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Podcast Transcript

Lessons From Cowgirls

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership with Marsha Clark". Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, we're on a roll, aren't we? I mean, from making intentional choices to raising powerful girls to building resilience. We've been exploring some very important topics around this idea of stepping into our power with authenticity.

Marsha Clark  0:39  
Yeah. Thank you, Wendi. And we sure have, you know. I've really enjoyed getting to do a deeper dive into some of those topics, as you said, and today's no exception. So we've been holding today's guest in our back pocket for months now because we know we wanted to save her for the perfect time and to align her story with our episodes on choice, power and resilience. And so today is our big day to introduce everyone to writer, speaker and overall inspirational human being, Jan Pflaum. So welcome, Jan.

Jan Pflaum  1:12  
Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I can't wait to share about the cowgirl mentality.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:23  
I can't either, Jan. We are so delighted to have you on the show today. In fact, now that you've said that I am realizing I am getting a pair of Lucchese boots delivered here this week, a brand new pair of lizards. I'm just having that realization, holy crap, I ordered cowboy boots. So we are so excited. Thank you for being here and sharing your lessons from cow girls. I've seen this episode title on the roster for months and I've been very intrigued about what we're going to cover. Our longtime listeners know that when we have guests, we like to start off with little context on their connection to Marsha. And Marsha, I think someone in your network told you about Jan and recommended her for the show?

Marsha Clark  2:07  
That's right, so one of our former Power of Self and ATW Alliance of Technology and Women program participants Marilyn Colon (and I have known as Marilyn Kibler) told me about Jan and her book, "Roping the Storms of Life Like a Cowgirl". Isn't tht a great title? I love it. So Marilyn felt like there were some deeply aligned messages between Jan's work and ours. And of course, that intrigued me further and along with the title of her book, but also in the spirit of women supporting women. I, you know, asked our team to reach out and connect. So here we are through the power of networking.

Jan Pflaum  2:42  
Thank you so much. I met Marilyn at my store and right away, you know how you meet somebody and just connect immediately. And she had this wonderful aura about her and we started talking and she didn't you know, she asked me about what I did and all this and I said, Well, I'm an author, and I wrote a book. She says, You're kidding, I go No,  "Roping the Storms of Life Like a Cowgirl." And she says, Oh, guess what? I go what? She says well you need to meet Marsha Clark. And I said, Oh, I would love it. And we did. And we met. How about that, girl?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:19  
So here we are. So let's jump into those alignment areas, especially your book about roping the storms of life like a cowgirl. So Jan, were you or are you a cowgirl? Is that a part of your own experience?

Jan Pflaum  3:34  
Oh, I tell you the closest thing I ever got to being a cowgirl was growing up on a dairy farm in Central Indiana. You know, we had cows but we didn't have horses. We'd love to have horses, but you know, we just had cows and that's what daddy wanted us to have.

Marsha Clark  3:52  
So, a dairy farmer can't milk horses.

Jan Pflaum  3:55  
No, no, no. Well, and the thing is, you know, we wanted horses. My sister and I said, Daddy, we would love a horse and he goes no, they ride fences. And we go really, dad, really? And he goes really, Jan, they ride fences. I just stared at my dad. And I turned around and walked away because I was not arguing with my dad. I know. And so I turned to my sister and said "This ain't over yet, honey."

Marsha Clark  4:28  
I love it. I love your spirit and I we love our Indiana girls on the show, by the way, because our content director who you talked to Tracie Shipman, also grew up in Central Indiana.

Jan Pflaum  4:38  
Yeah, and we compared notes and we probably grew up maybe 30 miles apart.

Marsha Clark  4:44  
Oh, amazing. Small world.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:45  
Okay. So if you weren't a cowgirl yourself, Jan, what inspired you to write a book about cowgirls?

