It Starts with a Burning Desire — It’s important to understand what you want. If you’re anything like me, maybe it’s more time with family. More money. More things. More alone time. More love. More travel. More freedom. More joy. Your desires fuel your vision of what’s to come and that gets to be the future you want. Taking control of your future starts the minute that you boldly state what you desire.
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.
Julia Carlson is the Founder and CEO of Financial Freedom Wealth Management Group, LLC. She founded the firm at the turn of the century, and with its successes she has become a thought leader in the financial industry. Julia is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, educator and expert on the investment landscape.
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?
My passion for business and finance started young. In high school, I had an amazing teacher who taught me about business and finance. Between creating a mock stock portfolio in class, getting help from my dad to set up my first investment account, and hearing about stocks from my grandpa, I was hooked, and knew I would make this my career. When I was 19 and my friends were off to college, I moved to a small town on the Oregon Coast, got married and started working at a local bank. It only took about four years to hit the glass ceiling and realize there was not much opportunity there. At the age of 23, I left the bank, combined my entrepreneurial spirit with my passion for helping people with their money, and started what is now Financial Freedom Wealth Management Group.
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?
In 2012, my daughter was a passenger in a car that was hit head on by a drunk driver. I was entertaining 40 of my top clients on a boat while, unbeknownst to me, my daughter was being life-flighted to a hospital three hours away.
That was my wake-up call. I spent the next week in the ICU at my daughter’s side, praying for her health while trying to manage every aspect of my business. You see, I had made myself so central to my business that I didn’t have time for a crisis, and I couldn’t see any way out of that situation.
Thankfully, my daughter made a full recovery.
And I went on a mission a to figure out how to get my life back — without giving up on my business dream — so that I could show up for important events and milestones in my personal life. I desperately needed to get out of my own way and had to learn to do business differently. I had to hire and empower a team.
Figuring out how to do this correctly was no easy task and it took a lot of trial and error. I spent years refining the process so that I could truly step back and trust others to take on responsibilities I was convinced only I could handle. But it worked. And now I have true freedom in my life — not just a successful business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
About 12 years ago, I helped a young couple create a plan to get out of debt, start saving for a home, and invest for their retirement. We opened accounts for them starting with less than $5,000. Since that initial conversation, they have pursued financial freedom, followed our advice, and are now financially independent. In fact, they just sold their business in 2021 for $35 million. They credit a lot of their success to our initial conversations and helping them get started.
What is interesting about this is most advisors would not have helped this couple. They didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but now they’re one of our top clients. I have learned to treat all people with respect and help everyone that comes along my path. We reap what we sow. I love watching how things come back in the most unexpected ways.
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?
In 2013, my business had grown rapidly, and I was finding it hard to manage all the aspects of the business. Delivering the client experience, advising, and leading the firm came easy to me, but managing my growing staff and operations proved challenging. I built my business from the ground up, but I knew to take it to the next level I needed to bring on someone with management experience. This was unknown territory for me and outside of my comfort zone. Putting my ego aside and firing myself in several areas of the business has led to our success today.
I hired Chandran Rajaratnam to take over management of the team in his role as President. Although giving up control was uncomfortable, it allowed me to elevate into a role that better utilized my strengths and passion. A role that allows me the time to work on long term strategies for our company. The magic of what we have been able to do over the past 8 years, utilizing each other’s strengths, and staying inspired to delight our clients has been remarkable. We have grown from a staff of six to a team of 15 members and realized an annualized growth rate of 28%.
In 2019, Chandran wrote a book, Catch the Arrows: Simple Steps to Inspire Leadership at Every Level and he has done exactly that. He has inspired and challenged me, as well as every other person on our team to be a better leader. When a team consists of leaders, the impossible can be accomplished. I am incredibly grateful to have him as a partner and mentor.
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?
Resilience to me is the ability to get back up when I get knocked down. It’s the ability to return to love when I react and feel fear. Resilient people don’t give up. They extend grace to themselves and others and move through the experience to keep going. They lean into fear, are comfortable being uncomfortable, and stay committed to the goal.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I think courage comes before resilience. It takes courage to feel the fear and do it anyway. It takes courage to take action when you don’t feel like it. Resilience is the result of courage.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished goals that were out of reach and seemed impossible to the average person. He was courageous in the face of adversity. He never gave up on his pursuit of social justice. He was resilient.
