Ep442: Meridith Elliott Powell – Do What Is Right for You Not What Society Wants You to Do

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Quick take

BIO: Meridith Elliott Powell is passionate about helping her clients learn the strategies to turn uncertainty into a competitive advantage.

STORY: Meredith met her husband at 21, and they got married soon after. She spent close to 17 years trying to save her husband from countless brushes with death, arrests, and bankruptcies.

LEARNING: Have the courage to do what is right for you, not what you think society wants you to do. You can’t fix things you can’t control.


“Surround yourself with the right people. People whose values you admire and who won’t judge you or tell you what to do. They just love you and support you.”

Meridith Elliott Powell


Guest profile

Voted one of the top 15 Business Growth Experts To Watch, Top 41 Motivational Speakers, and Top Sales Expert on LinkedIn, Meridith Elliott Powell is passionate about helping her clients learn the strategies to turn uncertainty into a competitive advantage. She is the author of six books, including her latest THRIVE: Turning Uncertainty To Competitive Advantage.

Worst investment ever

Meridith’s father died of alcoholism when she was just 21 years old. It was at this point that she met her future husband. They quickly got married, and the marriage turned out to be her worst investment ever.

Meridith stayed tied to her husband through countless brushes with death, arrests, and bankruptcies until he died when he was 41 and she was 38.

Meridith wasted some of the good and best years of her life trying to save someone that had zero desire to be saved.

Lessons learned

  • Trust your gut, not your head.
  • Have the courage to do what is right for you, not what you think society wants you to do. Have the courage to live your life and to live your voice.
  • You can’t fix things you can’t control.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • You can only help someone who wants to be helped.

Actionable advice

Find your voice. Spend time figuring out what kind of life you want to lead. Then ask yourself what is preventing you from getting that life, and what are you doing right to get that life.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Meridith’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to help people start to view what life throws at them as an opportunity rather than a negative.


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk, but to win big, you've got to reduce it. To join our community. Just go to my worst investment advice calm and receive the following five free benefits. First, you get the risk reduction checklist I created from the lessons I've learned from all my guests. Second, you get my weekly email to help you increase your investment return. Third, you get a 25% discount on all a Stotz Academy courses or you get access to our Facebook community to get to know guests and fellow listeners. And finally, you get my curated list the top 10 podcast episodes fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast hosts Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests. Meredith Elliot, how Meredith, are you ready to rock? I am ready to rock. Yeah. I just laugh, and I smile, because I see your energy, and I really appreciate it. So let me introduce you to the audience. Merrick meritage at Elliot Powell, was voted one of the top 15 Business Growth experts to watch the top 41 motivational speakers and top sales expert on LinkedIn. Meredith is passionate about helping her clients learn the strategies to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage. She is the author of six books, including her latest called thrive, turning uncertainty to competitive edge due out this month. In fact, it's due out in a week. Meredith, take a minute and only further tidbits about your life.

Meridith Elliott Powell 01:49
Well, I think you did a pretty good job of I live in Asheville, North Carolina. And before COVID, I made my life as a keynote speaker I traveled around the world engaged with 1000s of people hopped on airplanes. So just like many people probably listening to this, my complete business was decimated. Not only did all my revenue disappear, but all of my business model became unworkable and unusable. So I have really spent the last 1516 months rebuilding and being re energized and reinvigorated by what looks like a terrible disaster, but turned into a new opportunity for me. You know, everybody's going through this. And I think people have had different responses. I'm just curious, like,

Andrew Stotz 02:37
what was the biggest challenge that you just thought? How am I going to turn this around? You know, I think about you know, for instance, you being on a stage, and you're not going to be on a stage? And then what was the biggest kind of surprise, once you got through it about that transformation that you put yourself through?

Meridith Elliott Powell 02:52
Great, great questions. Literally, I know, it was nothing for me to do 80 to 100 keynotes a year. And the biggest shock was that not only had all my revenue disappeared, but all of a sudden, the way I made a living, I didn't I just was shocked at how little I diversified. I was thought I was so good because I was in different industries I had done, what traditional diversification meant. But I never thought about the fact what if my model didn't work, and that I needed to diversify the model to be different. And then the biggest surprise was once I slowed down how much I loved being home. And I just started to think what was I doing traveling that much and being gone that much, and that there was so much more to do with my business, beyond just hopping on a plane and doing a keynote?