Jan Pflaum  4:53  
Well, after being in Texas for just a few months, some of the girls from church invited me for a lunch date at Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth and then on to the stockyards. Can you imagine how thrilled I was? (That's a day.) Absolutely. I am a constant observer of my surroundings. So you know, while I was having lunch, so I noticed at the next table, there were some cowgirls that were dressed in their finest, you know, with their boots and their turquoise and the whole bit, and they were having a blast reminiscing about their rodeo days. I was intrigued. After lunch I went over and chatted with them. They were so very interesting, and I loved meeting them. After I came home, I started thinking about those women. And the next day, I was at Barnes and Noble buying books to read about these awesome cowgirls, past and present. I did a lot of research and decided that I needed to write about cowgirls, these women who I believe are entrepreneurs, just in a different sense of the word.

Marsha Clark  6:18  
I love that you see it through that lens because I've never really thought of cowgirls as entrepreneurs. I see myself as a business owner and an entrepreneur and Wendi and so on. So what did you discover in that research at the Barnes and Noble?

Jan Pflaum  6:33  
I discovered that these women organize.  They manage their lives and take on risks with a sense of tenacity of never giving up, no matter how hard the ride. Losing is not in their vocabulary, nor in their spirit.

Marsha Clark  6:58  
And that's the women we love to talk about - powerful women, strong women, you know, the spirit of not losing no matter how hard the ride. I love that.

Jan Pflaum  7:07  
Absolutely. So that was the inspiration for why I wrote "Roping the Storms of Life Like a Cowgirl". I'm gonna cry here, because it is this kind of mentality, drive and determination that we all need, not just from a historical perspective, but in these present times.

Marsha Clark  7:07  
For sure, for sure. And, you know, Jan, that's what we thought when that what you had to say, based on what the research we had done about the book and so on with our recent episodes that have been focused on drive and determination. And I'm curious, have you ever written a book before this one?

Jan Pflaum  7:44  
No, not at all. I had never written anything in my life, let alone sitting down and writing a book. I was a former nurse and I took care of patients. I worked in hospice as well. Writing was not on my agenda at that time. But that's what's coming to Texas can do for a girl - big state, big ideas.

Marsha Clark  8:14  
You know, I can see that you've adopted quite well to your Texas.

Jan Pflaum  8:20  
I love it, honey.

Marsha Clark  8:24  
So tell us more about the book.

Jan Pflaum  8:26  
I felt compelled by writing my book. You know, it was just a gut feeling that I had, I just felt like it was an assignment from God, that I could give women a different perspective on getting inspiration, and how they can use it in their everyday lives, their journey, if you will. I just want to make a difference in people's lives. And, also I just want to add, in my book that my sister who has two master's degrees, one in business, one in counseling, she wrote the worksheets behind every chapter. And those worksheets, one of them, the first chapter says 'Cowgirl Worksheet, Finding Your Inner Cowgirl' and she writes, do you operate out of fear? Do you want to change from living a life of fear or a life of strength? And if you decide to change, what do you need to do? So these are the things that I think are important. So after, when you read my book, you know just after every chapter, get these worksheets and sit down and really work these. It will help tremendously. Yeah.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:53  
Yeah. So Jan, as you were doing this research on cowgirls, what are some lessons you picked up along the way that you want to share with our listeners?

Jan Pflaum  10:03  
I don't know if any of your listeners actually know a real life cowgirl. But I do believe God gave us cowgirls to show the rest of us how to live a life of significance, showing us the way to have perseverance, grit, and discipline in our journey through life. They are incredible role models for all of us. For an example, you know, I want to share, I spoke to a champion barrel racer, her name is Donna Jackson, and she is from Oklahoma. She told me that when she runs the barrels in the rodeo, you know, sometimes she is, she just has this fear. And she just can't kind of get it together. And she said, when I can't get it together, when I have this fear, she said, I don't win. I'm just not a winner. But she says, when I go on a run and I have joy and I have fun, it makes all the difference in the world and I become that winner.

Marsha Clark  11:27  
Yes, I love it. So I already see where we're going. And you know, I can agree with the lessons that you're describing. I mean, even the worksheet questions, those are questions we talked about in our leadership classes. So we talked last week on our podcast about the seven factors of resilience, and two of them are optimism and emotional regulation. And the idea that I can control the way I feel when adversity strikes. And so when I think about what you just said, what is my self talk today? Is it telling me I'm a winner or is it telling me I'm a loser, right? So how can, tell us more about that lesson.

