Teresa Thomas got divorced at 45 and had a midlife crisis as she neared 50. She felt burned out and had a bad attitude about her upcoming birthday. Despite that, she planned a birthday party for herself around things she thought would be fun. She developed worksheets for her friends and family to fill out. One of which was 50 things she wanted to do in the coming year and left room for people to say which ones they wanted to join her for. All of a sudden, she felt connected and supported and the anxiety and depression she had been feeling lifted and she had things to look forward to all year long.
As an award-winning connector, presenter, networking expert and author, Teresa Thomas ignites intentional, connected and joy-filled living through her umbrella brand Win/Win Connects. Teresa developed the 50 Fun Things® tools and experiences as a way for groups and individuals to look at how they can add fun and fulfillment as integral pieces in their lives, leveraging joy on a personal and professional level.
Teresa is the author of Win/Win Networking: Your Guidebook for Confident and Effective Connections and 50 Fun Things: Enjoy the Small Things (and more recently 50 Fun Things for a Writer's World). She has led, facilitated, and presented for hundreds of events and groups for over 20 years guiding thousands to connect and grow.
Teresa was awarded the title of Women’s Business Champion in 2019 by the SBA (Small Business Administration of Minnesota) for her commitment to helping others succeed through networking. She was named Dynamic Connector and recognized by AARP of Minnesota and Pollen as one of Minnesota’s 2019 50 Over 50 Exceptional Leaders.
Teresa Thomas was a model people pleaser, doing things for everyone else saying yes to things she didn’t want to say yes to but didn’t feel like she could say no to, putting other people first and finding ways to make other people happy and get along. She says that her fear of disappointing people was bigger than her fear of dying or public speaking.
She now realizes that it’s a bit of a self-absorbed point of view because we have no control over what other people think of us. Now she knows it’s better to live as her best self and have the right people appreciate and show up for her versus trying to be something that she thinks they think they want her to be.
As the mom to small kids, there is some element of putting others in front of yourself, but Teresa realized that something was out of whack. Like the day she showed up to her first neighborhood association meeting and was drafted to be treasurer, despite her protestations that she was no good with numbers. But she didn’t want to disappoint these people (who she didn’t even know!) so she took on the role - and she hated it and had to force herself to do it.
Even friends and work colleagues would give her feedback on her people pleasing tendencies. At the same time as she was giving presentations on win-win networking, she was not allowing others to help her. One person was very pointed with Teresa and told her that the relationship didn’t feel reciprocal and, if she valued authenticity and meaningful connections then receiving is part of relationship building as much as helping others is. That was a lesson that took her a long time to fully absorb.
On the home front, Teresa thought things were going ok, but she was going to marriage counseling by herself, and doing the counseling homework by herself, and realizing that things at home weren’t feeling particularly reciprocal.
Teresa got divorced at 45 and then had a midlife crisis as she prepared to turn 50. She felt burned out and had a bad attitude about her upcoming birthday. She was reacting badly to people saying that, at 50, you’re confident and don't care what other people think - since that’s what she wanted for herself, but wasn’t feeling.
Despite her bad attitude, she decided to plan a party for herself - partly because she thought people would expect that’s what she should do. Her consolation was that she was going to do exactly what SHE thought would be fun.
As a kid, Teresa loved playing school, with worksheets and little assignments, so that’s what she did for her party. She created a couple worksheets for her friends and family to fill out. The first one was, how well do you know Teresa? The second one was 50 fun things she wanted to do in the coming year and friends could put their names next to the ones they wanted to do with her.
She didn’t know whether people would play along but every person at the party filled out their worksheet and some of them said they wanted to do multiple activities with her in the coming year. All of a sudden, she felt connected and supported and the anxiety and depression she had been feeling lifted. She had things to look forward to all year long. She felt hopeful and much calmer than she had been feeling.
Teresa thought this was just something she was doing for herself and she’d post about it on Facebook every now and then, but people started noticing. Friends started asking what her next adventure was going to be. And then a life coach asked if she could use it as a tool with her clients. And then someone asked if she would do a workshop about it. And then more people asked for workshops. She put together a workbook and other tools.
This little thing she created to give her things to look forward to over the course of a year took on a life of its own. Now 50 Fun Things is being used by others and Teresa is filled with joy to hear about the transformations taking place in organizations, groups and families. She’s created a tool that helps people create conversation, remember what brings them joy, try new things, be more present and find their sense of gratitude.
At the end of her 50th year, Teresa felt completely different than she did at the beginning. She felt on fire. She was opened up to the power of speaking your voice and telling people what matters. She felt more alive and connected with the possibilities that life has when we make small changes or shifts.
