320 “The Art of Happiness” – Maura Sweeney

What you will learn from our discussion with Maura Sweeney:

  • How to Bring Your Innermost Dreams to Reality
  • Become an Author and Speaker at Midlife
  • Time to Create a Life Re-Imagined?
  • Say YES to the Life that’s True to You
  • Want to Pave Your Own Path to Happiness?

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More about our featured guest Maura Sweeney

What happens when you're losing your life blood following someone else's instruction manual? What if you can bring your innermost dreams to reality and create a Life Reimagined?

Maura Sweeney is just the woman to share her story about finding vitality, purpose and career success. She developed her own life instruction manual. An Author, Podcaster and Huffington Post contributor whose mantra is “Living Happy – Inside Out,” Maura will be sharing her story about a predesignated path that was turning her into a zombie and about finding the courage to pave a path of her own.

After exiting law school years ago, Maura has since taken everything from her background (corporate career, home schooling, public advocacy, business ownership and world travel) – and her belief in living happy inside out – to create a Life Reimagined as Maura4u. A self-styled cultural journalist and inspiring public speaker, Maura's Life Reimagined ReLaunch is a reflection of everything she loves: meeting people, going places, and sharing inspiration. In addition to the Huffington Post, Maura has been featured in Midlife Boulevard, Aspire Magazine, Self-Growth.com, Tampa Bay Times, Project Eve, Better After 50, Match.com, Prime Time TV, and Britain’s BBC radio.


Full Transcript

[00:01] Joel: Joining us on the show is the author of an amazing series of books. Six in all and they're all called, “The Art Of Happiness”. She's also a podcaster, a Huffington post blogger, and, I love this title, a self-styled cultural journalist. I just love the sound of that. You might've seen her work actually, and one of those series of books, or in Aspire magazine, selfgrowth.com, Tampa Bay Times, and Better After 50. Of course I'm talking about the amazing Maura Sweeney. Maura, welcome, welcome to ReLaunch. This is the first time I've had you here, where you been?

[00:45] Maura Sweeney: I don't know, but I'm very happy to be here Joel, and Maura Sweeney as well.

[00:50] Joel: We're delighted to have you here, and thank you so much for that. This show, Maura… And you listen to the show so thank you for listening. This show is highly practical because it's all about the relaunch. How you did it, and it's also a little bit about becoming known in your niche. Again, how you did it, and the way we usually start the show is… We've all experience numerous launches and relaunches throughout our lives, and I generally ask people, our guests, to zero in on the relaunch that has been the most transformational for them. And then we just kinda unfold the story from there, and we'll do that with you here in just a few minutes. But if it's okay with you I would like to start the show off with a quick piece of take-away gold. And the first volume of… Or first volume in The Art Of Happiness… Or the first volume in that series rather is called, “Exiting The Comfort Zone”. Comfort zone, a term that many of us are familiar with. So what would you say, either from the book or just from your own experience up on the stage and speaking in front of audiences is the number one challenge people have when it comes to exiting the comfort zone?

[02:09] Maura Sweeney: That is so easy and so universal. It is fear. Fear and specifically the fear of our very well-preserved ego that said, this is who I am, I'm protecting who I am, and I'm going to stay in my comfortable little circle where I can pretty much ensure myself of not having any negative exposure by stepping out. And that to me applies to just anyone and everyone regardless of age, or background, or experience. Fear of losing, or losing control of the well-preserved ego.

[02:47] Pei: You know that is so interesting, 'cause in your six series book, to be happy you actually… The very first one you encourage people to get out of comfort zone. Because most the time you think people, they are in the comfort zone so they can be happy, right?

[03:07] Maura Sweeney: You would think, right Maura Sweeney?

[03:09] Pei: Yeah. Yeah.

[03:11] Joel: Sometimes it's a comfortably miserable zone though.

[03:14] Maura Sweeney: Yes. And very, very, very, true, I think often times society, or culture, or background, or families, or education… It could be anything, teaches us in an external way who we are, what we are, and what's appropriate, and what's the kind of activities we can engage in that we will get positive reinforcement from.

[03:41] Joel: Okay.

