they were babies. I’m sure you got started in gymnastics when you were just a little tyke, right?
Yeah. I then moved away from home at thirteen. I moved into the Olympic training center at thirteen and my parents were in Florida. It was up outside of DC and Maryland. I moved into one of the training centers. I’ve been on my own since thirteen. I’m fiercely independent, but yeah, it becomes your whole life. You don’t go to school as the other kids do.
You had to be up early and probably swam in the morning before school or swam after school. I did stretch and strength in the morning, then we’d go to school for a few hours. We’d train all afternoon. There was no dating in high school. There were no chances or football games. The first time I went to a football game, I was working on television and they asked me to go over a Friday night high school football thing. It was my first time ever going to a high school football game as a journalist.
I want to bring something up. I didn’t expect this to happen, but I’m thrilled that it’s come through. When I’m delivering a resilience keynote talk, often I will make references to all storytellers, “You’re a keynote speaker and you’re in front of the public a lot as I am.” Grasp any concept, but certainly not an ordinary concept. If you’re trying to spin something differently, turn it on its head, create a new paradigm, and help people to get a new insight, you have to sync a lot of that deeply. Storytelling is one of the greatest ways to do that. It’s the thing that people can remember.
For more than a year now, I’ve been talking about Simone Biles. I don’t use it in every single event, but I bring it up where it feels appropriate to talk about what she modeled at the Olympics in 2021. It was still the pandemic and Japan was somehow able to put on a delayed version of the Olympic Games. I thought what she did was pretty astounding. It was controversial. For folks, if you don’t know, Simone Biles took herself out of the meet right at the start of this meet. For those of you that don’t know, she’s like Michael Jordan. You only have to say the first name and everybody gets it. She’s just one of the greatest Olympic athletes, and gymnasts that’s ever been.
The world was shocked and a lot of people were shocked. A lot of people became critical and then a lot of people also came to her aid because at that moment, as I understand it, she was not fully there mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually perhaps. She wasn’t at her best. He had something described as the twisties. I didn’t know what the twisties were but you could tell us. Let’s start this conversation about Simone. I have a certain through the line I want to get to with it. What’s your take on what happened to Simone when she had the “twisties”?
I’m a huge fan of her as a person and as an athlete. I would say not only one of the best gymnasts of all time. She is one of the best Olympic athletes of all time. She’s quite something. Having been an athlete at that level, I’ve defended this often because I’m in a world of athletes often. It’s very different for people to think about it. They call it the yips in baseball. My first husband played Pro Bowl.
They call it the yips in golf too.
If you are in golf, you can get the yips or in any sport. You could not be on your game but if you do that, you don’t die. You don’t paralyze yourself or die if you get the yips. You don’t know where you are and your brain’s not connecting to stuff that you don’t have to think about. All that stuff that runs in the back of your head when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t think about how high you lift your arms and when you twist and when you come out of that. Your brain just knows it.
If you were in a moment where nothing’s connecting, you can hurt yourself or you can kill yourself. The stuff that she did, she could do very much bodily harm and put herself in a position that’s super dangerous. It’s the fact that she was strong enough to realize that it is what was going on with her body. It only happened to me twice the whole time I was an athlete and I was a gymnast for many years. I remember once as a very young gymnast in the middle of a twist opening up. I remember it because I knocked on my coach who was spotting me. I knocked him in the face and he was angry.
I also had one other time where I did it in a vault, where she was having that experience too. You’re way up in the air and if you’re kinesthetic awareness, you don’t know where the ground is and you’re lost. It is cold chills through your whole body. It’s hard to even explain what that feels like. You have no idea what’s going to happen next. Usually, you’re so sure. It’s second nature. You’ve been doing this your whole life.
You go up in the air, you spin and you flip. You know where the ground is. You don’t think about it. It just is. It’s chillingly frightening and I can’t explain it more than that, but it’s something that unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to explain but I have great respect for her because so many athletes would be like, “I can get over this,” and you can’t. It’s something’s disconnecting. I defend her a lot. It’s not like getting the yips or having a problem in another sport where you’re not going to win. You’re going to hurt yourself and it’s not going to be a small injury.
It is terrifying.
The things that she does.
This is something that maybe most people that are reading have never heard me say before. I’ll answer the question, “What’s something people don’t know about you that you want them to know?” I want them to know this now. I met my beautiful wife, Randi, a long time ago in a Child Psychology class at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. I was coming to that class and the reason we met was that I had to borrow a pen. I picked up pretty quickly that I could borrow the same pen from her every single day.
There was a lot more than a pen going on.
It’s a couple of decades later that we were together with four kids and stuff so it was a good decision. I didn’t have a pen legitimately the first time because I was coming from gym class. I had a very tough class right before this Intro to Psychology class, which was a trampoline and I was learning in that class how to do back summies, not only from the trampoline but from the mat.
