Our definition of success can make or break how we live our lives. Success is often associated with achievements, money, and fame. However, success is also found in failure. Marnie Swedberg is an author, speaker, mentor, and the Founder and Director of the Christian Women’s Speakers Directory. She joins Victoria Wieck to share her story of success and, in turn, her failures. Marnie’s journey was not a smooth one, but through her changed perspective and faith in God, she was, and is, able to find success in everyday life. Learn about her story and how you can achieve and redefine success your way in today’s episode.
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On Failure And Faith: Redefining Success With Marnie Swedberg
If you’ve always wanted to know what it takes to have your big dreams come true and I hope you’ve got big dreams, in fact, if your dreams don’t scare you, probably not big enough, I’ve got the perfect person who can walk you through that. Marnie Swedberg is known as the mentor to people with big dreams. She’s also the host by way of a radio show called, Perspective Transformations with Marnie’s Friends. You might want to take a listen there as well. Marnie has amazing years of personal experience that will actually help you.
Some of her experiences are very fortunate, some of them are unfortunate including fires, floods, tornadoes, car wrecks, business setbacks, burglaries, lightning strikes, you name it. She’s been through all of that and more. Hopefully, when you go through a lot of that, you end up with some amazing wisdom. Marnie is here to share a lot of that with us so that we can be enlightened, inspired, and ready to take action. I’m so glad that she has chosen to spend some time with us this afternoon. Without further ado, I want to introduce you to Marnie.
Welcome, Marnie, to the show.
Victoria, it’s great to be here.
As I’ve said, you’ve been through a lot in your life. You amazingly managed to look absolutely fantastic. For those of us who don’t know everything about you, tell us a little bit of a backstory about how you became the mentor, a radio host, and all that.
Everybody has their own story. I’m just going to pick a couple of highlights from mine. I figured that I started mentoring younger people when I was about eleven years old and I started teaching four-year-old children in church. I always say, “Everybody’s mentoring somebody. There’s somebody looking at every life and a little behind you on the journey that you can help. They’re watching you, and you can help them move along.” I love your show because that’s what you’re doing here. You’re taking your expertise or the expertise of others and you’re helping those that are not quite that far along on the journey.
I feel like I’ve been a mentor almost my whole life from the time I was young. I owned my first business when I was eighteen years old. A fitness business went on and we’ve owned a restaurant at a retail store. I also own an online directory of Christian Women Speakers. That’s the largest of its kind in the world. I have done a lot of things with the business but as a leader, you’re put into this mentorship role automatically. If you have an entrepreneurship spirit, you’re going to do it by yourself, or else you’re going to become a good leader.
I think that’s really interesting because if you are young, 10, 12, 14 years old and you’re mentoring kids who are younger than you. At that age, you have to think that you are not only a mentor but you’re a giver. When you’re young teens, 8, 9 years old, you don’t think, “I’m a mentor or I’m going to make money doing this.” You just simply probably wanted to help somebody. When some little kid younger than you doesn’t know how to do something or does know how to process information or a situation, you’re out there giving and basically trying to lift that person up.
I think we can call that mentorship, but I would say that was probably the first clue that you are generous and you’re a giver. I say that now because to be an effective mentor, you do have to be generous, giver, and incredible listener when you think that those are all necessary ingredients of becoming an effective mentor.
I took training one time and there are twelve different ways that you can mentor somebody. When I took the training, I had 11 of the 12 that were already in place in my life. I just want to encourage you that you already got some real clear markers in your life of what you’re supposed to be doing. For me, it was clear from very young that I would be a mentor that I would help other people achieve their big goals and their big dreams.
The other thing you said about your journey and the beginning. I’m always much more interested in why you do and what you do rather than what you actually do because what you do is important. I think why you do what you do is, to me, more important because that fuels the passion and the end result. When you are mentoring young kids the generosity, helping spirit, and all that is there as well as leadership qualities, especially at that age. It’s very easy for kids to go, “Someone’s got problems. It’s his problem or her problem, so-and-so is having a bad day, week, or year. I’m just not going to play with that person. I’m going to play with these other people that are much more cool.”
