Honoring A Legacy

Last night as I watched many of my friends on social media post in shock, excitement or outrage; I silently pondered what the next four years would look like.

It was an easy answer for me.

Recently, the world lost one of its brightest lights, pioneers and inspirational women and the next four years won’t nearly be the same without her.

Suzanne Mitchell

Former Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC)

As you might recall, two years ago I had the incredibly honor of interviewing Suzanne at the National Football League Alumni Cheerleader Reunion in Atlanta, GA. Over 300 women from across the country came together to mingle, network, and celebrate our collective role in the NFL. These women were incredible national sales directors, tv personalities, biologists and lawyers. But one light shined brighter than everyone else, and that was Suzanne.

Suzanne has affectionately been called the “Godmother of Professional Cheerleading” – credited with crafting the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders into what they are today.

Her story is so powerful and inspiring that everyone from The Washington Post, New York Times, Dallas News and many more publications wrote about her legacy. And the turnout for her Celebration of Life event this past weekend makes it clear just how many lives she touched.

Although I only briefly knew Suzanne, I was moved by the powerful words used to describe Suzanne’s legacy and I asked myself: how do you possibly honor such an extraordinary woman who has touched so many lives over the years?

Suzanne’s Celebration of Life was nothing short of fabulous. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Suzanne’s family did an extraordinary job of honoring her from beautiful bouquets of her favorite flower (yellow rose) to a butterfly release and even a surprise appearance from Lee Greenwood who sang his famous song: God Bless the U.S.A.

There was a group of alumni NFL cheerleaders from several teams who flew in for the celebration. I was honored to be in attendance.

As we look forward to the next four years, no matter what happens, I have to remember the legacy that Suzanne left behind and the example she set for so many.

The words that were used to describe her included things like, “pioneer, strong, self-starter, not afraid, insanely loyal, leader and one of the most inspirational individuals both men and women had known”.

When I think about the legacy any of us leave on this planet, I think about people like Suzanne, or my other cheer coaches Elaine, Stephanie, Linda and Nancy. You don’t have to have a specific title to make a positive impact in the world, but you DO have to care enough to dream big, accept challenges, and be kind to those around you. If I have learned anything in the last 24 hours, it’s that we could all use more of that in our world today.

Rest in Peace Suzanne. You were a tremendous individual I was so lucky to have met.

The Power of Kindness

If you follow my travels on social media, you know that I just finished up 23 presentations in 21 days across Missouri, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Michigan and New York, and also enjoyed a quick trip over to Barcelona, Spain.

I’m exhausted.

Since I got home, it has taken everything inside of me not to hibernate in my bedroom with my cat and do nothing but sleep.

Luckily for me on Friday, I didn’t and instead, learned a lesson on why I will never stop believing in the power of kindness, no matter the circumstances.

Back in my hometown of Kansas City, this past Friday was sunny and 80 degrees, very unusual for October 28th. Trying to be productive instead of staring at my bed and contemplating a nap, I decided to go wash my car and run a few errands. As I finished up a fantastic car wash (my dad taught me right!) and pulled into the vacuuming stall, all of a sudden I heard the loudest bass music that I hadn’t heard since the pounding music and cheering fans at Arrowhead Stadium.

It was so loud and I was already fighting a terrible headache, I couldn’t think straight to simply count my four quarters for the vacuum.

So I stood there, thinking. Should I walk over and say something? Should I ignore it? Should I simply go home? Have I really reached the age where I am having this internal conversation with myself? Ha.

I turned to the fella next to me, who was detailing a very fancy red shiny car and asked his opinion, “I’m thinking of saying something to the fella with the loud music… am I crazy?” To which he replied, “No! It’s obnoxious to me too!” Perfect. This guy was at least eight years younger than me, and he felt the same way I did.

So, I casually walked over to a light grey four-door car. It was modest, an older model with a few dents and scratches. The fella was leaning into the back seat and all I could see were his jeans and white shoes.

“Hi! Excuse me!” I said bashfully.

He popped his head out from behind the back seat passenger door. His arms were heavily tattooed from top to bottom and his head was shaved. The bass was still thumping super loud. My heart started pounding along with it.

I nervously smiled as I approached a little closer so he could hear me. “Hey! SO sorry to bother you…. am I super old if I ask you to turn that down just a smidge?”

He responded immediately. “No! Not at all. In fact, I was thinking it was kinda loud as well! Besides, how old are ya anyways, you aren’t that much older than me.”

I laughed, “I’m only 34, but I feel so old even thinking that I have to ask someone to turn down their awesome tunes.”

