Defeating Life Tragedies And Using Them To Make Us Stronger With Carolyn Raitt


People have a different way of dealing with life tragedies. For some, it can take a toll on their life, and for others, it can maneuver their life around. For Carolyn Raitt, core energy coach at Ocean Sands Coaching, she made use of her experience with her difficulties in life to keep going and keep moving forward. She tells Tony Martignetti about the struggles she had to go through, having to deal with the death of her family members. But it was towards the end of all this chaos that Carolyn says she realized that previous hardships built a level of resilience in her that she didn’t know she had, and it gave her a different perspective on having to face another adversity. Today, she works as a life transitions coach to help others transform her life the way she did. 


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Defeating Life Tragedies And Using Them To Make Us Stronger With Carolyn Raitt

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Carolyn Raitt. Carolyn is a core energy coach at Ocean Sands Coaching. She fulfilled her dream of relocating to Florida and established Ocean Sands Coaching, offering life transition coaching to clients navigating unexpected events such as loss, grief, divorce, career shifts, and health challenges. Her unique coaching style draws upon insights from her own life experiences to help clients unlock awareness and identify blocks impeding their progress towards living the life they imagine and the ability to thrive and not just survive life's journey.

Carolyn quit a full-time job in 2018 to pursue her coaching certification and follow the fortuitous detour in her career by joining ClearRock as a managing consultant. She enjoys the outdoors and volunteers her time with local chapters of hospice and the association for suicide prevention. She travels when she can. She's a kindred spirit and visits her son, who is in the Air Force Special Forces. Carolyn, I want to welcome you to The Virtual Campfire. I'm honored to have you here.

Thank you, Tony. I am excited to be a guest. I also want to let the audience know what an absolute blessing it is that you've created this forum for us to have these conversations to share with the world. Thank you for that.

Thank you, Carolyn. That's nice of you to say. I'm pleased to be able to do what I do. Something I see as part of my gift is to share the people who come in here and bring their brilliance to tell the people. We’ll get the fire started. We are going to share the story that has brought you to where you are now and starting a new chapter of your journey. The way we roll in the show, for those who don't know and for you to know, is we tell your story through what's called Flashpoints. These are points in your story that have ignited your gifts into the world. There could be one or there could be many. In your story, it could be many. We're going to give you the space to share what's on your mind and we'll stop along the way and see what's showing up.

Tony, you and I have worked together in the past. We also share our coaching training at a similar iPEC organization, which brings a lot to this conversation. I'll start with the headline and the headline is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. For those who love music, you may remember that's a headline from a Kelly Clarkson song. What you may not know, however, is it originated from an 1888 German philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche. Before that statement, the phrase starts with, “Out of life’s school of war, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” When I had researched that, I thought, “Wow.”

There are battles that many of us face. My journey could be looked at as many battles. However, I was able to go through some of those experiences and look back and marvel at the strength I gained from those experiences. From a timeline, which I recommend everybody do, look at those points of what might be perceived as downtimes. Almost in perfect and divine timing, they allowed me to weather the future troughs and the future challenges that I have yet to be knowledgeable about. I'd love to share some of those stories with you.

I’m already feeling that space has been created. That is a powerful insight right there, having that quote put in the room, which I never heard the full breadth of what that was.

I jam to Kelly songs all the time. If you look at the lyrics of her song, it's more about a relationship with a breakup. I'm always curious about quotes as well as you. I'm also a student of putting the intention out into the world. Throughout my journey, I'll share some of those intentions. One of the things that you ask on your podcast after I've listened to several is when is that defining moment, that pivotal moment where you started to question, “What's going on here?” I'd love to share when that was for me. That happened in 2016. Before I even start there, I wanted to make reference to your LinkedIn event about Are You Climbing The Right Mountain? It’s your soon to be launched book. Congratulations on that, Tony.

Thank you.

You often share your story from the belief systems that are created in your life from multiple sources.

After I read that headline, I thought, “Wow.” In 2016, I started to question. I questioned who I was and what I was here for. I had a successful career in human resources at Fidelity Investments. By all accounts, from outward accounts, from our social way in which we were indoctrinated, I was successful, but something was missing. I felt like I was walking the halls of disengaged but yet no one knew. I was performing well and hid that. It was because I wasn't being my full authentic self. I didn't know what that meant. What did that mean? I was professional but yet, I felt like I left part of me at the door every time I walked in. Have you ever felt that way? I know you felt that way a little bit in your corporate life, which is what brought you to this chair.

