Discover your core: If you don’t know who you are at your innermost core — your values, your beliefs, your true desires, and your potential — you’ll never know what talents, gifts, and strengths you have inside. Those things, which are the essence of you will give you the strength to meet the storms of life. That essence that can lift you up, nurture you, ground you, and give perspective and meaning, even to situations that, on their face appear meaningless.


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 Lisa Charles — Yes! Coach Lisa.

Lisa Charles is a federal prosecutor turned singer/actress, wellness expert, certified health coach/consultant, and speaker. She is the CEO of Embrace Your Fitness, LLC, the author of Yes! Commit. Do. Live, and a Brain, Body, and Belief Alignment Specialist. Lisa empowers individuals to let go of their limiting beliefs, embrace who they truly are, and break through any age-limiting barriers, allowing them to experience wellness from her top-down, inside-out approach — The AGE DEFYING LIFE!

Find her at www.YesCoachLisa.com


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 back story?

If I could sum up my life, it would be one of love, faith, belief, and a creative outlook on career. I grew up 1 of 5 siblings, often integrating school systems from New York, Maryland, and Connecticut. My parents, LaVerne and Edgar Russell, were very supportive of my creative endeavors and recognized my interest in becoming a lawyer from an early age. I loved Perry Mason! I loved how he helped people out of difficult situations, and how he did it with drama and style.

Therefore, it was no surprise to my family that I later became a state prosecutor focused on child abuse and rape cases and then later a federal prosecutor putting away organized crime members, crooked police, and other corruption defendants.

What surprised everyone was when I left the practice of law after 13 years to pursue my love of the arts as actress and singer. After getting an agent, I did commercial work and corporate work; I created several one-woman jazz and gospel shows; and I appeared in several off-Broadway shows, including playing Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” I even had the opportunity to sing opera at Carnegie Hall.

I thought I had everything figured out — Broadway, here I come! But after a throat infection and a bad reaction to medication, both my singing and speaking voice were compromised. At the time, I decided to focus completely on my health, with one driving force — get healthy without dieting.

Life is funny. In my despair, I found a new passion that I never knew I had. After successfully losing more than 77 pounds, not only did I love fitness, but I was also passionate about acquiring a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the brain and the body.

I became a fitness trainer, fitness instructor, health coach, wellness coach, and later the fitness/wellness coordinator for the Rutgers University Aging & Brain Health Alliance.

Now, as CEO of Embrace Your Fitness, I help stressed-out corporate executives, employees, and community members find their inner power to tap into true wellness with my top-down, inside-out approach.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Many career events informed and transformed my life. One situation made a lasting impact on me as a person and as a woman of faith.

As a federal prosecutor, I was on a case with two other attorneys. We were taking on a major crime family, and I found myself as the only woman and only African American on the trial team. After conducting a particularly blistering day of cross-examination, I returned to the office, where I was surprised to find my supervisor and two FBI agents waiting for me.

My supervisor, Bob asked, “Lisa, is there someplace you can send your son?” (At the time, my husband and I had only one son, who was about 2–1/2 years old.)

I replied, “No … what are you talking about?” They told me there was a threat placed on my life and that until that threat was resolved, my family and I would be under 24-hour watch. The SWAT team and the U.S Marshals were tasked with keeping me safe until the threat no longer existed.

When I look back at that time, it seems surreal that SWAT team members would drive me to and from work and take my son to daycare, and U.S. Marshals would accompany me wherever I went. That was my reality for almost a year.

When I was growing up, my mom shared one of her grandfather’s questions he loved to ask, “What are you made of?”

With this experience, I found the answer. I learned that I was strong, resilient, and focused beyond belief. I also found that I could meet my fears and that I had the ability to do anything that I put my mind to. After all, I still had to prosecute our case regardless of what was happening in the background.

But most importantly, I gained a deep understanding that the most significant thing in life is love — love of family and friends. That experience challenged me to gain a deeper understanding of my faith and who I was at my innermost core.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share your story?

I established Embrace Your Fitness to bring a creative, integrated, and innovative approach to wellness. Before finding my love of wellness, I spent many years pursuing false promises and false advertisements guaranteeing a fit body. I made countless weight loss centers a little richer while making me a little poorer, but no healthier. I lived the yo-yo life, going from diet to diet and exercise plan to exercise plan, all ending in failure and frustration. Essentially, I lived the life that many others have also lived.

After discovering and experiencing my successful process of losing weight and gaining wellness, I wanted to share my program and give others a roadmap to sustain lasting change.