I’ll never forget. At some point, we were out walking in town and I said, “I can do a back summy now.” It was nighttime. We were on grass walking in a quad or something. I said, “Watch this. I’m going to do a back summy.” I did what you described. I threw my arms back. My body went up. I completely started to think about what it was going to be and froze. I opened up and landed on my neck. The good thing is I didn’t hang myself up.
It was a pivotal moment for her as a leader and I consider Simone a leader, not only of that team but across the globe as an athlete, as a woman, or as a person who has done some and continues to do amazing things with her life. To take a step back at that moment to say, “I’m on pause here. I’m taking myself out of this meet,” was profound because I feel like she took a step back even in the midst of that criticism and then a week later, as folks may recall, the story goes. She got back in the meet.
In that interim period, other gymnasts were able to step up. It was because she stepped back and in fact, I forget the name of one of the gymnasts, but somebody else won a silver medal that wouldn’t have even been in the meet had it not been for the fact that Simone took herself out which was again, thinking about not just her own safety but the success of the team. A week later, she puts herself back in the meet and gets on the balance beam, and wins a bronze medal, which is what she won in Rio as well. You tell me. I want to know what you think is the hardest event for you. I can’t even picture everything I see but to do that on a balance beam is insane. Was that the toughest event for you?
I always say, the floor was my best event because you can’t fall off it. The beam was very difficult. Beam was one of my top events as well, but bars were what I was the weakest on. Beam is a head game that’s like putting. A lot of it’s in your head when you’re on the beam.
She comes back into the meet to get into the head game of the beam and wins the medal for her country but it was profound because when we think about resilience, I thought she demonstrated and modeled this so perfectly in a world where people are exhausted and depleted. They think because it’s been the training and the programming from the past from other people and from their culture. Even where they grew up, a lot of people all over the world believe that there are extra points to grind it out. Somehow, you get extra points in heaven for gritting it out.
She was a great demonstration of taking a step back so she didn’t have to have a setback and that was profound. It is an example for all of us because not only did she get to recharge and recover but then she was able to get in and do something valuable for her country and for herself as well. I would love to start this conversation with your personal definition of resilience and what it looks like for you.
You hit the nail on the head right there. The definition of resilience that I use is from the Center for Resilience. It’s the ability to learn and grow stronger and adapt in a positive way when something happens in your life. It’s that adapt in a positive way that I lean into when I’m speaking and talking and thinking. It’s the adapt piece.Resilience is the ability to learn and grow stronger and adapt in a positive way when something happens in your life. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of people who speak on grit and persistence. I believe those things have a place but during the pandemic when everybody couldn’t double down and go hard, everybody’s had to go, “That’s why this word resilience is so important.” It’s because I have to adapt. I have to figure out how to adapt in a positive way to what’s going on because I can’t double down or go harder or grind my way through this.
That’s the definition that I use and the piece to adapt in a positive way is key for me. You hit the nail on the head when you said this long-term. I talk a lot about lifetime learning and future success. Adapting in a positive way is how you get to future success. Life changes. Everybody has challenges. Some people are a lot bigger than others but everybody has challenges and your ability to adapt and find success on the other side has a lot to do with how you handle the THIS.
This long-term success is when you can see a future where the things that you want are coming into play and you can take yourself out of it or make an adjustment so you have this long-term success. Here’s a fun thing. I do this lifetime timeline and if you think about Simone, she’s twenty-something. She’s young. I’ll use my own life because I know my own math and I’m not a math whiz and it would take me a minute to do her math.How you handle tough moments in life is directly related to your level of success and happiness in the future. Click To Tweet
When I lost my sport, I was nineteen. When I was nineteen years old, gymnastics had been 78% of everything I’ve known in my life. When I was 50, I had a news and journalism career and then a tech career. When I was 50 and I look back, that was less than 20% to 26% of my life. If I live to be 100, it’s going to be even smaller.
That percentage of how big, it feels huge at the moment, but if you look at your lifetime and being resilient for a lifetime and continuing to adapt in a positive way as your life throws challenges and changes at you, that’s that long-term thinking that we get into. One of the things that I like to share is this fun thing that an old boyfriend brought up to me. I’ve talked about it in my book. Do you remember a summer when you were ten? It felt like the longest time in the world when you’re ten years old and summer’s stretched out in front of you all this time. You have to wait for two weeks to go to summer camp and stuff. Summer is big when you’re ten.
When you’re 40, maybe you have a ten-year-old. Summer comes and you’re like, “Where’d it go? It came and went so fast.” It’s the same thing. When you’re ten, that whole year is 1/10 of everything you know so it seems huge. However, when you’re 40, it’s 1/40. It’s the same 365 days but the math totally works against us and that’s why it seems like life is going so fast. It’s a fun mind game to think about.
When I think about Simone, this was a point in her life. She has a huge amazing life ahead of her. She’s going to do so many fantastic things outside of gymnastics. She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for a lifetime and that was a moment when she didn’t have to take herself in a really bad place. That’s my thought on that.
