Lean into your faith and your WHY. If you aren’t a person of faith — that’s okay, so long as your why is big enough. Your why is whatever deeply fuels and motivates you. Mine is to break generational curses. To give my daughter an example of who a woman can be. To be outrageously wealthy so I can be outrageously generous and have a broader impact. I know that the actions I take are bigger than me — they are in service to others and to fulfill the potential God created me with. I know He and the Universe have my back, and when you believe that you have that kind of force in your corner, nothing much is going to keep you down for long.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alessia Citro.
Alessia Citro is a business and transformation coach, podcaster and entrepreneur. She left her job at Google to follow her passion and calling of empowering others and does so through private coaching and her podcast, The Corporate Dropout. She is also the co-founder of Illume Society, a learning community to help entrepreneurs create their own successful businesses while avoiding common missteps and pitfalls.
Alessia is a mental health advocate, openly sharing her struggle with anxiety and depression. It was her recovery from depression that led her to leave Google. Alessia is a wife and a toddler mom and has weathered turbulence professionally and personally through various strategies that she openly shares to help others.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
It’s my pleasure and thank you for having me! Here’s the cliff notes of my backstory: I’m a wife, toddler mom and corporate dropout. A first-generation American, I was the first in my family to go to college. After struggling professionally for most of my twenties and working several jobs to make ends meet, I got into tech sales. I was very successful in that career and worked for Houzz, then Salesforce, and most recently Google.
Like many people, the pandemic and 2020 brought me to my knees and highlighted what I wanted out of life. After a serendipitous meeting on a plane this summer, I decided to leave my job to start a podcast and become a business and transformation coach. I also co-founded Illume Society, which is launching a virtual business foundations masterclass (registration opens soon!). Everything has come together beautifully. The Corporate Dropout Podcast launched September 1, and I am actively coaching multiple clients! It feels absolutely incredible to finally be in alignment and pursuing my purpose and passions.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Choosing the most interesting story of my career is a no-brainer: I jumped out of a plane to celebrate inking a deal. I was at Salesforce working with Skydive San Diego. They’re an incredible, veteran owned company (former Navy Seals) and once it was official, it was time to jump. I mean, how could I say no?
My biggest takeaway and lesson throughout my career is to consistently add value, serve, solve problems, and don’t keep score or chase dollars. Stay true to those tenets and you will meet some pretty amazing individuals, have experiences that you’ll never forget, and your bank account will have all you need and more.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I have two companies. One is Illume Society, which is connecting entrepreneurs with experts across professional specialties and bridging the knowledge gap of business fundamentals. The second is Rising Tide Coaching & Development, which includes the podcast and my coaching business. The sole mission of both is to empower, equip, and inspire people to become successful corporate dropouts if that’s what they’re called to do. In the midst of the Great Resignation there is a huge need to help people rise to a level they’ve never experienced — both mentally and professionally — and that’s what I am called to do. Everyone on this earth is a spiritual being having a physical experience. I help people remember that fact and that they have an absolute badass inside that is ready to be unleashed to create the life of their dreams. My motto is that a rising tide lifts all ships.
I founded Rising Tide in June and already have a few great stories. My favorite to date was connecting with someone who heard an interview I did on another podcast (Getting Magnetic). She then listened to my podcast and reached out to me that she was unfulfilled and wanting to leave her job so she could pursue her passion and use her gifts. We set up a time to talk. She told her boyfriend about me and that she thought I was her sign to quit. Right as she tells him this, a shooting star goes across the sky. We spoke the next day (on a Friday) and she shared this story with me. She gave notice the following Monday. Before all of this, I received a clear sign from a seatmate on a plane that it was time for me to leave my job, and it’s pretty awesome being the sign for others that it’s okay to take this leap and color outside the lines.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I couldn’t agree more. We stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us. There are so many people who helped me get where I am now, and it’s part of what makes me so passionate to mentor others.
I also want to note that even the toxic people who were in my life at one point are owed some credit, as they helped me evolve and grow. I’m grateful for it all!