[03:41] Maura Sweeney: It also comes from our peer groups. But to step out of the comfort zone is really to say, I know I'm bigger than this, I know I'm called to something beyond this specific zone that I've been living in, and how can I exercise myself from the inside out to explore those things and to really become my bigger self. And If you don't mind my saying this, sometimes in our society we get the wrong idea. We assume that we have to have our names in lights somewhere to be our bigger self. Do you know sometimes our bigger self can be leaving what appears to be that outstanding, great sounding job with all the bells and whistles that go with it, to moving into something that we're called to to do. Because it's a vocation, because it's a calling of our soul, and because what we're about to do within that arena is going to, not only satisfy ourselves, but it will do something to benefit others around us. And it may not be the most popular thing, but it's that kind of thing that says to us from the inside, I've got to be me. [laughter] There used to be an old song, I've gotta be me.


[04:50] Pei: So that's when the true happiness comes in.

[04:55] Maura Sweeney: Maura Sweeney, I believe that's the case and I can tell you that I am living proof that that is the case. Because when I was a very little girl I was on the creative side, I'm left handed, I would always see things from the end first, I believed that the whole world was my friend, I wanted to travel and see the globe, and I wanted to dance. And instead I grew up in an environment where every move I made was very carefully watched over, very much groomed. I was guided into being a certain way, following certain activities. And my short story was, I was suppose to be a practicing attorney in New Jersey. The problem with that is that it did not speak for my soul. It didn't speak for all that I was, and I knew what it was like to be living in a space that did not speak for who and what I was. It really felt day by day, that it was drawing the very life out of me.

[06:00] Maura Sweeney: So when I say that, I'm doing this right now, this has been a very long journey for me, I'm literally living happily from the inside out because I went back into my early years, I pursued the things that I loved, the interests that I had, and even though I had a lifetime of doing various other things, I have managed at midlife to pull all those original interests I had together along with all the education and the business background I've had, and I live out of that central space that says, “This is who I am. This is what I love. These are my passions, and this is so truly what makes me happy.”

[06:42] Joel: I love that answer, very good Maura, thank you for sharing that. So, we're talking about the relaunch from the legal world to where you are now, an accomplished author and a speaker. Gosh, you just recently returned from overseas from Serbia and Croatia and other places, and you'll be actually visiting them again. Do we need to talk about that relaunch or is there something else that's on your mind?

[07:12] Maura Sweeney: You know what? This is such an interesting thing. I think when you've done as many things as I have and you're at my age, which is midlife, there's so much to include, but to shorten it for you, what I'd say is that I almost had a two-pronged approach to this relaunch. Number one, when I was at the midpoint of my law school studies, I had to get off somebody else's launchpad or at least the launchpad that was set out for me by my family with external expectations.

[07:40] Maura Sweeney: I stepped off that road and thought, “What am I going to do that will make me happy? What am I called to do?” And I had only been groomed for one thing, so it's not like I had a business background. That was a piece of me that had to get off a track that was not mine, and sort of find my way and find my niche. What happened over the course of years is that I learned that I was an outstanding, and I don't say this lightly because I could put myself in other categories, but I was an outstanding business manager, leader, developer, mentor of people.

[08:15] Maura Sweeney: I knew how to create atmospheres and cultures and develop managers, and I took a lot of that business background and a lot of other things I did, but the real major relaunch came when our daughter, who is our only child was very independent, ready to go off to college, and my husband and I had our own business. It was a very profitable computer firm and you know what happened, the two of us decided we had nothing holding us back. We were either going to continue doing everything we had always done, living a comfortable life but not very excited with it, or we were going to literally relaunch into using everything we had in our background, every passion, every interest, and really step out of the boat and say, “What are we doing here on planet Earth, and how can we make ourselves vital? How can we develop lifetime and lifestyle careers that will enable us to grow, travel, meet new people, and become positive impacts upon society?”

[09:21] Joel: So we're going to hear about that in just a second, but I know Maura Sweeney, you've got your… You're jumping up and down with your hand up, what have you got for us?

[09:28] Pei: Yeah, how long did you have that company by then when two of you made that decision? Did both of you come to that conclusion the same time or one convinced the other. How did that happen?

[09:45] Maura Sweeney: Maura Sweeney, that's a great question, believe it or not, my husband and I have been together since we were sophomores in college. I never even wanted to get married, but I met this guy, he was the only man I would've ever considered marrying, and he met me, and the two of us always knew that we were going to march to a different drummer. So, in many ways, people could look at us and think, we had these very traditional lifestyles, but we got to this point where we always lived under the radar, we were never excessive with standing, and there was nothing holding us back, nothing. We could say, “Well, we need to keep a big house because our daughter might decide to come back home.” We might… There were a lot of things we could've done, but we thought really in life, there was nothing holding us back, and we decided if we don't do it now, we'll be disappointed, and we are not disappointed. We have literally recharged, re-energized, entered into a brand new era.

