BBW MEMBER INTERVIEW: Meg Stafford, Clinician + Author of Who Will Accompany You? My Mother-Daughter Journeys Far From Home and Close to the Heart

What is your name?

Meg Stafford

What is your title?

Clinician at Meg Stafford, LICSW and author, speaker, & workshop leader

What is your business name?

Meg Stafford, LICSW

Central Counseling
Author

 

What is your website URL?

www.MegStafford.com and www.WhoWillAccompanyYou.com

What is your Instagram handle?

What is your LinkedIn URL?

How long have you been a Boston Business Women member?

Less than a year

Where are you based? How did you end up there?

I live in Littleton, MA I knew after traveling for several years, and living in San Francisco and Bristol, England, that I wanted to remain in the Boston area after moving here in 1981 for graduate school. I love living near the mountains, the ocean, and the wonderful restaurants, and performances available in the greater Boston area.

Tell us more about your company! What do you do and what pushed you to start?

I have been a psychotherapist in private practice for many years, but have loved to write since before I could really read or even spell, creating tiny books that I taped or stapled together. I had written columns for a number of years before I was encouraged to write my first book. What started as an email distribution list to those following what I was learning and feeling about my breast cancer treatment turned into Topic of Cancer: Riding the Waves of the Big C, a multi award winning book, followed ten years later by my most recent memoir, Who Will Accompany You? My Mother-Daughter Journeys Far From Home and Close to the Heart. Writing makes my heart sing and I am continuing to find ways to share observations, thoughts, and humor through this rich medium.

What is your definition of success? How do you know when you’ve reached it?

I feel the flush of success when I know that I've really reached someone, either in my psychotherapy practice, or with my writing. I love to see the shifts that people make in really hearing their own voice, and knowing what matters to them, and that we are all capable of making choices that lift up others as well as ourselves. The connection I feel when I can make others laugh, or see another point of view is exhilarating. Although my book has received recognition, it will feel more successful when sales have boosted and the book is in the hands of those who need and can enjoy it!

Tell us about your most transformational moment as an entrepreneur?

I learned about my book winning its first award when I was in the mountains of Bhutan. There I was, entranced by the beauty of magic of Bhutan, with my 17 year old daughter, and it hit me that I could really make an impact on others in a beautiful way. It represented the openness and vastness of the world and possibility.

What was one of your biggest challenges in business?

Though my first book had a lot of positive response and recognition, it was really hard to tend to the marketing while also working full time. This is proving to be true with my second book, but I am determined to give it the exposure it deserves. This means learning more about social media, various forms of marketing, and being willing to put in the time, and expend the resources to be able to shine a light on it. Others need to know about it in order to read it!

'Who Will Accompany You?' has now received ten literary awards in the categories of memoir, travel and parenting/relationships and although I'm thrilled about this, I need to keep on the marketing trail to convert that recognition into ways to get it to the people who will enjoy and learn from it.

How do you handle the harder days? The struggles? Those moments when you feel like giving up?

I'm so glad you ask this question, because those difficult days are inevitable, and it can be easy to succumb to inertia. When I'm feeling most discouraged, I usually do something else, particularly something active and outside. My bike, or the woods are key. Taking time to focus elsewhere allows me to come back renewed and full of energy. There's nothing like a funny TV show or movie to take me out of myself.

I also take that time to connect with other people who are learning, and taking risks. It's good for me to remember that everyone experiences these struggles, and that they are part of the journey. On my business card I have the symbol that represents crisis and also opportunity in Chinese. It is not always obvious what the opportunities are in a crisis, and it sometimes takes time to get there, but for sure it is imperative to be able to extract the learning in a situation. That's where the growth is, after we have tended to our tender moments. (This meaning making has even been added to the iconic five stages of grief, creating the sixth stage to make meaning and be able to move forward.)

How has being a Boston Business Women Inner Circle member positively influenced your life + business?

In the short time that I have been a Boston Business Women Inner Circle member, I have been impressed with the level of professionalism and enthusiasm that exists in this organization. I was inspired by the energy, curiosity, and ambition that was obvious in the dinner I attended a couple of weeks ago. I love to see this dynamic group connecting with each other, and supporting the efforts of others.

Tell us about your most proud moment in your career.