She didn’t have to force it. To stay on that for one more second, the world is looking at her. You think about our decisions in life where we made a mistake or we failed at something or whatever the case might have been or we made a difficult decision. It’s not like you literally had the cameras of the world on you and analyzing in real-time whether you were a quitter or whether you were brave. What did this mean? It’s quite a surreal experience to imagine being literally in her shoes at that moment and having the courage to do what she did. It’s a great learning lesson because so often I run into people.
We have a resilient leader assessment that we typically use as part of our process when we’re getting ready to deliver a workshop or a keynote. More than 5,000 people across the globe and business leaders mostly have taken this assessment and the scores are quite shocking. In so many respects, they’re baked into the four zones, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. The one thing that’s consistent across those things is that people try to force things. They’re exhausted and depleted in part because they’re trying so hard.
I don’t lack in tenacity or persistence, but it’s what you said, Nina. There’s an element of that is like we’re making a cake or something. There’s an ingredient that’s called persistence or an ingredient called tenacity or grit. It is certainly not the number one ingredient. It’s not the most prevalent. It’s not the one thing you’re going to taste more than anything else in that cake but yet people think that’s the case.
We drum it into people’s heads not to quit, yet we’re living in a world where there’s a term called quiet quitting now. On the back or on the other side of the Great Resignation or the Great Attrition, there’s something in the marketplace that we’re being told about the paradigm that people have been living when it comes to this thing that we’re calling resiliency.
I’d love to get your take on that. What do you think the reason is or is there a collection of things that you say would have contributed to this prevalence of people resigning or people that are quietly quitting? Something other than what we’ve heard, which is it’s those Millennials or Gen Zs that don’t have any backbone or whatever it is that you hear older folks sometimes say about those generations.
I probably qualify as older folk, but I don’t think it’s the Millennials or the Gen Zs. I think it’s part of what you said. It has to do with the way in which we look at the word quit. If we think about resilience as adapting in a positive way to change, we all went through this big change and we had time to sit back and rethink our lives. I think the Great Resignation is not coming from, “I don’t like my work anymore. I don’t want to go back and sit in an office.”
I think as a collective unit, every generation. Friends of mine are in their 50s and are still in Corporate America and are vice presidents and CEOs. I have the same conversation with them. They’re like, “I had time to sit and think. I feel like I need to be doing something different. I feel like the world has changed and I need to make a change.”
We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth for the word quit, but we’re choosing to do something else. In this quiet quit, people are looking for other things while they’re trying to figure it out. It’s not only as a nation because this is global. We all went through this pandemic for the first time in history. Everybody had a 9/11 story. You could say how that changed your life and everybody, you’d go to a party are like, “I know where I was.” Everybody has their story.
This is global. The whole world went through these stages of grief and went through this big change, this big THIS as I call it but on the other side of it, we all had so much time to sit and think about what was important to us. We looked at things differently because the world was different. We looked at things that we thought were important because some of the things we thought were important went away.
I’m a public speaker. Conferences went away. That was a big part. Standing in front of audiences and thousands of people went away. I had time to think and go, “What’s my message without that? How can I help and make a difference on the planet that I thought I was trying to do if there’s not that?” Did I quit and go do something else? I didn’t. I waited. I adapted and then got back on that same horse but other people adapted and chose to go in new directions. Some people are still figuring it out and they’re quietly quitting while they figure it out.
Some people are still in a little bit of denial, “I went to college for this. I got a career in this. I worked my whole life to get to this point in my career and now what?” Everybody’s on their own journey, every generation. This quiet quit is a lot of people who are still thinking through that or don’t want to quit because they’ve been told not to be a quitter. They’re trying to figure out what to do without quitting because that’s a bad thing or maybe they can’t find the next thing. They’re stuck in this in-between.
They’re in the upside down. They haven’t quite figured out the stranger things about this. They’re stuck in this place where they haven’t made a decision yet. I think that’s what the quiet quit is and it’s going to be years before people come out and figure out exactly mentally how this whole experience has changed them.
It’s a lot of things and two of the things that came up for me when I was listening to you speak about it, I think are important. One is something and this is a shameless plug for the book Pivot that I wrote.
Everybody hated that word during the pandemic so it’s so fun that’s the name of it.
This book came out in 2016. This is the softcover reissue of this from Simon & Schuster which was great because we were able to update the content to speak to things that we learned during the pandemic. I wish I had a nickel for every time the word pivot was appearing somewhere. There’s a chapter in this book that talks about the sunk-cost fallacy in that book. there’s an element of that where people do feel like they’ve got so much time in on something. There’s so much time doing something or schooling that they paid for or student loans they’re still indebted.
Also, the time they were away from their children to get to that point in their career along with the student loans in college and all of it.
That’s all collectively referred to as the sunk cost. There is a sunk cost to things that don’t enable them to then make a change to pivot or etc. I want to get into the nitty-gritty of your story because you indicated to us that you had an early life disappointment, a serious one in that you spent 78% of your time focused on becoming an Olympic athlete, and by age 16 or 17, you didn’t make the team.