Andrew Stotz 03:48
You know, it's interesting, because in the world of finance, we always talk about diversification. Yeah, but when everything gets bad, basically, many assets, classes are correlated. Like everything goes down, right? You think all this time, like I'm diversified, I have bonds, and I have stocks and then all of a sudden you get in a crisis and everything goes down. Now, what I learned in my own experience, is that okay, things come back up. So don't panic and get out at the bottom. But the point is, is that you probably and this is really for the listener out there, you probably are much less diversified, not only financially, but also business wise. And so I think, you know, this is a great lesson like, have you written a book? Have you done an online course where people are buying that? Have you done some coaching with people have you done you know, all the different things that are out there to earn income. Once you've been through this type of crisis, you realize there's a lot of revenue streams out there. There's a lot of ways that people want to be reaching people. They love audio, you know, audio books, and some people love reading books. And some people love it through podcasts, you know, it just like reaching a lot of different parts of the market is a great reminder for all of us. Yeah. Yeah, it was a big lesson for me. The last time I was in Asheville was about six years ago, maybe seven years ago. My mom and dad lived in Charlotte. And so sure, yeah, so I, I'm a financial analyst in Thailand. And there's a company in Thailand that owns a factory in Asheville. So I asked the company, if I could go, they'd arranged for me to meet the CEO of the company, and my dad being a polymers and plastics guy, he and I went to visit this factory, and we just had a great time. So that was my last time there. So Love it. Love it. Anyways, well, let's, let's just I want to just ask a little bit, before we get into the big question, tell us about the book thrive and what the listeners would get from, you know, getting it and tell us just about the launch details and how we can find out more, of course, we'll have everything in the show notes, but give us the full detail. Yeah, you know, it's

Meridith Elliott Powell 05:53
kind of an interesting story a couple of years ago, back in 2018 2019, long before COVID, I became obsessed with the word uncertainty, because every business that I was talking to, I mean, it was good economic ties, we all remember 2018 and 2019. And, and every business, I would talk to it, ask the question, How's business? Everybody would answer the same. Oh, my gosh, it's good. It's great. We're headed for our best year on record. But oh, this uncertainty, as if uncertainty always had to be a negative. And I thought it's that interesting, even in good economic times. Uncertainty is this cloud over our head. And I just started to think what if you flip the script on that? What if you started to think about uncertainty as a positive? What if you actually started to strategically use it for personal and professional growth, rather than view it as something that hinder growth, and that put me on a mission to find leaders and companies that had done that, and I discovered nine companies that have been around for over 250 years, which doesn't sound like a lot to you all in Thailand, but to us in the US, that is a big history. So if you think about, you know, an organization that's been around for 250 years, they've come through World Wars, they've come through economic depression. And unbeknownst to me at the time, they've come through a pandemic. Well, 2019 hit and I was crazy, crazy busy, we started into 2020, I'm busy, I'd kind of let the research sit on the shelf. But when COVID hit decimated my life, I thought, What am I going to do? Why went back to the research, I dug in a little bit further, and from the companies and from the stories, I discovered a nine step formula, there were commonalities and themes, things that you really need to be doing in your business. And consequently, I wrote for your personal life, too, if you want to manage the constant shifts and changes, that life shows us whether it's as big as a pandemic, it's as small as new regulation, it's having a child go off to college, or, you know, suffering a loss of a loved one. This is the strategy you use to be somebody who runs to the sound of the gunfire and takes action, rather than be somebody who's stuck. And that's what happened during the pandemic, people wanted to do something. But when uncertainty hits, we're confused, we're stuck. We need a path. And that's what I wrote.

Andrew Stotz 08:19
That's powerful. I mean, it reminds me, I have a coffee business in Thailand, and we import machines from espresso machines from Italy. And we got invited to the 100th anniversary of a company in Italy. That really is the company that really, you know, was the for at the forefront of espresso machines. And, and we met the name of the company is called chimney. And we met Mr. Jim Lee. And it's been in the family for over 100 years now. And we thought, you know, is so impressive. And what's so interesting about these companies that last a long time is how do you maintain the values of that business? through all those ups and downs and not forget that 1917 pandemic or the 1957 Asian flu 1969 Hong Kong flu? Like how do you maintain those and I guess, part of what you probably explore is just that,

Meridith Elliott Powell 09:10
it's exactly that and it is, so the book ends up being inspiring, being calming because you see that people have come through far worse with far less resources than you ever did. And you're inspired because really amazing things came from it. So I'm very proud of the book. I'm very excited about the book and I really want people to read it because I really believe it's going to make a difference. You know difference for people and you simply find out about the book on Amazon as you said it's launching next week. You can also find it at my website value speaker.com and fight you need a free download. I have a chapter there as well.