It’s hard to narrow it down to one person but my first boss, Norma, is at the forefront of my mind. I had just moved to Chicago from California and was 23 years old. She hired me as an administrative assistant and receptionist at one of the best private equity firms in the city. I looked and sounded like I was from California (I used to answer the phone by saying “just a sec”) and let’s just say I needed some polish. But she saw something special in me. And while there were certainly days I was cursing having to load the copy machine and restock La Croixs in the refrigerator while having a business degree…. that role absolutely set me up to succeed in everything that came after. Norma honed my attention to detail, helped me craft a professional phone presence that served me well in subsequent sales roles, and she was like a second mother to me while I was far away from home. We are still close and I love her like my own family.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is having the agility, fortitude, and strength to take whatever life throws at you, keep going, and to do so with pride, dignity and grace.
Resilient people are victors — not victims. They know that whatever they’re going through; it’s happening for them — not to them. Those with resilience know that there’s a lesson they were meant to learn in everything — good and bad. They know nothing meant for them gets away. Resilient people know that doors close in order to redirect them to much better ones that haven’t opened yet.
Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t hurt while you endure the hardships. But I fully believe that while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is being afraid but going forth anyway. Resiliency is very much the same. You might be absolutely devastated about something or feel tired and worn out. A resilient person will take the time to grieve, rest and recharge, but they keep going even when it’s hard. They honor the experience and leverage it to go farther. They welcome change and adversity because they know it’s only making them better and stronger. Being resilient is courageous.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I immediately think of my grandpa. He passed away in December 2020 (and his death was one of the three events that kicked me into a depressive state that I will describe in more detail later). I emerged from the depression in a way that I don’t think I would’ve had it not been for channeling his energy and feeling him guide me.
Until he retired, Grandpa was a farmer in Iowa and he was a child of The Great Depression. All of his brothers went off to World War II (he was the youngest and so he wasn’t drafted). His eldest son was drafted to Vietnam — my grandma calls this the longest year of her life and it was hard on Grandpa too.
There were many years farming where ends barely met. To this day, I force a smile every time we write a check to the IRS because I think of Grandpa. He always said he was grateful in those years he paid taxes because it meant he’d done well. (Worth noting he died with a net worth of seven figures.)
Grandpa worked hard and never complained. He was always happy and walked around whistling. He always made you feel important and appreciated. He had the patience of a saint. Anything that went wrong, he had a good attitude about it and found a way to solve the problem and level up as a result.
Whenever I think I’m going through something hard, I think about Grandpa and how he’d handle it, and the load immediately seems lighter.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
No, because I’ve taught myself to spend as little time as possible with people who have that kind of limited thinking (or avoid entirely if i can). When I see the word impossible, all I read is I’M POSSIBLE. We create our realities. If someone doesn’t think something is possible, it’s because they aren’t thinking big enough or lack confidence in their own ability to bring it into existence.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Yes, and it’s a recent story actually. In December of 2020, I had a depressive episode. My second in 14 months. Three events within 24 hours (two of which were work related, the other was my grandpa passing) compounded to trigger it. The depression was bad enough that I had to call my mom to come over and take care of my daughter because I physically couldn’t get out of bed.
Here’s where resilience comes in. I asked for help. I was scared, but I did it anyway. I went to a psychiatrist and got treatment. I took three months of medical leave to work on myself and treat the fire, instead of the smoke. I deleted social media and devoured books. I took long baths and long walks. And I got better.
I also got clarity during this time that as long as I was in a high pressure work environment that didn’t align to my calling and purpose, that this would keep happening. A few months later is when I met Jodie on the plane and got my clear sign to quit my job at Google. Was it scary? You bet. But I’ve never been happier or felt more aligned and fulfilled. And I’ll be forever grateful to Google for having leave in place and for giving me the space to heal and get clear on my priorities.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
In my opinion, resilience is harder when you’re younger. If you’re a millennial who grew up with a “normal” childhood like I did, you probably haven’t endured enough to have a broad frame of reference for how much you can handle and overcome. Think of when you were in high school and there was a drama or a heartbreak — everything feels like a big deal at that age.
I had a childhood devoid of any major trauma, so for me, I developed resilience because it was modeled. I saw my dad work hard to provide — even when he was tired. I saw my mom love on us constantly — even at the times when she probably wanted to be alone. I heard stories from my grandparents of hard times back in “the good ol’ days” and how they overcame them. And by the way, Grandpa used to say that “the only thing good about the good ol’ days was that they were over.”