What makes my business different is that I focus on the brain, the body, and the beliefs that people hold. It is only when all those factors truly align that a person can experience health and wellness in a top-down, inside-out manner.

My Story

During my tenure as a trainer for the staff and employees RWH Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ, I was asked to serve as the fitness/wellness research coordinator for the Aging & Brain Health Alliance at Rutgers University. In my role, I was charged with organizing fitness classes and conducting wellness workshops that supported scientific research into why African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia. That experience was life-altering for both me and my business.

As a result of my experience, I began to focus my business on the health of the brain and how that related to the health of the body. As a health coach and trainer, I had always known that my clients’ beliefs and relationship to fitness were instrumental to sustain long-term results. I had also understood the countless benefits that movement and exercising muscles have on the body.

Now, with an added focus on brain health, my program was complete.

As a Brain, Body, and Belief (“BBB”) Alignment specialist, I focus on enhancing the BBB alignment through the 4 Pillars of Health: Love, Freedom, Power, and Resilience. It is this unique approach that prepares participants to launch into this post-pandemic era.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person grateful towards who helped you to get where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been so fortunate to have been blessed with amazing supervisors during my many career transitions. Whether it was Stephen from the Brooklyn’s DAs office, Bob from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey or Barbara from RWJ Beth Israel Medical Center, or Renee Corenne, opera singer extraordinaire, I had individuals dedicated to guiding my career and opening doors to new and exciting opportunities.

Of all the people that have provided incredible support, one stands above all else: my mom, LaVerne Millicent Rucks Russell. She gave me the foundation that I have relied upon to dance the many dances, straddle the countless challenges, strive high above the clouds, and make big dreams a reality.

When I made the decision to leave the practice of law, I had made a name for myself as a prosecutor of organized crime and police corruption cases, having tried some notable cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At that stage in my career, I could have positioned myself to become a judge or to enter private practice. Instead, I choose to sing and act.

Many people voiced their concerns and disapproval at my choice, but my mom was steadfast in her support. She believed in my talent. She believed in my passion. And she believed that I could do anything I put my mind to. When I shared with her my opportunity to audition for the role of Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” I let her know I was scared. After all, the people who were auditioning had more years of experience in the acting world. My mom’s words of confidence still resonate with me today. She said, “Be true to you and your passions, and believe that God has you and is covering you at all times.”

I repeated my mom’s words over the next four years of auditions and opportunities, and I repeat those words today. There is nothing better than being the recipient of unconditional love. I am so thankful that my mom and I shared that kind of bond.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift 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?

I define Resilience as the ability to survive and thrive through life’s many challenges without losing the foundation of who you are; without stepping away from your character and your values.

Resilience requires the following:

Honesty. Be honest with yourself and with others in all life’s situations. Honesty helps to illuminate your core values and nurture your inner strength.

Understanding and empathy. Take time to understand life’s challenges as each challenge offers a chance for personal growth. In seeking understanding, be empathetic toward your own feelings and to the feelings of others.

Love. Live a life full of love for self and for others, and experience the power that goodness, kindness, and compassion can bring to uplift your spirit.

Patience. Always remember that things may not happen as you planned, nor in the timeline or manner you hoped for. Patience comforts you as you wait for clarity on your next step.

Strength and Power. Sometimes at moments of great pain, we can summon great power. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. When we trust in that strength, it’s incredible what we can endure. Strength of character and strength of moral values can direct our path and blaze a trail towards healing.

Faith and Hope. Faith will sustain you even when things are at their bleakest, and hope will give you a vision for the future.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage and resilience share an important similarity. Courage has been defined as strength in the face of pain or grief. Resilience requires strength of character and the strength to meet life’s challenges.

Whereas there is a need for strength to face troubling situations, courage is only one small part of the resilience equation. It is not only your ability to meet life’s storms, but also whether you can overcome them. Resilience also requires the ability to recover, to rebound, and to continue to grow in love, kindness, goodness, and patience. As mentioned earlier, you also need a strong character and a foundation of moral values to continue to build a resilient spirit.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think of Maya Angelou. Survivor of rape and the immense guilt she experienced when her rapist was killed, Ms. Angelou lived in silence, trapped in her own mind and uncertain if she could ever escape. Her experiences in youth, juxtaposed with her countless accomplishments as an adult, demonstrate her resilient spirit and loving heart. Maya Angelou didn’t let anyone, or any circumstance stand in the way of her message of love, growth, perseverance, and forgiveness.