You then go to college and have an injury in that sport. I’m assuming we’re still talking about gymnastics. At nineteen, “You lost your sport,” to quote what you said. Again, that is a major pivotal point there but that’s not the end of those kinds of roads that you get to a place where it’s either the road has changed or there’s a dead end or you intentionally changed your path. I’d love to have you track a few of those for us.
I call them my THIS. Those are the big ones that take your life in a new direction. I have five of those in my life where I have a lifetime of planning and going in a direction. I had a plan and a path I was on and then something happened. There was nothing I could do to get back on that track. Something was going to have to change. Those are big THIS we all have like getting fired. Your company going under or getting divorced or getting a horrible diagnosis or death in the family. Those are big THIS.
There is this capital THIS that like takes us off track for a little while but we can get back to the goal we had. The little THIS are the ones we handle every day like spilling coffee on yourself and you got to go change your outfit to get out the door or your kid’s school calls in the middle of a big meeting and you got to deal with it. Those are the little ones but these big THIS, but I had some big ones. The first two you mentioned are not making the Olympic team and the devastation around that and the embarrassment.
I thought I was a failure, the shame and all of that. It went back to having to go back. My family who had sacrificed and my friends who had all been talking about it. It was like morning announcements in high school. It was embarrassing like, “Ugh.” I then had to go through to college and blew out my knee in college. We have a lot of athletes who go through this even without an injury. They just lose their sport at the end of their career because there’s no place to go play professionally.
Back then, it was like my bumper sticker and my sweatshirts and stuff. Nowadays, it’s your Instagram and Facebook. It is out there. It is very much your identity and how you identify. To lose that at the end of a long athletic career is very difficult to figure out who you are without that sport having given your whole life to that sport. That was a struggle. I did find my way out of that. I didn’t make all the right choices but I made some.
I found journalism and I became a journalist. I became a reporter and then a news anchor. I loved doing that. I put all my energy and passion into it. I was very successful. At one point in my career, I’m in Charleston, South Carolina at the time and I won Charleston’s Favorite News Anchor for seven years in a row. “Everybody loves Nina,” and the next day I get called into the general manager’s office and they literally handed me a box and let me go.
It was a nationwide budget cut. Now that I’ve worked in a big company and I realize you have to do force ranking and look at everybody’s numbers and make some hard decisions. That was a hard decision they made but they let me go the day after I won this thing. I thought I was going in to get a bonus or something. It totally nailed me up the side of the head with that one but they handed me a box and said, “Thank you for your ten years with us.”
We’ll pause right there. I want everybody to sit with that. Wherever you are in this moment, sit with what that feels like because we all probably have known something like that but that’s a pretty big deal not only because it’s a position of some importance but because you’re out in the public. One day, you’re sitting behind the desk and you’re this news anchor that people love and the next day, there’s somebody else sitting in your seat behind that desk.
They went younger, blonder, and cheaper but what was weird and I talked about this in my first books. They handed me this box and walked me out and I said, “Have I done something wrong?” They said, “No.” We talked about my non-compete. There were all these things around it but then I walked out of the station and I didn’t know what to do because I had done three shows a day for more than ten years at this point.
I had a sit at home with the kids. I had two small children and a husband. I was a breadwinner. I didn’t want to go home. I wasn’t ready to see the kids yet, but I couldn’t go out anywhere. Everybody would’ve been like, “Why aren’t you doing the news?” I didn’t know what to say. My parents lived in the same town. They moved here when I had small children. I drove to my mom’s house and they weren’t home. I took a pair of her sneakers out of her closet and they were a size too small.
I put them on and I went and walked on the beach for an hour trying to cry, laugh, and figure out what I am going to do. I had no idea but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t ready to answer any questions from anybody. Part of my deal was you can’t tell anybody we let you go. We have to say we parted ways amicably and then we’ll pay you. That’s how they know.
That’s how they get you to sign the release agreement.
I ended up sitting on the beach for six months and hanging out with my kids until I went across the street and got a job at the other TV station but at first, it was so devastating. It was such as out of the left field and I thought about quitting. I thought, “How’d I get to this point? Did I waste all this time? Was this a waste of time?”
It’s that soul moment. You are searching and evaluating. There are a lot of things involved in it. I’ve taken that walk, Nina. I know what that walk feels like. I know what the drive feels like when your vision and something doesn’t align with someone else’s vision, who has more power at that moment.
It is a lonely moment. It’s because it’s your dream. It’s nobody else’s. It’s your goal. It’s your ego. It’s your own stuff.
I left the law and a very lucrative practice I built for over eighteen years to pursue a dream, which is what that book Pivot was about, and to then also, come to that moment when someone else held the cards to say, “You can still pursue your dream but it’s not going to be here. It’s not going to be with us.”
You are great and all but bye-bye.
That’s a lonely moment for sure. I want it to be about you. People may already know my story or not, but what was it like to come out of that moment? This is because I know myself, as I look back on it, it was not only pivotal but one of the greatest moments of growth. It’s not necessarily the growth I would’ve chosen to be honest about it but I wouldn’t now change any part of that. How do you feel about that now looking back?