Jan Pflaum  12:02  
Absolutely. Marsha. A cowgirl does not know where each day will take her, but she knows that perhaps her day might be filled with challenges. But guess what? A cowgirl is optimistic. She says 'Bring it on'. Yes. All right. I'm guessing that many, if not all of your listeners have had the experience of getting up in the morning and immediately their mind starts running through their mental inventory of issues they need to address, whether it's problems regarding finances that need to be resolved, a challenging career, or even a challenging spouse, that well, maybe they are dealing with their children's school issues and activities, just basically struggling to meet all the demands of their busy lives. When cowgirls say bring it on, she is mentally and spiritually ready. She wakes up each morning with a heart filled with gratitude. And I want to tell you, I can't say enough about gratitude. And gratitude absolutely does wonders for your soul. The cowgirl adopts an unstoppable, abundant mindset, looking at things with a broader perspective, not thinking of the negative, but looking for the positive. That's where that optimism comes in. That you mentioned, Marsha.

Marsha Clark  13:57  
Yes, it does. I agree with that totally.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:59  
Well, Jan, and I'm specifically reminded of one of the behaviors of optimism that we talked about last week, which is, I believe it's better to believe problems are controllable, even if that's not always true. And I'm still kind of letting that one roll around in my head a little bit because it's a little, it's a lot to unpack with that attitude.

Jan Pflaum  14:21  
I believe we all can become that cowgirl with that unstoppable spirit. One of my favorite inspirational quotes comes from Wayne Dyer. He said, "It is a proven fact. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change". And I would like to repeat that." When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

Marsha Clark  14:54  
You know, Jan, we quote Dr. Wayne Dyer oftentimes and you know that I love this idea of "We see the world as we are, not as the world is", which is this, you know, a similar way of thinking about this. So I appreciate the inspiration that that quote brings to you and to me as well. And we do want to hear more of these cowgirl lessons. But before we do that, I really am curious about what in your own journey drew you to be inspired by this, as you call it, and I love it, unstoppable spirit of cowgirls?

Jan Pflaum  15:25  
Well, as I said earlier, I grew up on a dairy farm in Central Indiana. My family, mom and dad and my sister and I were dairy farmers along with our crops of corn and beans. We had chickens, eggs to gather and sell, cows to milk, gardens to tend, hay to bale and it just seemed like the work never ended. I never thought much about it because there was our, that was just our way of life. I worked hard right along with my family. My job at seven was to feed my baby calves, to clean the milking parlor, and it seems like the list goes on and on. But by my hard work, it gave me such a powerful work ethic. And a keen sense of responsibility that I carried it with me throughout my entire life. I became a nurse, a designer, and then a writer. My journey has not been what you might call a walk in the park. Some days, I felt like I was roping 1,000 pound steer. I have won and I have lost. I have been abused and I have been used. I have come through some really, really hard times in my life where I had to search in my car for change to buy milk and bread. Then there were some really, really awesome times. And as I look back, which I really don't do very often, I find that no matter what the struggles I have faced in my life, I have come a long way. I am so grateful. And to tell you the truth, I have no regrets. None, whatsoever.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:35  
Yeah, Marsha, I'm reminded of the Mark Twain quote that you shared last week when we're talking about putting it into perspective, the one about catastrophes?

Marsha Clark  17:45  
Yes. And you know, the quote for you, Jan is 'I've had many catastrophes in my life, some of which actually happened." right, with all the things we put in our heads. And what I hear you saying is that, while you may have had some life catastrophes, I mean, it's hard when you're looking for change to buy bread and milk, that you've put those into perspective. And now you look over the total of your life with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Am I hearing that?