Whether through stories, poetry, or the spoken word, Maya Angelou gifted us all with a powerful message that illuminated love, uplifted spirits, and healed the souls of countless individuals around the world. Ms. Angelou did not let her past dictate her future. She did not allow negative experiences to prevent a positive life. Her life stands as a shining example that we are only limited by the limits we place on ourselves. Whenever I read her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or perform her poem “Phenomenal Woman,” my spirit soars.

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?

When I was 17 and getting ready to enter my senior year of high school in Maryland, my father got a promotion which required our family to move to Connecticut. I moved from a large, multiracial high school to a small school that my two brothers and I helped to integrate. I remember feeling frustrated and lost.

While acclimating myself to the new community, I came upon a karate school, Jang Kwon Do, which had a sign that read, “Full Contact.” I went inside and told the sensei that I wanted to join. He told me that this was a “male-only” karate facility and that it was full contact. He further stated that they had no facilities for women, and that if I insisted on joining, I would have to use the male bathroom, the male dressing room, and fight with all men. Essentially, I was encouraged not to join.

I had a rebellious streak. No one could tell me no. I arranged with the sensei to dress before the men dressed and to use the restroom while the men waited outside.

Each session was comprised of learning karate forms, punches, kicks, core exercises, push-ups, and full-contact sparring. Sometimes instructors would stomp on our stomachs during core work to make sure our muscles were tight. At times, I came home with a black eye, split lips, or a bruised chest, and my parents would say, “Why?” I always said, “You have to see the other guy.” I was fast, and I had a mean hook and roundhouse kick.

I stayed at that karate school for one year and was ultimately named “student of the month” during the last two months of my tenure before going off to college. I accomplished much after that unique experience, but I still classify it as one of my proudest moments.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounce back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I can think of two different stories I would share.

Story 1

The first was when I was only two years into my tenure as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn DA’s office and I found out I was pregnant. I remember thinking that I would work as hard as anyone else, and I didn’t want any special treatment. I had that opinion even though it meant that I did 24-hour shifts and visited dirty police stations while I was 7–8 months pregnant. In my mind, I was a powerhouse, and I was indestructible.

At my ninth month, before my due date, I went into early labor. I remember taking files from work home, even though we weren’t supposed to, because I wanted to do extra work and get them back before I went out on maternity leave. I thought I was indispensable. Things took a dramatic turn when the doctor told my husband and me that our baby was in distress. They did an emergency C-section and tried to keep our baby breathing. Brandon Charles died later that day. My mother held him while he breathed his last breath, and I went into a state of deep sadness for a couple of months. As I watched all the flowers that have been sent to me slowly die, I felt as though something died inside me as well. It was the first time in my life that I had lost someone so close to me.

This experience shook the foundation of my world, and it caused me to make a monumental shift in my understanding of life and death. I’m ashamed to say, but up until that point I had been one of those people that found it hard to visit people in the hospital. It was always scary for me. But after my loss, my empathy and understanding grew exponentially. Waiting in a hospital room for friends to visit who never came and for family to call who couldn’t muster the courage, I became more compassionate and understanding of those in pain and in need of an open heart.

Thank you, Quentin, for being one of the first colleagues from work to call me and voice your sympathy. That call meant more to me than I could ever express. I had to flex my resilience muscle to be able to learn and grow in compassion and love for others after that. I had to flex my resilience muscle to focus on who and what is most important in life. And I had to use my internal strength to return to work as a better version of me.

Story 2

The day I stepped onto the stage at Carnegie Hall, I knew that God willing, I would sing for the rest of my life. There was nothing like performing. It was exhilarating and emotional and uplifting all at once. I knew I was pushing my voice doing all sorts of musical roles, but I had a hard time saying no. I loved it all. So, when my voice became hoarse, I didn’t worry. When the hoarseness didn’t go away, I told myself, “I’ll just see a doctor and they’ll give me something to restore me.” The doctor’s prognosis was not what I expected. I was told I’d have to take a break from singing to deal with a throat infection. The infection took longer than expected to resolve, and at one time during the process, people couldn’t hear me though they were standing right in front of me. I couldn’t even do my acting roles. I was so lost.

I had given up my legal career to pursue something I loved, and now that “something” was gone. In my sadness, I made a commitment to myself. I promised me that I would become the healthiest version of myself. I promised that I would remove the yo-yo aspect of my life and I would find a healthy way to fuel and move my body. I was successful. I surprised myself. I loved the process.