The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
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Stephanie: Hi Theresa. Thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Teresa: Hey, Stephanie. So excited to be here with you.
Stephanie: Me too. I'm excited to speak to somebody who I can say is officially ridiculous. Because as people may know, I have always considered myself to be ridiculous and love anything that is ridiculous and silly and outrageous and mischievous. And you, my friend, are the only person I have ever met who has been in a legitimate fake band.
Teresa: That's true.
Stephanie: Tell me, will you tell the story a little bit? Just tell the story of your fake band, please.
Teresa: I'll tell a tiny bit of the story. But yeah, it was something that snowballed way out of what we would've ever imagined. I was in my young twenties and I was working at the Guthrie Theater and a good friend of mine and I, when the show would go up, we had nothing to do. So I was a bartender and she was an usher, and we would hang out with the ushers. We were joking about how you would get the words to songs wrong, right? And then pretty soon the ushers thought it was hilarious. So they decided they were a fan club. And then one person appointed herself the manager. And then we had real musicians, like some of them are still playing professionally, they were like, "Oh yeah, just book a show and sing your songs wrong and we'll just show up." It was like turning into a performance art. And the fan club, we had a logo, we had t-shirts. It was crazy. We got booked and written up in City Pages, in big font as a band to see. My co-singer, Rocker B, she got nervous, had to cancel the show, manager had to call the venue. But the legacy lived on.
And when I turned 40, I made a mockumentary of the fake band. Oh, I forgot to say that we also got interviewed on, Buenos Aires in Argentina on the radio show when she was living there. Her boyfriend was a DJ, and so the DJs were all in on it, and they interviewed us. We have it on tape, actually now it's part of the mockumentary. And the fan club brought me to the airport back in the days when people could actually go in the airport and chase me through the airport with their fan t-shirts. And yeah, people thought I was famous, which was funny because I was just a person running away from a bunch of funny friends. Yeah, so when they made these t-shirts, they said, "Okay, every time you go somewhere, just put it as part of your band tour." So we have these band tour t-shirts. Oh, I wish I would've found it, I I would show you it. That's a crazy shirt. And, uh, yeah. And then it turned into mockumentary when I was turning 40. And if anybody is a Spinal Tap fan, we called the mockumentary Höxli Vöxli The Second Greatest Band That Never Was, because of course, Spinal Tap was the greatest band that never was, but they did turn into a real band. Uh, so yeah. So we've got a logo. We had merch.
Stephanie: Yeah, and the band's name again was,
Teresa: Höxli Vöxli, has umlauts over the os.
Stephanie: Theresa, I said this when we first met, I need, I must have in my life a t-shirt. So we have to figure out how to make that happen. I don't care if it's a tour t-shirt or a new one. I just need an Höxli Vöxli t-shirt, please.
Teresa: Oh, I still have a few little buttons.
Stephanie: We'll figure that out. Alright, so now that we have your ridiculous credentials really solidified and you touched on 40 a little bit, let's back up and talk about when you were in your thirties. You were married, you had some young kids. Why don't you sort of start our story there.
Teresa: So yeah, I was married. My kids were young and I was noticing that well, I think many people go through this, identify as people pleasers and, put everybody else first and they don't speak their voice and they don't say what they want. And they're really, really good at trying to find ways to make other people feel happy and get along. So that was the first section of my adulthood where I was practicing not speaking my voice. Well, except in Höxli Vöxli, that was definitely my voice.
So I just started to notice there was certain things about myself that I was just putting on the back burner or deciding that other people knew better than me or would be asked to do things that weren't in my wheelhouse or weren't of interest to me. But I would do them because I honestly had a fear of disappointing others. That was a bigger fear than dying or public speaking is disappointing others. And I'm finally getting through that fear, which feels really good, and I'm finally realizing that it's actually kind of a selfish perspective, not selfish, self-absorbed, because I have no control over what anybody thinks of me. And it's better for me to live me and be me and show up as me and the right people appreciate me for me, not me trying to be something that they think I should be or that I think they think I should be. So that's been a lesson that's been unfolding,
Stephanie: For a long time, yeah
Teresa: um, over those years and now I feel like I've finally gotten there.
Stephanie: I'm gonna go back a couple of steps. There's a piece of this where you were saying yes all the time and putting other people first, and I'm sure there's a small piece of that, that's just being a mom and getting through the day and making sure that the kids have everything they need and the household's running and all of those things. At what point did you realize that it was more than just running the family and running the household and that it was this bigger thing about being really afraid to disappoint people?