[10:42] Maura Sweeney: We were kind of at the forefront when all this digital space came out, and learning how to do everything in the digital space. We went to more meetups. We learned more skills, we traveled, we got into new industries, we met new people, and it was almost as if, in midlife, when most people are kind of starting to flat line and starting to atrophy, where they kind of reach their peak and they just get a little bit lazy, we literally jumped off and said, we're going to do something new and even now, I won't tell you it was an easy process…

[11:14] Joel: Okay, wait a minute, you're blazing through this way too fast. So, there were a lot of decisions that probably went on during that period, and there was also a lot of self reflections, and there might have even been some… What Maura Sweeney and I have from time to time, heated fellowship. So I'm just…

[11:32] Maura Sweeney: What did you call it, heated fellowship?


[11:34] Joel: I did. I did. Occasionally, we we might have some of that. Anyway, I'm just curious. So, what were some of the… You don't just decide or most people don't, I wasn't there, but you don't just decide to make a massive leap from one day to the next. Usually there are times of reflection, heated fellowship and also agreement in that principle.

[12:02] Maura Sweeney: Absolutely.

[12:02] Maura Sweeney: And then sometimes even after decision, you feel a little bit push-back, like is that really what we're gonna do? So…

[12:11] Joel: And don't forget what the neighbors and the church people, your church friends say, too…

[12:16] Maura Sweeney: You know what? You've brought us an excellent content. First of all, when I tell you we always knew from the time we were in college that there was something in our future. But, I will tell you it's as if everything we did in our lives were all preparation for where we were going to go.

[12:34] Joel: Okay, now talk about that please because that… I'm right on that page with you but that can be something that's easily misunderstood or glossed over.

[12:42] Maura Sweeney: And glossed over, exactly. I was gonna say glossed over. Very good. And especially because your listeners have no idea of our background. But I tell you, and I wish I could say we were that intelligent with foresight as if we knew every move we were going to make, 'cause that is not true. But here's the things that we did do. We didn't live above our means. So we were able to step out, we were able to work out an exit plan from the business that we had. We were able to take a home that we had already paid for several years prior, sell it, move into something that was smaller and had lower overhead on it.

[13:20] Maura Sweeney: We had taken care of our daughter's education. And we really were very, I would call us more purist. Not minimalists, but purists. You made an excellent point about what did other people think. Because we were business owners, we were the people writing out checks to help other people with all of their visions. And we really knew we needed our own vision. And so all of a sudden many of those things started changing where, “How come the Sweeneys don't gave up their business? How come they're moving to something smaller?” And what people did not recognize is that what we were looking for were not so much things that would make everybody out there in society either approve of us or want to be with us, it was that we were answering to, really, the calls of our lives and the calls of our souls to say, “You know what? We are here. We have had many years on Earth. We've had multiple experiences in business, and life, and travel. What are we going to do that will feed our souls and help us really know that by the time we leave this earth, we will have done something that will have benefited other people in our wake and beyond that.” So, Maura Sweeney, to answer your question, I will tell you, I don't know whether to say so much the heated conversations, but this I could tell you will make you laugh and also give you a little sense of what it was like.

[14:47] Maura Sweeney: We were always busy people, always busy and we always had our own space. When we moved from a larger home into a more modest townhome that was more an up-and-down, multiple-story environment, I felt like I suddenly was living with my husband in a piece of spaghetti. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, we are looking at one another too much. We're saying what do we do? Where do we start? Where do we go?” And that was really hard. It's, we have a concept, we have conceptual ideas, but how do we take our concepts and really move them into real space, into society, How do we turn them into business models? And I would be lying to you if I told you it was easy. It has been emotional. It's been trying, but at the same time I don't think I have ever grown this much in my life.

[15:37] Joel: Okay, I wanna come back in just a minute and talk about how you've grown and some of the things that you've learned, or re-learned about yourself and your own possibilities and potential. And we'll come back right with that. But first we wanna hear a quick word from our sponsor. And owning a business has many challenges. But luckily marketing, or rather managing a marketing and sales force doesn't have to be one of them. Today's promotional partner is Myvirtualsalesforce.com. And guess what? This is good news. They do the heavy lifting for you by hiring, training and equipping the sales pros that will bring in the two things that every entrepreneur needs.