One day, as I stood in the back of my large Zumba class, the instructor called me up to the stage and asked me to lead a song with her. At that moment, with my feet on the wood of the stage, I knew I would become an instructor. That beginning led to a lengthy career teaching classes, workshops, and webinars, and now speaking on stages large and small.

Each of us has countless passions, loves, gifts, and talents that have been placed inside our innermost cores. It is up to us to spend our lifetimes experiencing as many of those elements as we can. If we picked a new talent and a new passion every day of our lives, we would still have some that are untapped/unknown. For some, that may seem daunting, but for me, it is the most exhilarating news.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up they have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I began cultivating my resilience muscle at a young age. In my earliest grades, I remember being the only black girl in my class, and there were those who were accepting and loving, and those who called me names. That happened multiple times in my early life, and I had to develop ways to respond while still enjoying my life.

I grew my resilience muscle when I was in junior high and they didn’t let me play Juliet from Romeo and Juliet because of the color of my skin, and when no one would ask me to dance during the square-dancing segments in gym class.

I also exercised my resilience when my college advisor tried to convince me, without reason, not to attend law school.

The foundations of my resilience muscles were set during my formative years growing up with family at home. So, even if someone calls me names, provides false information, or tries to discourage me from taking an opportunity, they have no effect on what’s most important — my character. They can’t change my values or my spirit. I learned young that I am greater than whatever challenging circumstances may present themselves.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are five steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Discover your core: If you don’t know who you are at your innermost core — your values, your beliefs, your true desires, and your potential — you’ll never know what talents, gifts, and strengths you have inside. Those things, which are the essence of you will give you the strength to meet the storms of life. That essence that can lift you up, nurture you, ground you, and give perspective and meaning, even to situations that, on their face appear meaningless.

In 4th grade, there was a bully named Mabel. She tormented me and other classmates daily demanding money under threat of a “beat down”. But I was a master negotiator — a skill that is a part of my core. In response to Mabel’s constant demands, I elected to use my voice and wit instead of my fist. Mabel may have taken ownership of pens, notebooks and even my Smiley face bag, but not my lunch money. I loved lunch.

Through the torment and daily challenge that 4th grade represented, I discovered valuable information about me that has served me for a lifetime. I am a survivor and that even through stressful situations, I can find and live Joy!!

Later, when my college advisor told me to reconsider law school, it was my knowledge of my core — my passion — that prevented that conversation from derailing my journey. I don’t know what his motivations were, but I do know that no one can define me but me. And no one can define you but you.

2. Live your core: Now that you understand the true essence of who you are and what you are made of, it’s imperative that you live accordingly. It’s not enough to know it — you must do it. It’s like a person who is believed to have a kind spirit but never shows kindness. Living your core requires that you live your passions, your loves, your talents, and your gifts. Each time you live according to your core, not only do you strengthen your character, but you also complete a piece of the puzzle that comprises your essence, empowering you from the inside/out.

So, don’t be afraid to step into your passions, your talents, and your loves. You have but one life, so live it fully. I was afraid to audition for the Carnegie Hall concert. I had a passion for opera, but I didn’t have the training of the others who auditioned. I was determined to move forward through fear because my passion drove me to do so, and I knew the time was right to show what I could do.

3. Exercise your core: You discovered your core and now live by it, but it is essential that you commit to exercising it daily. Exercise your values, principles, and character traits daily through the words you speak and the actions you take. “Love your neighbor as yourself” and show your generous and kind heart both to yourself and to others. The more you give — the more you will receive.

When Storm Sandy hit New Jersey, it’s rain and gale force winds caused loss of life and damage to property throughout the state. There was an oak tree that stood prominently in my back yard. Over the years, that tree and its surrounding soil was the recipient of regular maintenance and care to assure its ongoing health. Whatever it needed, it received. During the heart of that storm, through tremendous winds and brutal rains, that oak tree bent but did not break. It lost branches but it survived. After the storm, that majestic oak tree grew taller, and spread wider with new branches and beautiful foliage.

When you maintain your core and exercise your values, you strengthen your roots positioning yourself to not only meet life’s storms but thrive in its aftermath. The stronger your character — the more resilient you’ll be. The more you exercise your values, the more storms and onslaught of negativity by others you will be able to endure!