It was a gift. I’d probably still be in that job. I’m fiercely loyal and I would’ve probably stayed there and done that same job forever. It ended up being a gift. I had time to be a parent to my kids in a way that I hadn’t. I had two little ones at the time. I had time to spend time with them and think about the kind of parent I wanted to be and what I wanted my future to look like. I’d been so busy working that I hadn’t done that homework.
I did go back into television. I decided I didn’t want to move out of the area I lived in. I wanted to stay there and I had this offer. It was half the money that I used to make and I had been divorced. I was single parenting at the time, “How do I pull all this off?” I remember being in that house for a while. I had a new house about the same time this happened and I was painting murals on the kids’ walls and cooking. It was all the stuff no one has time to do when they work a full-time job.
I was spending lazy days with them on the beach in the middle of the week going, “Is this what it’s like to just sit back and be a parent?” It was valuable thinking and I was fortunate enough that the other TV station in town had an opening. I was good friends with some folks over there and they’re like, “Come on over when your non-compete is done.”
Also, you won an Emmy, didn’t you?
Yeah. I went back and I won an Emmy at the other TV station.
It’s okay to stick it in just a little bit. We’re not perfect.
It was a little bit of an, “I got you,” but the learning for me was one of those changes that were not my doing. It was like not losing my sport and other stuff but I came out so glad for the change on the other side because I would’ve kept doing the same thing forever. I think the universe keeps going, “Nina, you figured this one out. Go do something else.” It’s the same thing with my marriage. I went through a divorce, and you’ve got readers out there who’ve been through that one. That’s a big THIS.
One and two, approximately.
Yeah, and it’s the same thing. It’s the end of the dream that you had, all the dreams that you put in place when you went down that path and put a lot of time, energy, resources, and emotion into that.
I was going to say the sunk-cost thing also applies there because there are people who are in marriages. Again, I want to say as a disclaimer here, this is not a call to action for anybody to go get divorced. When we make decisions, sometimes it’s the littlest thing that sometimes can be that thing that we always meant to hear that now. This may or may not be that moment, but we do tolerate a great deal in our lives and sometimes we tolerate mediocrity.
We tolerate things that we know don’t work or that there is no future for, but we tolerate it for the usual reasons like security, safety, fear of the unknown, and all that kind of stuff so we can pivot by design or sometimes the universe handles our pivots for us. You had one of those. The marriage ended but that’s not even the end of the story of your pivot.
I have one more and I won’t go deep into it. I was back on TV and I was very public. I was involved in a car accident in which I was the driver and it was the middle of the day. It wasn’t a drunk driving thing or anything, but I was the driver in this accident and it was truly an accident. It was ruled an accident but I went down a very dark place because I was so public and now I was this person who had been involved in this thing. There’s a lot to it.
It’s very heavy that we can talk about or you can read my book. It’s in there. It was a difficult time for me to dig back out and figure out who I was there. I had a moment where I didn’t even want my timeline to go on. I couldn’t figure it out. I don’t want this to be part of who I am after I was everybody’s favorite news anchor and this world-class athlete. Everybody loves Nina. I didn’t want that to be part of my story. I went through a really difficult time figuring out how I put this in my brain and made it part of who I am.
That’s what sent me down this new path and I went back on TV. I stayed on TV for a year, but then I got out and got into tech. it’s that resilience piece, having gone through that journey and good therapists and all those things. I am big into stoicism and cognitive behavior therapy. It’s a mix of those things in my brain. Going through that journey made me bulletproof on the other side. By the time I got into tech, I was working in a SaaS company, learning something new, and diving into that, we were doing this road show and doing the IPO about eight years into that journey.Going through that tough journey makes you bulletproof on the other side. Click To Tweet
Other people were falling like flies. It was a very difficult time. Grown men in tears are like, “I can’t do this.” I was like, “I can totally do this. Come on. I got you. Let’s go move things forward.” This didn’t seem that difficult to me because I had been through such tough stuff. There’s something about that resilience piece and I talk about it. If you can picture a heartbeat, an EKG going up and down, the downs are those low parts and the top parts of the stuff you’re happy about. That’s life. It goes up and down. That’s how it works and you wouldn’t want to flat-line anyway. Some people have lower lows and higher highs, but every time you get back above the line you’re a little stronger.
How does stoicism inform that? It is because it feels like there’s an element of a philosophy that you’re talking about.
I’m a little nerdy geeky when it comes to stoicism. It’s Marcus Aurelius. I wear amor fati around my neck and I think none of it’s new. What I’m telling you, is none of it’s new. I reframed things in a way that somebody might hear them differently.
Plato said, “All learning is remembering.” None of this is new.
My fun thing is Marcus Aurelius said the stuff back in the day and then we had Emerson. I’m also a big Emerson fan. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” I wear that on a bracelet on my arm most days. That’s my favorite quote. Marcus Aurelius then comes along with Emerson saying the same thing in different ways. Dr. Seuss has almost all of the same things as well. He just said it differently.