Jan Pflaum  18:12  
Oh, absolutely. I know that I am a winner. I have had that tenacity, that perseverance that no matter what happens, I know that I will survive. I will make it through by the grace of God and my total resilience. And that is what I am inspiring you to do. Cowgirl up and go after what you want.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:48  
Wow, I'm seeing a new magnet in our future. Marsha. Cowgirl Up!

Marsha Clark  18:52  
We hear man up, I've heard woman up, now we've got cowgirl up. So I love it, too. So I don't know if you know this, but we have a series of these magnets, you hear us saying this would make a great magnet. And so we really are, we're gonna, I'm gonna look at adding those as we build our next set. So you know, one other thing you just said is the idea of going after what you want. And I think that's another point of alignment in your work in our work. And we often talk about the importance of asking for what you want, which takes both clarity of knowing what you want in the first place and then the courage to ask for it. And, you know, we quote a lot of women on here and this one this reminds me of what Brene Brown says is her motto, which is "Choose courage over comfort." So I don't know if you have thoughts about that. But I've always been a fan of of how she presents that idea. She explains that you can't have both courage and comfort. And if you think you're being brave, and you're super comfortable, you're not being that brave, right? That if you think you're being brave, and it doesn't involve risk or uncertainty, you're not being that brave. And so in that moment that people go, I want to be brave and I don't want to be vulnerable, that that's that none of us want to be uncomfortable and not necessarily vulnerable. And yet, we all like to think of ourselves as being brave, and it just doesn't work like that. So I know that part of your lessons from cowgirls that you developed is what you call the cowgirl creed. So tell us what's included in that.

Jan Pflaum  20:25  
I wrote this cowgirl creed to give my readers and today, our listeners, the inspiration to invest in yourself to go out and make a difference in not only your life, but the lives of others.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:43  
So what's one of the first elements of the cowgirl creed?

Jan Pflaum  20:48  
A cowgirl's storms may come with high winds, but they will never blow her away.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:56  
I really like that one, I can relate to that. Say more, Jan.

Jan Pflaum  21:00  
The idea is to stand strong in face of adversity. If you do this, no matter what happens, it will not destroy you. The only thing that can destroy you is yourself and your negative mindset. Again, I want to repeat this. The only thing that can destroy you is yourself and your negative mindset. Get rid of it. You just need to cowgirl it up and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and have confidence in yourself that you can and will rope any storm that comes your way. And you know, I have to tell you this, that I wrote this. And we're talking about the cowgirl up and I wrote cowgirl up and pull your bootstraps up with the courage that gives you the power to be this fearless warrior woman. And Marsha, I have to tell you that my little friends, God love them, they'll come to me and like 'Oh Jan I'm having this bad day. I'm having all these problems'. I look them straight in the face and in their eyes. I put my hand on their shoulder. I said you need to cowgirl it up, pull your bootstraps up with that courage that gives you the power to be this fearless warrior woman. I'm telling you when you go out and you feel like you're this warrior woman, it changes your life. And I just had to say that because I think it's important because we do have friends that you know come to us that have issues. And I don't know how many people I have written this out, and they put it in their cars. It's so funny. Now the other part of this is that cowgirl knows that in order to stand up and survive, she needs to know what falling down is like. All of us have fallen at one time or another. And you can't be a survivor and not have gone through some pitfalls, some hard times, whether in business, relationships, and financial matters, illnesses, or whatever the case may be. But when that inevitable happens, you pull yourself back up, dust yourself off, and just keep moving forward. A cowgirl knows she is never alone. She has support all around her if she knows where to look and reaches out. In my case, my strong faith is what helps me remember that I'm never alone, that God empowers me along the way.

Marsha Clark  24:19  
And Jan, I agree with you, you know, one of our mantras is women supporting women. And so it's a part of that reaching out and supporting one another. And you've touched on two other things that we often talk about through our episodes. And you know, it takes the women supporting women it's the idea of women being intentional about building a strong and diverse support system. And we've even had an entire episode dedicated to the topic at the title was a safety net. But we also talk about it frequently in other episodes and it's really a solid theme for us. But the other thing I wanted to touch on that you said is the idea of identity fIying and leaning on your power sources. In your case, as is true with many of our listeners, one of your sources of power is your faith. So I love that you share that with us. You know, and obviously, it's an important message in your book.