Yes, absolutely. Hearing your story, I'm thinking to myself, “I’m feeling your story.”

On that conversation, some of your people mentioned, “How did you get to be where you are?” When we're able to articulate some of our journeys and let people hear how we came to this point, they think, miraculously, you woke up like this. That's not how it happened. I have four brothers. In 2016, one of my older brothers had a stroke. He’s only in his 50s. It was life-altering and it hit me like a ton of bricks because we never had any situation occur in our family.

Our parents were still alive and growing older and thriving. All my siblings were healthy. I remember thinking, “This is hitting me hard.” The same year, my best friend died of cancer in her 50s. I thought, “I'm in my 50s.” This put more mortality right in front of me and yet I am running on a hamster wheel in Corporate America. I am not even enjoying life because I'm exhausted but yet I'm “successful.” It put me at a pause and I said, “I can't keep doing this. I don't want to keep doing this but I'm not sure what to do.”

At the end of that year, 2016, I decided, “I’m going to book a trip. Where am I going to go?” I randomly searched for retreat spas, someplace local. I was an individual woman traveling alone and I want to travel overseas. I wasn't that adventurous at that point. I ended up at the Canyon Ranch in Arizona. They have a Canyon Ranch in Massachusetts. It’s not too far from where I lived but I'm like, “I want a different change of scenery.” I've never even been in the Midwest.

I went with the intention of it being just for me. That was powerful because I used to be, “That must be selfish. You want to do something for yourself.” I was doing it for everybody else. I had a marriage that had ended. I had a son. I was doing it for my family. This was for me and it was life-changing. It allowed me the bravery to not only travel alone but to feel safe and to go inward, which you don't have a lot of time to do when you're working and traveling on that hamster wheel.

VCP  111 | Life TragediesThis is the experience a lot of people have where they find themselves losing themselves in the process of serving everyone and then realizing, “What about me? What about my needs? What about my enjoyment of life and my feeling of inner peace? Everyone else is getting a part of me but I'm not getting the part of me.”

You often share your story from the belief systems that are created in our life from multiple sources. We all blame our parents. My mom was a server. She always helped others. I saw that growing up and I know that served her well but then it made me question it. I want to not be selfish about this but I coined it self-preserving. This was a time for me to preserve myself. From that experience, I launched a plan. I love plans, Tony. I learned for the next several years that my plan was not “the” plan. Sometimes we get too narrowly focused on our outcomes of the plans we create in our heads when there's so much more that happens. The plan was, I can't keep going in this corporate direction and I'm going to have to figure out what else I need to do because I have a lot of life left.

In 2017, I had hatched a plan to quit. For those who know Fidelity and have worked there, no one quits. They wait to be told that they're no longer needed. I didn't want that. I wanted control over my exit. It was a quiet plan. I made sure I was financially stable enough to allow me to quit, which is a key to allowing the freedom that you have around choices to discard any of the barriers that you create for yourself, perceived or otherwise, around why you're not making that choice.

I remember handing in my resignation and my manager was quite surprised. People found out that I was leaving and they were like, “You have a son going into college. How could you quit? You don't have a job? How could you quit?” What it reminds me, for your audience too, is who says any of that? Society tells us but is that true for you? People didn't know what I had been doing up to that point. I was okay with my decision, which is all that mattered.

That judgment that they have of you is a judgment of what they believe is possible and not what is.

It's fear-based often. Granted, a savings account runs out at some point. You can't have a further plan of how you're going to replenish it. That has a timeframe, too. We can address fear in a little bit as well. I left in 2018 and started iPEC right away. I had been searching for what I would do after leaving my corporate job and it was to continue to help others. I'd always been told I was good at what I did in HR. What I did in HR was have an open door policy where people could come in and tell me what was going on and a trusted partner where they knew it wouldn't leave those four walls.

I used to joke about being the Lucy with the five-cent sign. That trusted partnership was the foundation of how I continue to coach. I absorbed that feedback. Another thing I'd love to share is to ask for feedback. Even on your call earlier, people mentioned that they don't know what they're good at. They don't know what they could do. If you start to ask people, why do they reach out to you? What do they see in you? Have a mirror reflected in your face both critically and in an affirmative way. It'll start to help you feel more confident about what are they see in you that you may not see in yourself.

You're not going to see it unless other people see something in you that you don't often see. It's helpful to have other people on that journey with you.

Trust that you have everything you need to be successful.

