Author, former journalist to speak at Women Connect event
FARGO - After a year of struggling with grief and sadness following the end of a long-term relationship and the death of her parents, Fawn Germer decided she'd had enough and was ready to move on. Her next step? To take many steps.
FARGO – After a year of struggling with grief and sadness following the end of a long-term relationship and the death of her parents, Fawn Germer decided she'd had enough and was ready to move on. Her next step? To take many steps.
Germer, a former journalist, author and motivational speaker, took to the beaches of her native Florida to work it out by walking it out. After covering almost 60 miles of shoreline by foot, she says she "turned the corner" emotionally. She marked the occasion by writing "DONE" in the sand.
The Dunedin, Fla., woman "reset" her life with a beach walk, but that's not the only way to do it. She'll share her story and advice from her latest book, 2015's "Work-Life Reset," at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce's upcoming Women Connect event Jan. 19.
Women Connect launched last January as a program focused on development for female professionals in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
"This is a group that wants to go well beyond what has been said a thousand times before," Germer says. "They really want the women in the audience to be more confident pushing boundaries and blazing trails, so that's a perfect match for my approach to life."
She lives by the motto "Fall down seven times, get up eight." Her first book, "Hard Won Wisdom: More Than 50 Extraordinary Women Mentor You to Find Self-Awareness, Perspective, and Balance" (2001), was rejected by "every major publisher" before it was finally accepted.
She received her first copy the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, forcing her to cancel her book tour. Still, she refused to give up, and after an exhaustive letter-writing campaign to Oprah, the TV host featured "Hard Won Wisdom" on her show, calling it "very inspiring."
"I was moving, and I found the file of rejection letters I kept, and it was pretty obvious I wasn't going to get that book published, but I did," Gemer says. "I just kept moving. That's all you can do."
Germer, a four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee who's also written for The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Miami Herald, spoke to The Forum before traveling north for Women Connect.
What is a "reset"?
A reset is when you make a conscious decision to end something that is not working in your life and taking time out so that you can start over ... You do that by finding something that will energize you ... to mark the end of something and the beginning of something else.
Without giving away too much before the event, how do you make it work?
You have to commit to it – you don't put it off, you do it, you start. Once you start, you let go of what's behind you and make the decision that it is behind you. Then you get very mindful and experience it in the present. And you do something that reminds you of it, so you take pictures or you journal. Write down memory prompts of what you learned so all those insights are there so you can look at them again. By the time you're done, have a plan for what you're going to do once you emerge from it, so you have a next step.
How does "Work-Life Reset" differ from your previous books?
It's very personal. It's not about how to succeed in business, although it looks at how to do a work reset. It's me sharing the hardest things I've ever been through and trying to use them to make other people happier and more fulfilled.
Work-home balance is a popular speaking topic. What new insights do you have to offer?
It's not that I have ideas that people have not had before, it's that I've sewn them together in a new way. You know A, you know B, you know C, you know D, but you've never really put them together to make them work for you. So I will show them how to have a more meaningful life by making decisions and ending what's not working through an actual path that will lead them to greater fulfillment.
Why do you think women can relate to you?
I'm unpretentious and accessible. I don't pretend I know everything. l'm just learning. When I started doing interviews with great women leaders, people would say, "Well, how did you know what to ask them?" All I asked is what I wanted to know, and I was hoping other people might be interested in it. That's been my formula for everything I've done since.
I'm a journalist; I can't get out there and BS anybody. It all had to be very real. Every single thing I've written has had to pass my "smell test" as a journalist. I'm not going to sit there and spout off, "If you do these 10 magic things, you will live a wonderful, perfect life," because if I can't believe it, I'm not going to say it, and people understand that. I will share difficult things that I've faced, and those stories really are metaphors for the difficult things that they face.
Which interviews stand out the most or have stuck with you the longest?
There are flashes from all of them. I remember every single interview I've done for these books, which is surprising to me. The one that changed my life more than anything was a combination of content and timing because I was an editor for the newspaper in Tampa, and I couldn't get my job done and my book done, and all these women I was interviewing kept saying, "If you want to be successful, you have to bet on yourself and take on a bit of risk," and it's all in the risk - risk, risk, risk. I had some money saved up, but I just couldn't pull the trigger to quit my job to do what I wanted to do.
Then I interviewed oceanographer Sylvia Earle. She was talking about risk-taking, and I said, "Yeah, but have you ever failed?" She described this colossal failure, where she took every dime she had - she even got a second mortgage on her house - and put it into a company so people like us could drive at the bottom of the sea and do exploration ourselves. The company went belly-up in two years, and her best friend was running the company into the ground. I said, "I bet that made you bitter," and she said, "No, look what I learned!" and she rattled off 10 lessons from that difficult experience.
That moved me so much. So many people had said, "Take risks, take risks, take risks," but when Sylvia said it, the next day, I went into work and quit my job, and that was the last day I was a full-time journalist.
If you go
What: Women Connect: Work-Life Reset featuring keynote speaker Fawn Germer
When: 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 19; social to follow.
Where: Ramada Plaza & Suites, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo
Info: Tickets, which include a hardcover copy of Germer's book "Work-Life Reset," cost $40 in advance, $50 at the door for Chamber members; $60 in advance, $70 at the door for nonmembers. Register on the Chamber's website at tinyurl.com/jdar46m.
To learn more about Fawn Germer and her work, visit fawngermer.com.
Read Germer's column about her personal "reset" in the Tampa Bay Times: tinyurl.com/zjxtgns.