I think that’s already told you at that point or people around you that you had those leadership qualities and you were generous spirit, which will come into play about what you do now with those skills. I’m sure with skills, characters, or traits like that will compound over time, especially when you go through some of the obstacles you have gone through. On your entrepreneurship journey, you mentioned that your first business was at a pretty young age and you weren’t involved in more than one type of business. That tells me that you are not afraid of trying things and you didn’t give up because most people try a business that doesn’t work and you’re like, “Entrepreneurship is not for me. I’m going to go work for somebody. I’m just not cut off for this.”
You’ve done different types of things, even in the face of those things not working out properly. Lastly, based on those decisions that you’ve made, you must have had incredible faith in yourself or in an external being. That’s my biggest problem. A lot of entrepreneurs that I end up mentoring or helping out, they’ve given up and they come to me as a last resort. It’s really hard to change that mindset of someone who doesn’t believe in herself anymore and doubts every decision she makes. Some of the decisions are so small that almost have no consequences but they still doubt that. Tell me a little bit about what it took you to start a business, fail at that, start a new one, fail at that, and start another one.
I wouldn’t say that I failed at any of them. I would say that I moved to a different season in life. Some of them just were closed down like the retail store because mom and pop retail in this age are in good conscience to actually sell that business. We ran it as far as we could. We were able to sell the building, clear everything out and get funds out of it that way. We sold the restaurant too with other people to move on. When you’re looking at it, I think that you have to be willing to just redefine success and failure. For me, success is when I get in bed at night, I look up and I say to God, “How are we?” He says, “Well done,” and I go to sleep or some nights, it’s a couple of things to talk about here.
Success is a daily thing for me. One of the things that helped me with understanding success was being friends with a girl that’s a gold medal Olympian. She was born one month apart from my oldest son. Watching her grow up in her whole life invested into hockey and going for this gold medal, which she eventually got. I’m not saying that it wasn’t worth it for her to do that. That’s who she was. The challenge is that if all of our goals and dreams are way out there like a gold medal, what happens is that we spend our whole life hoping to be a success and then finally the day we get the gold medal if we get the gold medal, the moment we get it, we get up on the podium with her, we’re a success. What happens when we get off the podium? We have to start defending our title. You either are trying to be a success, you’re in the moment of success, or else you’re a former success trying to stay successful, so it’s no way to live.
In her case, if she didn’t get the gold medal but she got the silver medal, what happens to her?
The first time she went, she didn’t get the silver and that was hugely disappointing. She got back up, she went again, and she got the gold. My point here isn’t that you shouldn’t be going for the gold. I think we all have our own idea of what the gold medal is. If that’s what you’re living for is that thing way out in the future, it’s no way to live because you lose all your relationships and everything.
I like putting a newspaper right in front of your face, so you’re looking forward and completely blocking your view. All you can see is the newspaper but if you fold the newspaper down, the newspaper is still right in front of your face but now you can see everything to the right and to the left of it. That’s how goals should be right dead center in front of your face but not fully consuming you because otherwise, you’re giving up your whole life chasing this thing that you may or may not ever actually achieve.
Everybody is actually mentoring somebody.
You would argue that having goals that are very aspirational to you and you have to reach for it, but not so far out that it’s going to be all-consuming. I completely agree with you on that.
I use the analogy of a new baby. You’re pregnant for a while, you have a new baby, the baby gets weaned, the baby starts toddling, the baby starts walking, the baby is now old enough to take care of itself. You don’t stay in pregnancy with a new baby forever. If you stay in that stage with your hobby, business idea, or ministry, if you stay in that pregnancy, new baby stage forever and ever, you’re not getting sleep, and every thought is toward the care of this idea, something is wrong. There has to come to a point where you launch that baby.
I’m trying to break this information down so that people can apply it to their life now. I get young Millennials whose dreams are way too big for their abilities right now and they have no idea how they’re going to get there, but they’re like, “I’ll find a way.” They have no real business plan to follow and no framework, and yet, they have very big dreams. Then you have people who actually won’t set their dreams until they figure out what they can do. For those people, how would you say, “I completely agree with you?”