I call it stoicism. It sounds fancy but it’s the same stuff people have been saying for years about how you can think about the world around you and how you react when something happens or how you look at the world and use your own thinking to create the future that you want. It’s amor fati, a love of fate. That’s very much the life that I’ve chosen to embrace.
For me, I’m putting the word philosophy on it because my personal philosophy is vitally important to my attitude, to my outlook, and to the adaptability that you mentioned. It’s my capacity to adapt to the world as it is and the world as it is won’t be the world as it is in a minute from now or in a second. That’s the thing that I don’t know that we’re brought up to embrace.
In fact, we’re brought up to embrace quite the opposite. We’re constantly attaching ourselves to things, wanting them to stay the same and being resistant to change. Forcefully often, resisting it but with a lot of energy which depletes us further. It ultimately changes the law of manifestation in the universe. To resist that is to resist life itself on some level. That’s self-defeating.
It’s the best-laid plan. You have wonderful intentions when you get married. You can have amazing plans when you start a company but things happen. Nobody planned for a pandemic. It happened. When something happens, your ability to adapt in a positive way to whatever that is. I call it your ability to handle THIS. How you handle THIS is directly related to your level of success and happiness in the future because success is a scary word.
It’s like quit. It’s one of those words that’s been thrown at us a lot. One definition of success and your definition of success and someone else’s may be very different. When I say success, I’m talking about whatever your goals or even setting goals are. We’ve been told so much to set these goals. Even goals can change over time. You can change your mind. I had a thing and I talk about this quite a bit too.
I put all three of my kids through college and I paid for everything because I had a scholarship and that’s how I had to have that to get through school. That was a thing with me. I would pay for wherever they go. All three went to college and I said, “Here are two rules. 1) You can’t get anybody pregnant or get pregnant because I want you to finish with a clean slate and be able to do whatever you want to do. If you do that, the money train stops.”
“2) No tattoos on your body. Don’t commit to something before you’re finished with college. You have to get through college without writing it on your body because there’s something about that commitment that now sets that goal.” They have to go do it. You have to stick to this thing and it’s a clean slate. I wanted them to have a clean slate on the other side of college and those were my rules and my thing.
It was my way of giving them grace or encouragement to change. If you change your mind about your major, change it. You have this time in your life before you’re a certain age and even at any point in your life to change because you choose to go in a new direction. I didn’t want them to feel like they were so committed to something that they had to stick to it or be persistent. I’m not against those words but I do think if you want to live a full and rich life, there are sometimes you have to change.
We change as humans. The world around us changes. I was back with bag phones. I was a reporter with a bag phone and a radio, listening to the police radio. Who would know that it was all going to be in my pocket? You don’t even have to watch the news anymore. It’s one of the reasons I got out of television. No one’s going to watch the local news. Some people still do. I have many friends who still work in the business. I love them and I love that industry but most of the time, people have all of it in their pockets. I had this whole thing around, “It’s okay to change. Don’t feel like because you said one thing once, you have to stay with it forever.”
It is amazing and it’s a bit of an oxymoron because the greatest constant in all of life is change. Change is constant.
It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
These are seeming inconsistent and incompatible even. That’s where we have to understand not just what is True, but what is our philosophy around it personally. Do we see success as something that means avoiding failure? For a lot of people, that’s their philosophy. To be successful, I have to avoid failure or do someone like you, me, and many other people we know who’ve succeeded multiple times and continue to achieve whatever the external world would define as success. Success is about how we leverage and utilize our failures. Again, that is philosophic but that philosophy directs us in so much of our thinking and so much of our actions. I want to mention your book right here. This Is Not ‘The End’ is the title of it.
It looks like a typewriter on the front that says, “The end.” It’s like the end of the story. It’s strategies to get you through the worst chapters of your life. It’s a little bit of my story, but a whole lot more about the reader, whatever their big THIS is that they’re going in. Whatever you’re going through is not the end of your story. I help people.
It’s the book I was looking for when I went through a difficult time. I call it an airplane read. It’s 1 hour and 10 minutes or so from beginning to end. It’s hard to write a short book. That’s what I realized because it took me a long time to get it down to something that was consumable for someone who’s going through a difficult time but that’s what it’s designed for.
I have so loved our conversation, Nina. I so appreciate your time and in going there. I don’t know how much of what you shared with us are things that you don’t share typically. I feel like that one little piece where you told us about what it was like to leave the studio and not be ready to head home and hug and kiss your kids as though nothing had changed or nothing was wrong. That is a very visceral moment and vulnerable. I personally can identify with what that drive feels like. I think we all can, to a greater or lesser extent. I appreciate you going there with us.
It’s my pleasure. The time zoomed by. It’s been great to chat with you and spend a little time with you.
We’d love to get your comments, as always. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/podcasts. Leave a comment there for me and I will be the one responding. We don’t have bots doing that. Nobody else is doing it for me and not because we don’t have a team to do it, but to me, it’s a personal thing. If you take the time to do that, I want to be the one personally responding to you.
