Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Today’s guest, Cheryle Jackson, describes her life as a series of ‘firsts’ — as the only woman and woman of color in corporate hallways and boardrooms. As the first female president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, she led the 100+ year old organization through transformational change.
As the first woman and African American to serve in the role of communications director for the Governor of Illinois, she survived the tumultous administration of Rod Blagojevich, and was asked by Barack Obama to run for his Senate seat. She’s gone onto several C-suite and Board positions, but the double whammy of divorce and breast cancer in 2012 caused her to step back and allow herself to think about herself.
In 2018, she founded Grit and Grace, The Movement, a women’s empowerment organization to help advance the ambition of women through coaching, conferences, community, and content designed to inspire and empower. Join Liz for her conversation with the extraordinary Cheryle Jackson.
1:50 The Art Degree
4:41 Disease brings change
6:37 “I’m going to be a VP”
9:20 Working for Illinois Governor Blagovejich
14:18 Better days at the Chicago Urban League
17:37 Running for US Senate
22:19 The TEDx Talk
23:14 The double whammy of breast cancer and divorce
23:54 Finding grace
28:11 Founding Grit and Grace, The Movement
31:33 Taking up space while you’re here and keepin a project in front of you
If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and share a review. Engage with more stories of those finding fulfillment in the third act of their lives on Liz Tinkham’s Third Act podcast at thirdactpodcast.com.
0:00:06.4 Liz Tinkham: Hi, this is Liz Tinkham, and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the Third Act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends but your show’s not finished.
0:00:21.1 Liz Tinkham: Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s Third Act. On the show I talk with Cheryle Jackson, the model of grit and grace. Unlike my usual introductions, I’m not going to preview Cheryle’s backstory because you need to hear it unfold as she tells it. I would just say that after my interview with her, I was struck by her perseverance to keep pushing through several incredibly tough jobs and two devastating personal issues.
0:00:46.6 Liz Tinkham: And yet she came through it with grit and grace in the fullest sense of both words, which she now passes on, through her conferences and her consulting business. I am so honored to have had the chance to interview Cheryle, and delighted to share this episode with all of you. Please leave me feedback on what you thought after listening.
0:01:10.3 Liz Tinkham: Cheryle, welcome to Third Act. I’m delighted to have you on the show today.
0:01:14.2 Cheryle Jackson: Well, I’m delighted to here. Thank you for the invitation.
0:01:17.9 Liz Tinkham: Look, and a quick thank you to Andre Hughes, who was one of the first guests on the show, who’s a mutual friend of ours, and I think maybe we met once before at Powered by Action?
0:01:25.6 Cheryle Jackson: Correct.
0:01:26.2 Liz Tinkham: Long time ago.
0:01:27.7 Cheryle Jackson: Long time ago.
0:01:29.0 Liz Tinkham: Yeah, long time ago. Well, I can’t wait to unwind your story. So you’re the founder of Grit and Grace, a coaching and media company. And as we unwind your story, I don’t think any of my guests have demonstrated as much grit as you have throughout your career, and we’re all gonna hear about it here in a second, but I wanna start with your first act, the Art degree from Northwestern. So what were your plans post-graduation with that degree?
0:01:50.9 Cheryle Jackson: You know, I didn’t have very many plans, a game plan of action. I was a true, I guess, artist. Just living in the moment. I remember asking Ed Paschke, who was one of my instructors, he’s a very well-noted 20th century artist and so I asked him, “Should I go to graduate school for a Master’s in Painting. What should I do?”
0:02:13.0 Cheryle Jackson: His advice was, “No, just go live life. Don’t try to take a job that puts you on a certain corporate career path, just something to pay the minimal bills to exist and paint.” That was his advice. So I sort of did that. [chuckle] I sold everything from hotdogs and handing out samples at picnics, and this is with the Northwestern degree, you can imagine my parents were just…
0:02:42.6 Liz Tinkham: Yeah, I bet your parents were thrilled with that, right? [chuckle]
0:02:44.4 Cheryle Jackson: Oh my gosh, thrilled with that. And so I decided that I would apply for a painting program in Cortona, Italy, through the University of Georgia, and Cortona is now referred to as Tuscany. And so I was… My heart set on that. And I applied, I got accepted, and all of that I needed to do was get my transcripts in and had my trunk packed, and was gonna go painting in Cortona, Italy for a year. But I couldn’t get my transcripts from Northwestern because I still owed $1000, and so they wouldn’t give me my transcripts. [chuckle]
0:03:25.1 Liz Tinkham: They won’t release them. I know.