I wrote a book called Million Dollar Hobbies. That’s going to be released in 2022. In chapter one, I talk about the importance of defining your dream that you can live with that you actually have a really good chance of accomplishing. You have those checks and balances along the way so that you’re not going, “I want to be on the moon four years from now,” but you’re still on Earth. You haven’t gotten there yet. Is there a way to figure out if your dreams are so way out of whack? What do you tell people how you’d actually set your goals?
I think that the dreams that you are actually equipped to reach are going to resonate with you. I always say your body is electric. If I take a brick and I stick it up against a live wire, nothing’s going to happen but if I take you and I stick you up against the live wire, we’re going to have sparks because you are body electric. When God strung together your 3 billion base pair of DNA, there’s nobody else just like you. If you are thinking that you’re a bicycle but you’re a Ferrari, no matter how hard you paddle, how much you work, how early you start or how late you go, you will never perform like what you were built to be. The Ferrari is going to be able to go faster, farther, and have more fun but if you don’t know that’s what you’re here for, then you’re going to spend your time spinning your wheels. I think that the main thing is to keep coming back to a place inside of yourself where you’re at peace like, “I keep having this thought and it doesn’t go away. I had it when I was little, in high school, going to college for something else, and when I’m working now in this job. I keep having this one thought.” That’s because that’s important for you to pursue that dream that’s built right into your DNA. I just believe that.
That’s really interesting because I would call that passion. I’m an immigrant to this country. My parents came from South Korea. My grandmother was a very devoted Buddhist. I was never a real practicing Buddhist but it seems to me like she believed in the idea of destiny. For example, people are born to accomplish certain things in life while they’re on Earth. They would call that destiny what you just described. I would call it the fire within you that refuses to die. A lot of times, we think those people who don’t have the confidence to pursue or who have always been told, “You’re crazy and stupid because that fire isn’t going to make any money or whatever. Why can’t you be a doctor or a lawyer? Are you crazy?”
I’m just thinking that sometimes we are trained to think we have to live a certain life to be successful. We have realities to face, such as paying your bills and things like that, so we have to live the life we have to live in the meantime. The lesson here that you’re trying to teach is to listen to your body, the inside of you, your heart, and pursue. Would you believe that most of us are born with some fire inside of us that burns?
I believe that if you hold up your thumb and look at that thumbprint area, that one inch and that one inch of you is so unique compared to the rest of the population on planet Earth, it can convict you in a court of law. Now you think, “If my thumb is that unique, then how else could I possibly be unique compared to everybody else?” When we tried to do a cookie-cutter type of everybody needs to be this or that, it just doesn’t work. For me, I never thought that I would write a book. I couldn’t even read until I was an adult. When I was going through school, I had to sound out the words the whole way through.
It was until I was out of school and out from under the pressure of needing to read that I learned how to read for fun, then you couldn’t stop me. Now I’ve written thirteen books. Being a mentor includes writing books, having a mentorship program, a radio show, going and speaking, and all these things, but did I have that passion? Not really. I have this passion to help somebody who’s stuck at a certain level and make it to the next level.
Getting back to that, I think that your passion actually was helping people and still is. In order for you to do that effectively, you’ve learned to reach people through books and radio. When I first started my business, I had absolutely no money and no reason to think my business was going to be successful. I didn’t have mentors. I wouldn’t even speak English, we had no friends and family. It’s tough to make friends when you don’t speak the language, and you have to figure out what makes people think at that age. Would you say that having a profound faith, could be any religion or in anything, plays a real big factor or do you think that’s secondary?
I don’t think we can do a single thing without faith. I think that it takes courage and faith to get out of bed. It takes courage to get into a car. I remember right after a major accident, I could hardly get myself to get into the car because I’m too afraid that person will come across the line and take my space. A lot of that faith, because we’ve been doing it since we were little, we don’t call it faith anymore. We trust that when we sit on a chair, it’s not going to crash to the ground. We just trust that. It took faith to reach over and turn that light on because you don’t know if it’s going to blow up. When you have a new thing now, you have a new idea that’s coming around that you’re going to try this new thing, then you feel the fear acutely again as you develop a stronger faith to go forward.
Would you say then the fear and faith are actually at the opposite end of the spectrum where you can get overcome your fear if you have faith, but you don’t have faith, so you have fear?