Jan Pflaum  25:15  
Oh, yes, definitely. My faith is absolutely a significant part of my journey, and my own ability to stay resilient in challenging times. Yes.

Marsha Clark  25:27  
I also think that that sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves right now, it's not just me a connection of a higher power or purpose and it often helps people reground themselves or refocus with a different perspective. And we know that's a part of what helps us with building or gaining or growing our resilience. And at least I know that to be true with many of my coaching clients over the year. And that faith or connecting to a spiritual practice is often shared as a source of power in our programs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:58  
So Jan, what else is included in your cowgirl creed?

Jan Pflaum  26:04  
Well, cowgirls believe life is about risking everything for a dream that no one else can see, only her. I designed a t shirt for cancer patients. "Don't allow cancer to dull your sparkle" is a copyright and is in the Archives in Washington, DC. I worked with cancer patients and their families, and I lived at Big Bear Lake, California, for several years and I knew the city manager. And I went to him and asked him if we could do a sparkle day in Big Bear. He never hesitated. So the city of Big Bear like sent out a proclamation that on October 19, 2013, would be Sparkle Day. It was a huge event. Included in that event was that we would walk in honor of those who have passed, those who have survived and those that are battling cancer. It was so amazing. I am so eternally grateful for this day and for Big Bear Lake making it possible. This October, cancer awareness month, we women have dreams. We just need to be courageous and make it happen.

Marsha Clark  27:39  
You know, Jan, I again, I just think about we do all face adversities of various sorts. And knowing that people are there to walk with us, whether it be metaphorically or literally. And I love the sparkle part of it. That's just awesome. I love it. Tell us more.

Jan Pflaum  27:57  
About pursuing your dreams, change is a risk. You know, we all know that. But in order to fulfill your dream, you have to take a risk. Yes, you do. It's exactly what you were saying earlier in the Brene Brown motto about courage over comfort. I believe God gave you this life. Now pull yourself together and start the process of fulfilling your dream. It does not matter if it is big or small. It is your dream. It is your life.

Marsha Clark  28:42  
And I will tell you, Jan, the word we use around that is the authenticity of it. My wish and dream is not yours or Wendi's or anyone else's. And so getting clear about that for ourselves is such an important step.

Jan Pflaum  28:55  
Absolutely, Marsha. There is another important time to remember that you need friends who will be your encouragers, your supporters, who will keep you focused and to help you move forward to your goal, to your dream. But this is that moment when you have to be vulnerable and you need to share your dream out loud with others so they can rally around you. Friends are such a vital part of our lives. I love and cherish my friends so much, appreciate them and love them.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:41  
Yeah, I agree with almost the mandate that sharing what's important to you, what your goals are. When you share them now there's something that in the universe that moves to make it happen. Plus it also creates the sense of accountability like 'I just shot my mouth off to all these people in my life. I have to follow that dream Yeah, it's both sides of that equation.

Marsha Clark  30:08  
Yeah, it's the vulnerable and the accountability for that. Right? Say it out loud. All right. So, you know, Wendi, that we do an exercise in many of our programs where we talk about being a person who not only supports the dreams of others, but who also puts your dreams out into the world for others to support. And there's two sides to that. And, you know, oftentimes, we were always there for everybody else, but we're not asking for their support or not putting ourselves out there. And it's the strongest of those is the two way reciprocal kinds of relationships. That's the dear and cherished friends that we're talking about.

Jan Pflaum  30:43  
And you know, sometimes, you know, it's fear. Yeah, we fear. You know, what are they gonna think of me if I have this dream? Do they think I'm nuts? No, absolutely not. They're your friends. They love you. They want to support you.

Marsha Clark  30:56  
That's what friends are.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:57  
Well, Jan, I think you had one other element of your cowgirl creed that you want to share, right?

Jan Pflaum  31:04  
Absolutey. I do. If you are going to ride a bucking horse, you better be prepared for the bruises.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:14  
God loves it.