Andrew Stotz 09:53
Fantastic. I'm looking at Amazon right now. And there it is thrive strategies to turn on certainty to competitive advantage. It's Available like pre order, I guess or Kindle hardback hardcover and paperback. Fantastic. And we're gonna have the audio as well. Yeah, I heard you talking about that on Larry's podcast, and certainly from the heart. That's exciting. Well, um, last question. How would you describe kind of your unique thing that you bring to your clients? You know, there's lots of sales books, there's lots of sales people, there's lots of sales strategies, and you know, different things work for different people. But how would you describe what it is that's unique about what you bring to the client?

Meridith Elliott Powell 10:33
You know, it took me a long time to really figure out what that was. And then one time I was doing an interview, and somebody said, Tell us a little bit about your background and your career, how'd you get started. And I started in travel and tourism, then I went to healthcare, and then I went to finance. And I thought, well, that's crazy background, who does that. And then when I figured out is I went into every single industry, when they were going through massive disruption and change. I got into travel and tourism when the community been wiped out by Hurricane, I got into health care, when we were going through massive regulation, I got into banking when they were going through huge cutbacks, and a lot of competitive, you know, new competitors getting into the marketplace. And what I've learned, and this is the unique thing I bring to businesses is certainly I talk about strategy, sales and leadership. But it is all about having a plan, having a strategy and getting your people into embrace, be passionate and excited about the disruption. And so I get you prepared for it. And they get your team all engaged in taking ownership, because that's really what it takes to move the organization forward.

Andrew Stotz 11:42
Ladies and gentlemen, you know, that's what we all need. In fact, I, before we turn on the recorder, I was telling Mary that I was listening to their the beans podcast, and she was being interviewed on it from selling from the heart. And there was a mic drop moment where she said, and it really hit me. And I really want the listeners out there to think about what she said in that. And what she said was basically, your clients, your potential clients are out there looking for the solutions for that you have you have answers to their problems. And if you're not contacting them, if you're not in touch with them, they're looking for the answer to that solution somewhere else. And you end up arriving in the game at halftime. And it's very hard to win when you arrive in halftime. And as I said, that was a time that I kind of fell to my knees. So I was excited to get you on. And I know already through that message, but also to what you just said, I can feel a lot of inspiration also that you bring to the relationships around you. So I appreciate that. Thank you very much. Yeah. So now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to then tell us

Meridith Elliott Powell 12:59
your story. how I'd love to tell you so, you know, I was so excited when you asked me to be on this show and talk about my worst investment ever and that it didn't have to be financially related because it's interesting once I discuss my story and tell it to you, everything I learned from it, I feel has been the reasons My life has worked out. In the end. I got married the first go round when I was just 21 years old. I had lost my father not long before and as soon as my father passed away, in walked the man that I just knew once I looked at him that I was going to marry I was knees weekend, I was endlessly in love, and couldn't wait to start a relationship with this man. Just a short Three years later, we were married. And it turned out to be my worst investment ever. And the reason it turned out to be my worst investment ever is because what I didn't tell you about the story is that my father died of alcoholism when I was just 21 years old. In fact, my family is riddled in alcoholism. To date. I've lost six male members of my family. I also come from a family that didn't talk about such things. My mother wanted to pretend that things were good, because she just wanted to protect her children and raise us in what she could create or save have a happy home. So the moment my father died in walked his replacement. And it turned out to be my worst investment ever. Because while I met him at the age of 21 I stayed tied to him through countless, you know, brushes with death, countless arrests, countless lusts read countless bankruptcies and until he died when he was 41 and I was 38. And while it is a little bit difficult to describe as a worst investment because I learned so much from it and I wouldn't be where I am without it. Also, he's a human being who was suffering from a disease. But I did waste some of the good and best years of my life, trying to save an investment that had zero desire to be saved.