In the Bible, there’s a verse that I say all the time because it’s very clear, “Perfect love cast out fear. There is no fear in perfect love.” You think about that, “What does that actually mean?” It means that if you have the confidence, the faith to believe that something is really for you and not against you, you are free to do just about anything.
That’s interesting too because without understanding the biblical history of this, even though I am quite practicing Christian, I’m guilty of not reading the Bible every day, which a lot of people don’t too. I always say, “As long as your actions and what you say to people and the actions you take are in good faith and in love, meaning that you’re doing out of the goodness of your heart and with great intentions, even when things don’t work outright, it will be okay.”
Sometimes, when you’re writing an email, somebody misinterprets at the other end and they have you for ten minutes, or they think you mean something else in a different context. I still always say that as long as everything was from my heart, I was being generous, being who I am, and I have no malice in me that, things will pan out okay. I think that you’re basically essentially saying that very similar thing in that context.
There are two things that are coming to mind. One is the Brooklyn Bridge and one is Chris Tomlin. Chris Tomlin is a musician who’s written songs and sold millions of records and music. He said one time, “Living for approval is no way to live.” I totally agree with that. If that’s going to be what you’re going to mark your success by is what everybody else thinks about you, that’s just no way to live. You’ll drive yourself crazy.
The dreams that you are equipped to reach are going to resonate with you.
The first book that I wrote was a kitchen shortcut book. I was so scared that people were going to mess up the recipes and blame me. You can get scared about anything. It might have been the golden gate. It was one of the big bridges that they were building. This is way back in time and the guys kept falling to their death because they were out over this big expanse. These guys kept dying, the work was moving at a snail’s pace, and they were never going to get it done.
What they did is they bought this big net to put under the men so that they could go and they could work. What happened is that the guys still fell but they got caught, so they didn’t die. They were free then to work hard, and they were able to get that bridge done. I feel like that’s the difference between fear and faith. Fear is feeling like you’re out on the edge of that precipice and if you fall, you’re going to die and the world is over, whereas faith is saying, “I very well may fall but if I do, I’m just going to get up again.”
Most people that I mentor and I’ve done a lot of that, and like you, since I was a little kid, I used to mentor a lot of people. When I first came to America, there wasn’t a Korean community here. They were four kids in our school that were Korean in Los Angeles. One of the oldest kids in our school that a Korean girl was about two years older than me took me by her side and showed me the ropes a little bit. Since then, I’ve mentored a lot of other Korean families that are coming in there. I think you do all those.
In the beginning, I used to think, “I would have helped them with the digital marketing, position their brand, come up with the product development portion of this, and get them better manufacturers.” What I found is that 90% of what I ended up doing is the mental part because they don’t have the confidence in things they do. If I sit and talk to them for weeks at a time, they’ll have confidence in one thing that they learned to do a little bit but then they still don’t have confidence in their overall being.
This mental preparation or mental health, I’m not saying anybody is mentally ill, is almost like a brain exercise until you have a systematic way of building that confidence in everything you do, building that self-worth, and having a safety net that things are going to be okay. All this other knowledge that I’m teaching doesn’t have the maximum impact. A lot of the things that you’re saying make complete sense, meaning that you define your goals. What you’re trying to coach is that you have a teed-up in such a way that they don’t have to fail.
Failure is feedback. That’s all it is. At the beginning of the program, you mentioned, “I’ve been in car wrecks, in a sinking boat, lightning strike, burglaries, ambulance rides, surgeries, death in the family, and cancer in the family, the list just goes on and on.” How do I not view all of this as the world ganging up on me? It comes from a position of safety again, where I have faith to believe that everything that comes into my life, God can use for something good. I love the analogy of the diving board. If you go to the pool and you’re going to jump off the diving board, you have two choices. You can timidly walk to the end and step off, and that’s one experience, or you can go to the end, you can jump down and go up, jump down again, go up, then you get a big nice leap and a big bang when you hit the water. It’s two very different experiences from the same diving board.