We also make the request that if there’s somebody that you think would benefit from learning more about Nina’s story and any of the parts of this conversation, feel free to share. We love it when you do that. Share the episode. Share something with a friend or family member. Somebody in business right now is dealing with the concept of change and maybe they get some strength from this or some insight as well. Also, those five-star reviews on the platform that you consume this on. It’s a blessing. We appreciate you taking the time to do that. Thank you so much for that as well. Speaking of blessings, I feel like this has been a blessing to all of us, Nina, and again, I want to say thank you for your time.
Adam, thank you so much. That’s why you’re so good because you do answer all those yourself and you do this as a passion. I am honored to be a part of it and appreciated the time we had in this episode.
In full transparency, this is an edit. Typically, my conversations with people are not edited. I don’t know if you guys know that or not, but in this instance, as we had closed out, Nina and I were having a conversation and she had said to me, “I paused on sharing a particular story because I didn’t know whether your audience would handle it or you would want me to share it.” It’s good old-fashioned professionalism and courtesy. In discussing it, I feel like this is something you guys would want to know and hear. Nina’s willing to go there with us. Nina, I’m going to toss this back to you and if you could pick us up at that point where you said you had an accident.
I high-leveled that I’d been in an accident and went through a difficult time but the story of the accident, what had happened was I was now anchoring at a new TV station. I was best friends with my co-anchor and his whole family. Our kids were all the same age. I had taken a day off of work from the news so I could be like all the other moms. The grass is always greener. I want to go home and meet the school bus because everybody else gets to.
I took a day off of doing the news. I went and met the school bus. I show up. I got there early because the bus came to my co-anchor’s house. He and his wife lived on a big corner lot in a very suburban neighborhood. You can picture it. It was fall and gorgeous out. They had a new baby who is about eleven months old. We’ve been playing with their new baby who’s adorable. She had two older boys and they were all the best-looking kids. They are a sweet family.
The bus comes. You could hear the noise coming around the corner. The kids all pile off our boys were in the third grade and they throw their backpacks and want to run around. There are probably 10 or 15 kids that get off the bus right there. There were all the moms and all the siblings. It was a big party every afternoon and it was so great. I loved it.
We all go to leave and I pile mine in the car. I buckle them in. “How are you, guys? How was your day?” In the commotion of everybody gathering up their kids and going in different directions, no one had noticed that my co-anchor’s baby, my sweet friend’s baby had crawled under my car and I backed up. At that moment, everything changed.
I will tell you, it was weeks and months before we knew if he would live but he did survive. He’s great. He ran for class president at one point. My son coached his Little League team. We got through this together. We held hands and walked down the hospital hall. My co-anchor and I, after weeks of nobody doing the news, it was very touch and go. I was in a very dark place and he was taking care of his wife in a dark place and this baby in the hospital. The weekend people had to do the morning show and the morning show people had to do the evening news. It was this big to-do in our community that was heartbreaking for everyone.
There were prayer vigils and we ended up going back on the air together and showed the community how to lead with love. We talked about him healing. We talked about his recovery and the amazing doctors. We went down this journey together but that journey of being back on the air for a year together. He did heal and then he became this wonderful young man and a symbol of hope in our community as well.
That was a journey for me though from everybody’s favorite news anchor and this world-class athlete to the lady who was the one driving that car who ran over a baby in a horrible way to say it out loud. It’s never an easy story to tell, but the reality was that is what happened. I was now the villain or the bad guy and I didn’t want to be that. I went through a dark time trying to figure out how do I go forward and create success on the other side of that.
That’s my biggest resilience journey and it’s one of the reasons I went down this long-term resilience path and all the research that I did because I was so strong on the other side of it. When I got into tech, I had great success on the other side. People would be falling out when things got hard and I was bulletproof. “This isn’t a big deal. Nothing fazes me after that.” I became this go-to person that people would come to and say, “How do I get through this tough time?”
That’s when I stepped away from corporate. I wrote a few books and I wanted to help more than one person at a time. I wanted to put it in writing, do the real research, and figure out exactly what I had done in all of these instances and put it in writing. “How do you do that? How do you get out of a dark place and not only survive but use that new strength to create bigger success for you on the other side?” That’s my quick version of that and it’s never an easy story to tell.
Nina, thank you for agreeing to stick around and add that post-script to our conversation. I’m glad we’re able to do that because our readers are amazing people. I get to hear from them often. I feel like there was a sense there that somebody would be like, “Why didn’t we follow the proverbial breadcrumbs to that spot right there?” I’m glad that we were able to come back and do that.
The book is This Is Not ‘The End.’ It is available where all the books are available that we find them. Nina, thank you for coming back to share that. It is something that is almost unthinkable. Nobody would even consider how they would be, how they would show up, and what it would look like for them or anyone around them in a circumstance as devastating as that but you know that about yourself. Now, it’s no surprise that people ask you to share what it looks like on the other side of that. Thank you.