Andrew Stotz 15:19
So, how would you describe I mean, you know, I want you to think about a young man or woman, you know, who is in that similar type of situation? How would you describe the lessons that you've learned from this experience? So,

Meridith Elliott Powell 15:35
so good, so easy to reflect right now, is that number one, is really, I've learned to trust my gut, not my head. I believe that my intuition, my gut knew that I shouldn't get married, I knew that there was something wrong. But my head kept overriding it because everybody else loved him, everybody else thought he was great. The second is that I needed to have the courage to do what was right for me, not what I thought society wanted me to do, you know, I'm raised a good Catholic girl. And once you get married a good Catholic girl, you're married forever. And you're supposed to stay in this as long as it takes. Also, people felt like it was my responsibility to save him. And I bought into that as well. And so to really have the courage to live your life, and to live your voice, I'm so inspired by people in their 20s, who kind of defy what society is telling them to do, and walk their own path, because I didn't have the courage to do that until I was 38, or 39 years old. And the most important lesson that I learned that I've taken away, is that I can't fix things I can't control. And while that is, that sounds like something personal, I've taken it into business, I can't help customers that don't want to be helped. I can't save employees that don't want to do the work. My job is to communicate what I need the outcome today, whether that's in my personal life, this is how I want the marriage to look, or this is how I want the friendship to look, or this is these are the rules of working in my business, or as a company, if I'm going to do this for you, this is what I need you to do. And then when people don't do it, I need to let it go and walk away.

Andrew Stotz 17:36
I just had a wave of kind of tears come to me, because I also felt, you know, when I was growing up, there was this movement called tough love. And that was the idea that sometimes you have to stand up and say, you know, you got to do this yourself, and I can help you. But I can't do it for you. And, you know, it just said it hit me so hard, because I think also for the listeners out there. It's not just in our personal lives is in our business lives as hard as said, You know, I can't help you unless you're open to being helped. And before I go into kind of my takeaways on this, I just want to talk a little bit about this. So I hear about, you know, listening to your gut, having courage and realizing that you can't fix, you know, someone else. My question is, when you're young, you don't have all of these experiences. How could you find, you know, like, obviously, there's some, let's say, some people out there men or women that are young, that do have that courage, and they're in touch with them. Yeah. But then there's that other group of people who are not, and they're struggling, and they're bound to kind of make this mistake, like, how do you get more in touch? And listen to your gut? When What a great question.

Meridith Elliott Powell 18:50
Yeah, I think number one is, you've got to surround yourself with the right people. And what I mean by that is, when I finally made the decision to legally separate from my husband, we never divorced I, I just couldn't go that far. But my mother, who whom I loved, really had trouble with that. She felt like I should stay by his side, and I should help him and, and support him. And I had to put her at a distance. And I had to surround myself with people who maybe didn't agree with what I was doing, didn't understand what I was doing, but could support me in what I was doing. So you really as a young person, you really need to surround yourself with about five good people, people that you admire, how they live their values, and that they don't judge you tell you what to do. They just love you and support you. Because I could have been making the wrong decision. I could have fallen flat on my face. But the power was that I was making a decision that was right for me. And until I was 38 years Hold on, I made decisions that were right for other people. That's where you go wrong. That is where

Andrew Stotz 20:06
and when you think you're making decisions that are right for other people. It's probably not even right for other people.

Yeah, exactly. Because doing this for you,

Meridith Elliott Powell 20:16
yeah, people want you to make decisions that validate their bad decisions. You know, and that's really what I found is like, my mother didn't want me out of that situation, because I would have been, somehow pass judgment on her staying with my father or something. You know, it's a tangled web of, of psychology. But I really believe everything I do. In my business, I learned from spending so much so many years, riddled in alcoholic relationships, I figured out I was an enabler, I figured out I focused on things I couldn't control, I lost the energy to focus on what I could I mean, the lessons are endless.