I love it when I hear back from people who have been in treatment to let me know that something about our work together has made a difference in their lives, and they continue to think about it. Most recently, I was thrilled when a violinist who had read a piece that I wrote contacted me to attend a private concert that she was hosting to raise funds for a free music festival that she has organized for the past 10 years in Vilnius, Lithuania (where she is from)/ The festival is for up and coming musicians who do not have the means to get world class instruction, and they receive master classes and attend concerts for free for a week in Vilnius. She has also invited me to attend the festival in Lithuania this summer and write about it in order to bring more attention to it, and I'm over the moon to attend. This is her way to pay forward the opportunities and scholarships that she was awarded that she could not have afforded when she was a student. Her willingness to reach out to me in this meaningful way based solely on what she read was a huge moment.

Update: Having now attended this amazing festival, I have written several pieces about it about which I am quite proud, all of which can be found on my blog.

Who is the woman behind your business? What does she like? How does she spend her free time? What does she value?

I feel so fortunate to enjoy so many different activities, and have a variety of people to enjoy them with. I have just returned from a week skiing in Colorado for the first time, with my husband, and two other sets of friends. I love to bike, and have gone on long bike trips with both my husband and with friends (to Portugal, Nova Scotia, from Boston to New York, etc). I also love to hike and have done this also with family in Maine for many years, and with friends in Patagonia, and around Mt. Blanc in France/Italy/Switzerland as recently as last summer. I love to spend time with our quirky rescue dogs, and one Maine Coon cat because animals are just the best. And of course, it is my biggest delight to have dinner, attend concerts, dance performances or stroll with my two daughters and husband. We have such a great time together, it is everything to be with them, cook or bake with them, or just share a new musical find.

I value being in the present, and responding to everything from that place. Sometimes it's difficult, but it is always best to be clear and honest than to pretend, or set aside what is really true. It is the simplest, and the richest way to live, and to mine any situation for its deepest and most satisfying connection. I love to surprise other people, and demonstrate that I am really paying attention, and remembering little things they have said or appreciate.

I also love to exceed expectations and break barriers. One of the funniest things that anyone has said to me was when we were sitting around the lunch table at Family Camp, and realizing that although we had known each other for many years, we didn't know how old each other was. When I told people I was 50, the person next to me gasped and exclaimed, ``You don't act like it!`` I don't know exactly what that means, but I burst out laughing and thanked him profusely.

I also feel it's important for people to be able to be honest with each other, and to learn to do this early. Schools should teach how to communicate in a respectful way so that everyone knows that they can speak up, be heard, and know that they are doing this in a positive way, even if the information is difficult. Someone recently said to me that if you can't have difficult conversations, you will have difficult relationships, and this is true for sure. I want people to know that it's possible to have these conversations without threatening a relationship, whether it's in the workplace or at home. Not many of us are taught that we can honor our own words as well as the thoughts and feelings of others when we communicate and it's a game changer to feel confident about this.

What makes you stand out from others in your field? What do you do differently?

I have the ability to combine humor with serious conversations and this is helpful in both my therapy office, and with the books and columns that I write. It puts people at ease (including myself!) to be able to chuckle when talking about something important. It's also key to know when to refrain from making a joke or pun! It's a good reminder that it doesn't always have to be hard, and that there can be another way to look at things. I love to offer a new perspective and possibilities.

I follow through with what I say I will do. I always return calls, even if it is to say that I cannot take a new client, or writing assignment. I keep people updated if there are changes, and respond promptly to questions or requests. I thought that everyone does this, but have learned that it is not a priority for everyone.

I also pay really close attention to whatever is being said, which means that I ask pertinent and thought provoking questions. It's so important to observe the really small moments, and extract what is relevant for myself, others, and what there is to learn. The better we know ourselves, the easier it is to really see others, and to avoid getting defensive. It's the defensiveness that puts up barriers between ourselves and others, and if we can really hear people, we are afforded the space to empathize, connect.

Where can we keep up with you? What social media platforms do you use the most?

I'm on Facebook, Instagram (@megstafford2183) and LinkedIn (Meg Stafford) and it is one of my commitments to post more and be more active in these spaces. Sign up for my blog at www.MegStafford.com

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