0:03:26.4 Cheryle Jackson: No.
0:03:27.0 Liz Tinkham: We’ve been through that with our kids who haven’t paid for some reason, right?
0:03:30.4 Cheryle Jackson: Right, right. So my whole life changed.
0:03:33.9 Liz Tinkham: Yeah, and then even… You were thinking after that, that you might go on to be a professor, so what happened with that career?
0:03:40.4 Cheryle Jackson: So after that, I stumbled around and my father is like, okay, finally came to the fact that I wanted a career in the arts, so he enrolled me without my knowledge into graduate school for graphic design, so trying to give his child some direction and focus. So I had nothing better else to do, so I said, “Sure, why not? I’ll go ahead and go to college.” The Master’s program in graphic design.
0:04:06.7 Cheryle Jackson: And so I was… I had an interview, I was nearing the end of the program, and I began interviewing to be a professor. I interviewed for a university in Ohio and made it through all the rounds of interviewing. Again fate stepped in and they had to put the entire search process on hold, because the head of the search committee, he’s a young man, came out of remission from cancer, ended up passing away. While he was… While they put it on hold, I became ill with Graves disease, that’s hyper-thyroid storm. And that changed my trajectory.
0:04:41.6 Liz Tinkham: How did it change your trajectory?
0:04:43.1 Cheryle Jackson: Well, first it was very serious, I had to have radiation to shrink the quarter, I had heart medication to regulate my heart. It was very, very serious. I took a leave of absence and one of my instructors would not recognize that… Accept that it was a leave of absence. All of my other instructors did, gave me incompletes, except for her. She was a professor in my study of major, and she gave me an F and I was the number one student in the program.
0:05:15.8 Cheryle Jackson: I was like, “But this is my health issue, all the other professors, I have documentation.” And she just refused. It broke my heart and I couldn’t… I just couldn’t reconcile with that, and so I ended up not returning there. I spent two and a half years, and I decided to… Then I didn’t think I wanted to teach anymore, and I just was unsure about that career path, and so I began… I entered the workforce and took my first job as a graphic designer for a local PBS NPR station in Memphis.
0:05:51.3 Liz Tinkham: And then you ended up eventually moving to Washington DC, and you told me that that’s when real ambition kicked in. So what happened there at NPR in Washington?
0:06:01.6 Cheryle Jackson: Yes I saw… I got a picture for my future, and the picture came to me… I’m an African-American woman, at the time I was in my 30s. But the picture of my future came to me through young 30, 20-something-year-old White boys who were stepping into these big jobs, this was the dot com era, and they were 21, 22, 23 and they were becoming presidents and CEOs and VPs of companies, tech companies. And I just, here I was 32 astonished at this. “How is that?”
0:06:37.5 Cheryle Jackson: So I decided then and there that… I told my then husband, I said, “I’m going to be a vice-president.” And he looked at me like I was nuts like, “Are you crazy?” And I said, if they could do it in 20s then surely I can do it. So I didn’t see myself as a woman or Black woman, but I was able to craft a vision for my future, and I began to sort of put the pieces together.
0:07:02.4 Cheryle Jackson: I didn’t know how, but I knew that… I think it was the advocacy and the fight in me, like there was something wrong with that, that I had to be okay with where I was, but the sky was the limit for them. So something in me just turned over. I think it was my soul seeking expansion, actually.
0:07:25.0 Cheryle Jackson: And so then it was there that I didn’t start applying for jobs, I was working for NPR at the time. Actually, was I working for NPR? But I didn’t set out to start applying for jobs as vice president, I just began to get a vision for myself, and in my role I crafted a vision for the company, and I began to just pursue ideas and to self-educate myself about various strategies and how I could really grow into the role and grow the company as well. So it was NPR that I caught the ambition wave.
