Today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman is better known by her professional moniker, The Productivity Pro®. She is a Hall-of-Fame Speaker and corporate spokesperson for many major brands, as well as a bestselling author of eight books on productivity and performance. I had the privilege of connecting with Laura Stack as a fellow member of the National Speakers Association. She is extremely well respected in our industry, but that is only a part of her story.
On November 20, 2019, Laura’s life changed forever when her 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide. He suffered from delusion as a result of marijuana-induced psychosis and thought the mob was after him. Soon after Johnny died, Laura founded a non-profit organization called Johnny’s Ambassadors, Inc., with a mission is to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on the developing adolescent mind. She hopes to help other parents, grandparents, teachers (and frankly all adults with teens in their lives) by honestly and boldly sharing Johnny’s story of his high-potency marijuana use and subsequent marijuana-induced psychosis and schizophrenia.
By helping Johnny help others, Laura believes that saving other lives would be best potential outcome to this great tragedy. She is determined to start a movement to bring teen marijuana use, mental illness, and suicide into the spotlight and get adolescents to #StopDabbing.
I’m honored to share Laura’s wisdom with you today.
KR: Laura, will you please tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment?
LS: We are working to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. I picture a day when more teens understand the harms of marijuana and suicide rates are reduced.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
LS: I’m ultra-organized and very decisive, but my real superpower is the ability to gather people around a cause.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
LS: My mentor, Dianna Booher, has authored over 50 books in her lifetime. I am working on book #9 to tell Johnny’s story, and she has been so helpful to me over nearly 20 years.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
LS: The ability to see into the future, so I could stop horrible things from happening to good people.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
LS: I run two for-profits and one non-profit, each full time in the time it would take three people. 😀 When I’m not working, I like to hike with my hubby and dog, spend time with my 25 year-old daughter and 19 year-old son, and travel anywhere.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
1. Slow down a little. Your drive will definitely get you places, but enjoy the scenery along the way. A moment spent appreciating the deep blue of a spring sky won’t ruin your schedule, and it might help you by calming your mind and focusing your thoughts. Taking your time can ensure you avoid mistakes that would slow you even more. You have the perseverance, stamina, and talent to get where you want to go soon enough. You don’t need to hurry toward some unknown goal to accomplish “it.” You have lots of time, so don’t let your ego burn you out.
2. Spend as much time planning your life as you do your money. Schedule time for yourself, your loved ones, and your work. Make sure you aren’t at the bottom of your to-do list. Have fun. Volunteer. Spend time with friends. Exercise. Careful scheduling will always serve you well. Get in the habit of keeping a daily and master to-do list, blocking out time for important activities, and keeping appointments with yourself. Always know what to do next. You’ll gradually refine your skills over time, so you’ll waste as little time as possible. But you don’t always have to be “doing” something.
3. Don’t cave to pressure. When you graduate, many people will expect you to have already decided what you want to do with your life. If you have, then no problem. But don’t give in to the pressure if you haven’t. You have a whole world of possibilities to choose from—and if none fit you, you can make your own.
4. Travel while you can. Before you have a family, children, and a time-consuming job, take a little time to discover other cultures and see the world a bit. Your travels become an important part of your character—as well as your ability to understand and appreciate others later in life. I do wish I would have traveled overseas, stayed in youth hostels, or gone on a medical mission trip (as my 25-year-old daughter is doing in Kenya next month).
5. Experiment now. Even if you already have some general idea of what you want to do with your life, you can capture the details later. Try new things while you can, because regret is worse than failure. Looking back and knowing something didn’t work, but that you tried, is much more heartening than looking back and fantasizing about something you regret not doing. Not knowing what might have happened is the worst part. There are a couple things I wish I didn’t ask myself, “What if…?” So find out. It may change your life.
6. Take chances. I tried working as a corporate trainer, a university instructor, and a trainer for CareerTrack before I realized I’d die a slow death working for someone else. I’ve never regretted starting my training company, The Productivity Pro, Inc. in 1992. Many of my friends and family said I was brave for doing so, but frankly, I thought they were brave for staying where they were and settling. As with experimenting, youth is a time to take career chances and reach for your dreams while you’re still flexible.
7. Don’t do what people expect of you unless it matches your expectations. Just because people expect you to get married and have kids doesn’t mean you have to. There are no written rules about when you have to do what. Societal expectations should no longer hold you back. If you choose to marry your career, at least for a while, fine. If you want to work overseas for a time, go! Move in directions that interest you, even if it’s not what others expect of you. No one expected me to have an MBA at 21—except me. You will amaze yourself—if that’s really what you want to do, not what your parents want you to do.
8. Choose your career carefully. This fits hand-in-glove with what I’ve already discussed. Take the time to choose something you not only do well, but that you also enjoy. If you take a job and hate it, get out! You will spend a lot of your life working. Even if a job doesn’t work out, or you change your mind, you still have plenty of time to try something else. You can always say no to something you’ve said yes to. Give it time but don’t get stuck. If you can’t tell the difference between when you’re working and playing, you are blessed.
9. Do first what’s most important. My family has been a continual source of joy to me, and I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support. Don’t let work divide you from important people or damage your relationships with your spouse, children, extended family, or friends. You need time to socialize and enjoy life. Put time on your calendar first for them and schedule around it. I wish I would have spent more time doing this with girlfriends.
10. Put your heart into it. You’ve heard the saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” If you believe something is worth doing—a job, a work of art, a marriage, a hobby, parenthood—then give it all you can, and aim for the stars. That said, be cautious in selecting what to lavish your energy on in the first place…and if it all goes wrong, reassess whether it’s worth your effort to fix it. Not everything is worth your time and energy. Some things, like parenthood, definitely are; others you can exit without hurting yourself or others.