4. Find and flourish in faith: When you flourish in your faith, you are comforted in the knowledge that you are not alone and that there is something greater than you and your circumstances. There is something beyond the storm that can heal a broken heart, calm an anxious spirit, and bring peace to the mind and body. Faith brings understanding to chaos, and compassion to conflict, ushering in hope for the future and a recognition of the existing beauty in the present.

When my brother John’s cancer came back some 5 years ago, he got so sick that his doctors were unsure whether he was going to survive. My family from around the country prayed over my brother, and I witnessed a miracle. The next day, John reported feeling better. He was released from the hospital within a week and ran a half-marathon within 6 months. My faith grounded me during the entire time I was with my brother. It helped to bring peace, calm, and a renewed spirit.

5. Take fear from foe to friend: Fear can derail careers, challenge relationships, and rock the very essence/foundation of who you are. Turn your negative thoughts into positive action. When you can befriend your fears, you will experience greater resilience through life’s challenges, along with increased joy and excitement in your career, family, and relationships. You only need to Recognize (acknowledge the fear), Recast (change your perspective to focus on moving forward through it by applying your values and desires), and Renew (start over from this new perspective, focusing on past accomplishments for added confidence), and then bask in the positive results. I have applied this process when jumping into new and exciting opportunities.

One of my early fearful moments happened during my 3rd year of college. I was on track to continue my journey to become a lawyer but had discovered a love for acting. While majoring in political science, I found myself attracted to the thespian arts and had participated in several plays and poetry readings. One of my acting teachers told me I had a special talent and wanted me to meet an LA agent that was visiting campus the next day. I was given an appointment and fear set in. The next day, I walked up to the door, put my hands on the doorknob, but didn’t turn it. I was frozen. I remember panicking — thinking: What if this opportunity got in the way of me becoming a lawyer? What if I wasn’t good enough? What if…? I didn’t open the door, so I never got to experience what was on the other side of that fear.

Later, I made a promise to myself to never again let fear rule my life.

Inviting fear to the “friendship table” will change your relationship forever. Each time you meet your fear and move past it, you become stronger in your character and better able to sustain life’s challenges. You will stand like that great oak — — bent but not broken — damaged but not destroyed — Ready to thrive in the aftermath!!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of going to the most amount of people come? You never know what your ideas could trigger.

Brain, Body, and Belief Alignment is the movement I hope to inspire — and that’s why it’s the foundation of my business. After losing both of my brothers to COVID, I am so determined to help as many people as possible experience true health and wellness from the top-down/inside-out. My brothers were my closest friends, and I miss them every day. Their loss has renewed and refueled my dedication to create a movement helping people learn the health-related importance of loving their neighbor as they love themselves. It is time to use Brain Science to flip the script on aging through the creation of a 3-step process described in my book. This process is designed to unlock the keys to experiencing a vibrant, healthy life:

COMMIT:

Choose the Yes! Mindset — a positive, purposeful mental state focused on achieving goals and discovering the authentic you.

DO:

Use the Brain/Body Connection as you breathe, move, and eat, and

Employ the A.G.E. Life Framework where you Age with Grace and Excellence.

LIVE:

Achieve the Yes! Life — constantly challenging the brain, body, and limiting beliefs so you can reach your personal goals and realize your life vision.

It’s time people take their power back. I call it the “Dorothy effect.” As with Dorothy and her ruby slippers in Oz, everyone has had the power to improve their health all along — they just need to understand how to activate it.

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 say that, especially if we tag them.

I have two people that I would love to meet. Iyanla Vanzant and Denzel Washington have both served as motivating forces in my life, exhibiting big hearts and generous spirits. I have watched Iyanla help and heal countless lives over the years. I’ve often thought that her healing touch and ability to transform lives perfectly complements my message of internal health and healing. Iyanla brings self-discovery through life’s difficult moments, and my Brain-Body-Belief Alignment program focuses on self-discovery to renew health.

Denzel Washington is not only an amazing actor and philanthropist, but he is also a storyteller who speaks to his audiences from his heart. I respect Denzel’s ability to balance family and career while sharing some of the most motivating, loving, and inspirational messages. I’d love to be able to let him know how proud I am of the work he has done for the world community.

How can our readings further follow your work online?

Join my email list at www.yescoachlisa.com and learn about my upcoming Age Defying Life course

Purchase my book: Yes! Commit. Do. Live

[email protected]

https://www.linkedin.com/in/embraceyourfitness/
https://www.instagram.com/lisaembracefitness/

Introduction video: https://vimeo.com/695907710/efb79d7528

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.