Especially when you're fearing something or you're in the unknown, try to get some people that support you in your world that you're in from a variety of different angles. We call them boards of advisers. You use the same term.

As a final point, have multiple people. Sometimes we might go to a person who we think has had success or you think is the right person and you take their advice or their input as the truth but it's their truth and not your truth. You have to be careful about what you take in.

Also, to know enough about yourself to absorb that as part of your potential journey but not to try to be that person or to try to compare. I'm sure we both had situations where we might compare ourselves. Certainly, through iPEC, we were always comparing, like, “What are we supposed to be doing?” They'd always say, “Trust the process. You're exactly where you need to be.” You’re like, “I keep hearing that and I don't get it.” I get it now. You are exactly where you need to be, just stop thinking you need to be someone else or somewhere else you need to be.

ClearRock came into my life shortly after. I quit Fidelity in January of 2018. ClearRock up pops into my life through a mutual contact in April. I remember being frustrated, Tony. I remember saying, “Why am I making having to make this decision? I don't want to work right now. I'm trying to do iPEC.” I kept being married to my plan. I attribute that to my upbringing where you always do what you were told, you follow through on your commitments. I had to challenge that belief. I had to say, “There's a real push here for me to be part of this community for some reason and I'm feeling it now.” I'm going to go beyond my logical brain of “what my plan was” and lean into the feeling, which was a new experience for me.

There's an element of this, which is knowing what's an intuitional pull. There's an intuitional pull to do something that is against logic but also making sure that you're not risking something that is going to take you off course potentially.

What a great insight, Tony, because that was it. The logical brain saying, “Your path was this and you're going here.” That could take you off course but maybe it won't. You play these little games in your head, I talk to myself. I know people see me in the car but that's okay. What else failed? I plant the seed here where that decision was a brilliant decision at the moment. I had no knowledge of it because, for the next two years, my life turned completely upside down. You witnessed some of that. Things came into my life that I had to deal with where it would have been insurmountable for me alone to manage that was allowing me now to be part of this community of authentic, caring, and heart-centered people at ClearRock.

They allowed me to share what was going on in my personal life. That was new for me. I never did much of that in my corporate life. To let the readers know, further in 2018, my other brother, who is closest in age to me died by suicide. It shocked the family to its core. My mom was still alive. My dad had passed away through a hospice connection in 2017. He was 92 and we expected it. You're older. In society, we expect the elderly to pass away. That's part of life. Not my 56-year-old brother.

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This is a serious thing. I want to ask a question about this. After you've been through a series of events in your life, does it get any easier? Do you build a certain sense of fortitude? Is it as traumatic as every moment that shows up?

I'm going to leave your readers to hang for a little bit because what you offered as a question played out with me. In 2018, my brother died of suicide. My mom is still alive. With medical guidance, the family decided not to tell her exactly what happened because we believed it would’ve broken her. That was hard because that gets at the core value of integrity. I don't lie. However, we all agreed it was the best thing for her. She passed away the following year. She broke her back. I was in charge of both my brother's estate and now her as a power of attorney before she passed away. I felt overwhelmed with work, with my son going to college, with these two life events happening in less than a year. That wasn't even 2019.

I'll fast forward quickly to 2020. I get diagnosed with cancer. It's the pandemic, for crying out loud. Had I not gone through those experiences with my dad in 2017 at the hospice, my brother in 2018, my mom in 2019, those other events I started within 2016, all of those built a level of resilience in me that I hadn't even realized until I had to tap into, “Now something's happening to me.” All of those other events were other people. I was helping. I was serving. I was grieving for others. Now, I had a diagnosis that could be life-threatening. I didn't know.

I had written this down and at some point and I feel like I am called to share it. In the past when I had situations where anxiety was paramount, I would turn to anxiety medication to get me through, my brother's suicide and my divorce back in 2010. My cancer, I didn't. I had a different perspective on it. Maybe it goes back to what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I started to look at what are the silver linings in this diagnosis. I tuned into that, Tony. We caught it early. Check, silver lining. It's one of the most common cancers women get, check. They know what to do. It's treatable, check. Hallelujah, there is something that they can do to treat it. I became an absolute, voracious reader and communicator around what cancer meant in my life.

Going back to 2016, my girlfriend died of it. I remember being ignorant and yet distant from it because it wasn't something that occurred in my life. Now it's front and center and I couldn't wait to talk to people about it because I wanted to learn about what it meant in their life if they've had it themselves or they knew somebody. I wanted to be as informed as I could to advocate for myself and not just listen to what people were telling me I should do or must do. Don't you love those words, you have to, you should, you must? It’s like, “Why?”