Andrew Stotz 20:53
Yeah. So maybe I'll share a few things that I take away. I've been just taking notes furiously as you've been speaking, and now I live with my mother, she's 83. And at the age, she grew up in Virginia, and at the age of 20, she got married. And she tells the story of how my father and her at that time, she had to bring her father down to get the marriage license, because she was under 21. And there was a joke that my dad didn't have any money. So it was $1 to $2 for the marriage certificate, and he had to borrow it from her father. Now, turns out my father didn't have any problem with alcohol. And they had almost 59 years of a happy marriage. Yeah, that's great. That's, that's amazing to me, as I look back, like the luck of the draw, and somehow, you know, true, and, but we did have a brush with alcoholism in our family. And that was when I got addicted. And I was 17 year old kid that was involved with alcohol and drugs, and my life started falling apart. And I started getting into serious trouble with it. And, you know, I'm just going back, I wrote down something, you know, you were saying about your, your mother wanting to, you know, say that, you know, things are okay, and, you know, try to try to make excuses, kind of, for what's going on, and it's fine, and everything's good. And in my mother's case, she just stood up to that and said, this is not, you know, I won't allow this in my life, you know, I'll do everything I can to help. And so they got me into treatment centers at a young age. And, and I managed to get sober when in 1982. And then, after that, I graduated from this treatment center I was in, in 1983. And then my mom said, well, you're going to be 18 soon. So it's time to go out on your own, and you've got to go do it, you have what you need. And we don't want to live through a relapse. That's your problem, and you need to solve it yourself. so impressive. And I had the 12 steps, you know, in 12 step programs out there, of course, there's allanon. Nowadays, it's so easy for anybody struggling with alcoholism themselves or alcoholism in their family, there's a plenty of ways that you can reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous to Al anon, for men and women who are not alcoholics, but are in families with alcoholism, there's just a lot of resources out there. So I really want to encourage anybody that's facing that kind of problem is out there. And, you know, that was almost, let's say, almost 40 years ago, and I haven't taken a drink or drug in almost 40 years. Oh, that's so impressive. Congratulations. Thank you. And, and that's part of, you know, people, like you're really good with your mom, and you know, you rainy her to live with you in Thailand, I thought my mom was devoted to helping me overcome a very serious challenge. And she didn't do it through enabling me, or thinking that by preventing me from suffering, the consequences, she was helping me, she basically kind of managed my collision with the consequences, and made sure I felt it and use that as a tool. And so as my mother is now at an age of 83, and she needs support and help, just like I needed there, what a great opportunity to have gotten sobriety, and then be able to bring that back to my mom. So you know, it just, it's great to hear your story and what you've overcome. And I really appreciate that. So that's kind of my big takeaway from your story. Well, that's

Meridith Elliott Powell 24:32
a huge takeaway. And that's a beautiful, beautiful story. And you have an incredible mother because most parents are not that tough. It's the hardest day I can't even I've never had to do it with a child. So I can't even I can't even imagine but that is love that are true higher level. And you see the difference in that?

Andrew Stotz 24:50
Yeah. And I think nowadays too, it's like whether it you know, I look at the stock market as an example the economy in the US and nobody wants to own allow other people to suffer. Yeah. Right, the Fed is there to save the day. So no matter how high you push housing prices, no matter how high you put stock market prices, somebody's going to prevent the suffering. And it's a different world than what I was brought up in. So it's sometimes hard to understand how it's like feeding an addict, basically. So let me ask you, I want you to think about that young. Let's just imagine a young 20 year old woman out there in somewhat similar situation, as you are. And think of her as I asked this question, based upon what you learn from this story, and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend that you take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Meridith Elliott Powell 25:45
That I would tell her to, to find your voice, to really spend time figuring out what kind of life you want to lead. And, and then really ask yourself, what are you doing? What is preventing you from getting that life? And what are you doing right to get that life and battle start to point out where the where the actions you're taking, I guess I'm not explaining this very well. But it was kind of surprising to me one day I woke up and I figured out, I felt like my life was a mess. But what I realized was, if I wasn't married to an addict, it wouldn't be a mess, like nothing else about my life was a mess. Really nothing that wasn't fixable, that, that suffering is a choice. And it's not an easy decision either way. But there was no need for me to go down with the ship, the ship was going down, and there was no need for me to go down it

Andrew Stotz 26:49
with it. That's great. And I think, you know, the idea of valuing yourself, and then when things go bad or feel bad, you know, to say, What do I want? And how do I stay true to that? So very great advice. So last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Meridith Elliott Powell 27:08
Oh, my number one goal for the next 12 months is easy. If I could be on a soapbox telling people how to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage. And a lot of what we talked about is the reason I wrote about it in your personal in your personal life I added that on is that that's my goal, I really want to help people start to view what life throws you as rather than a negative, it's to see the opportunity in it because that's where you're going to find the path forward.

Andrew Stotz 27:32
Fantastic. Well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss, to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listener, reduce risk and increase return in your life. To achieve this. I've created our community at my worst investment ever.com and I look forward to seeing you there. As we conclude, Meredith, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for

the audience? Just that it's

Meridith Elliott Powell 28:08
been a fabulous show. It's been an honor to share my story and I can't wait to be part of the community.

Andrew Stotz 28:14
Amen. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our wealth and our health. Fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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