Teresa: Wow. That's a big question. But I would say I was starting to do creativity, goal setting and team building workshops when my kids were young. And I was guiding other people to think about what they wanted, their lives and their goals and their team and all that to feel like, but I was noticing I wasn't always doing that for myself. But it was what I felt called to do. So there was that, what's that
Stephanie: a contradiction.
Teresa: Yeah, it was a contradiction. So that was a big wake up call. And I look back at the kinds of things I would say yes to. I was on the board of my neighborhood association. I just simply showed up, it was my very first time going and I got elected to the board probably 'cause nobody else wanted to be on it. You and I talked about how bad I am with numbers, like I literally can't remember years and numbers. And um, they decided that I should be the treasurer. Okay. And I tried to convince them like, I am not your person. Give me any other role. But I didn't wanna disappoint anybody. And I took it on and I hated it. And it was all the things that yeah, I could force myself to do, but it wasn't the right experience. So that's just one example of, okay, these strangers who I'm just getting to know in the neighborhood want me to do this thing, but for some reason I don't wanna disappoint them. And now looking back, I realize that wasn't working for anybody really.
Stephanie: You also told me that, some of your friends and even some of your colleagues at work would say things to you about your being a people pleaser and tell us what they would say.
Teresa: Yeah, so I had friends and colleagues even. So I was running lots of women's networking events and coaching and doing workshops on networking and how to book win-win networking. And I would talk to people about having win-win connections where you help each other out. And, a couple people, both friends and colleagues had pointed out to me that I myself was not doing a good job of receiving and they would say, "Well, how can I help you?" And I'd be like, "Oh, I'm fine, but here, I'll can do this and I can introduce you here." And a couple of those people were very pointed to say that it didn't feel reciprocal, and that if I'm somebody who values authenticity and meaningful connection in relationships, that my receiving is part of the relationship building. That was a big aha that took me a long time to absorb. And, when I would talk about networking or teach about networking, I would share "Okay, notice that you are also, finding the relationship to be mutually beneficial, that you're helping each other. It doesn't mean it's even that everything is tit for tat, but that it's mutually beneficial. You both want the best for each other, and you're not discounting yourself." Because I'd also meet a lot of people that go to networking events cuz they just thought, "Oh, I'm just supposed to," but they won't be clear about what they wanted, what types of connections they wanted, how they wanted to introduce themselves. So, all these lessons, looking back, I realized like, oh, okay, that helps me to be better at walking the walk, you know? those things that I value, I need to also be integrating my life.
Stephanie: So now let's get in the car and go back home. You got to 40, you made your mockumentary and in these next couple of years, tell us about how relationships at home are going.
Teresa: Well, it was interesting because, I kind of thought they were going okay. Like I was trying to work on the relationship and hey, maybe we could go to marriage counseling. But then I started going to marriage counseling by myself and doing the marriage counselor's homework by myself. So that didn't feel very reciprocal and felt odd. And then the huge wake up call was, well one of the huge wake up calls, was my daughter, who was young at the time, had been playing over at the neighbors and they called and said, "Oh, we're so sorry to hear that you're getting a divorce." I'm like, "What? No. What?" But kids pick up on stuff as, as much as I thought I was just, you know, keeping the peace and harmony and as much as I could and not thinking that the kids were picking up on the discord, they were like, they were telling the neighbors that, oh, well, they saw it as truth and looking back like
Teresa: they knew. Like I was fighting it. But then it came to a point, I've heard from other when, you know, you know. If you're questioning it, well then you're still trying to work through it. But then it got to a point where like, okay, it has to be more of a relationship and reciprocal and a lot of people will say, well, we're staying for the kids.But again, everything we do is role modeling. And so, we don't want our kids to grow up and not take care of themselves or to be in a relationship that isn't the best for their wellbeing, so, those little, well, those big things, have more influence than we know.
Stephanie: So how did you, mm. How do I want to ask this question? So you're going to marriage counseling on your own, you're the only one working on the relationship. At what point did you come to the realization that that things had to change in a dramatic way? Because I'm guessing that's a really overwhelming place to be.
Teresa: I don't remember there being like a specific turning point, but it was just like I kept trying to keep the candle glowing, and then it was blown out. And then I'm like, okay, I don't have it in me to get this candle going. So, I know that it'snot necessarily a real turning point, but it was more of like I finally had this awareness. I was scared. I think a lot of people are scared to make huge changes like that, and so I probably knew it for longer than, would let myself know. But my body knew. My intuition knew. just took a while for my head to catch up and realize like, okay, you're gonna be okay.
Stephanie: Yeah. And, and that's sort of the thing is that our bodies do know, our intuition knows, and we try to hold on so hard to something that's not working, that's making us miserable. But, you've built a world around it, so to unravel that world just feels terrifying and overwhelming, this concept of starting over is just, it's a lot, especially if you're miserable.