“I’m 29. You aren’t that old.” He paused for a second…“Honestly, when you walked over here, I thought I was about to get into so much trouble. I can’t believe how nice you were about asking me to turn it down. Thanks for your kindness! My name is Chris.”

“No problem Chris! My name is Shannon, nice to meet ya. And thanks for understanding!” I started to walk back to my car.

Thanks for your Kindness?

I couldn’t shake that thought out of my head. I politely asked him to turn his music down. Was I really being so kind that it was something he noticed? I wondered, what was Chris’s life like, and how often he had even experienced kindness without bias, prejudice or assumptions?

I started the vacuum still thinking about his words but a few minutes later he startled me as he poked his head into my car from the other side.

He said, “You know, you really made my day. I couldn’t believe how nice you were to me. I just got out of federal prison and moved to Kansas City since I was able to get a job here. And, people aren’t really nice to me.”

Whoa. My body tensed up and my mind was racing. Federal Prison. Did he kill someone? Was he in a gang? Who is Chris and what have I gotten myself into.

I put the vacuum down and walked around to the other side of my car. I smiled and said, “Well, I am super sorry I couldn’t handle the music today. But, I’m glad we were able to have a nice conversation!”

He shared more….

“Being in federal prison for 5 years, I was able to get my GED and learn skills to become a welder. I didn’t have anywhere to go so the state sent me to a halfway house in Leavenworth while I put a resume together and looked for a job. I’ve never had a driver’s license until now. And, I was able to get my own apartment for the first time! And a company in North Kansas City offered me a welding job with a decent salary. I can’t believe I’m actually making something of myself. And I can’t believe how nice you were about the music. Nobody else would’ve walked up to me let alone been so nice while asking me to turn it down.”

Nobody else would’ve walked up to him, let alone, been so nice to him.

I have been thinking about Chris’s words for the last four days.

Despite my raging headache, despite the fact that I’ve been on the road for three weeks straight, despite barely seeing my family or even getting caught up on sleep, I could have just driven away from that car wash and never said anything. Annoyed.

But I didn’t.

And there we were Friday afternoon. Two human beings sharing stories.

In a split second, I was able to remind Chris that there are nice people in this world.

And in a split second, Chris reminded me that we are all still human beings who need love and kindness.


We sat and talked for another 30 minutes about how he is trying to turn his life around, how I became a professional speaker, our families and how the world is kind of a crazy place right now.

I asked Chris if I could take a photo to remember this moment and he agreed. I asked if we could stay in touch and we exchanged information.

I’ll never forget Chris.

As I say in my speeches, I don’t care where you come from, what you have in your pockets or what your past is. All that matters is where you decide to take yourself and ultimately, as human beings we all crave connection.

As I reflected about every detail of my brief encounter with Chris, I looked down at the t-shirt I was wearing Friday and realized it’s the 2013 Oklahoma 4-H Shirt I received after speaking at their state conference. It says, “Waves of Change, Ocean’s of Opportunity”. I smiled so big.

As a world. As a humanity. We all deserve kindness. Life is too short. And we will never create “Waves of Change” if we don’t start somewhere.

Thank you Chris for our brief interaction. You reminded me of the biggest lesson of all in life and I hope you pass the kindness baton to the next person.

Patience is a Virtue

About a year ago, I made a bold decision. After only being a member of the National Speaker’s Association for a short time, I decided to submit a proposal to present a workshop for my peers at the National Convention. I knew it was a long shot – there were people far more experienced or qualified than me.

Well, as the story goes, several months of anticipation later, I received the disappointing email letting me know I was not selected.

It’s funny, because even though I knew I most likely wouldn’t get selected, it still stung. Isn’t that so true in life? None of us want rejection… whether it’s a job opportunity, a potential love interest or even by our kids.

As much as it stings though, rejection has important value in our lives. If we don’t put ourselves out there, if we don’t “try” we never allow ourselves to fully become what we are meant to be. We may never actually accomplish the things we desire if we aren’t willing to take those chances in life.

I’ll admit, I was a little down on myself after receiving the rejection email. I was a bit jealous of my peers who were posting on Facebook that they had been selected. But after licking my wounds for a day or so, I decided I needed to move on to the next “risk” I was going to take. What was next? I was reminded of the motto I learned in 4-H, “To Make the Best Better”. It was time for me to move on and keep improving so I could continue creating the life I wanted.

A few months later, I received a phone call from someone I deeply respect and admire. John said, “Shannon, would you consider speaking at the National Convention for the Celebrity and Athletes Speaker Workshop?”

What the Heck?!

How could this be happening.

Of course I said yes, but I was terrified.

