Ida from Spark!

Q&A with Spark! CEO Shannon McGuire

Photo of Shannon McGuire on the left, small Spark! logo in the middle, and content on the right stating “Wisdom from a mom on her 40th birthday; Shannon McGuire, chief empowerment officer
Shannon McGuire is the Chief Empowerment Officer here at Spark! Strategic Solutions. The work we do, how we do it, and why all come from Shannon’s creation, in some way or another. Whether it’s leadership development using Human-Centered YOUnity™, the guiding vision to make the world better, or the mom wisdom to make it happen, Shannon’s impact is felt wherever Spark! goes. 

To celebrate her 40th birthday, we sat down with Shannon to ask her six of our most pressing questions, and hopefully gain some of that mom wisdom ourselves. 

Please note, content has been edited for brevity; the meaning has not been altered. 

Q: What are the four biggest lessons you’ve learned in your four decades of life?

A: Well, the first 10 years of my life were kinda bad. But that taught me that my adversities are my advantage. Reflecting on that decade, there were big challenges that happened then that are so helpful to me now, but I had to reframe my mindset–and how I viewed those challenges to get there. I had to accept and acknowledge that the hard things in my life became my aces in life’s game of blackjack.

Decade two,–from 10 to 20–WOO! I became a mom in that decade. What I learned was I can always have a different finish. Early on I was so focused on the starting line and where I came from that I forgot that I can chart my own course. Define my own destiny. Create my own end point. Essentially, I always have the power to make decisions for myself to make my world better.

Decade three…I feel old counting these decades y’all! So from the span of 20 to 30–I learned to stop fighting and how to co-create. From parenting to leadership, I realized all roles are about relationships. Everything comes down to people. All families, organizations, and communities are filled with people. If I want to create a better world for myself and others, I need to learn how to work with polarities. It's like blending blue and yellow to get green, I need to include me and them to get to WE.  

This past decade has been wild. From 30 to 40 I’ve learned that life can be unpredictable, scary, and fun–mostly when I let go. Like raising my hands on a roller coaster ride. Once I released my fears, my uncertainties eased. The chaos in my mind and world calmed and I can now enjoy the ride.

I probably have like 100 other lessons but those are the big themes for me so far. 

Q: If you could go back and change one thing, would you? And what would you change?

A: I wouldn’t change anything. I've learned to reconcile and accept what was–and what is. There've been a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of missteps, a lot of mistakes, but I wouldn't change a damn thing. I’ve learned to resolve the positives and negatives of my life on a daily basis. That way I won’t leave this planet with regrets. No baggage for me!

Q: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far?

A: Hands down, being a mom. And not only that, building a stable, steady (for the most part), loving household where we always have a place where we belong together as a family. Staying in a relationship with my husband for over two decades and having four kids across two generations. And guess what? They actually like me! I think that has been incredible.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about being a mom?

A: Oh my gosh, I think watching these little humans grow up to be big humans. Helping them build and achieve their dreams. I love, love, love helping people achieve their Big Dream, and that’s because of what I’ve experienced being a mom. I enjoy guiding them through the process of learning. 

One of my biggest lessons tied to motherhood has been that it's not about preventing my kids from feeling hurt and pain, I'll never be able to do that. It's about giving them the guidance, tools, and techniques necessary so they know how to get up and get through it. 

It’s like watching them stand and walk for the first time–cheering them on as they take their first steps. Encouraging them so they have confidence. Giving them room so they can practice. This is what the process of learning is like.

Q: What’s your big dream for the next 40 years?

A: I've been thinking a lot about this one lately, and it came down to something super simple: Help 8 billion people feel good about being themselves. 

Okay, I know it’s simple to say, but it’s going to be super hard to do.

I’m on a mission to help people feel good about being themselves so the world is a better, brighter place. I know it’s ambitious. Through collaboration and co-creation we can make it happen. This goal is bigger than me alone. 

One day, I want the entire world to meditate on joy at the same time. Like a massive joy-filled, blissed out wave filling the world. I bet a lot of good would happen for humanity….or we’ll go through a time warp to a distant land far away…and filled with joy. I’m biased. 

Q: Do you have any tips for people to help them feel good about being themselves?

A: First and foremost, define who you are. Reclaim your story, understand who you are, and get comfortable with who you are.  You're the sum of your environment, your parents, your belief system, societal opinions, and all of those things in between. Start to unpack your own story. I think that's like the best way to go. 

And then define what good means for you. Sometimes we get so caught up in being “happy” and achieving all of these “things,” all of these material possessions. If you stripped all that shit away, how would you feel? Start the journey to feeling good about being yourself from that raw place.
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