Teresa: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. It is a lot. And it's just like focusing on the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it's like, okay, just gotta get through this hard part.
Stephanie: Right. Yeah. So you ended up divorced and you did something real fun when you got divorced, you said you just around when you were 45. What did you do for the first time?
Teresa: Oh, I got my ears pierced for the very first time. And of course I didn't wear earrings today. But yeah, that felt really freeing and kind of defiant because my ex-husband would say, "Oh, I love how your ears are so pure." And I thought was sweet at the time, but then I was like, you know what? I'm gonna wear earrings. Um, ears pierce. And so yeah. And I have been having a lot of fun wearing earrings.
Stephanie: So, you're divorced, you got a couple of young kids, you're building your life and you meet somebody else and you get into a relationship and find out that you're kind of falling into some of the same patterns.
Teresa: Yes. Oh, wow. Yeah. I've learned a lot about myself and a lot of times we step away from something thinking like, I'm never gonna let that happen to me again. But we have this inner child or something that's still trying to figure things out and, because when I got divorced, I said, "I am going to speak my voice. I am going to state what I want." I just set out these things and then a lot of it, you know, it's just, my own, like what I put out there about myself where like, Ooh, I don't wanna make somebody upset. Well, maybe my focus again, not making somebody upset is maybe actually what makes them upset. So I found myself feeling like I was walking on eggshells again. Like, well, I don't wanna make him frustrated, with me. And so then I was trying to, again, keep the peace, keep the other person, like, are you happy? And then yeah, it
Stephanie: Didn't work
Teresa: No, it didn't work. Yeah, took three times and now like, Uhuh, no , not doing that again.
Stephanie: So it's interesting because usually I focus on the period of time between sort of 35 and 45, 'cause that's where these big transitions happened. And you had a big transition at 45. But the really fun one you had was, was when you were turning 50. Start from the beginning and tell me the whole story of turning 50.
Teresa: All right, so I was about to turn 50. I was having a bit of a midlife crisis because I was feeling a little bit burned out because I had said yes to too many things, and I was just kind of had a bad attitude about the whole thing. I'm like, oh, well, everybody says once you turn 50, you're like super confident and you don't care about what anybody thinks anymore. And well, that's what I wanna have happen for me. so I had this kind of cavalier attitude. I'm like, "Ugh, people are gonna expect that I should do something for my 50th. It's a big year," and I do like celebrating those kind of monumental birthdays. And so it's like, ah. Then I gave myself a little pep talk. I'm like, "Okay, well let's have a birthday party, but you are gonna do exactly what you think is fun."
And so I found this really cool woman-owned distillery, and then I found out, through synchronicity, that she started it because she was inspired by her 50th birthday, and I'm like, "Okay, this is totally supposed to happen." And then I invited my friends and I decided that it was just gonna be, you know, when I was a kid, I loved playing school and having little worksheets and assignments. So I decided that I would have a couple activities, one of like, how well did they know me? And the other was I would put together 50 things that I wanted experience in the coming year. And then I had their little name where they could fill in their name on the top. Yeah, I have the stack, the orginal stack of them,
Stephanie: I love it. literally looks like a grade school worksheet.
Teresa: It is! See the little place, like, put your name on the top and there's the chart. And so, and I didn't know if anybody was actually gonna fill this out. So I said, "Well, before you leave, fill out the chart and leave it here."
Every single person filled it out and left it. And afterward I was looking through what my friends wrote and all these things. Look how many things she said she wanted to do with me.
Stephanie: On the worksheet, you had a list of 50 things you wanted to do during the year, and the worksheet asked friends what they wanted to do with you.
Teresa: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Look at how many things like, and like people were circling things I didn't even think they'd wanna do like, holy cow. It was amazing. And the things that happened, it was funny, it was fun, it lifted up that sense of anxiety and depression that I was going through of like, who am I, what am I doing. To all of a sudden I felt really connected and supported and I communicated, I shared my voice, I said what I wanted to do, and people surprised me and told me what they wanted to do with me. And I had these things to look forward to. I felt way more hopeful and calm and ah, it was so affirming.
And so I thought it just for me that I was doing this. And I would post every now and then on my social media, back when I used Facebook more. And people like people I barely know. Like, "Well, what's your next thing gonna be?" I'm like Oh, people are noticing this. And thena life coach said, "Oh, may I use this tool with my clients?" I'm like, oh, okay, I guess it's a thing. Then people said, "Well, could you do a workshop? Could you write about it?" And I'm like, well, yeah. I love doing workshops. So I did a workshop. It went over really well. And then I kept getting asked to do those, and then I put together a workbook and a chart. So that stuff happened and then people were saying, "Well, could you write about it?" And then a couple little books with inspirational ideas, got that together and it just like took on a life of its own.
