I’m eager to introduce Johnnene Addison-Gay as our featured member of One Degree Shift. Johnnene is a fellow purpose seeker and contributing author in the best-selling anthology book, Emerge: Real Stories of Courage and Truth.
Cassandra: I met Johnnene a few years back when I was speaking at the Ambitious Woman’s Conference. On the last day of the event, she told me that she woke up hearing my voice ringing in her ear, and she signed on to be a coauthor in my second anthology book. Johnnene, I’d like you to introduce yourself.
Johnnene: Well… my name is Johnnene Gay – actually, Addison-Gay is my legal name. I like the initials JAG so I planned my last name like I’ve done with a lot of my life. I planned when I would have kids and how many I would have. Last year was the first year I allowed myself to “let go and let God;” although, it’s still a work in progress. I’m learning to be more in the moment and to stop trying to predict my future.
Cassandra: You are not alone in that struggle because I’m a recovering perfectionist and control freak. Tell us more and maybe we’ll understand what made you that way.
Johnnene: I grew up in historic Savannah, Georgia. I’m the youngest of six children (really eight if I include twin sisters from my dad’s previous relationship). I have been married to my college sweetheart for 19 years, and we have two smart, athletic, teenage boys. I have always enjoyed assisting people in reaching their goals and aspirations.
Cassandra: So, you’re a Georgia peach! Maybe being the youngest sibling has something to do with your strong need to control and plan everything. I’m curious though, in what way has your need to control the things around you been a good thing and how has it held you back?
Johnnene: I’ve always tried to have as much control over my life as I could. Planning everything helps me dodge surprises. Not knowing things scares me because I feel out of control. I guess the down side is not being open to my creativity.
Cassandra: And if I were coaching you, I’d ask… “What is that costing you?” But I’ll save that question for another time. I will say though that I know exactly how you feel about having “a high need to know.” I’m recovering from that too. In our recent book, The Call to Soar, I wrote about the breakthrough that came when I turned and engaged with that fearful part of me. Because my “need to know” held me back from living my purpose. If fact, by digging deeper to understand why I needed so much control, I could then loosen its hold on me. It was a self-inflicted lid that determined how high I could fly. (Our readers can download and read my full story here.) So, I would suggest that you explore that side of you a bit more as well as those who are reading this spotlight article today. I am certain that you and I are not the only ones uncomfortable with uncertainty, but until we learn how to deal with it (or as you said “let go”) we will continue to limit our true potential.
Johnnene: You’re absolutely right, Cassandra. When I compare how I used to be to my relationship with God today, I can remember how regimented I was about counting calories, weighing food, and planning every meal and everything. I never stopped to pray or to ask Holy Spirit what I should eat or what would be beneficial in my weight loss. I do it now, but before this year I was not accustomed to trusting God for things that I thought I could control myself. Now, I pause and listen for guidance. In doing so, I’ve loss eight pounds in two weeks. The weight loss battle is not yet won, but I’m well on my way. My size 12 has never felt so loose. It all comes down to having faith and being patient. I realize I didn’t get this size overnight and I must retrain my brain (and heart) to listen to Holy Spirit first and not my flesh.
Cassandra: That sounds like a new weight management practice for you, and one I suspect you’ll teach to others. Congratulations on your weight loss success and in learning a new way to be with yourself. It’s beautiful to watch your growth. You mentioned earlier that you enjoy helping people reach their goals. Speak a little more about that.
Johnnene: I’m passionate about helping people reach their potential in life, whether it be health, personal development, or financial (which is where I often assist most people). You name it! I don’t mind helping if I can. I’ve worked in and out of network marketing for over 15 years, and I connect with a lot of people. And, because I’m a helper, I usually can point them to what they need. My self-appointed job title is Resource Specialist. I believe in the power of residual income. People must take more control of their finances versus letting a job dictate what time to go to work, how much they can make, and when they can retire. I’ve seen so many people in “relationship” marketing retire in their 20 and 30’s instead of having to wait until they’re 65 or older. It is a little scary when I can’t connect people to what they need. I am so accustomed to running my life by a blueprint that it is uncomfortable to not have a blueprint to help others. At times, I feel like I’ve let them down or that I’m a failure when I can’t help them.
Cassandra: Well Johnnene, perhaps you are the one that is meant to write the blueprint on helping others. Have you ever considered that?
Johnnene: Wow, that’s thought-provoking and challenging at the same time. I’ll have to consider that.
Cassandra: Yes, I’ve always felt you have more wisdom buried deep inside of you. As you continue to pray and let go, I’m sure you’ll have more than a blueprint to share with the world. Tell us more about your work as a Resource Specialist.
Johnnene: Through my networking, I engage a lot of people in conversation. It used to be uncomfortable for me to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I was content with them staying in their corner and me staying in mine. Now, instead of a casual greeting and going on my way, I look forward to getting to know new people and encouraging them to strive for more and dream a little. Someone recently called me a Dream Maker (as you would say Cassandra, a Difference Maker). I like that! I want people to know that their hopes and dreams aren’t silly, far-fetched, or unreachable. We all need to be heard and I’m one to listen objectively. I listen to their heart. I validate their feelings. We plan their next move together. It surprises me to meet so many people who are just going about their day existing and not truly living. I assure them that the air they breathe is important. That they are valuable in this world. Everyone has a place on this earth.
Cassandra: Johnnene, what motivates you? Why do you do what you do?