You also ask on some of your episodes about books in our journey. You and I believe that the type of book you're supposed to read comes to you at the moment you may need it. The book that helped me through the cancer was Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life. It was all about your thoughts and your way of believing that you're going to be okay. It tied into our energy, that narrative that we play in our heads around fear and the beliefs that we have. As Brené Brown would say and many people know her work, the stories we tell ourselves. I told myself I was going to be fine, I was going to survive. I was grateful that I had caught it early and that I would be an advocate for my health and be knowledgeable when I spoke to the doctors about my care.

There's something that's coming to me around this. First of all, I'm in awe and grateful for you sharing the story, which is what you've persevered through and come through is not for the faint of heart. In some ways, I see it as a universal message. The universe is telling you something. It’s like, “Carolyn, your journey, your gift is that you need to do something. Your life is a message to share with other people.” These things that we're thrown at you are a part of you slowing down and receiving that.

You are exactly where you need to be. Just stop thinking you need to be someone else or somewhere else.

That's is beautifully said and spot on because it's the slowing down that creates the space for us to start to go inward in a good way. To go inward and understand, back to my earlier question in 2016, why am I here? What am I doing with my life? We don't know how much life we have. A cancer diagnosis had I not had that mammogram in 2020. Many people didn't, by the way, because of the pandemic. Fast forward a year, it would have been not Stage II. It probably would have been Stage III. It was fast-growing cancer. It allowed me to be brave enough to post on LinkedIn about the experience. What I gleaned from that, Tony, was from a place of authenticity and from wanting to ensure that others could potentially be helped. Many women indicated they scheduled appointments and got past any fear they had around catching COVID in the hospital because what if? Thank you for that. That was beautifully said.

The other funny thing I look at going back to iPEC training, our training for coaching, “Pick a niche. You got to come out and have a niche.” I came out in 2018. I don't know what my niche is. I'm in the middle of a mess. That was the last thing on my mind. To your point, the experiences that I've had have pointed me in this direction of being able to support those who feel that there's some lack of hope or belief that they could get through a challenging time in their life. I hope I can be there to support them and give them that hope, give them that inner strength to shine that mirror back because we all have it. It's a matter of uncovering it and believing.

I had three statements along my journey that helped me set my intention every day and the first one was the word believe and it was upon leaving Corporate America, which had been my life for 23 years. I had to believe I could be someone else and do something else. I had been trained well. I had a phenomenal career. All of that is a phenomenal foundation to allow me to grow and develop. After the experience with my brother passing by suicide, my other brother having a stroke, my mom passing, and my dad passing, I had a bracelet on that said breathe. That's all it said. I wore it every day. I look down and it reminded me to breathe, “Take a breath.” Otherwise, you're going to be gulping for air.

The last one that I feel like I'm in now is just be. You talk about that a lot too, Tony. It's different to go from doing, helping, and supporting everybody else to be in the moment, be present. Recognize nature as you're walking without the phone and the headphones. I don't even have cable. No more news every day, 24/7. Feed my soul and my mind with positive, affirming readings and teachings. We get enough of the negative. I don't need to fill my mind with that. That's a choice.

It's being intentional about what you choose to do and how you surround yourself has an important impact on how you show up. It’s that environmental effect. You get rid of all the negative energy around you and you're able to stay in this place of like, “This is how I'm going to show up because my environment is in congruence of who I am.”

What a great segue. We didn't plan this but that's what drew me to Florida. I grew up in the Northeast, so I never embraced the winters. I tried. I learned to ski late in my 40s. I had all the warm clothes but I love being outdoors and I adore the sun for the short amount of time in the summer that we have in the New England area. I've always wanted to live in Florida but I didn't choose a point and move here. I traveled to Florida to decide if it was east or the west. I did the due diligence. That's part of the journey as well. You don't miraculously point a finger and say, “I want to be this. Get me there.” You have to figure out what are the steps to get you there. Take a little step. Don't go, “I have to be there tomorrow.” You'll then disappoint yourself and you'll never get there. Little steps. You're smiling because I know that's what you believe, too.

We've covered so much ground. My heart is warm from hearing your story and your insights. I'm called to ask what are the things that you've learned about yourself in this journey that you feel like you want to share with people? Especially as you're on the precipice of starting your next chapter. What are the key messages that you want to share?