0:08:04.2 Liz Tinkham: Did you get to become a vice president?
0:08:06.0 Cheryle Jackson: I did, I did.
0:08:07.7 Liz Tinkham: Yeah. I think that’s a… Cheryle, I think it’s a terrific lesson for some of our younger listeners who might also have that same sort of issue with thinking they’re not ready or that they’re not good enough, and I love the visualization part of it, and then work your way… You announce it and work your way up to it.
0:08:27.7 Cheryle Jackson: That’s always been my strategy as I look back on my life, I first visualize it, I catch the vision for myself, and then I make a pronouncement. I don’t ruminate in my head or in my heart, I speak it aloud, a pronouncement and sort of that accountability, it makes it more real, and then I set about it. But within 36 months, I went from a art director to vice president of Corporate Communications and Marketing.
0:08:57.1 Liz Tinkham: That’s unbelievable. So eventually you come back to Chicago, you work for Amtrak, and then for Governor Rod Blagojevich. So, okay, I’m from Illinois and from Chicago, and given the reputation of Illinois politics, I just can’t imagine what you did there. So tell us a little bit about what you did for Rod, and what it was like, and I think we’re gonna hear some real grit in this part of the story.
0:09:20.4 Cheryle Jackson: Oh absolutely. Well, I ended up being the communications director and chief press secretary. When I was asked to interview for the job, I didn’t know why they were bringing me to this home of the person that was hosting over the weekend, it was very secretive. They were trying to keep everything on the hush-hush, and it just said, “Be here.”
0:09:39.3 Cheryle Jackson: It was the day before Thanksgiving, “Be here at the house, and we wanna talk to you.” So I go in, I’m thinking they’re gonna talk to me about a board seat or to work for the department, to run the Department of Economic Opportunity and… Commerce and Economic Opportunity. And when they told me, “We’re here to talk to you about being the communications director and press secretary.” I said, “But I don’t wanna do that.”
0:10:08.6 Liz Tinkham: You hadn’t visualized yourself in that role.
0:10:10.6 Cheryle Jackson: I had not. Let me tell you what, because I had watched the West Wing and I saw CJ Cregg, and I was like, “Oh, heck no, I do not want that job.”
0:10:19.6 Liz Tinkham: That’s a tough job.
0:10:21.0 Cheryle Jackson: It’s a tough job. And so I didn’t know about being a press secretary in government or for politics, but I watched the show and I knew it was tough. And they told me, when I said that I wasn’t interested in that, and I was interested in the Department of Commerce and the Economic Opportunity, they said, “The only reason why we called you here is to talk to you about this job, communications and press secretary job.”
0:10:43.5 Cheryle Jackson: “And so we’re not here to talk to you about anything else but this job, and so we need an answer, because the chief of staff is walking through the door any minute to talk, and so you need to decide.” And before I could even draw the next breath, in walks the chief of staff, and he just pointed his head, his hand, finger towards the kitchen where they were doing the interviews without even saying hello or anything, he just pointed toward the kitchen.
0:11:08.4 Cheryle Jackson: And I got up, I walked and I sat… To the kitchen, sat down to the table, and I began to pitch for the job like I wanted it with all of my heart.
0:11:23.2 Liz Tinkham: I don’t think I’ve had anybody that I’ve interviewed so far who’s worked in government politics, nor I don’t know if we have that many listeners, so what did you take away from the best and the worst of that experience, and how did it change you, if at all?
0:11:37.4 Cheryle Jackson: Well, I still have PTSD from that experience.
0:11:44.1 Liz Tinkham: Okay, so that’s the worst. Alright, tell us why.
0:11:49.3 Cheryle Jackson: It’s, one, a tough job. You wake up every morning with an X on your back or the governor’s back, the principal’s back, and then you’re in his sights. And he was a difficult personality, he was a difficult personality to work for. So on top of that, being the only woman, and so I was the first woman and the first person of color in that job. I was the only woman and only African-American in the top in his inner cabinet, and so it was very isolating.