So I thought that 50 Fun Things was a way for me to find fun little things, big things, medium things to look forward to over the course of the year, but it wasn't a gift just for me. It was a gift that was supposed to get out into the world. And it's been getting used in so many different ways. , It fills my heart when I see the transformations that happen with individuals and groups and sometimes families or relationships that take this in and use the tool to create conversation to remember what brings them joy, to try new things, to be more present, to find that sense of gratitude. It's amazing. I constantly use the tool for myself whenever I go through a challenge or a change, when I'm changing up something. I do one for every year. I did one when I was selling my house. I did one when I wanted to get my own place. And when you put things down and you get playful with it and lighten up like, that's the thing about 50 is you don't get so tied into like, oh, it has to be the best idea. It's like, well why not just put that down there. For example, I did 50 Fun Things about what type of home I would want and I put on their solar like just as like, 'cause I tell people like, put something kind of crazy out there that you like, but it doesn't have to happen. I'm like, yeah, may as well just say I'd love to have solar, that would feel fun. Well, I have a condo that I just bought and after I bought it I found out that they had put solar in, they're just waiting for it get approved. Like what?
Stephanie: All right. There's a couple of things I want to talk about. So one, now anybody listening knows why I'm having Teresa with me today. Because not only did she have a transition around age 40, which is great, but this 50 Fun Things that she's turned into a business is so similar and in alignment with my 40 Drinks Project that when my previous guest Amy said, "You've gotta meet Teresa." And then we talked. I was like, holy cow, this is just so similar to what I did. And one of the things you said was what allowed me to commit to the 40 Drinks Project was just that it was silly and it was lighthearted and it was gonna be fun and you said something about being playful. And if you had told me at the beginning of the year that this thing that I was doing, even if it felt pleasant, the plan for it felt pleasant enough, if you had told me that when I finished this, it would change my life. It would've felt too much, too heavy, too important, and I would've gone about it in a completely different way. And it feels very much like yours was very similar.
Teresa: Oh, absolutely. Because I oftentimes will overthink things to death and it just had to happen in that way and have that playful, like, oh, well, I guess like this. Oh, okay. I think keeping it front and center about where that original energy came from so that it didn't get lost in the weeds. Okay, so I wanna bring more joy and fulfillment into my life, and so it's gotta feel fun and it's gotta feel fun for me and for the people that are participating. It's interesting because I talk about fun as actually being a resiliency tool and a coping tool and a tool that gets us through the hard times. It gives us clarity, it helps us feel more connected, it gives us a sense of purpose, it makes us healthier. I actually put together a list of 50 Fun Things that 50 Fun things can do for people because we are noticing life around us, within us, what we want. Yeah, I can't say enough about it, but it's all really about imagining, remembering and giving voice to how you wanna be in your life.
Stephanie: The other thing that stood out for me was the other worksheet that you brought to your 50th birthday was, "How well do you know Teresa?" And you said that your friends filled that out and people filled it out with things you didn't even know, which goes again, so in alignment with my 40 Drinks Project and sitting with people and having them tell me things about myself that I didn't know. Can you tell me one or two of those things that people said about you that you didn't even know?
Teresa: Oh yeah, I'm looking at this right now. Some of these questions people answered in kind of risque, funny, funny ways. So I'll just tell you like some of the questions. That very first person I showed you, I think she got every question right, which just amazed me. So I had Teresa didn't get blank until she was 45 old. Well, her ears pierced. And then Theresa really doesn't like to wear, I used to not like to wear pants. I always like to wear dresses and skirts, so pants. But the things that came up was, I did ask a question that was, what do you find most surprising or interesting about Theresa? And those were the things that are just hit my heart and were just beautiful. Like, um, somebody said, uh, yeah, that the stories that she tells about her past with humor and heart. A lot of people said the stories thing. Um, I almost always have an adventure when I'm with you. Uh, unbridled optimism and friendliness. I love your incredible energy. Nothing surprises me about you. You look confident even when you don't feel confident. She knows how to make everybody feel welcome. She's a great mom. My kids were there. Really sweet that I taught them new dance moves, somebody said that.
Stephanie: What of those comments surprised you that maybe you didn't even know about yourself or you didn't know that's how people saw you?