Johnnene: I want to accomplish something bigger than anything I’ve done before. Yes, I wrote and published in the best-selling anthology book Emerge. I was featured in a success magazine called Uncommon Me. And, I still have a desire to do something bigger – it’s like my ancestors are counting on me. I feel a responsibility to do better and to do something worthwhile. It’s an internal pull to succeed. To show ordinary people that I, as a black woman, can do something great and bigger than myself. Yes, I’ve done a lot in life, but I can do more and I want to be more. I need to leave my own stamp in the world. I want to be remembered for accomplishing something ginormous, if I could only leave my comfort zone.
Cassandra: Johnnene, I celebrate the success you’ve achieved, and don’t forget we also raised close to $5000 through our BUY A BOOK BUILD A SCHOOL campaign to lift deserving children out of poverty by providing access to basic education. You were part of that too! I completely understand the deep knowing that you are here to accomplish more in life. The truth is, we cannot accomplish our big mission alone. That’s why I created One Degree Shift, a community that learns, grows, and supports one another to make the difference we are meant to make. And, you’re right, we can’t accomplish ginormous things in life by staying in our comfort zone. In fact, I don’t refer to it as a comfort zone anymore because often it’s not comfortable at all. It’s only familiar because you know what you can expect – the same old same old. Stepping out of it feels too risky because you don’t know what you will get. It’s uncertain and that makes you uneasy. And, as my coach often says, your success is determined by your ability to deal with uncertainty. So, you are doing the work to break free from all that limits your success and prosperity. What other wisdom do you have for people reading this article?
Johnnene: You’re so right, Cassandra. We’re bound by our limitations. We know we want something more but we don’t know how to go about getting it or if it’s even possible. So, we just stay stuck because it feels safer; that’s what we know.
Cassandra: I’d say we are bound by our limited thinking, our scarcity mindset, and our lack of trust – with ourselves and with others.
Johnnene: Yes, I agree. We know we won’t fail in the comfort zone where we are because we’re familiar with the here and now. But on the flip side of that, we won’t grow either. I think I contribute to other people’s lives by listening to them and hearing what they want out of life. People need to be heard and they need someone that they can relate to. They need to know that the success I’ve had is possible for them too. I’m here on this earth to show compassion, love, kindness, and to display patience and endurance by stepping out of the box and overcoming my fears. I got on a stage to sing for the first time in front of a group of people I didn’t know. I was a coauthor in a best-selling book and featured in a magazine even though I questioned whether I was worthy. I gave a 5-minute speech while shaking like a leaf. These are all examples of who I am becoming by saying “Yes” when in the back of my mind I want to say “No.” Now I am truly living instead of merely existing like I had been in the past. My mantra, borrowed from Nike, is “Just do it!” Instead of talking myself out of something, I stay in action mode.
Cassandra: That’s how you step out of your comfort zone and deal with uncertainty. Even if you only take small steps, keep moving towards the vision of fulfillment that you want. That’s an awesome message Johnnene. Do you have more to share with us?
Johnnene: I just want to be a beacon of light to others, especially African Americans. I want to show them that we are more capable than we know, but we often settle for less when there is so much more available to us. I’m not sure why we as woman settle, Black woman especially. Why do we devalue ourselves and what we can accomplish in life? Why do we rely on others to show us our worthiness? When did our opinion of ourselves stop being good enough? I want to be heard, and I want to show others how to be heard. I want them to know that they have a voice as well. That they are smart, beautiful, and have a place in this world. We’re all unique and have something to contribute. We ALL matter.
Cassandra: That’s a beautiful message Johnnene and so true. You and I must live that message out loud so others will be inspired to do the same. You’ve been a part of One Degree Shift community since writing with me in 2015. What has been the biggest value of your participation so far?
Johnnene: I so enjoy being a part of One Degree Shift. The monthly calls allow me the opportunity to be a part of a community. I feel connected to these ladies unlike my connections (or lack thereof) in my everyday life. The laughter, education, love, wisdom, guidance, and safety is all wrapped into our 60-minute calls each month. I give myself permission to stop whatever I’m doing on third Fridays to participate and be present on our monthly calls. The guidance I have received is invaluable. And, when I need to be refueled between the coaching calls, I visit our private online group to expand our connection. Don’t worry, I’m not completely selfish and take, take, take. I always listen for an opportunity to pour into other women in the group so that I can bless them with my wisdom and essence too. Maybe someone needs an accountability partner to move forward? I’m there for them too. Cassandra, you have been a leader that reminds us that we are more and we can accomplish more than we’ve done or think we can. You have encouraged me to give myself permission to smile more, want more, and be more. Yes, it’s a great and worthwhile community.
Cassandra: Thank you Johnnene. I am so glad you are a part of the One Degree Shift community. I’ve witnessed your ability to listen thoughtfully and then share such helpful insight. I enjoyed coaching you during the Transform Through Writing program, and I continue to witness your growth as we continue the path-finding process in my Discover Your Purpose program. I see you blossoming, and I am honored to be a part of your development.
Leave a comment below to let Johnnene know how her life and message speaks to you. What do you feel called to do? Can you relate to Johnnene’s fear of uncertainty and strong need to know everything?
Do you feel called to contribute to something bigger in the world? Do you want to be supported to stretch yourself and grow in order to express your highest purpose? If your answer is “Yes,” then join me and Johnnene Addison-Gay in One Degree Shift and let’s make a difference together! Find out more.