[16:25] Joel: And that's more leads and more sales. Brandon Schaefer and his team even take care of the health care coverage. So do yourself and your business a favor and outsource your worry and give them a try. My Virtual Sales Force also gives every entrepreneur their time back. Myvirturalsalesforce.com is the place to go. Again, Myvirtualsalesforce.com. Okay Maura, so you had a minute, or a second or two, to kind of contemplate what you were gonna come up with. So what did you learn or re-learn? And how were you able to make that transition?

[17:09] Maura Sweeney: The big re-learn for me was stepping out of a position, a company, an identity that I used to have, and becoming a no one. Now that was huge, because I was very naive up until that point. I thought most people saw the world as I did. And because I lived at a certain level and people treated me and my husband a certain way, when we decided we were going to step out off the beaten track and do something different, suddenly we became… I would say our eyes became open to how the general world operates. And so there were a lot of very good learning experiences to see how people treat one another, and to see how they interact and how they deal with people that are invisible. And so that has been for me the most amazing thing.

[18:01] Maura Sweeney: And secondly, I have had to learn new things technically. I've had to put myself in different environments, and I really had to stretch myself socially, travel-wise, technically, I can't even explain to you so many different ways but they were all necessary and strengthening to my personal development. I probably should add this for both of you to hear is that even though my husband and I both stepped out, we run the same company, which is New Vision Entertainment, and I'm this self-styled cultural journalist who travels the globe and reports on insightful ways that people can grow and become happier from the inside out.

[18:47] Maura Sweeney: My husband has a completely different business model that is much more commercial, but the two of us have really grown up as if somebody removed silver spoons from us, not that we were born that way, but that we would have to learn all over again at midlife when people could maybe look at us and marginalize us and think, “Well, what do they know? Let's not pay attention to them,” And literally build ourselves up as if we came from a foreign country, having nothing, and that process really helped me, and I know my husband would agree with this on his end to get to know who we really were and what we were really made of, and that's one of the most powerful things that can come out of a relaunch.

[19:31] Pei: Now, when you say getting to know who you really were, which is the core of each one of you, did you guys take the same route to get there, to find out who are you at your core?

[19:51] Maura Sweeney: I would say that's a very good question Maura Sweeney. The answer would be, each one of us or both of us learned lessons or life lessons that each one of us needed to learn. You know how in life we go through and we pick up certain ideas and we see ourselves a certain way, we could even be brought up in the same household, but we have a certain orientation or a way in which we view the world. My husband had some things he was going to learn, and I had some things I was going to learn.

[20:20] Maura Sweeney: So, we have not only grown professionally, we've grown in skills, but we've grown in maturity. It's as if even though we… Our business used to do over $50 million a year, so that gives you an idea as to where we were. Even though we were there in the past, by stepping off that journey and starting out on a brand new road that we were paving on our own, it was as if all the childhood thoughts we had, how we viewed the world, how we viewed ourselves in the world, how we viewed the way in which society operated, we were learning it from a completely different vantage point, and it was absolutely invaluable, and it was necessary for both of us in terms of where we wanted to go and to grow.

[21:08] Joel: So let me ask you this, thank you for sharing that with us. What did you learn about your husband that, for whatever reason you didn't fully recognize or maybe it was just what you might have thought was a weakness that ended up turning into strength. Then, I'm going to ask you for your husband, since he's not there, basically the same question, how he would answer if I were to ask him that question for you…

[21:37] Pei: Are we doing… What's that show called? Married…

[21:43] Joel: Married with Children, no way.

[21:44] Maura Sweeney: I was gonna to say Married with Children, I even watch the show.

[21:47] Pei: It's like on the cruise, they do a late night comedy…

[21:50] Joel: Yeah, that was Honeymoon…

[21:51] Maura Sweeney: Newly wed.

[21:52] Joel: Newly Wed Game.

[21:53] Pei: That's right, Newly Wed Games.

[21:55] Maura Sweeney: Oh, my goodness. I would say for my husband, this was huge, he was a consummate businessman, salesperson representing top-tier computer component companies that everybody would recognize.

[22:08] Joel: Okay.