0:12:23.7 Cheryle Jackson: So it’s a tough job, I’ve never worked in politics or government. It’s high profile, my face and name is everywhere every single day, not only outside but then this governor was obsessed with the media, so what I did was his 24/7 obsession, so it was all eyes on me inside and out and in a very unforgiving and difficult environment. I would even say toxic. Okay, let me stop playing around, that was toxic, okay? It was toxic.
0:12:57.7 Cheryle Jackson: So I remember once, I was so dreading this press conference that I pulled into the garage to park, I got out of my car and I tossed my cookies. It way just that kind of job. Wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, getting MF’ed by the Governor. It was just a tough job. But what I… The upside of the job is I learned a lot. I grew in a way, at such a fast pace. My skill set, my insight, everything. I just, was so much growth. It came at an expense, I paid a high price for it, but there was a lot of growth. Yeah, marriage, health, all of it.
0:13:40.2 Cheryle Jackson: I paid a very… Sometimes you’re writing a check, and you don’t even realize you’re writing a check. I was writing a big check and I didn’t understand what I was doing. But outside of that, I also saw how I could help impact or contribute to improving the plight of people. I awakened in that job, my consciousness awakened, my soul awakened. There was an awakening of me at a deeper level in that job, and it really laid the groundwork and the pathway to the job that would follow.
0:14:18.6 Liz Tinkham: Yeah. ‘Cause after that, you went to work, a terrific run as the first female CEO of the Chicago Urban League. What are you most proud of your work there? Tell us a little bit about that Urban League.
0:14:29.1 Cheryle Jackson: So the Chicago Urban League is a venerable civil rights organization. It’s been around a very long… Now, over 100 years. When I became the CEO, I was their first woman at the time, 93-year history of the organization, which is kind of crazy when you think about it. Civil rights.
0:14:45.4 Cheryle Jackson: So when I came in, I came in blazing, I was still a juggernaut from the prior job working administration, so I’m sure I probably freaked out the staff. You know, sleepy, quiet little staff and I’d come in like, “What do you mean you’re not working at 2 o’clock in the morning? Wake up. We’re solving my emails.”
0:15:05.1 Liz Tinkham: Right. [chuckle] You probably had to clean your language up too.
0:15:07.9 Cheryle Jackson: I had to clean that up.
0:15:08.8 Liz Tinkham: No I’ve had to do that too.
0:15:10.8 Cheryle Jackson: Yes I had to clean that up, I had to be normal. My then husband said, “You know, it’s not cool sending emails at 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning.” But what I’m most proud of are two things. One, I moved the organization away from social services to economic empowerment. Not that social services weren’t important, there were other… A plethora of other organizations doing it and doing it, some much, much better than the Chicago Urban League.
0:15:39.1 Cheryle Jackson: But no, too few organizations, at the time no organization was focused on economic empowerment in the African-American community, and I feel like that was the right space for the Chicago Urban League. So I focused on growing businesses and helping people acquire skill sets. But what I’m most proud of is I sued my former boss and the State of Illinois for how it funds public schools as a violation…
0:16:10.9 Liz Tinkham: Oh, you’re kidding. You sued Rod?
0:16:12.5 Cheryle Jackson: I sued Rod. And I paid the price for that. But I sued Rod and I sued the State of Illinois for how it funds public education as a violation of the civil rights of poor Black and Brown children. And that was the biggest and boldest move. And it was the absolute right thing to do.
0:16:33.2 Liz Tinkham: How did it turn out?
0:16:35.3 Cheryle Jackson: Well, the administration put a brick on me, put a brick on the Chicago Urban League, we received no funding from the state. Eventually, it went through the courts for years. I stepped away, so it was maybe two years later, I stepped away to run for US Senate and do other things. But I think almost seven years later, six or seven years later, the State of Illinois settled. There was something, but it was so watered down. It really required a full-on campaign to keep the pressure on, to make the powers that be do the right thing.
0:17:22.2 Liz Tinkham: God love you and courage, ’cause Illinois politics are just so, so tough. And you just slipped something in there and you said, “I stepped away to run for Senate.” So, Okay, why, when? What happened?