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?
Initially, what stood in my way was my own lack of confidence. I was 23 and didn’t have a fancy college degree nor a lot of experience. It was hard to convince people to trust me and hand over their millions for me to manage. In fact, some prospects would not do business with me because of my age and gender. Client by client, I built my confidence and capabilities which led me to win the clients’ trust, and then the referrals started to flow. In the beginning, I heard a lot of no’s but had to keep going. Ultimately, my dreams were bigger than the rejections.
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?
In the great recession of 2008/2009, I was a solo advisor helping clients with their retirement and investment accounts. I was pregnant with my third child and trying to answer all the calls from frantic clients. People were losing jobs, needing to withdraw money from their investment accounts and scared of the stock market dropping further. My job as an advisor is to protect my clients from making decisions in fear. That the stock market is volatile is a given, although investors who have only enjoyed bull markets may not understand that fact, but my most important task at that point was attempting to calm my clients.
I’m sorry to say I gave in and gave up fighting for their financial future, meaning I let them sell investments at a loss, let them close accounts, and let them wear me down. There was a huge lesson in that for me. That was my first bear market as an advisor. I learned that I must have courage and confidence when my clients don’t. I must worry for their financial future, so they don’t have to, and I must protect their financial future.
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?
Learning the difference between self-confidence and self-worth unleashed my ability to stop caring about what other people think and to start trusting myself and be resilient.
When I look back on my journey as an entrepreneur for the past 22 years, I have learned that I did a lot of things to prove myself, to gain approval of others, to feed my self-confidence, to feel significant, and to gain recognition. Ultimately, I was chasing the need to feel worthy.
People would describe me as a confident person, and I would agree with them. Outward confidence is a strength of mine but where I was lacking was an internal feeling of self-worth. I chased success, working harder and longer towards my goals while never being satisfied with the results. I constantly pushed myself to be better, going on every fad diet, competing in figure competitions, climbing to the top, and for what? To fill a void that couldn’t be filled with a thinner body, more money, or more things.
COVID stopped me. Everything changed and it forced me to look inward. It allowed me to slow down and turn within, listening to that still small voice that is my truth. I learned that I am worthy just because I am. I have nothing to prove and nothing to defend. No one can steal your worth unless you allow them too. I realized I allowed that for many years and until I claimed my value, my self-worth, I wouldn’t feel like I do today.
I have been liberated from feeling not good enough. I am no longer chasing worthiness, trying to prove that I am thin enough or smart enough. I have no regrets. I didn’t know until now I was in the pursuit of my self-worth. I am who I am today because of that journey, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I am resilient because of it.
Our self-worth requires no work, no action, no results. We are all born worthy. It’s that simple. Self-worth comes from within and it’s our own beliefs about our value as a person.
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.
Step 1 — It Starts with a Burning Desire — It’s important to understand what you want. If you’re anything like me, maybe it’s more time with family. More money. More things. More alone time. More love. More travel. More freedom. More joy. Your desires fuel your vision of what’s to come and that gets to be the future you want. Taking control of your future starts the minute that you boldly state what you desire.
Step 2 — Desire leads to a Decision Now that you know what you want, the next step is to decide. To decide is to cut off all other options. When your commitment is the only option, actions become simple.
Step 3 — Decisions Need Determination The hardest part is getting started and making that decision. Momentum sets in and feels really good… and then life happens. Determination is the dedication and acknowledgment of the commitment you’ve made to yourself. It takes courage to stay committed to your goal when times get tough.
Step 4 — Determination Creates Discipline To have discipline is to take the actions you know you need to take — especially when you don’t feel like it. Taking these actions increases your capabilities and creates new habits. What was once hard becomes easy.
Step 5 — Discipline brings Resilience Your discipline will bring you resilience. Resilience feels like a state of being rather than a characteristic. Resilience is a result of going through these steps no matter how many times you fail.
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.
Love is always the answer. If we can respond from love in all situations, it would make the world a better place.
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
Tony Robbins — I have been listening to his tapes, then CDs, now digital downloads since the ’90s. I have attended three in person events and just love what he brings to the world. He continuously inspires me to evolve, grow, take imperfect action, and shine my light to the world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am active on social media. All my personal links can be found at www.juliamcarlson.com and my business links at www.financialfreedomwmg.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.