[22:08] Maura Sweeney: So, he would be selling someone else's products, but the difference and the growth for him, he developed his own property. And it was a sports, or it is, a sports entertainment property that's trademarked, and he created all the content. The visionary in him had to come out, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh. This guy has a completely different set of skills and abilities that were innate to him that I never knew.” That was remarkable. To be able to say, at our age you could get up on a Saturday morning and you can't wait to get to your computer because you have a brand-new idea of the new podcast or a new sports comic book you want to put together and you're laughing about it, like that's an exciting thing. It wouldn't have happened in our old world. So, Maura Sweeney, did that answer the question for my husband?

[23:00] Pei: Yes.

[23:01] Joel: I think so. What would he say about…

[23:05] Pei: This is not fair, we have to have him to answer that question.

[23:09] Maura Sweeney: What was the question for me? Now, ask it again so I can answer it.

[23:12] Joel: What would he… If I were to ask him, “What did you learn or relearn about Maura and discover something that maybe you just thought it was just one of those characteristics of her or maybe it was even an annoyance that he thought was there, that actually turned out to be a strength that you are able to harness and leverage to the growth of your relationship and also your business?”

[23:41] Maura Sweeney: That is a great question. Great. I will tell you, he saw me step out of the box big time, and when I say the box, I worked for a decade in Corporate America. So, I knew how to operate in a box where he had his own business prior to my stepping in with him. And he was very inventive and very entrepreneurial, and it took me time to step out of the box. He would always say to me, “Maura, I don't know what the answer it is, just figure it out.” And because of that, I have stepped out and out and out again. And I have created my own ideas, and so I was able to remove all the old boundary lines that said, you know, I don't want to step on anyone else's territory, I don't want to dishonor a manager above me, I don't want to go too far out beyond what I would consider to be my box, and be creative.

[24:32] Maura Sweeney: And he said to me so many times, which cracks me up, he said, “You are such a trooper.” He said, “Maura, I am so proud of you for everything I see you doing.” And it's everything, from going into cities I've never heard of… I usually couldn't get out of my garage. I could go so many places, and if I can't figure it out I will learn how to figure it out. And so that part of it, he feels, I can see this, he feels so proud to know that by putting me in a different environment, all of me is coming out.

[25:00] Joel: Oh, I love that, by putting you in a different environment, all of you is coming out. Talking with Maura Sweeney today, she is the author of an amazing series of books. You need to get your hands on these, and of course we are going to include the links in the broadcast show notes that accompanies this particular episode. The series of books is called, “The Art of Happiness”. There is volume one, two, so forth and so on. Just a delightful conversation. We'll have the social media links with us as well. Go ahead Maura Sweeney.

[25:33] Pei: Yeah, and that link is actually: ReLaunchshow.com/320.

[25:39] Joel: ReLaunchShow.com/320 the place to go. Maura, this has been such a treat to have you on and you are welcome back here on the ReLaunch show at any time. What are you working on right now that you are just on fire excited about?

[26:01] Maura Sweeney: I'm gonna tell you, this… You know the more I do, the more I can do, and the more excited I become.

[26:07] Joel: Yep.

[26:07] Maura Sweeney: I am going to be meeting up with the executive director of the UNESCO Center for Peace in Washington DC in two days.

[26:14] Pei: Wow.

[26:16] Maura Sweeney: And isn't this unbelievable? The guy is from Cameroon, he is the epitome of happiness, and I may be very much joining him… Or I may be very well joining him on celebrating Nelson Mandela day later on this summer. Likely joining him in November over in the Balkans, and this… I absolutely love what I do. This is like the perfect job for meeting people, traveling, sharing insightful and inspiring stories of people sharing the best of who they are from the inside out. And as people read and receive all of my things, they are inspired and empowered to do the same.

[26:56] Pei: You know Maura, just listening to the excitement as you share what you've been through, what you're doing and what you are about to do, I hear that happiness just in your voice.

[27:11] Joel: From the inside out.

[27:12] Pei: Yes, that's it.

[27:13] Maura Sweeney: It's the truth, it's not a joke. I actually made this decision as a very little girl, when I grew up, I was going to be happy. Everybody else decides, they're going to be a fireman, an astronaut, a President. I was going to be happy. And let me tell you it's been a very long journey, I'd love to take as many people as I can along with me, on the way. [chuckle]

[27:32] Pei: Thank you again, and the link to Maura's show is ReLaunchShow.com/320.

[27:41] Joel: Maura Sweeney on the ReLaunch show. Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you so much.

Connect with Maura on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and her website.

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Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.

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