Jen Stewart is an expert in the world of nonprofits. She has successfully served several organizations supporting the local community in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area, and now serves as the Executive Director of Seafarers' House at Port Everglades. She is also pursuing a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. She has been part of the Get It Done Now Coaching program for just over a year though has been using MorningCoach’s Daily coaching programs for more than five years.
John Cunningham Tell me about yourself
Jen Stewart I am a non-profit executive director. I’ve been in the non-profit world for 20 years. I was working for a cellphone company and survived two rounds of layoffs, and did not make it through the third. One of my business partners had just taken a job at a non-profit, as a development director, and she needed a grant manager, so she brought me on board. I was surprised because I didn’t even know what a grant was at that point. I’ve moved up to development director and just recently been placed in my current role.
"MorningCoach® is a perfect formula, the daily coaching show and JB's authenticity"
Family - I have two children. I recently lost my husband to brain cancer last August. I am at a stage where I am figuring out what is next. I am about to be an empty nester as I take my youngest to university next month. What is that joke, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans?” We were planning to retire and travel the country by RV, but that’s not happening now.
I love the non-profit, but, like JB, freedom is important to me. So I’d like to see what opportunities are out there for passive and residual income that I can pursue when I begin my transition to retirement. Hopefully, down the road some of these can lead to a full fledged business in an area that matches my thinking and working style. I am exploring those now in the GIDN Black Belt Training System.
JC So what specific area of non-profits do you work in.
JS My main focus is fundraising. You really have to understand the programs and how to build them in order to speak intelligently to funders and help them understand the impact. My favorite part is building new programs. Understanding the needs our clients have and building teams and developing new programs and seeing them come to fruition
I started out in domestic violence (at Women in Distress). That was powerful for me and opened my eyes to the issue. My daughter would come to work with me when she was young and now she is a super feminist. I think this experience was part of what groomed her. So I was in that industry for nine years. Then I worked in Foster care (at Children’s Harbor). It was a residential campus, so we really got to know the kids well. When someone got an A on a test, we would all cheer for them.
"The Sacred 6 is helpful, because I have so much scattered in my mind both personally and professionally. I find it all gets jumbled in the head. Sacred 6 helps me to focus in on what is important for me."
Then I moved to the Community Foundation of Broward College where we worked on legacy giving. It was hard to feel the impact of the programs because I was more removed from the programmatic areas. So a position opened up at the organization I am with now, Seafarers House. That was involved with a capital campaign, which I had never done. The plan is for me to take over once the director retires.
Seafarers House cares for the crews that work on the cruise, cargo and fuel tankers that come into Port Everglades which is a very big and busy port in Ft. Lauderdale. We see about 150,000 mariners every year.
JC How long have you been a Morning Coach member
JS I've been in the group coaching program for about a year now. Before my husband got sick we were considering what kind of business we could do from the road. My husband (Tom) had a podcast with his childhood best friend (John Curren). It was called A Swift Kick In The Ass. he loved it and had dreams about where that would go. There was a local podcast community, and he always wanted me to go to the meetings with him.
"To achieve our goals, I think it’s important to get out of the minutiae of the day to day and take time to do that higher level thinking."
We are a Jiu Jitsu family. Our family all trained, and we had a Jiu Jitsu website. I met JB at one of the podcast community events when he was the guest speaker. My husband got me the Sacred 6 book, and I really liked the process. So I signed up. That was about five or six years ago.
JC It is really funny how JB sticks with you. Once you come in, you may leave, but he has a way of pulling you back into the fold.
JS Yep, he just brings you right back in. It is a perfect formula, the daily coaching show and his authenticity. There can be a slimy feel to the self help industry. But JB is not like that.
JC Right!? I’ve experienced my share of slimy self-help professionals and I am sure you have too. I imagine you don’t do Jujitsu any more, is that right?
JS I am a brown belt and I want to continue. There was a time that I felt I couldn’t do it, but I’m back. I want my black belt, that is one of my goals.
JC I studied martial arts when I finished university and achieved my black belt. However, after getting married I put my training aside. Recently when I was talking to one of my instructors about life approach and mindset he said, “Look, just because you are not on the mat doesn’t mean you aren’t a martial artist. I still see that in you.”
JS Exactly, there is such a great community in the Jiu Jitsu community and we were really supported by them. It’s about so much more than fighting and combat. I’ve learned a lot of humility in my time off. I feel like have to live up to a reputation because I am wearing the brown belt, but I’ve been away, so I feel like a white belt. I have to swallow my pride and go out there. That is something I am learning.
"I am leaving myself open and believe in surrendering and asking for help."
JC You said that you read Sacred 6, are you also using the GIDN Journal?
JS I am. I used to use it daily, but now I use it weekly. It is helpful because I have so much scattered in my mind both personally and professionally. I find it all gets jumbled in the head. It is helpful to focus in on Monday about what are the key things that have to get done? Then every few days I will look at (the journal) to see that I am on track.