Teresa: I think the surprise was that they actually knew me more than I realized. That was interesting. I will say that one of the huge surprises that I had from the chart part is I had put that I wanted to go see my friend Pippi perform jazz up in Duluth, Minnesota. It's like a three hour drive away, and I just put it on there and I was fully prepared to just go by myself and three friends signed up, went to Duluth with me, went to the jazz performance in this beautiful place, and that surprised me. I wouldn't think that something could come together so easily in a week. And I put some big ones out there like travel far and then I met up with some friends in Europe when they were there and I was there. Those would've never seemed like real possibilities, to me they just like fun dreams at the time. So yeah, there were a lot of things that I was surprised about and part of that was surprised at not being surprised, if that makes sense. So that was probably part of what made me feel more connected. Like, oh, my friends really, really know me.
Stephanie: It's almost like this exercise allowed you to get out of your own way. Meaning the road trip to go see Pippi perform jazz, you might have not asked your friends 'cause you thought it would be an inconvenience or you thought they won't wanna go. Right. Let's go back to your people pleasing and your being worried about other people. And so you almost wouldn't have allowed them the opportunity to say yes before.
But this exercise allowed you to really get out of your own way and just say, "These are the adventures I want to go on. Who wants to come with me?" And people able to opt in and say, "That one sounds like fun," or "That one sounds like fun." Or, for some of your friends, all of them sound like fun or a bunch of them sound like fun.
The thing that I love about your 50th year, which was very, very similar to my experience of my 40th year, was that the spending time with these people who know you and, in my case, there were people from many different eras of my life. There's just almost a calm that comes over you when you're with those people, because you don't have to perform, you don't have to be somebody else. You're not trying to impress. You're not at a networking event where you're trying tomake a good impression and look good and say the right things and make the right connections. Right. There's a peace that allows you to just relax into those visits.
Teresa: Yeah, absolutely. That's one of my top values is quality time with special people in my life. Sometimes that's that actual thing I'll put on my chart is quality time with special people because it's something I doanyway, but I put on my chart to honor it and that that's important to me. But yeah, the communication and connection that happens and feeling valued. A little funny story: so what I do with 50 Fun Things, I encourage people to consider putting, "Accept cool invitations" on their chart, and a lot of people are like, "Oh my gosh, that changed my life. Now I'm doing these things I never thought I would do." So that has been uh, a really awesome thing to see. I've been accepting cool invitations and extending cool invitations. And a friend of mine, she said, "Okay, I would've never done this before. I really wanna see Harry Styles when he performs in Chicago. I don't wanna go on my own. Hey, if I paid for all the gas and hotel and your ticket, would you go with me?" And I'm like, "Well, I don't know if I'm available." And I checked and I was, I'm like, sure. And she just said in the past she would've just been like, "Oh, well it won't work." But she just put it out there and asked and if I would've said no, she still had fun thinking about it, or she would've found somebody else or figured out a way just to go on her own. But she didn't hold herself back from experiencing what felt really joyful. And, and now I got to be part of that. And, and I have that memory now too. So It just really opens up life, to see things from new perspectives and do things you might not have done in the past.
Stephanie: Yeah. Not only do you have that memory with her, but that deepened your connection with each other. You'll always have that, it's not even just that it's a memory, it's an experience. You probably have shared language now and shared jokes and shared experiences that just deepen those relationships.
Teresa: You're so right. Yeah, we do. We long car drive where we got to talk more than you usually do with friends. She said it even felt like kinda like being in your twenties again when you do stuff like that. And that there's no reason, like if there's something we wanna do, we can usually figure out a way to do it. It's the assumptions that we make that get in the way. And sometimes things are meant to happen in a way that's different and maybe better than
Guessed or assumed or imagined right?
Teresa: Oh yeah, definitely.
Stephanie: So when you turned 50, you had a great party. You did 50 fun things. You spent a year having these adventures, large and small with your friends and family. How was your life different at the end of your 50th year than at the beginning?
Teresa: I felt on fire. I just felt like, like really opened up my eyes to possibilities and the power of speaking your voice and telling people what matters or, even playful things. Like, Hey, you know what? I realized that if I break a pattern, say order a fancy latte or a cool tea versus a regular cup of coffee, it brings a spark of joy that then ripples out to the person who served me because I'm obviously enjoying this so much and then I'm more present because I have something different that's just not part of my habit and routine. I guess I would feel like way more alive, way more of like, wow, there is so much, so many cool things we can experience in life that I didn't even know, just by making these tiny little changes and shifts and then lightening up on myself and being okay with myself and not having to pretend that I'm good at numbers or, you know. It's just been a journey of discovery and transformation with a ripple effect that it's hard for me words just cause it feels
Stephanie: Well, and that's the interesting thing, right? So. again. So similar to my experience. You did this thing that was a little ridiculous, a little silly, and something that you wanted to do with nobody else's input or commentary. And it changed your life that year, but then it continued to change your life because it turned out that 50 Fun Things wanted to be a living thing. And so you were asked to give your first workshop, andI remember when we first talked, you said, "I didn't even know what I was doing when I give that first workshop," but now it's turned into a business and it's turned into the thing that you are called to do in this world.