This was an even greater opportunity than the one for which I’d been passed over earlier in the year. As a former NFL Cheerleader, the audience would include speakers and athletes I look up to tremendously!

To speak in front of NFL Hall of Famers, Pro Bowl Stars, Super Bowl Champions, former NBA players, Olympians and even the first female to climb Mount Everest from both sides felt like the ultimate challenge!

Looking back on that experience, I will be forever grateful. It was such a simple reminder that sometimes our “plan” isn’t always “The plan”. Sometimes we have to put ourselves out there several times before we strike gold. And sometimes, you just get lucky and land an opportunity you didn’t even know existed.

If you aren’t failing in life, you aren’t trying. Patience is a truly a Virtue.

PS: Something incredibly important to me in this photo that was taken right before I spoke for the athlete’s workshop, was that I could wear my 4-H pin on my name tag. I gave my first speech at the 4-H County Fair when I was 8 years old. 4-H introduced me to one of my greatest loves (speaking) at such an early age, so this was a full circle moment for me.

What risks are you taking today? And, do you have the patience to wait for your moment? Happy Monday!

Why You Should Use SnapChat

Do You Snap?

SnapChat isn’t just for your tweens anymore. The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and President Obama Snapchat, and you should too!

Snapchat has evolved and, it’s continually updating features and adding users, making it the fastest growing social media app across all demographics today.

Gaining Popularity

  1. Disruptive technology.

Disrupters are popping up in every industry. Look at what Uber did to the taxi industry. Or what Trump is doing to politics. Like ‘em or hate ‘em, disrupters create curiosity and the people and brands behind them often go viral.

  1. Faster results.

Our attention spans are changing. As advertisers compete for our attention, we crave small bits of content at fast speeds. If you have 5 minutes to click on the CNN app, you can get the content you are looking for quickly.

People of all ages are using Snapchat, but data shows its core user group is 13-25 year olds. If that’s your audience, Snapchat may get you in front of them faster.

  1. Highlight reels.

Most people and brands we follow on other social media sites only post “highlights” of their lives. Instagram made it popular to only post one really “attractive” photo to showcase your event the night before. Facebook now curates the content they think you want to see.

Snapchat is attractive because it’s real time updates. You can’t upload a photo from two weeks ago that you processed through photoshop – it has to be right that moment. With this, we are getting back to real life, and turning off the highlight reels.

  1. It’s easy.

The app is user friendly and provides fun for all ages. Open the app, take a photo and send to your followers. If you want to spice up your videos and images, get creative by using their geo-filters and creative

See for yourself!

The 88th Annual Academy Awards debuted its web player just before the event which allowed users to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Oscars. The Oscars 2016 Snapchat Official Video.

Individuals and charities are purchasing filters that allow them to crowdsource photos from their personal event.

Building your Personal Brand for 2016

No matter your age or your occupation – chances are good that you’re being hit from all angles with messages from several mediums.  Social media helps us stay in touch with our audiences – but it can also hurt our personal brand if we’re not sure how to communicate who we are and what we do!

How can you stand out and get the competitive advantage in 2016? This month on CBS – KCTV 5 – Better KC, I share a few tips to help strengthen your personal brand.

– Become the go-to resource in your area of expertise.

– Make sure your brand is consistent. Do what you say you’re going to do.  Stand for what you share with others.   

– Make sure your brand is recognizable. 

– Pick a social media platform and go all-in.

– #Hashtag it.  Play around with hashtags. Understand what you stand for and use that to your advantage to crowd-source.

Today’s challenge:  Create a personal #hashtag.  Share it with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and tag me! I want to know what you stand for! 

Tedx Talk | Connected vs. Connecting

If you’re familiar with TED or TEDx Talks, you know that the premise is: “ideas worth spreading.” TED Talk speakers have included people like magician David Blaine, “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe, activist/musician Bono, and motivational speaker Shannon McKain. That’s right – ME!

I am honored to join the TED and TEDx community with my idea:

“Connected vs. Connecting: What living on a canoe taught me about relationships.” 

Two years ago I was forced to leave behind all technology as I embarked on a two week adventure aboard a canoe in the Florida Everglades. On the trip (read about it here), I was paired with seven other millennials to learn about Situational Leadership. But, when I stepped foot on dry land again, I’d learned so much more. WE had learned so much more.

I have this theory that technology is eroding our ability to connect with each other. I felt it first hand when I was dropped in the Everglades with little more than a Nalgene bottle and two oars.

Technology had become our crutch and without it, we felt as though we’d lost innate skills to connect with others. Had technology caused us to forget how to form meaningful connections with others? Had it created chaos, disconnect and turmoil instead?