The first thing that comes to me is to trust yourself. Trust that you have everything you need to be successful. I was drawn to write something I'll be posting on LinkedIn about my son, who has reminded me through his training in the Air Force that he has everything he needs to be successful. We put these arbitrary barriers and conditions around ourselves. If we can strip those away and believe that, in ourselves, we have everything we need, that's powerful.

VCP  111 | Life Tragedies

The other is to enjoy the moment. When I look back, especially when my brother passed by suicide, not only was I trying to grieve through that but I had to manage his estate. I was angry at not being able to truly grieve. I released it and said, “I will be able to but I've got other stuff I need to do because people don't care, companies don't care, credit card companies don't care.” When I'm able to be in the moment and then truly grieve and truly acknowledge the life my brother lived and be happy for that part of his journey and not to go down the path of blaming, wondering, or wishing I could have. Doing that post mortem reflection we often do about all the things in the past that we can't control.

Another is that beware of every encounter in your day. I have a gratefulness text I do with a friend of mine. We’ve been doing it for a while. Every morning, we do three things we're grateful for. As with any habit, in the beginning, I was like, “I got to do this, this morning. I forgot. She did it before me.” It doesn’t matter. Now, it's like, “I can't wait to do it.” It's beautiful because it sets the tone for the day. Anyone I encounter, I smile, I look up because you never know what day they're having. Those are a few things.

I wanted to leave some of your readers with some of the things I did that helped me. When we coach, we don't tell you what to do. We offer maybe some ideas. As with the gratefulness text, someone had put out there to create a vision board. I thought, “A vision board?” I remember having a blank flip chart piece of paper and I’m like, “I don't know what to do with this. I’m just going to put it up on the wall. I don’t know what I'm going to do with it.” I was like, “I'll play with it.” I cut out pictures and a magazine and I put them up on the wall. Honestly, I still have it. Within two years, almost everything on that vision board had happened. It’s fascinating.

Journaling was another. Going through cancer, every day I typed what I was feeling and what was happening. I oriented a lot of the text to how people helped me. It was like, “How do you help me, people with radiation and the oncologist and these amazing health care workers who daily help people through life and death?” I was 23 years in HR. It wasn't a life or death and yet it felt like it. I don't think I read a lot of books over the 23 years other than to help me in my profession but in the past few years, it's been a lot about inner work. Someone recommended that I read The Alchemist, which is a phenomenal book. Also, I read Wayne Dyer's book, Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. I recommend to people to think about expanding your mind. You never know where that will take you.

I love that you ended with the books. Not every single page is going to be filled with insights that are going to be takeaways but there are little things that you take away and it can change the way you look at the world. That's what you want. You want to be able to find that one little thing that changes your lens on the way you look.

What I've done too is sometimes those little nuggets may help someone else and you plant it. During my cancer diagnosis, a good friend had sent me a quote, “Adversity doesn't build character. It reveals it.” I remember taking that to heart, like, “Wow. Thank you for that gift.”

We've covered so much ground. We've already talked about the question that we usually ask at the end, which is what's one book that's had an impact on you. We're going to go right to thanking you, first of all, for being an amazing and heartfelt guest on this show. This has been, for me, a special show. Thank you so much.

Slowing down creates the space for us to start to go inward in a good way.

Thank you, Tony.

I have to ask you, where can people find out more about you? What's the best place for them to get in touch if they want to learn more about you?

I am at Ocean Sands Coaching. It's Also, you'll see me posting on LinkedIn at the moment. I'm going to be building that website. It's a new business. I landed in Florida only at the beginning of January 2021. I'm excited to see where this next part of my journey takes me.

We're going to be watching closely and looking forward to seeing the impact that you’re making. I know that the foundation you've built and the inner work that you've done has set you up for amazing success. Here's to you, Carolyn.

Thank you, Tony. Right back at you.

Thank you to our readers for going on a journey with us. That's a wrap and thank you for joining us.

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About Carolyn Raitt

Tame your thoughts and you can transform your life. That is what I learned when I made the decision to leave a corporate career to pursue my passion for helping others through coaching. This decision challenged everything I knew and all that was familiar. Like many, my life has been full of transitions - navigating change, career reinventions, college, marriage, raising a child, divorce, loss, illness. Through these experiences I applied the filters acquired during my life which allowed me to cope. My training in the Core Energy™ methodology helped me challenge those filters and recognize I had choices. I learned how to respond versus react to stressful situations through a new-found awareness of the influencers that were at play. I want to share this powerful coaching with others.

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