Teresa: Oh yeah. And there were times where, you know, the last few years have had their share of intense challenges. And there were times where I started to feel like, oh, who am I to be talking about joy? Or, oh, I'm as a highly sensitive person, I get mired down about the pains of the world or other people and then I start going to a place where I'm not useful to making a change or a difference. I was starting to feel like, oh, I shouldn't be sharing joy and all that and then other people in my life or colleagues would say, "Why are you being quiet?" Last year I was pretty quiet, I'm getting ramped back into social media and they're like, "We need this. We all need joy. We all need light. We all need that fresh perspective. We can't just get stuck in what's hard." So what I've been sharing is like the smallest of joys, noticing the little things that are going right when when other things are challenging, and it's so helpful, it really helps you get through the hardest of times. And then the other thing that I talk about is when we do the workshops or, in the book, the conversations is, identify what feels fun for you, and for some people the word fun is not their word. For some, their word is joy or fulfillment
Stephanie: For me its silliness, mischievous, impish. Those are my words.
Teresa: Yes. So when you know what those words are that feel good to you, then you come up with your own definition of fun because a lot of people, especially when they're getting in their forties, they stop remembering what feels fun for them. They know what feels fun for their friends or
Stephanie: Or for kids, right.
Teresa: or their colleagues. Yeah. But they'll come and they'll be like, "I don't remember What feels fun me." And so it's just that process of uncovering and remembering and sparks and being inspired by the others in the group that gets them back into that place. I've learned that joy, fun, however you name it, it's critical, integral, it's not this fluffy thing that you do when you got everything figured out, or when you got all the work done. It needs to happen in your life in the way that fits for you. For example, some people fun feels like reading a book. Other people fun feels like skiing. Other people fun feels like having a one-on-one conversation. And all of those things are fun for that person, but a lot of us use that perspective of like, "Well, what should feel fun for me?" And what I like to do is help people uncover what feels fun specifically, or good for them.
Stephanie: One other thing I want to talk about is you had told me that year, your 50th year, where you started out sort of like depressed and kind of grumpy and in that midlife crisis place,
Teresa: Yeah. But nobody else knew I was grumpy. Because I'm pleaser. It was all inside my
But that year you had things to look forward to. You said that helped with your anxiety, but the thing that I really want to point out is that you said you felt in flow.
Stephanie: and then once you were in flow, really bizarre things started happening in your life. Do you remember some of those? Can you me a little bit about those?
Teresa: Okay. This one's like really crazy and I feel like it was supposed to teach me the power of your thinking and what you say. It's actually kind of hilarious. So I was watching a P B S special on the country of Columbia, and they were showing the different wildlife and then they were showing capybara, which are the world's largest, super adorable, rodents in the world. And so I exclaimed out loud "Oh my God, someday I really wanna see capybara." and like okay. I said it, I didn't dwell on it, I just kind of said it. And, but I did authentically feel it. So then not even a week later, a friend of mine called and said, "Hey, there's this thing that I think you'd really like, and I wanna know if you'd go with me. It's called Sustainable Safari, and it's not too far away. You can feed and see all these different unique animals. And if you pay a little extra, like for example, you can hold a baby koala or a fox or you can feed and pet the capybara." And I'm like, " What? What?" A lot of people don't even know what a capybara is, and they live in my neighborhood and I'm going to go see them? Oh my gosh.
So that's what I mean, sometimes you put it out there and like, if I never saw a capybara, I wouldn't have been sad, it was just like, oh, that would feel fun. And then it showed up, so of course I'm gonna do it. I said I wanted to do it. And then my delight and that sense of gratitude of like, oh my gosh, I get to meet capybara. And that they were even better than I imagined. They're like dogs mixed with guinea pigs, mixed with giants that were adorable. And it made me so happy, and look, I didn't have to fly to Columbia, spend thousands of dollars to see them in the distance. And like, that's a crazy example. And it maybe it's too farfetched for some people, but for me it was a reminder of like, okay, just lighten up, think about what feels good, put it out there. If it doesn't happen, what's the worst that happens? Well, you have that joyful anticipation. Enjoy the feeling, it doesn't have to always be the doing. And then, when it shows up, well, you said you wanted it, so let's take action and do it. And, and then it elevates that sense of gratitude and meaning. So that's a very silly example.