It can be triggering for some people so I’m careful about sharing it. I also know that it’s important to share because no matter how horrible the thing is that you’re going through, your big THIS, that you wake up and it takes up every inch of your brain and you can’t function. Whatever that big thing is that’s taking up all of your energy, there is another side to it. The good stuff doesn’t last forever, like when you have a win, but the bad stuff doesn’t either.
No matter how bad it is, you keep going through that process. I do like to share it because there’s somebody out there that’s in the middle of something that’s horrible and even the horrible stuff, you can have a life after it. It takes some time to figure out what that’s going to look like. You can’t put it in the story of your life because you’re going to be different, but you have to put it in there somehow and figure out who you’re going to be on the other side of it.
The last thing that I want to say about that is there’s that statement that people always say. “This too shall pass.” It’s a thing people say at funerals a lot of the time or in places and in situations like that. It always fell a bit hollow to me but what I realized some years ago is that it doesn’t only go in the direction of these awful moments in your life. It applies to everything. There’s an element of gratitude that you can also see because this too shall pass. It is the best of things in your life, the best of moments, and those days that you want to hold onto.
Again, the way we get attached to things, put it in a bottle, save it, etc. That will pass and this too shall teach as well. You’re going to learn something that’s valuable not only for yourself but for others. If you have gratitude in that transitory, the fact that nature is so transitory. It’s changing so frequently that even pain will be transmuted into joy and joy will then return to pain. It’s a beautiful cycle even though we don’t want to sit in pain.
People can say, “This too shall pass.” I’ve heard that as well. I always tell folks going through difficult times, you’re going to be okay. I always lead with that, “You’re going to be okay,” which people need to know, but you’re going to be different. It’s not only, “This is going to pass.” You’re going to be different on the other side of this and that’s all right. You don’t think that you’re not going to fix it and put it all back in a bottle the way it was. You’re going to be different on the other side of it and there’s a you before this and there’s a you after this thing happened. You’ll get to the after and you’ll be different, but you’re going to be okay.You're going to be okay, but you're going to be different. Click To Tweet
Different doesn’t mean worse, bad, or anything. It’s just different. I feel like we should finish with a flourish, with a French thing, “Vive la France.”
Thank you for doing that, Nina. Ciao, again everybody.
That conversation was one that I’m going to be thinking about for some time now. Nina’s a dynamo. She is an expert when it comes to what resilience looks like through personal and difficult life experiences. In this episode, she shared with us a lot about what was going on in her world when she was a sixteen-year-old, looking to make the USA Olympic team in gymnastics. We got to talk about that and the disappointment involved in not making the team. She was able to pivot and move forward, bounce forward from that position to becoming a college athlete, and how she had an injury that ended her gymnastics career in college at LSU. We talk about that.
We talk about her Emmy award-winning career as a news anchor and what happened when unexpectedly, she was canned from her job only to find tragedy, even around the corner in her next job. It was an amazing story with unexpected twists and turns. You can see she’s learned so much in all of those things and not only in landing on her feet but in taking the lessons embedded in many of those changes, those disappointments, and those disruptions.
Also, using them, utilizing them as a catalyst to move forward in life and help many people along the way. To me, that’s the great alchemy that she’s demonstrating. I love how clearly she communicated the stories that she told, and the lessons she shared with us including looking at the actual math around disappointment and how you perceive it. How you frame it relative to the other aspects of your life.
There’s an actual mathematical equation that she uses and she shares it with us. It’s quite brilliant. We talk about her book, This Is Not ‘The End’. She unpacked some key principles there. We talked about the sunk-cost fallacy. If you don’t know what the sunk-cost fallacy is, we’re going to unpack that for you as well. We talked about how it is that Simone Biles models great leadership herself in a particular way.
We talk in-depth about the gymnast’s perspective and connection with what Simone was dealing with a couple of summers ago at the Olympics when she removed herself from the meet talking about the THIS in life. So much of Nina’s brand is centered around looking at the THIS. The things that we deal with in our lives often suck at the moment.
In the book Change Proof, we talk about the suck as something different. It’s the rip current, the riptide of change but these are other sucks that Nina brings to the table in our conversation. I know you’re going to love it. Once again, if this is an episode that resonated with you, please share it with a friend. Somebody that might be going through something tragic, whether it’s a divorce or the loss of a loved one or the loss of a child or the loss of a livelihood, or some other dramatic pivots.
There are often Pivots and pivots along the way. We cover the gamut in our conversation. If there’s somebody that you think would be inspired by what Nina shared, feel free to share this episode with those folks. We’d love to get your comments. You can always leave them at AdamMarkel.com/comment.
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- This Is Not ‘The End’
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About Nina Sossamon-Pogue
Nina Sossamon-Pogue is speaker and author with a fascination for Resilience & Success after Change. A former TV News Anchor, Tech Exec, and member of the USA gymnastics team, she shares the failure that went along with those wins, as the backdrop for speaking, podcast and books.