Marsha Clark  31:17  
I do you too. And that, you know, it relates to the idea that you can't be both brave and vulnerable, right? I mean, if you're gonna be vulnerable, you're gonna likely get bruised, and that's when you cowgirl it up.

Jan Pflaum  31:26  
Yep, it sure does. In our lifetime, we all have had our share bruises with this ride of life. I know I certainly have. Cowgirls know that they saddle up, that there may be some rocky roads ahead. And in my book, I tell the story of a cowgirl friend. She was a barrel racer, and was a fierce competitor. In one of her rodeo runs, she fell from a horse and as a result from that fall, she lost the sight of her right eye. It was a devastating blow to her life. She loved barrel racing. She was fulfilling her dream. She asked herself, do I stop competing or do I continue to do what I love the most? Was this accident going to stop her or steal her dream of being a champion barrel racer?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:33  
Oh my gosh, what happened?

Jan Pflaum  32:35  
She made up her mind she had to continue on. She had that cowgirl mentality of never, ever giving up. She made the statement, 'I have not ridden my last rodeo'. She did not surrrender. She went on to compete. She wore a patch over her eye, but she never wore a patch over her spirit. And I want to repeat this. She wore a patch over her eye but she never wore a patch over her spirit.

Marsha Clark  33:26  
You know, that was another one of those magnet quotes, right? Because this limiting ourselves by squashing or diminishing our spirit is, I mean, that's the worst feeling in the world and she refused to let that happen.

Jan Pflaum  33:46  
She was such an amazing role model not only to those on the rodeo circuit, but also those she served and supported years later, as she used her own recovery story and her cowgirl courage to help others who are struggling with disability. I share this story as an example that your bruises, your failures, your disappointments aren't permanent. They may be just be a stepping stone to something that is so powerful and so wonderful. It is a reminder that you have the ultimate power within you to be a champion, to gain victory over what ever obstacles you are facing at this present time. Nothing, nothing is going to hold you back. I'm circling that barrel to success.

Marsha Clark  35:00  
You know, Jan, I think about one of your lessons is that cowgirls know a bad day does not mean a bad life. And I think about it in terms of this story, right? I mean, we will have those adversities and challenges and falling down and all of that, and yet it's not going to dominate or be the dominant force in our lives. True.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:23  
Yep. Marsha, what an inspiring and clever way to explore resilience today. I'm really glad that you pursued introducing Jan and her lessons from cowgirls to all of us. And I think my key takeaway from today is cowgirl up! You got it, girl.

Marsha Clark  35:43  
And I also love the alignment in just the intriguing way we were able to bring some of our recent lessons back full circle. And my favorite quotes are "Don't allow cancer to dull your sparkle". I mean, that's huge. And you can replace the word cancer with almost anything. Don't allow a bad boss to dull your sparkle, a flat tire, being laid off. And you know, "She wore a patch over her eye but she never wore a patch over her spirit". So Jan, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your message of hope and inspiration, empowerment and resilience. And, you know, we're gonna give you the final thoughts of what you'd like to leave our listeners with as we wrap up today.

Jan Pflaum  36:21  
Well, first of all, thank you so much, both of you for having me on the show today. It was such a delight to be here and to share my passion. And yes, I do have a final thought. I want everyone to remember that cowgirls teach us to be fearless. So find your voice. Make a difference. Get inspired. Take changes. But most of all, have faith and follow your dreams.

Marsha Clark  37:05  
I love it. Love it. Love it. You know, inspiring words, clearly near and dear to your heart. The message is near and dear to our hearts and what we hope and wish for every single woman in the world and girl in the world. And I don't want to leave the men and boys out, but you know, this is a part of cowgirls. Let's own our time. And so thank you again, Jan. And Wendi, as always, thank you for guiding us through this, this part of our podcast episodes. And so to our listeners out there, you know, cowgirl it up! And we hope you'll share this episode and that you'll keep listening to us and we'll keep learning together. And as always, "Here's to women supporting women!"

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