Stephanie: Yeah. You had talked about you had started making vision boards and you said you wanted to travel more and next thing you know you're being invited to give workshops in Italy. You didn't dial in what it needed to look like, you just said you wanted to travel more.
I just, yeah, I said that. So earlier you were talking about how the first workshop, I was like, ah, because I realized it wasn't just for me. I had to role model. So on my, on my 50 Fun Things worksheet for that, I put go on at least one vacation a quarter and my inner critic was like, oh my gosh, who do you think you are? When's the last time you went on vacation? How are you going to manage that? I'm like, oh, you have to be a role model. You gotta put that down there. So I put go on a vacation at least once a quarter, and then I put get cool work gigs in delightful places like beaches. And so I put that on and the inner critic is like, seriously, you live in Minnesota, like you think that's gonna happen? Like, ugh, just put it down there. So I put it on, um, I did end up adding the word warm later because immediately in first quarter I ended up getting hired to present at a conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which was not warm during the first quarter. I was on the beach, I was chilly. So I added the word warm, you can always adjust what you put out there. And then long story short, I was doing a workshop and somebody wasn't able to come and asked her if her mother could come instead, I'm like, sure. Well, her mother after the workshop said, "Come sit next to me, I really want you to do this 50 Fun Things at my retreat in Tuscany, Italy," I'm like,
Teresa: Okay. And so I got to do that three times. And then Maui, now there's Costa Rica next year. So like, oh my gosh, I put it out there thinking it was this crazy never gonna happen, but you know what doesn't hurt to try. And, but because I put it out there, other people recognized it and saw where there was a match. I have to pinch myself the power of imagining, noticing what would feel good and giving it voice and then receiving when that person says, "Oh, yeah, I can make that happen, or we can do that."
Stephanie: You're right, some of these examples might sound really far out there to some people, but it's just such an amazing illustration of the difference between a woman who was people pleasing and really um, stepping away from her own self to be in a relationship to raise her children, accepting, taking on things that weren't good for her because she didn't wanna disappoint anybody. The human being that you were at 45 and the human being that you are at 55 couldn't be more different on the inside than two people. It's about following that path and really going into the transition with an open mind and you didn't know you were gonna end up here. You didn't know you were gonna end up in Tuscany or Maui or Costa Rica. You just thought, well, maybe my kids and I'll be better off on our own. Which was a small step, but by following one foot in front of the other, by making decisions, that felt good along the way, you ended up in this place that's just so ridiculously different than where you started.
Teresa: Yeah, and in a way that feels really specific and unique to what I want. And so that's probably why some of my examples sound crazy because I have certain goals in my life that are different than other people would have. And I do have plenty of mundane examples of shifts that people have made like have a mindset shift and like something that used to really bug them or annoy them or that they didn't like all of a sudden they saw a different way of looking at it and then fell in love with this particular, project or event or whatever.
It's those little shifts that actually make a big difference. What I hear a lot from people is they come into the workshop and at first they're thinking like there's gotta be like 50 activities or 50 actual things, but so much of it is just perspective, trying things in new ways, prioritizing the things that matter to you, having that sense of gratitude, just kind of waking yourself up to those things that do feel good and that you wanna invite more in. But yeah, shifts that have happened in people's careers, opened up communication in relationships, added more play and fun to family dynamics, help colleagues to have a sense of care for each other and connection that they might not have had until they learn what lights each other up and how to better work together by focusing on those strengths. Yeah, fun and joy is more powerful
Stephanie: Probably more powerful than determination, blood, sweat, and tears, digging it, you know, to try to get where you want to go.It's like Chutes and Ladders, right? The ladders is the hard work and the chutes is the fun and the joy. It'll get you there faster.
Stephanie: I'm so, thankful for you being here with me today, Theresa, and for sharing so much of your story. If people are listening and thinking that they're intrigued about 50 Fun Things, can you tell me a little bit about where they might find it?
Teresa: Yeah. If you go to 50 fun things.com, the number five zero fun things.com, you'll find some basic information there. Speaking of making things more fun, I just met with somebody yesterday who has given me feedback on how the website can be more fun and more useful, so look for that shift to be happening, but that's the best way. I'm on LinkedIn and Instagram, for 50 Fun Things and connect there too.
Stephanie: Well, I'm gonna let you go for now, but know that I'm sending you off with a suggestion of getting me the GD band T-shirt,
Teresa: I'll see if that Cafe Press website still has it loaded.
Stephanie: Yes. T-shirt for me and a trucker hat for my husband. Oh my God. We'll be your New England fans.
Stephanie: All right, Teresa. Thanks so much.
Teresa: Thank you, Stephanie.