We live in a world where staring at a screen rules our every movement. It’s the social norm, and has the power to control how we communicate with others, for better or for worse.

Are millennials at a disadvantage because technology has been a part of their lives from the very beginning? If so, how do we shift away from “connecting” through likes, emoticons and friend counts? How do we develop skills that are more emotionally fulfilling?

In todays’ world, it’s much easier to form relationships through technology. It’s easier to swipe a finger advancing a relationship on a dating app than it is to have a face-to-face conversation. We wish people happy birthday, not because we’ve remembered, but because social media reminds us of their special day while we’re still lying in bed. Have we found greater meaning if someone “likes” a photo we’ve posted, than if someone gives us a hug?

The latest topics below have become the most requested seminars I offer.

Do you work with a group who might relate? Let’s talk!

Personal Brand Look and Feel

I am a huge advocate for having a strong personal brand. To me, a personal brand is about more than your website, resume and credentials.  It’s about more than the brand of clothes you wear, the type of car you drive and the way you present yourself on social media.  My definition of a personal brand is how you stand out in your life and your career. It includes both your inner beauty and the way you present yourself publicly.

Now, that’s not to say that I never spend a day relaxing in sweatpants or that I always wear makeup to the grocery store.  I don’t!  After all, I might argue that the most important part of one’s personal brand is AUTHENTICITY!

But, because much of what I do involves being in front of many people, I do spend time considering how to channel my inner beauty and feel good about the way I look on the outside, too.

I recently met with the experts at AesthetiCare MedSpa in Kansas City to try some of their services and I wanted to fill you in on my experience.  AesthetiCare isn’t just a feel-good “spa” where you leave feeling relaxed. It’s an experience that actually produces results you continue to see for days, weeks, and months.

I was initially nervous because I didn’t know what to expect reading about things like the “halo facial” and contemplating Botox for the first time! But, the friendly team assigned to me – Matt, Judy, and Samantha – really felt like my friends, and took time to advise me on products and services that would benefit me. We looked at my skin during each appointment and they explained to me which products were good for my current state and which weren’t.

For the first time in my skin care treatment, including the countless hours I have spent at different beauty bars, makeup counters, and spas around the city, I felt like I wasn’t being sold products just because they had sales quotas to meet. I felt like I was sitting with my best friend who was genuinely interested in helping me look and feel great.

When your inner self and outer self-match it’s a wonderful feeling. The prettier you feel on the outside, the more confidence you have on the inside.  The more confidence you have on the inside, the more that beauty shines through. When you feel great, look great, and act great you have more confidence.  And – more confidence means more push to follow your dreams and achieve your goals!

Personal Brand More Than How You Look

When you hear the term “Personal Brand,” your first thought might wander to the outfit you are wearing or the color of your shoes. However, your Personal Brand is so much more than your exterior image. It’s how you think, how you treat others, how you make people feel and also how you communicate.

When I coach employees on career development, I ask about their relationships with peers and bosses. I inquire about how co-workers view them professionally. Is it the same viewpoint they have of themselves? Would managers say they are caring or negative? Hard working or lazy?

Often times, the responses are astonishing. Employees will discover that they have closed themselves off or haven’t represented their full Personal Brand in the best light to help further their careers and in turn, miss out on opportunities.

Your Personal Brand is a direct reflection of you. It’s your name. Your handshake. Your authentic self. The whole enchilada wrapped up in a bow called YOU.

Some Personal Brands are flashy. Some are reserved. All of this is exciting! Nobody else brings that exact same package to the table. But, it can hurt you if you aren’t aware of what that package means. Do you know what your Personal Brand says about you without even realizing it? When thinking about your Personal Brand, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would your bosses state that you are the first or last out of the office each day on a consistent basis?
  • How would your co-workers describe how you make them feel?
  • Would your peers say that you are open or closed off when approached at the water cooler?
  • Can you communicate effectively with clients and peers?
  • What are five words your boss would use to describe you?
  • If you had a hashtag, what would it be?
  • What are your three brand words?
  • What do you think is the most important quality that compliments career advancement?

Being cognizant about all aspects of your Personal Brand will allow you to leverage your positive attributes for career growth and in turn, live a happy, healthy life! Here’s wishing you a great week!

Shannon McKain is a motivational speaker, life coach, and entrepreneur from Kansas City, Missouri. She seeks to help people live their best lives through personal brand development, goal mapping, and work/life fusion.

My Major Arena League Soccer Debut

They say go big or go home, right?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to play in the “Media Game” at halftime of the Missouri Comets Major Arena Soccer League game. I have a long history with the Missouri Comets, including cheering for them during the 2005-2006 season, so of course I said yes!