I believe in ancestral gifts being passed down via epigenetics and there is some science to support this. I think I’m naturally resilient because of my lineage and seeing over and over that giving up isn’t an option. That you keep going no matter what. Sure, maybe you pivot and the way you keep going looks different, but you keep going nonetheless.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Much of resilience is having the ability to take things in stride and not make a mountain out of molehill when things go awry, The first thing I’d suggest is to zoom out when you’re overwhelmed and look at the big picture. Do what you need to do to lower the intensity of the emotions you’re feeling. Maybe that’s breathwork, meditation, dancing, moving your body, journaling…. whatever works for you. Les Brown says that you can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame, and he’s right. Do what you need to do to get out of the frame so you can see the picture clearly. Then, ask yourself what good will come from the situation and what you can learn from it. Finding meaning in hardship makes it easier to tolerate.
Second, think about all that you’ve endured and overcome in your life thus far. Then think about all the struggles your ancestors before you overcame. If they hadn’t persisted, you wouldn’t exist. Channel that collective strength and wisdom. You might forget sometimes (we all do), but you are a badass.
Third, lean into your faith and your WHY. If you aren’t a person of faith — that’s okay, so long as your why is big enough. Your why is whatever deeply fuels and motivates you. Mine is to break generational curses. To give my daughter an example of who a woman can be. To be outrageously wealthy so I can be outrageously generous and have a broader impact. I know that the actions I take are bigger than me — they are in service to others and to fulfill the potential God created me with. I know He and the Universe have my back, and when you believe that you have that kind of force in your corner, nothing much is going to keep you down for long.
Fourth, strengthen your resilience muscle. Do things regularly that are novel. Ideally they even scare you a little bit. Challenge yourself as often as possible. By doing so, you’ll build up a strong belief in yourself that you are capable of navigating and weathering the unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
This next part might sound like BS, but I mean it. When hard things happen to me now, I feel whatever emotions come along with it, but part of me gets excited too. I know it’s going to unlock another level of growth. To me, that’s what having a strong resiliency muscle looks like.
And finally, find ways to reward yourself. I recently recorded an episode on the podcast about why pursuing the dream is the dream. Kobe Bryant inspired the episode. When asked what it was like to realize the dream of winning NBA championships, he replied that getting up early, going to practice, doing the actions that win championships was the dream. The dream was the journey — not the destination. Neuroscience backs him up. If you can introduce rewards en route to a goal, you’ll get a dopamine hit each time that will create neuroplasticity, reinforcing your ability to continue pursuing and meeting goals. Apply this concept to hardship too. If you’re going through something hard, take yourself on a solo date. Go for a hike. Take a night at a hotel. Get a massage. Whatever it is, doing so will help wire your brain to handle adversity like a boss.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am actively working to inspire this movement now, and it’s for women to unapologetically claim their desire for success, wealth and abundance, and to achieve these desires through entrepreneurship. The company I co-founded, Illume Society, is looking to raise up as many female entrepreneurs as possible. We recognized the knowledge gap when starting our own businesses (and I have a business degree!) and knew there was a need. Women in the United States could not take out a business loan without a cosigner until 1988. We have a lot of ground to cover and a collective wound to heal, and I hope to play a role in that — however small.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Ed Mylett. He went from having his water turned off as a young adult to being one of the 50 wealthiest people under 50. His podcast inspires me regularly. Sometimes I feel like I’m thinking big, and then I listen to someone like Ed and realize I can expand further. The best thing each of us can do is surround ourselves with people who we want to be like, and then learn from and emulate them. My favorite episode of his is “Control Your Identity, Change Your Life.” He likens our identity to a thermostat and how the people around us will raise or lower the temperature setting. So Ed, if you see this and want to grab lunch, I’m ready to have you raise my thermostat setting. I’m right down PCH and lunch will be my treat.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m on TikTok and Instagram at @alessiacitro__. You can follow The Corporate Dropout Podcast on Instagram at @corporatedropoutofficial and can listen on Apple and Spotify. My website is alessiacitro.com and Illume Society is getting ready to open registration very soon! Sign up for our email list at illumesociety.com and be the first to know when we go live.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!