You’ve got two people. One of them says, “I know I’m going to be okay. If I fail, that’s just set me up for a big wind coming up here in a few minutes.” Every time that you have a setback and you learn from it, you’re ahead of someone who never had a setback. One of the stories I love about you is how you responded. You had an order that was a couple of hundred thousand. I never had a setback as big as that one. When I heard that one, I was like, “Oh my gosh,” because I’ve had some serious setbacks, but that one was financial. How did you even get your brain to work? How did you get past the fear to get your brain to come up with a solution because you did?
At that time, that incident was make-or-break. It was making more than what I’ve made in the entire year. The kid was my manager at that time and he should have known better, but he didn’t. You think to yourself, “It’s my fault because I should’ve had a system that’s foolproof. I thought it was pretty obvious,” but he was a guy who never actually went award jewelry, so he did his thing.
My father wasn’t all that faithful person. He wasn’t religious. If you had asked him at that time what holidays he celebrates and stuff like that, he might have said he was a Buddhist because his parents were both dead by the time. He was twelve, so I didn’t have any grandparents on my father’s side. Korea went through a couple of wars and all the young men were drafted up. The only reference you had was my grandmother on my mother’s side and she was a pretty devoted Buddhist. He might’ve identified himself as that.
We didn’t go to church. We went through temples. There were like 6,000 years old, so you go there for the beauty of it. When we landed in America and we ended up in East Los Angeles, which is a rough area, he was here. Kids used to come to school with guns, knives and stuff, he was really scared and he thought the best thing he could do was to drop us off at the church, which he had never known anything about. A couple of my siblings are Catholics and I have one sibling who’s a Buddhist and then I’m a Presbyterian. That’s how he got his comfort that this was his safety net.
From that point forward, when those things happen, I think to myself, “Where is the gift in this thing?” My father is not with us now but if he were alive and you were having to have a conversation with him, and if you asked him, “What’s the best thing that ever happened to you other than being married to your wife and kids?” He would probably say the fact that he had everything taken away and he was left with only $30, that way was a blessing because his dream was to bring his five children to America so that they could be whoever they wanted to be.
Because we didn’t have any money and he couldn’t provide anything for us, we all had to get jobs pretty early and we had to work. All of my siblings, all five of his kids, are extremely accomplished. They’re all hyper-educated and doing their thing. What both Marnie and I are saying is that this disguised as obstacles, problems, and major setbacks but they are gifts if you choose to see it that way if you choose to embrace it.
That kid, I never had a terse word with him. I just basically told him, “This was a huge mistake.” He felt so bad about it too. What are we going to learn from this so that you don’t ever have to make a mistake like this again, and no one else has to ever? Not only are we going to fix this problem, but we’re going to fix all problems that look like this. We fixed that problem for sure. Believe it or not, that’s the first time I realized I need a system.
I looked for systems wherever I could apply something systematically to everything I did. I had a checklist to everything we did. That contributed to growth next year and the year on. That’s how I was able to scale my business. A lot of times, the founder of the small businesses is doing almost everything and they’re afraid to delegate because they don’t have faith in their employees or their customers and they don’t have a system, so they don’t have safety net. The whole idea of you explaining that safety net with the Golden Gate Bridge was a powerful story.
The other analogy I want to bring in here is that you wouldn’t expect a toddler to be able to drive a car. You wouldn’t expect a third grader to be able to do Quantum Physics. You wouldn’t expect a sixteen-year-old to be able to lead a country. There’s there are stages and phases for everything, and if you’re thinking you should be way farther down the track than you are, that’s another really fast way to get discouraged. You’re going to have to learn it, especially in small businesses or in hobby businesses starting up, you’re going to have to learn it all and do it all.
My oldest son was involved in a startup and he had to learn every last thing. Now he’s passed off every last thing. At first, you just have to learn it all, so you know if they’re doing that right. When there’s a conversation about, we could do this better, you have some context to put that into. Even those beginning parts that everybody hates, even those, there’s so much payoff to just investing the time in the education part.
If you think of yourself as a bicycle but you’re a Ferrari, you will never perform like what you were built to be.
What we should have introduced you as should have been a mentor to people with big dreams but don’t know how to get there because big dreams require lots of action to do. I’m not talking about one flashy action. Consistency is important. What I say is, “If you’re a sixteen-year-old kid, you got big dreams, and want to drive from Arizona to New York, you could walk there, drive, get on a Greyhound Bus, take the train, fly and have all the detours.”