I am in the grieving period, so at first I think about how I am going to keep myself busy and how I am going to make myself better. Then I got to a point through therapy where the therapist was waiting for the bottom to fall out. Because I was trying to take control of so much of my life and do so much, I was avoiding grief. Then I finally hit a wall.
I had to refocus and reconsider what my six goals were and what makes sense to focus in on. I’d love to end 2021 at least knowing what that side business, that residual income, passive income source is. So I know where I am going. It seems like a small goal, but for me that is what success is going to look like this year.
JC Have you delved into the belt system?
JS I have finished the tests and am slowly working through white belt. I think that has become one of my consistency things. X amount of times per week, I am going to work on making progress.
"A good book about grief that I read was The Hot Young Widow’s Club. I’m not hot and I’m not young, but I am reading this anyway."
JC You have some solid goals that you want to achieve by the end of the year. What is something you could be doing to achieve those goals that you are not doing now?
JS I think it’s getting out of the minutiae of the day to day and taking the time to do that higher level thinking. I am getting sucked into the day to day and managing this agency that is hurting because I can’t work on higher function tasks.
I walked into the job with grand plans of what I wanted to do, but basically that has switched to keeping this place funded, running and meeting evolving needs as we recover from the pandemic. All those ideas needed to be put in the parking lot until next year. Our big project is a capital funding campaign for a building. And we need to get the building done. That keeps me busy.
JC It seems that your position is training you in how to do that.
JS Yes, I just need to close the door and turn off the notifications to provide the time to do the work that will pay off in the long term. I read John Lee Dumas’ book, The Common Path to Uncommon Success, and I really need to define the avatar I want to serve.
JC Sometimes when you just put stuff out there your avatar will reveal itself to you.
JS I look at that from the caregiving sense. I consider fundraising as my expertise, since I have been doing that for the last 20 years. But even consider caregiving. A friend just lost her mother and has started this whole new network for caregivers. She has asked to interview me about my experience. There is so much knowledge I have gained in that area over the last two-and-a-half years. So much I can share. Maybe there is something there. But I don’t know yet. I am leaving myself open and believe in surrendering and asking for help. I do believe that my husband talks to me and a message is being sent to me, so I listen.
"If you are feeling out of alignment, see if what you are doing is in sync with your values. Do you need to change your core values or what you are doing? That is the key."
That’s a motivator too, because he wanted this for me just as much as he wanted it for himself. Moving forward with these things is a way to honor him. He left me in a position where I can do this, and I need to honor him and do it.
JC What is some advice you would give to someone who is going through the grieving process?
JS I could recommend a lot of books. Also, like I said before, feel it and go through the process. I would say it gets easier as the episodes get to be fewer and further apart, even though the feelings still remain. I would recommend therapy or a support group, journaling and taking time for yourself.
A friend of mine from elementary school, Jon Michael Varese, wrote his first book - The Spirit Photographer, and he was down here (in Florida) on a book tour. He talked about the void he experienced after he published his book and the book tour was winding down. He was thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have done everything I wanted to do. What’s next? What do I do?”
And he had a good friend who just lost his father. The friend told him, you don’t have to do anything. And when he heard about my husband, he sent me a text saying, “Just remember, you don’t need to do anything.”
That sticks with me. You have to take that time to breathe, feel it, go through it. You know, It’s ok to cancel plans. It’s ok not to show up at an event if you don’t feel like it. Try to find things that make you feel good. My dog has been a godsend to me. I focus on finding a bright spot in everyday.
One of my favorite books is by Megan Devine called It’s Ok That Your Not Ok. I was afraid that there were only sappy books out there, but she tells it like it is. The book talks about the things that people will say to you that they think are ok, but really get you pissed off.
Nora McInerny is another author. She can have you laughing one minute and crying the next. She lost her husband at the age of 35, after losing a baby during pregnancy, and losing her father all in a matter of weeks. She has had a rough life, but she is hysterical and tells it like it is too. The first book I read from her was The Hot Young Widow’s Club. I’m not hot and I’m not young, but I am reading this anyway.
JC I am really enjoying hearing about your life, your lifestyle, and how things need to be focused all around.
JS My goals are health and fitness, my work, professional development, getting my finances in order, and faith and family. So it’s a really well rounded list.
I enjoy the community part of Morning Coach and as challenged as we have been to build community during this time, we have. I would encourage more people to get involved in the calls and the social hours. There is value in these relationships that you can build.
JC If someone is just listening to the podcast, what would you recommend they do to be more involved in MorningCoach?
JS Anytime there is an opportunity to participate in an event, do it. Then I would say the Sacred 6. That’s where I started. That really helped me to take the time to focus on what is important, to analyze all the stuff in my head, and really understand what is important. If you are feeling out of alignment, see if what you are doing is in sync with your values. Do you need to change your core values or what you are doing? That is the key.
JC Thank you for your time, Jen. I am looking forward to meeting you down in Florida.
JS Me too, that will be awesome.