0:17:37.7 Cheryle Jackson: Well, I was really doing amazing work, we were doing amazing work at the Chicago Urban League, the Urban League and the team there. But I had no intentions of running for US Senate. It wasn’t even in my consciousness to run for US Senate. When President Obama won his election his seat was vacated, and the initial thing was… The governor needed to appoint someone. And so all that to say is that the President had a shortlist, a list of who he would like to see replace him in the Senate and I was on that list.
0:18:19.1 Cheryle Jackson: And so here I never thought of myself in that role, and then to be on the shortlist of the most important and powerful man in the world as someone to replace him in the US Senate gave me a sense of, again, I got a new vision for myself and my possibilities. And so I think the thinking was that he would appoint me, former governor would appoint me. On paper it made sense. But he had other ideas for that seat, and so yes, this is Blagojevich, the whole drama, is why he went and had to take an extended vacation. [chuckle]
0:19:01.6 Liz Tinkham: In the penitentiary, right?
0:19:05.2 Cheryle Jackson: Exactly.
0:19:06.3 Liz Tinkham: Like most Illinois governors.
0:19:06.4 Cheryle Jackson: That’s right. He had to take an extended vacation. So when he did his thing, then they had to run a special election, or it was up for… The seat was up for election. And so I still hadn’t planned on running, even though now it was part of what’s possible for me, until I met with one of the candidates and I was just like, “Oh my God, this cannot be.”
0:19:32.5 Cheryle Jackson: And so I ran because “anybody but you” is what spurred me to run, and it was in the midst of the great recession, and I saw the pain of people, particularly the people that I was hired to serve, which is the African-American community. People were losing their homes, their businesses. It was horrible.
0:19:54.0 Cheryle Jackson: I was getting calls in the middle of the night, and to have someone be so cavalier about it, it was just show and tell for them, it angered me so. And so I… And this person would have won with the solid vote of the Black community, then I wanted the Black community to know better and to do better, even if it meant running myself, and so I did.
0:20:18.6 Liz Tinkham: Okay. Now, you didn’t win. But what lessons did you take away from the experience?
0:20:22.5 Cheryle Jackson: You do not go into battle with a team of people you don’t know. You have to have someone on your team that you have had some experience and a track record with. So I had a campaign team that was just not even from Illinois, all outside of Illinois. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and that’s… You don’t mount the biggest battle of your life with people that you’ve not seen before.
0:20:51.9 Liz Tinkham: Did the Democratic Party give those people to you, or?
0:20:56.7 Cheryle Jackson: No. The Democratic Party kept people from me because… So I had to go and get people from outside of Illinois, so I was… They wanted… They picked their man, and then they were lining up behind this person, and I was not it. So I had to do that. So that’s a lesson I learned. And also, passion is absolutely important, but you need a plan and a well thought out plan.
0:21:28.7 Cheryle Jackson: So I responded, I was passionate in the moment, and let’s just say if I were to run again, I absolutely would have everything in place to absolutely win it.
0:21:42.3 Liz Tinkham: Okay. Can we ask, are you gonna run again?
0:21:47.5 Liz Tinkham: I told you I’ve got a condo, I’m moving back to Chicago part-time, so please.
0:21:53.8 Cheryle Jackson: So that would be a no. That would be a no, but you never know what future holds, right? Exactly what my new mission was.
0:22:08.9 Liz Tinkham: Well, I’m gonna skip ahead a bit to the brilliant TEDx talk you gave in 2018, which we’ll put a link to in the show notes, so talk a little bit about that talk and what happened afterwards.
0:22:19.4 Cheryle Jackson: So in 2018, I was asked to give a talk and I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about. I ended up giving a talk called Grit and Grace, and that talk was motivated by my own personal life crisis of when divorce and cancer showed up on my doorstep hand in hand. And so… I’m a tough cookie.
0:22:48.8 Cheryle Jackson: So you talked about Illinois politics, you have to be tough. Okay? I’ve worked in the Illinois government [0:22:54.6] ____ and I prided myself on my ability to bounce back, ’cause you will get knocked down multiple times. So I was really like, “Okay, I can bounce back.” That is one of my superpowers, bouncing back and running through walls.
