Today we’d like to introduce you to Jean Briese.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Jean. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It was a cold December evening, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and I was 15 years old. I wish I could tell you our home was filled with twinkling lights, the aroma of pine trees and cookies wafting through the house, and the sound of Christmas carols playing joyfully in the background. But my story begins in a home of cold tile floors, the smell of dust, and the sound of my siblings and I gathered around the Brady Bunch playing loudly on TV.
At fifteen, I was the oldest, my sister was 12, and my brothers were 10 and 5. My parents were divorced and mom supported us as a waitress. Child support and alimony payments were not regulated in her day, so we, like most single mom families, went without. Mom was rarely home, and we kids were used to being alone. Tonight though, Mom was excited. She had a date. We watched mom wave goodbye and went back to our TV and cinnamon toast. When morning came, we realized Mom had not come home. Day one came and went and mom did not come home. Day two. Day three, and so it went. On Day five we started to run out of food and money and we called for help.
The first thing the social worker said to me was, “Jean, it is a week before Christmas and all of the resources we have to help families like yours have already been allocated. There are no resources for you and your family. I need you to prepare yourself and your siblings for the fact that there will be no Christmas celebration, no Christmas dinner, no gifts.” This news was difficult. Our father was already gone. Our mother had just abandoned us. And now even Santa wasn’t coming. And we all know why Santa doesn’t come: we must be some really bad kids.
The next thing the social worker said to me was, “Jean, it’s a week before Christmas and at any time of the year, it is really difficult to find a home that can take four children. A week before Christmas, it’s impossible. I need you to prepare yourself and your siblings for the fact that we are going to have to split you up.”
Now, if the first news was difficult, this was devastating. Everything we knew to be true in the entire world had just exploded. Nothing that we knew to be true was true anymore. The only thing we had left was each other- and now they wanted to take that away from us too.
I became like the Grinch. I grew cold and angry and I had no use for adults. In my world, adults had caused all of my problems. Somehow arrangements were made to keep us together until after Christmas. The day before Christmas, we were all together in a temporary home in a trailer park on Grand Avenue when I saw cars pull up. Our social work exited one car and strangers began to get out of the other vehicle. That was my cue. I went into the trailer and went to the far back bedroom to put as much distance between me and these “adults.”
The social worker came back and asked me to come out. I refused. She begged me, explaining to me that a group from a local church had heard about my siblings and I, and they wanted to help. They wanted to meet me. I still refused. I never went out. They never saw my face. But that didn’t stop these strangers from their mission. They came bearing gifts. They came bearing food. They came bearing unconditional love-something we didn’t even know existed. And they came bearing the greatest gift of all- the one gift that none of us can live without. They brought hope.
As I stood firm in my resolve to not interact with adults, I was not a gracious receiver. I refused to go out and see the gift-bearing strangers. But as I stood there, like the Grinch, my heart grew ten times that day. For you see, everything in my life that I have now, everything in my life that I have accomplished or that I do, I can look back to that moment. It was at that moment that I learned the secret to success. For it was at that moment that I made up my mind to live a good life, and to become one of the helpers.
The strangers who came that day never knew that their simple act of kindness would result in me becoming an award-winning leader for a Fortune 10 technology firm, that I would found a non-profit organization in our community to support law enforcement families, that I would launch my own business dedicated to helping individuals and teams achieve breakthrough results. Those people never got to see my face. They never heard, “thank you.”
I can’t change the past. But I can pay it forward. To all the helpers, I say thank you for all that you do every day, oftentimes with no thanks. I appreciate you. I see you. Thank you.
To all of us who have an opportunity to choose kindness every day, even in the face of someone who may not be grateful, choose kindness. You just might be changing a life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Oh no. The road was never smooth. There were times when I flew down the road, and times when I lost my way. And times when I couldn’t move forward at all.
Two times that specifically stand out for me are: When I first interviewed for a leadership position, I was well qualified, with experience and results and yet as the interview wrapped up. I was told by the hiring manager, “We are just not sure a woman can do this job.” I did end up getting that job- and making a successful career and a lot of money doing that job and others they didn’t think a woman could do.
As I transitioned from employee to woman business owner, there were many naysayers. I have learned in life that if you are going to do something extraordinary, there will always be naysayers. I stand firm in the words of Coco Chanel who said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” I have learned that sometimes you just march forward with what you know in your heart is your purpose, and the naysayers will give way to the results. I have never looked back on my decision to fulfill my passion of helping others with all the knowledge, experience and skills I have gained on my journey. Have I had to pivot at times? Absolutely.
The COVID 19 virus is a great example. As a speaker, I am hired to be at events. There are no events currently happening; in fact, my entire month of April was canceled. So what did I do? I pivoted, I looked at other ways that I can offer my services, such as virtual programming. In fact, in this time of fear and uncertainty, the importance of what I share may be more beneficial now than ever. With so many working virtually, the only way organizations have to reach their employees is through their screens. I have long been a believer that our success is more about our resourcefulness than our resources. During times of struggle, I get resourceful. I seek out creative thinkers and push myself out of my comfort zone to look for other options.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
As a professional speaker, corporations hire me to increase revenue and productivity by inspiring their teams. My expertise helps teams in the areas of embracing change, increasing employee engagement, improving leadership skills, creating high-performing teams, motivating sales teams, and empowering innovation – all of which lead to increased revenue and productivity. Organizations and non-profits hire me to inspire! With over twenty years of experience creating and leading award-winning teams for a Fortune 10 technology firm, I’m known for being relatable and delivering real-life actions that can be taken immediately to empower breakthrough results. My passion is helping others live the life they love. When the entire team is empowered to be their best self, you can accomplish what others deem impossible.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
In June of this year, I will be inducted as President of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Phoenix Chapter. Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of new businesses in Arizona,* and yet we face unique entrepreneurial challenges. I am particularly excited to lead NAWBO-Phoenix during this tremendous time of growth as we offer women business owners what no other organization can – the resources, relationships, readiness and voice in the community that they need to tackle these challenges and thrive. There simply is no other organization where a woman business owner can have the kind of conversations she can at NAWBO. This is important, not just for our members, but for our entire community, as the data shows that when we empower women business owners, we better our entire community. Personally, I have daughters and granddaughters and I want them to be empowered to live their best life in a community where we all thrive! *National Women’s Council.
- Jean’s speaking fees range from $2500-$10,000 per event.
- Address: Jean Briese 922 E Shawna Ct Phoenix, AZ 85086
- Website: https://jeanbriese.com/
- Phone: 602 625 6071
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jeanbriese/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jean.briese
- Yelp: https://www.google.com/search?q=jean+briese+phoenix&oq=jean+briese+phoenix&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l3j69i64.7566j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#lrd=0x872b62dadd38aacf:0x39979e16ec3887c4,3,
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbriese/
Karianne Munstedt Portrait