However, I wondered if I should’ve told them the full truth. I’ve never played, or attempted to play, soccer in my life. But I figured, cheering for three different soccer teams (high school, MISL and MLS) counts right?

Our game included: Nick Vasos from Fox 4, Jeff Husted from the Blue Testament, Holly Starr local media darling, Jake Yadrich from Sporting KC, Alan Hainkel with Fountain City Soccer, Mike Kuhn writer with Down the Byline, Thad Bell with SB Nation, Derek Weisemann from Oak Grove Newspaper, Bill Althaus with The Examiner, Nate Davis from Mix 93.3, Hector Solorio with La Barra KC, Ryan Westward at 98.9 The Rock, Kory Brinton from Upper 90 and Jonathan Aldridge with Inside KC.

Before the media game began, there were of course several interviews and a group selfie.

After lots of trash talking and team selfies, my team, Team White (by default to our t-shirt color), completed a pep talk huddle and waited for our moment to take the field.  Once we heard our walkout song, we each ran out. I was poised and ready to go as left forward, confident that I would score a goal for our team.

The referee blew the whistle and our team immediately took possession. I started to run forward, anticipating a pass in my direction. I was prepared, I’d seen it a million times. My teammate would pass to me, I’d pass back and we’d score! I took three steps ready for my big moment when all of a sudden it felt like I hit a brick wall.

A player from the other team totally sideswiped me from out of nowhere. I never even saw it coming.

I realized in that moment, I had two options. Either punk out or put my big girl pants on.

As the sole female on my team, I knew what I had to do.

I shook it off and started running again. By this time, the right forward and middle forward had the ball near the net. There was a pass back from Husted to Weiseman, it got loose, I kicked it back to Weiseman and GOALLLLL!!!!!

I was so proud of my assist! What a great start!

We jogged back to midfield. The whistle was blown, we took possession, lost possession, took possession, lost possession, the ball came my way again, my teammate Yadrich came to help when a member of the Team Blue approached as well. Yadrich took the ball and in a split second, I knew what I needed to do. Pay back Team Blue! Check you Brinton!

The time clock started ticking. We were running out of time! Yadrich passed to Husted. We got close to the goal again. We shot. Their goalkeeper grabbed it without a flinch. Threw it back out. Team Blue took possession and raced down the field. Team Blue scored.

The score was tied 1-1. And the buzzer dinged. We ended on a tie game!

What an awesome experience for my inaugural game playing soccer.

It was also fun to see so many old and new friends. My dear friend Vlatko Andonovski has coached the Comets the last two seasons — to a championship last year and undefeated 9-0 this year. It was great catching up with Vlatko and his wife. It was also great to see in the stands former player Dino Delevski, who was a star player when I cheered for the team.

My good friend and NFL sister Jillian was the on-field reporter, while my friend Steve Serrano was the in-game host. Several of our NFL sisters came to support as well!

I have to admit, I was really nervous to say yes to this adventure. The idea of playing in my first ever soccer game in front of thousands of people was terrifying. But, I’ve learned a lot this year about taking risks and putting yourself out there. I didn’t hit one of my goals of getting a speaking engagement in Canada, but getting to work with Nancy Grace, Anne Burrell and even Jennifer Nettles ain’t too shabby.

I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes, but, had I not put myself out there for different opportunities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, in saying yes to the game, I’d do it all over again because the outcome was so much greater than letting my fear control my Saturday night. Sometimes you don’t always win, but when you go for that strike and wind up making contact with the ball, the reward is so much greater. I got to connect with old friends, make some new ones and created new memories through it all.


What a way to end the year.

I hope you will consider joining me for JumpStart 2015. I would LOVE to help you find the same bliss and happiness I have found in life…. including taking those scary yet rewarding risks and saying yes to the right opportunities that will help you live a life you love.


Better KC | New Year Resolutions

This time of year nearly everyone creates New Year’s resolutions.

People want to lose weight. Find a new job. Quit putting off that something they’ve been meaning to do.

My advice? NYR’s are for the birds.

That’s why we see a huge spike in numbers at the gym in January, only for those same folks to quit in February. You have to think bigger than New Year’s resolutions. You have to have a great support system and deliberately change your long term behaviors to accomplish the things you want in life.

Here are my tips I shared on Better Kansas City this morning. If you want more advice or need a coach to help you create change in your life, then follow the blog, sign up for JumpStart (it starts in just a few short days!), join us at T.Loft for our January Workshop or find an accountability partner who can help you stay the course – for the long haul! Happy New Year!