0:23:12.8 Cheryle Jackson: So when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer, it definitely dazed me. I was like dazed for a minute. But it didn’t take long for me to switch gears and get in beast mode and to run my care team and be focused. I ended up having a radical left mastectomy. But it was the day after one of my big surgeries, or the day of actually, that my marriage imploded in just a nano second, it seemed. And I ended up having to leave my home the day after the surgery to a hotel to recuperate.
0:23:54.3 Cheryle Jackson: It was that combination that I could not evoke my superpowers of bouncing back and running through a wall. I was, I just never experienced that kind of lostness, that kind of brokenness, that kind of despair. I could not pull myself out of it. It was in that space at the bottom of my bottom that I sort of thought about or heard this phrase, “Grit and grace, one won’t let you give up, the other makes it okay to let go, and you need both in life to succeed.” I’d been so focused on the grit, I didn’t know about this grace piece.
0:24:45.0 Cheryle Jackson: We know grace. For those… If you’re a person of faith, you certainly know it, but I think everybody understands the concept of grace. In a Biblical sense, it’s something that you receive from God, and then in a practical sense, we’re often taught to extend grace to others. But what we aren’t taught is how to offer yourself grace, and what does that look like.
0:25:09.6 Cheryle Jackson: I did not know what that looked like, and I knew instinctively it had to be more than a mani-pedi and a bubble bath. It’s gotta be more than that. And so that began my quest for how to offer myself grace as a way, I didn’t know if it would pull me out of this hole, but I started this quest to understand what this meant in practical terms.
0:25:37.3 Cheryle Jackson: And I found it, and it was the thing that saved me, that brought me back to myself, was this notion of grace. It’s love in action, it’s like taking decisive action on offering yourself compassion, love and understanding. And so it can show up and manifest itself in many different ways.
0:26:03.9 Cheryle Jackson: Sometimes I talk about this in my talk, it’s okay if your world goes small for a while, and that it’s okay if you have relation… You’re blessed enough to have relationships in your life that support you, but there’s very little you can do to support them back, it’s a one-way relationship, to accept that help, to accept that kind of space to go in and nurture to what you need at a soul level.
0:26:29.0 Cheryle Jackson: So that’s what brought me back to myself. I was in a very dark space for about two to three years, very dark depression. But functioning, I was barely functioning. I don’t even remember details of that period, I have memory loss during that time. But here I stand today, I started to come back this way in 2015.
0:26:55.1 Cheryle Jackson: I got diagnosed in 2013 in March, had the first surgery in March, had the second surgery in August of 2013. The day after second surgery my marriage fell apart. I got a text saying, “I’ve filed for divorce.” So my life just imploded. I could bounce back from the breast cancer thing, but that combination of the two leveled me.
0:27:20.5 Cheryle Jackson: But here I stand today. It was not something that happened overnight, like, “Ooh, I’m better.” It was a process. So when I was asked in 2018, when I started to feel better in 2016, I was asked in 2018 to give this TED Talk. I knew what I wanted to talk about, and I just had to pray for the courage to be honest and truthful about the most painful time in my life. And because of that, it so deeply resonated with people, it really gave birth to this Grit and Grace movement that I’m growing and building now.
0:28:01.8 Liz Tinkham: Yeah, tell us a little bit about that. And as I said, the talk is beautiful and we’ll publish that in the show notes, so talk about your media company, what are you doing with at the consulting media company?
0:28:11.0 Cheryle Jackson: So the media company, so here’s the thing, Liz. Short answer is, is that I really want, number one, ambassador for grace, to really help people understand how to offer themselves and practice grace with themselves, but also, how do we support women? I’ll be honest with you. As a woman and a Black woman in corporate America, or in any leadership role, trying to ascend to the top, I have experienced a lot of trauma, and it’s just straight up trauma, Liz. We just have to be honest and say what it is.
0:28:52.5 Cheryle Jackson: The micro, macro aggressions, the intersection of race and gender, and I’m the target of that. Not to mention I’m 6 feet tall. Okay? That’s like, add that to the mix. And I didn’t know, I didn’t have words for it then, but now I have words for it, and now that I’m working with women, it is universal, and it’s just not right. We’ve gotta do something about this, the kind of trauma that women are going through in these workplaces, in these very difficult, isolating places.