Let’s say you chose to drive. You’re driving from Arizona and around Grand Canyon, and you’re like, “Why didn’t I do this before? I lived here in Arizona and I never got to see this before, it was wonderful.” You get to New Mexico and you’re like, “This is wonderful,” then you get a little detour and you go, “I wonder what it’s like to go North. I’ve always lived in the South,” and you end up going up to my Wyoming. That’s a detour that was completely unnecessary that sets you back, so having a framework, a forward view as well as the backward view.
I say this because when you started out at the very beginning of this interview, you said that, “There was somebody always who walked a few miles before you and some people who walk just a few steps behind you.” Those people that walked before you, even if they didn’t succeed, even if they got off, if you can talk to them, they will still point out all the detours and all of the stuff that they expect. Why they got off? What were the beautiful parts of this and what were the real ugly parts you should watch out for? I think that this mentorship is really important.
When I look back at my journey and somebody asked me that, “What would you ask your younger self?” The first thing that came up to my mind was, “I would have asked for help early on.” I didn’t know who I could have reached out to because we didn’t know anybody and I didn’t know anybody to join the business. None of my family members were entrepreneurs. My father was a professor. I’m talking generations of people, so I didn’t even know who to go to.
I would say that in this world of a lot of transparency because you have the internet and everything else that one of the first things, I would have done was looked for help from somebody who’s gone before me. That’s a no brainer. I commend you for being there as a mentor to a lot of people. Sometimes, you get so specific. You’re like, “If that person hasn’t been in my business, they can’t help me,” but that’s not actually true because a lot of the principles of turning a wheel applies to most of us. It not just you communicate at one thing, so I would say that was great. I like your particular approach to mentorship because it allows the person whoever is walking that path to be themselves first.
The most important thing you can ever do is embrace who you are because you’re never going to be somebody else no matter how hard you try. I was thinking about, if somebody asked me what would I have told my younger self? I think I would have told my younger self, “Be yourself and be brave.”
This has been so inspiring. Marnie has written thirteen books. Do you know what that means, ladies? I’ve written only two and they’re both being published. I know a lot of people in the publishing business. When you buy thirteen books and you have a following, people want to read what she has to say, so go ahead and pick up one of her books and also listen to her radio show. All of us out here, I know a lot of you are younger than me but those of you who are in your 40s even, you went through decades of time when people, parents, and companies, all of us paid for information.
People who had information like information on the stock market, information on the data, or information on demographics. A lot of people made money doing that. A lot of that stuff now is free. Most of us do not pay for information anymore. What we pay for now is transformation. I think Marnie has a whole show dedicated to transformation and I love that, so take a listen there. Marnie, if people want to continue this conversation with you, where would you like them to?
It’s just my name, Marnie.com. If you go there, you can find a bunch of free resources, including all the shows. They’re divided into different categories. If you’re an author, a speaker, a business owner, or you need marketing skills, it’s all divided out there for you for free. There is a mentorship program and coaching available as well if you want to go a little bit deeper.
I love the fact that she has a lot of things that are free because that also shows you the generosity. I’m with you, Marnie. I don’t charge for a lot of information that are downloadable, I like to share, so I love that you are offering that as well. Thank you so much for coming here now and I also want to thank my audience for being patient because this episode is a little longer. If you have not subscribed to the show, please go ahead and do so. If you can share it with your friends so more people can enjoy these episodes and the wisdom from people like Marnie, I would appreciate that very much. Until next time, please stay healthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice. Thank you.
- Perspective Transformations with Marnie’s Friends
- Marnie Swedberg
- Christian Women Speakers
- Million Dollar Hobbies
About Marnie Swedberg
Using riveting real-life stories, analogies and deep spiritual truths, Marnie has spoken at hundreds of events, conferences and summits for religious organizations, NGOs, Fortune 500s and governments. She has also trained, coached and mentored over 15,000 leaders from 35 countries.
Founder/Director of www.WomenSpeakers.com, the largest online directory of its kind in the world, author of 13 “how-to” books, and host of the #1 ranked Blog Talk Radio show, Perspective Transformation with Marnie’s Friends.