0:29:30.4 Cheryle Jackson: So I have a heart for this and so I’m coaching women. And yes, I’m glad that there are programs that ushered in greater understanding and diversity and equity and belonging, but my role is, and that we need to change things structurally, but while we’re working on structural change, I wanna help empower women to, one, learn how to take care of themselves until things are right, and two, learn how to advocate for themselves until things are better.
0:30:05.4 Cheryle Jackson: And so that’s what I’m focused focused on, to be that support system, to be that coaching system and to be an encourager, and so I just wrapped up our third annual Grit and Grace Conference, just happened. It went well. All of my conferences, all of my coaching sessions, it begins with soul work, and honestly, that’s what women really lean into hard, is soul work.
0:30:36.8 Cheryle Jackson: To really learn how to give yourself enough space and grace, to connect and listen to your heart’s desire, your soul, “What does my soul need right now?” And to know how to do that, to normalize it, and then how to build a life around that. And so professional life, how to build success around that.
0:31:00.9 Cheryle Jackson: So that’s what I do. The conference was amazing. We had, in 2020, we pivoted and had to go online, we have 3000 women online. This time we had about 1200, 1300 women who registered and from 30 different countries and from every state. It was amazing, amazing. So it’s a labor of love. And the lead up to it, it’s painful, not very much grace, but then when the baby gets here, it’s beautiful. So it was a beautiful experience.
0:31:33.1 Liz Tinkham: So you told me your mother told you, “You need to take up space while you’re here and always keep a project in front of you.” I think I live my life that way as well. So I think given all you’ve got going, I don’t think you’re failing her, but what’s next for Grit and Grace?
0:31:47.2 Cheryle Jackson: The reason why I began Grit and Grace is because I was trying to answer people’s women’s questions, one-on-one through DMs and text messages, and so I needed the larger format to support and share with women more broadly. I think it’s the same concept that’s gonna drive my next, how do I grow the platform to touch and support more women?
0:32:15.4 Cheryle Jackson: So whether that’s continue to grow the programming and the coaching and the conference, and looking for platforms to build on, so whether it’s a podcast like Third Act or a television show on a streaming platform, but I’m looking at those, I’m looking at those options.
0:32:37.6 Liz Tinkham: Great. So I almost named this podcast, I’m Not Done Yet, because that’s the way I feel. So what aren’t you done with yet?
0:32:43.9 Cheryle Jackson: Here’s why I don’t feel done. We are limited beings with unlimited souls, the capacity of our souls is unlimited. And so I feel like I’m always in the position of wanting to express my soul’s capacity, which is big. So I don’t know where that will land. I never thought I’d be here. This little girl from Memphis, Tennessee, that I’d be here now.
0:33:16.4 Cheryle Jackson: I don’t know if I will ever feel done. My mother is at 84, she’s a composer of classical choral music. Her works have been premiered at Carnegie Hall and around the world. My mother just completed her latest oratorio and it’s probably set up to be her biggest one, biggest success. And so it’s gonna premiere next year in 2023, it’s about Harriet Tubman’s life. But she isn’t done, she just wrapped up her latest 13-work oratorio. That’s my bar.
0:33:52.7 Liz Tinkham: Cheryle, thanks so much for telling your incredible story and we will put everything in the show notes about Grit and Grace and your TEDx talk, but where else can our listeners find you online?
0:34:02.4 Cheryle Jackson: So they can find me, follow me on social media at Cheryle Jackson, and that Cheryle it’s spelt C-H-E-R-Y-L-E, that E is very important. So CheryleJackson.com. You wanna sign up for newsletters and get information about the Grit and Grace movement and coaching. But those are the two things, CheryleJackson.com and on social media.
0:34:26.0 Liz Tinkham: Great, we’ll see you then. Okay, thank you so much.
0:34:28.6 Cheryle Jackson: Okay. Thanks, bye.
0:34:32.5 Liz Tinkham: Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.